Books That Changed Me

  1. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    Junior year of high school. My middle school and high school literature curriculum was white man Bildungsroman HEAVY and this was probably the first thing I was assigned to read that wasn't a coming of age story or a medieval poem. It awoke something in me and made me passionate about both reading/writing in a new way, especially the essay, "Seeing". It made me feel "like I had been my whole life a bell and never known it til that very moment I was lifted and struck" (her words).
  2. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
    The first book that spoke to my specific female experience. V important to high school MKP. If I hadn't read this book, I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to start thinking like a feminist.
  3. The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
    I used to go to Barnes & Noble after school to do my homework. I wandered into the philosophy section one day, found this book, and I think I became a better, smarter person because of it. Alain de Botton's writing is succinct and beautiful and he made Nietzsche, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, and Schopenhauer accessible to a suburban sixteen year old girl who desperately needed the wisdom she would have probably just glossed over in Philosophy 301.
  4. Demian by Herman Hesse
    My first "deep" writer boyfriend was really into playing up how troubled he was. He told me this was his favorite book and I devoured it. But it did honestly change me, and set me on a path to buck a lot of the backwards thinking and religious dogma that had been instilled in me. Most importantly, it made me comfortable with having a darker side of myself.
  5. Belly Song by Etheridge Knight
    I first encountered this poem when I heard a recording of Knight reading it before he died. It hit me in the gut and has always stayed with me. His other poems also broke my heart but spoke to so many feelings I had of disappointment and family and history and being trapped in who you are and what you were born into and what you've gotten yourself into. That's not all there was to his story but those are the parts that I can't forget.
  6. One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty
    Ms. Welty lived in my neighborhood growing up and, even in her nineties, would come read to us at school. I never knew as a child how much of a big deal that was. I thought of her as a classy old artist with a nice front porch. Later, my dad gave me this signed copy of this book. Reading it felt like she had read me instead.
  7. The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke
    I've posted about this many times here. While grieving the suicide of my best friend & cousin, this book, along with The Year of Magical Thinking, helped me process what grief was and what was happening to me. I truly am not sure I would have made it through in one piece without this voice and presence reassuring me that it was okay to feel upside down all of the time.
  8. Jane Eyre
    I don't know how I missed this on the original list. This was one of the first fictional female characters I remember relating to, especially when it came to the classics. It felt like this book gave me permission to have a different narrative for my own identity and I am forever grateful.