What Five Books Changed Your Life? Open Thread!

A bunch of celebrities picked books that most changed their lives, so we thought we would do the same. AND YOU SHOULD TOO! Just for funsies.

This isn’t the same as your favorite books or books you once enjoyed or recommended, this is about books that had you not read them, you would not be the person you are today. For example, although AM Homes, Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, Beverly Cleary and Joan Didion are some of my favorite writers, none of their books changed my life per se, I just thought they were all pretty fucking awesome. Get it, ok let’s go.

Famous people’s favorite books:

Claire Danes, aka Angela Chase

Deception by Philip Roth
Light Years by James Salter
Hills Like White Elephants (from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition) by Ernest Hemingway
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami

Diane Keaton

Women Photographers edited by Constance Sullivan
Untitled by Diane Arbus
Keith Carter Photographs: Twenty-Five Years by Keith Carter
Photographs from Storyville, the Red-Light District of New Orleans by E.J. Bellocq
Dreamland: America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Michael Lesy

Anderson Cooper:

A Death in the Family by James Agee
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
Families: A memoir and a Celebration by Wyatt Cooper
It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir by Gloria Vanderbilt
The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon edited by Kathy Eldon

Books that changed our lives:

Autostraddle CEO Riese:

New and Selected Poems 1974-1994, Stephen Dunn,
Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
by Jonathan Kozol
Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap by Peggy Orenstein
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Executive Editor Laneia:

Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
Spiritual Midwifery
by Ina May Gaskin
Bastard out of Carolina
by Dorothy Allison

Managing Editor Sarah:

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
The Indispensable Calvin And Hobbes
by Bill Watterson
East of Eden
by John Steinbeck
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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the team

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  1. All Quiet on the western front-Erich Maria Remarque.
    On the road -Jack Keruac.
    Beyond good and evil- Fredrich Nietzche.
    Collected poems of William Blake edited by W.B. Yates.
    Collected poems of Davíð Stefánsson frá Fagraskógi.

    • yes kerouac was on my list too but then i thought it would be funnier to say the boxcar children

      • I liked your listing of The Boxcar Children. I used to read them when I was little and wish that I lived on a train/in a converted barn/somewhere without adults.

  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
    The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
    Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
    Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution – edited by Alix Olson
    The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

  3. The story of Smokey the Bear (author unknown)
    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    the Count of Monte Cristo -Alexandre Dumas
    The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
    To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

  4. The House of Mirth- Edith Wharton
    Brideshead Revisited- Evelyn Waugh
    Choke- Chuck Palahniuk
    The Catcher in the Rye- JD Salinger
    Frankenstein- Mary W. Shelly

  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
    More of This World or Maybe Another – Barb Johnson
    All Souls – Michael Patrick McDonald
    Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson
    To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

  6. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
    Tod In Venedig (Death in Venice) – Thomas Mann
    Dry – Augusten Burroughs
    Métaphysique des tubes (The Character Of Rain) – Amélie Nothomb
    Ham On Rye – Charles Bukowski

  7. Watership Down – Richard Adams
    The Mouse and his Child – Russell Hoban
    Eleven Kinds of Lonliness – Richard Yates
    Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
    Earth from Above – Yann Arthus-Bertrand

  8. TOP 5 books that completely, totally changed how I act, think, or behave.
    1) Life of Pi- Yann Martel
    2) To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
    3) The Harry Potter Series- J.K Rowling
    4) The Great Gastby- Fitzgerald
    5) The Seven Types of Ambiguity- Elliot Perlman

    These are all required texts for any human being.

    • I LOVE the Life of Pi – it would be the 6th book on my list, if only because I have been obsessively searching for it since it went missing a while ago.

  9. Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
    Neuromancer – William Gibson
    Song for a Dark Queen – Rosemary Sutcliff
    Microserfs – Douglas Coupland
    Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

  10. Cradle to Cradle – William McDonough and Michael Braungart
    Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman
    The Socratic Dialogues – Plato (not one book, a series of works often published together)
    Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
    Towards a New Architecture – Le Corbusier

    I’m not so much a fiction person… but these are books and they changed my life.

  11. 1. A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L’Engle
    2. One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek- Annie Dillard
    4. American Primitive- Mary Oliver
    5. The Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse- Louise Erdrich

    Short story that changed my life–
    Wingstroke– Vladimir Nabokov

  12. Chronological order of life-changingness:

    Fahrenheit 451 -Ray Bradbury
    The Awakening -Kate Chopin
    Giovanni’s Room -James Baldwin
    Mysterious Skin -Scott Heim
    Female Chauvinist Pigs -Ariel Levy

    I plan to do some crazy reading about queer theory this summer so this list is bound to shift a bit. W00t!

  13. In no particular order…

    1. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

    2. The Plague, Albert Cumus
    *there is no The Plague without The Brothers Karamazov, this is fact.

    3. Harry Potter (abso-fucking-lutely), J. K. Rowling.

    4. Journey of Souls/Destiny of Souls, Michael Newton

    5. On Religion, John D. Caputo

    Also can I throw in a 6th just for good measure? is that cheating…hmmm…

    6. The Giver, Lois Lowry

    • The Giver! HELL YES. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt when I first read that book almost a decade ago.

      • ohhhh The Giver solidarity. I appreciate you!

        I read it for the first time in grade 6, which was 14 or 15 years ago or something crazy like that. And I move my little copy around with me to wherever I am living and pick it up to read at least a couple of times a year (it only takes a couple hours to read now). Basically, it changed my life when I was 10 and it’s changed my life every single time I’ve read it since.

        • It’s been a fav of mine since I first read it in middle school, I make friends who have never read it borrow my copy, and I still read it from time to time.

  14. Madam Secretary – Madeleine Albright
    Other Voices, Other Rooms – Truman Capote
    The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold
    Sideways Stories From Wayside School – Louis Sachar
    The Anatomy of Revolution – Crane Briton

    • Sideways Stories from Wayside School was my favorite book series as a kid! I remember learning to giggle in public and not be embarrassed because those stories seemed SO FUNNY. I haven’t read them in forever because I’m terrified that they won’t seem as funny anymore, but I REFUSE to get rid of my copies!

  15. Beyond Good and Evil – Nietzche
    Middlesex – Eugenides
    The Chrysalids – Wyndham
    Invisible Monsters – Palahniuk
    My Loose Thread – Cooper

  16. I read, I swear I do, but I am sad that I can’t think of a single book that has changed my life. I think if I got through A New Earth that it would change me, so I have to get on that.

    Your Money or Your Life sounds awful and silly and old, but it is the closest thing I can come up with. It’s really only relevant if you love consumerism and want to get out of the fucking rat race. I read it to make sure I never fell victim to it.

    • I can’t think of one that’s changed my life either. Not even Your Money or Your Life – probably because I read so much about that book on various personal finance blogs that the content wasn’t new to me.

      Part of my problem could be that I read a book and then completely forget what it was about. I hate myself.

      • Uhh I tend to do that as well… I can never recall the titles of the books I read. I think I should note them heheh

  17. 1. The High King – Lloyd Alexander
    2. Insomnia – Stephen King
    3. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
    4. Hygiène de l’assassin – Amélie Nothomb
    5. Appetites: Why Women Want – Caroline Knapp

    I found out about the last one from the Autostraddle feminist reading list. I am the best fangirl ever.

  18. middlesex by jeffrey eugenides
    american psycho by bret easton ellis
    calvin & hobbes by bill watterson
    the giving tree by shel silverstein
    life after god by douglas coupland

    • I should have added The Giving Tree to my list. And The Lorax. I totally forgot to dig back into childhood.

  19. The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin

    jk okay I’m starting for real now:

    Heidi – Johanna Spyri
    Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
    The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
    Equus – Peter Shaffer
    1984 – George Orwell

  20. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
    The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    Bless the Beasts and the Children by Glendon Swarthout
    The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
    Daughters of a Coral Dawn by Kathernie V. Forrest

    • LOVE Daughters of a Coral Dawn, and well, everything Katherine V. Forrest wrote.

      And my 5 should have included Rubyfruit Jungle, but it wouldn’t fit.

  21. Just off the top of my head:

    Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, Annie Dillard
    Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
    The Journey is the Destination, the journals of Dan Eldon
    The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
    The Teenage Liberation Handbook

    • aaaaaand I already have to amend it. replace Pablo Neruda (</3) with:

      Meeting at the Crossroads, Carol Gilligan and Lyn Mikel Brown

      • You can’t replace Neruda!!!!
        Tinker Creek and Franny and Zooey- YES.
        Jjules we might be friends.

        • well neruda is the love of my life, but i dunno if i can classify him as “life-changing” like the others, really.

          how do we do this friends thing – pinky swear?

  22. Beloved- Toni Morrison
    The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon
    American Gods- Neil Gaiman
    The Bluest Eyes- Toni Morrison
    The Collected Poems of Audre Lourde- Audre Lourde

  23. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
    The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    Dubliners – James Joyce
    Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
    Reviving Ophelia – Mary Pipher

    *Also, Too Fat to Fish by Artie Lange is phenomenal on a thousand different levels.

  24. Dry- Augusten Burroughs
    Fast Food Nation- Eric Schlosser
    A New Earth- Eckhart Tolle
    Revolution From Within- Gloria Steinem
    Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides

  25. The five books that changed my life are, in no particular order,

    1. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
    – I read this book only once but I couldn’t read it again because of the subject matter. The book did not just change my life, it saved it. In particular, there was this part where Elizabeth, who suffers from atypical depression, had an epiphany of sorts. She observed that no matter how badly behaved she can get at times, she still had friends and people who loved her. And her conclusion was there somewhere underneath her suffering, she was actually a rather nice person and deserving of some love. I thought it was a pretty powerful statement.

    2. Microbe Hunter by Paul de Kruif
    – A rather old-fashioned (some say bigoted, some say de Kruif was a man of his time) book about the first microbiologists and how they made their discoveries. It made me continue to like what I do today.

    3. The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
    – I wish I had this when I was younger, because they did not teach me critical thinking in school. But after reading it, things became so much clearer, and finally I had some decent tools to help me use my brain.

    4. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
    – After reading the story, I said to myself, “I want to write like this guy”. Poignant story but made all the more powerful because somehow, Heim managed to avoid it turning into a tearjerker. And the movie by Gregg Araki was just as wonderful, IMHO.

    5. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    – After reading this book, I said to myself, “I want to write like this guy”. His clarity of speech, the way he ties up information, the way he tells his story. Fantastic.

  26. I don’t know if these have changed my life, but they have been very influential. The kind of books to carry around with you for days after you finish them, maybe longer.

    1. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

    2. Blood & Guts in High School by Kathy Acker

    3. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

    4. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

    5. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

  27. Damn, five books is too limited! Adrienne Rich! Judy Grahn! Richard Siken! Robert Hass! Ok! I’ll stop now!

  28. The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
    Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
    Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, specifically The Long Winter
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

  29. In no particular order:

    The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
    Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice
    The Crow- James O’Barr
    Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
    Girl Interrupted -Susanna Kaysen

  30. the dictionary! laneia I want to know why you picked the dictionary. was it because in 5th grade someone called you and your friend homos and you didn’t know what it meant so you had to look it up and you got as far as homoerotic, and didn’t see the problem with that, but then were consumed for days by the fear that you would mix up the words erotic and exotic in casual conversation on the playground? probably not. anyway:

    The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
    Looking for Alaska, John Green
    Girls to the Rescue: Folk Tales from around the world
    The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins

  31. 1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
    2. Personal Power Through Awareness by Sonaya Roman
    3. The Americans by Robert Frank
    4. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    5. How to Write a Blackwood Article by Edgar Allen Poe

    • Mickey, Pick an extra one because as good as The Yellow Wallpaper is, it isn’t a book, it is a short-story!

      And I loved it too!

    • I’m so happy you said The Yellow Wallpaper! There’s something about that story that just grabs me and makes me want to analyze Gilman’s every word.

  32. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    White Noise by Don DeLillo
    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
    The Giver by Lois Lowry
    The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber

  33. 1. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
    2. Ada – Vladimir Nabokov
    3. The White Album – Joan Didion
    4. Tulips & Chimneys – e.e. cummings
    5. The Ramona Series – Judy Blume

  34. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
    The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal
    In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan
    A Wolf at the Table – Augusten Burroughs

  35. Winnesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
    Are You There God It’s Me Margaret? by Judy Blume
    Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
    Breakfast At Tiffanys by Truman Capote
    Zelda by Nancy Milford

  36. 1) Matilda – Roald Dahl
    2) The House of the Spirits – Isabelle Allende
    3) One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    4) Atlas of the Human Heart – Ariel Gore
    5) CUNT – Inga Muscio

  37. Ken Kesey – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    Jeffrey Eugenides – Middlesex
    Wally Lamb – The Hour I First Believed
    Beverly Cleary – Ramona Quimby, Age 8
    James Salant – Dirty Jersey
    Norman Bridwell – Clifford the Big Red Dog (you guys, I actually picked out my first dog because he was a runt and I was like six and reading the Clifford books and I thought he’d grow into this giant dog who would let me ride on him to school and ride on flatbed trucks when we went on vacation. I wasn’t disappointed though, my runt dog was awesome)

  38. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Cunt by Inga Muscio
    The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
    Daughters of a Coral Dawn by Katherine V. Forrest
    Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

    • Handmaid’s Tale is on my list as well… read it a few months after 9/11, and with the fear politics and erosion of civil liberties going on at the time it felt eerily plausible. I kept my passport in easy reach and made sure to tune in the news every morning through the rest of the Bush years, just in case, and that book probably subconsciously gets some credit…

  39. Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis
    Invisible Monsters – Chuck Palahniuk
    On The Road – Jack Kerouac
    High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
    Tomorrow When The War Began – John Marsden

      • yes! but the trailer makes me believe it stars the teenage cast of Neighbours, so my expectations are low. They may prove me wrong.

  40. 1. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
    2. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
    3. The History of Sexuality: Volume I by Michel Foucault
    4. On the Road by Jack Keroauc
    5. And a poem: “When I have fears that I may cease to be” by John Keats

  41. I know that these five aren’t the only ones that have changed my life, but these are the first five I thought of:

    Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
    9 Stories – JD Salinger
    Running with Scissors – Augusten Burroughs
    The Perks of Being a Wallfower – Stephen Chbosky
    Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

    Fave series include both the Harry Potter Series, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

    • If I could have more than 5 books, several of these would be on my list. The Perks of Being a Wallflower!

      • One of my favorite lines from memory:
        “And I closed my eyes because I wanted to know nothing but her arms.”

        When I first read this, I could have been Charlie.

  42. Sunset Song – Lewis Grassic Gibbon
    The Well of Lonliness – Radclyffe Hall
    Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
    Harry Potter – JK Rowling
    1985 – George Orwell

  43. re: Joan Didion

    She’s one of my favorite writers as well [member of ‘the team’]. I’m not good at measuring how and/or to what degree different things have changed me/my life, but I’m pretty sure “Play It as It Lays” did just that, the sneaky bastard.

  44. It’s so hard to pick just 5! So many books that I read as a child really shaped me…

    The Giver- Lois Lowry
    Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
    Name All The Animals- Alison Smith
    Matilda- Roald Dahl
    A Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

    Also, just about anything by Kurt Vonnegut changed the way I thought about writing/characters/words/life. And A Man Without A Country is just full of words to live by.

  45. 1. Omnivore’s Dilemma: Michael Pollan
    2. The Waves: Virginia Woolf
    3. Ovid’s Metamorphoses
    4. Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Louise Bourgeois
    5. Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art: Okwui Enwezor

  46. Cyrano de Bergerac – Edmond Rostand
    Sophie’s choice – William Styron
    East of Eden – John Steinbeck
    King Kong Théorie – Virginie Despentes
    Les fleurs du mal – Charles Baudelaire

  47. I recall only one book actually changing my life. When I was 16, back in the deep, dark 1970’s, a friend gave me “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”, by Tom Robbins. She sussed that I would enjoy the girl-on-girl action. And I did, but I then proceeded to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada and Mexico for thousands and thousands and thousands of miles. Sissy Hankshaw did it, so why shouldn’t I?

    Things were never quite the same after that.

    • My brother and I have decided that this exercise is unfair because some of us were shaped more by books than others! ;)

      That being said (in no particular order):

      Charles Stross – Accelerando (which is available for! free! here. ILU Charlie!)
      Daniel Z. Danielewski – House of Leaves
      Nancy Garden – Annie On My Mind (planted the seeds of gayness!)
      Tom Robbins – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (made the seeds, erm, grow!)
      Carl Sagan – Contact (turned me into a sci-fi fan!)

      Bonus runners-up:
      Anne McCaffrey – Dragonsinger
      S. Bear Bergman – The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
      Laura Ingalls Wilder – the Little House series (which holds the dubious distinction of being the first books I read and the first books I wrote erotic fanfiction about)

  48. books that have changed my life so far…

    1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by the Fabulous JK Rowling
    2. Franny & Zooey by JD Salinger
    3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
    4. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters (this book made me realize that I was a big ol’ gaymo)
    5. the poem Like This Together by Adrienne Rich

  49. So we’re doing the cosmic compatibility test?
    This is incredibly hard.

    The Stranger – Albert Camus
    A Russian Diary – Anna Politkovskaya
    Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
    White Niggers – Ingvar Ambjørnsen
    Chaos – James Gleick

    Ask me tomorrow, and I might give you a new list, but these books changed me. They made me.

    And Harry Potter. Narnia. The Roal Dahl books.

  50. Because I am only 18, most of my drastic life changing books were sprinkled throughout my childhood.

    1. The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss
    2. Looking for Alaska by John Green
    3. Valiant By Holly Black
    4. Waifs and Strays/ The Essential Borderton by Charles de Lint
    5. Watchmen by Alan Moore

  51. I know there has been numerous others, but these were the first to come to mind:

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
    The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo
    I Live Here – Mia Kirshner
    Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen
    Horton Hears a Who – Dr Seuss (bc c’mon, a person’s a person, no matter how small, right?)

    • Nightwood!!! totally forgot about that one. wrote a big paper in college on that one…LOVE

  52. Geek love this post!:)

    1. The Power of Feminist Art
    2. Flaming Iguanas
    3. Lady of Avalon
    4. Through the Flower
    5. The Well of Loneliness

  53. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
    Meditations – Rene Descartes
    Famous Five Series – Enid Blyton
    The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
    A book I read about 10 times at school about a boy in the second world war whose house is destroyed and he runs away with a dog that I remember neither the title nor the author, and I have spent years googling it but I think I may never find out what it is called, even though I can remember so much of it and it influenced me so much. Sadtimes.

  54. Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss
    Rosemary & Juliet by Judy MacLean
    The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
    Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir by Scott Pomfret
    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

  55. Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressel(Turned me into a bit of a commie for a while, I have since seen sense & I am now more of an anarchist with stalinist tendencies)

    Mean Time – Carol Ann Duffy Poet laurette – seriously lovely poetry

    Scoundrel Time – Lillian Hellman (Well written account of her the personal experience of the hollywoods darkest period)
    Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy (love his language)

    The Daydreamer – Ian McEwan (Short stories for children – one is so scary it gave me nightmares, its about a broken doll with one arm that comes to life and starts crawling up the duvet as a childs in bed!!!, another is about the death of a family cat that had me crying – I read them to my junior class on my teacher training year – no longer a teacher!!!)

  56. in chronological order of reading:

    Matilda – Roald Dahl
    Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews
    The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
    Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs

    • Oh my god Flowers in the Attic, I loved that so much. I was watching Gossip Girl a while ago and the douchey main guy was all, “Flowers in the Attic? Ugh.” And I was angry because it’s Gossip Girl, they don’t get to judge.

  57. 1. East of Eden, Steinbeck
    2. Hills like White Elephants, Hemingway
    3. The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
    4. A Bridge to Terabithia, Paterson
    5. Miss Rumphius, Cooney

  58. 1. Forever, by Judy Blume
    2. The Realm of Possibility, by David Levithan
    3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte
    4. Who Has Seen the Wind, by W.O. Mitchell
    5. A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews

    Those are off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s others. As others have mentioned, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, L’Étranger, Les jeux sont faits, The Voyage Out…

  59. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende (When I was a kiddo)
    American Gods – Neil Gaiman
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
    The Beach – Alex Garland
    Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

    If you’ve never read Neil Gaiman or Haruki Murakami, you MUST.

  60. I’m new, so I’m going to go ahead and join in here. Books = my comfort zone. (Poetry books and short stories totally count, right?)

    Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
    Lucas – Kevin Brooks
    Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
    Eleonora – Edgar Allan Poe

  61. In no particular order:
    Dune – Frank Hebert
    Davita’s Harp – Chaim Potok
    The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
    Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein
    Selected Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson

    This would have been easier if I could actually remember more of the books I read growing up

  62. Noting that this list has as much to do with where I was in life when I read each as with how good the books actually were, in chronological order of my first exposure as far as I can recall:

    Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (when I read this in 8th grade, it caused me to think deeply about several major social and political questions for the first time, and while the book and I came to vastly different conclusions, it was definitely the catalyst)

    Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins (Right place at the right time — while I still get some nostalgic kicks out of Tom, this felt revolutionary to my 14-year-old self)

    The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (as mentioned in my comment above, I read this a few months after 9/11, and with the fear politics and erosion of civil liberties going on at the time it felt eerily plausible.)

    Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami (Some books change your life just because they’re really great books)

    Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie (Ditto, and for someone who usually devours books, the rare tome that forced me to slow down; I took about a month on this, and purely because it was so beautiful I had to stop and savor every passage)

    Some runners up:

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Middlesex, James and the Giant Peach (first novel I read, so wins a place), Ender’s Game (another that had the unfair advantage of getting me in my early teens, when lives are far more susceptible to being changed), Accellerando, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Motherless Brooklyn (or pretty much anything else by Lethem), If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, The Sparrow…

    OK, I’m going to stop there before I go crazy — I really could go all night.

  63. Harry Potter – J.K Rowling
    The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins – Dr. Seuss
    For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

    I’m not near my bookshelf so it’s harder for me to think of titles, but those are a definite 3.

  64. 1. The Notebook by Agota Kristof
    2. The Stranger by Albert Camus
    3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
    4. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
    5. Harry Potter by JK Rowling

  65. I particularly enjoy that Laneia has the dictionary on her list. Go team.

    1. The Catcher in the Rye- JD Salinger
    2. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    3. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
    4. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
    5. Looking For Alaska – John Green

    I see my list isn’t exactly original. Whatevs, they’re all great fucking books. I’m seeing some great recommendations on this thread. Thank god it’s summer.

  66. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky (I’m so sad they’re turning this into a movie)
    Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
    The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
    Henry and June by Anais Nin

  67. 1. The Realm of Possibility – David Levithan
    2. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    3. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    4. Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
    5. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

    runners up: To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, Looking For Alaska, Tatterhood (collection of folk stories from around the world with female protagonists), the Weetzie Bat books, Macbeth (wasn’t sure if it counted), book of selected E.E. Cummings poems, Greek Mythology book, Time Cat.

    btw, whoever called this the “cosmic compatibility test” knows what’s up.

  68. – the shock doctrine, naomi klein
    – for whom the bell tolls, ernest hemingway
    – a short history of nearly everything, bill bryson
    – danny the champion of the world, roald dahl
    – the old man and the sea, ernest hemingway

  69. 5 is way too limiting, especially for us older folk who have extra book-reading years.

    Animal Farm by George Orwell
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
    My Name is Asher Lev by Chiam Potok
    Wicked by Gregory Maguire
    The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the movie more so then the book.

  70. My five life-changing books are:
    The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
    Boy meets boy – David Levithan
    Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters – Jessica Valenti
    Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers – Michelangelo Signorile
    And alot more, but these are just the first that come to mind. I can read them all again and again, and I find them helpful in different ways.

    • My fith one is:
      The Pippi Longstocking Series – Asrid Lindgren
      She will always be in my world :)

  71. Well, I think before I start my actual list I need to give a special acknowledgement to Harry Potter for being my “gateway drug” to reading.


    1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -Jonathan Safran Foer

    2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower -Steven Chbosky

    3. One Hundred Years of Solitude -Gabriel García Márquez

    4. The Stranger -Albert Camus

    5. Slaughterhouse-5 -Kurt Vonnegut

    “If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still–if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice.” :)

  72. It’s so much harder pick books that have actually influenced my life, as opposed to simply picking books that I really like. Two immediately jump to mind though:

    1984 – George Orwell
    Self – Yann Martel (This was WAY more influential for me than life of Pi)

    I feel like there should be children’s books on there…since I spent approx. 95% of my waking hours reading when I was a kid. I’m sure something must have influenced me. I think I did read every Nancy Drew ever written…

    Other Possibilities:
    Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    The Color Purple – Alice Walker
    To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
    Long Walk to Freedom (Autobiography of Nelson Mandela)
    Oh the places you’ll go – Dr Seuss

    • To Kill a Mockingbird!!!! Amazing book totally forgot that one when creating my list!

      Atlas Shrugged, been wanting to read that for a while!!

  73. Thoink most of my list has probably been mentioned! Pretty hard decisions! Missed out some of my fave’ books, as couldn’t think of how they “changed” my life just enriched it!

    The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
    Truly Terrifying book. Wondefully constructed, written in the first person narrative, so it takes a bit of getting used to! Has made me incredibly mistrusting of the government! They hide the truth from us eg. The Moon Landing Hoax (but that’s another very long rant!!!!!)

    The Sportswriter – Richard Ford
    The whole trilogy is beautiful and the final book contains a quote that so eloquently sums up one of my biggest bug-bears! “Never tell anyone you know how she or he feels unless you happen to be, just at that second, stabbing yourself with the very same knife in the very same place in the very same heart she or he is stabbing. Because if you’re not, then you don’t know how anybody feels.” I want to gt it tattooed on me somehow!

    Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman
    Such an interesting and beautiful book, made me question how I live my own life in accordance with time!

    The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    Taught me that it is possible to love someone who is entirely flawed, and potentially to love those flaws more than the attributes!

    Can’t think of a 5th! Too many to choose from!

  74. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
    The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
    Ulysses – James Joyce
    Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder <– (My favourite book ever. Seriously, ever. Read it; I insist)

  75. Idoru – William Gibson
    Notre Dame des Fleurs – Jean Genet
    Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan
    Log of a Sea Captain’s Daughter – Alice Rowe Snow
    The Dispossessed – Ursula LeGuin

    runners-up :

    Celine – Brock Cole
    Flying – Kate Millett
    Rousseau’s Confessions

    i fee as though there should be more from my early childhood in here, hmm

  76. Am I late for this party? Argh.
    Anyway, here’s mine:

    1. The Unbearable Likeness of Being – Milan Kundera
    2. Written on the Body – Jeanette Winterson
    3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
    4. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
    5. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  77. I don’t read books anymore and it’s sad because I really love reading. I did a program called The Artists’s Way and it said people who read a lot, rarely write. So when I started writing scripts- I stopped reading. So here are the five books that made a difference in my life before I quit reading two years ago.

    The Giving Tree- Shel Silverstein
    Ramona the Brave- Beverly Cleary
    Alex: The Life of a Child- Frank Deford
    MIddlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
    White Oleander- Janet Fitch

    *The Artist’s Way- Julia Cameron*

    • i love the Ramona books and I made myself a Ramona t-shirt (with a Q on it like a cat with the whiskers!) and got roller skates like her’s and actually maybe kinda still totally have Ramona the Brave on my bookshelf RIGHT NOW because it’s that important to me. Also I had her haircut. Also I think she was a future lez, like Howie.

  78. 1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    2. Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
    3. House of Light by Mary Oliver
    4. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
    5. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

  79. Bear’s Magic Pencil – Anthony Browne
    The Old man and the Sea – Hemingway.
    Ender’s game – Orson Scott card.
    I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly[english translation] – Jean Dominique Bauby.

    Mine are in chronological order though they have all been well visited over the years.

  80. Oh man, you go away for a couple of days and then come home, check Autostraddle, and there are hundreds of posts about book related feelings. This is why I love this website. Anyway, I have to add in my feelings, so here they are, in chronological order:

    Matilda – Roald Dahl
    Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
    Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
    Gender Trouble – Judith Butler

    Ahh, book-related love! Thanks AS!

  81. Wow, everyone’s lists are so cool and erudite. Mine…isn’t.

    Here’s my top 5, with associated feelings, to explain the randomness.

    1. Hansel and Gretel (Ladybird Well-Loved Tales edition).

    When you were a kid, did you ever take one of your fave books and decide to replace half of the words with what your four-year-old brain thought was really really rude? I did! This was the book that taught me it’s fun to not only write your own stories, but fuck up other people’s too (no, I am not Ilene Chaiken in disguise).

    2. Day of the Starwind by Douglas Hill / Legend of Zagor by Ian Livingstone.

    I read both these when I was 11, the former being part of a really quite good kids’/YA sci-fi series, and the latter being one of the nerdy Fighting Fantasy RPG books, which I, as a proto-geek, was lapping up. I credit both of these with ushering in a dark age of my literary youth, where I read unhealthy amounts of nothing but sci-fi and fantasy for half a decade.

    3. Slow River by Nicola Griffith.

    So, by the mid-90s I’d made fair inroads into the local library’s SF section, which is where I stumbled upon this. I’m not sure how aware I was of my burgeoning sexuality at this stage, but I knew enough that I was intrigued by the gender ambiguity of the character names in the blurb on the back cover. By the end there can have been little doubt. A multi-tense, split-narrative of near-future techno-crime and drug-fuelled lesbian sex? Just looking at so many hyphenated words is getting me wet.

    Anyway, Nicola Griffith stopped writing sci-fi after this book, but did go on to write some good crime-ish books, and also edited the three Bending the Landscape short story collections of queer sci-fi, fantasy and horror. If you are a queer geek and haven’t read them, go out and get them now, seriously.

    4. The Sopranos by Alan Warner.

    I remember spying this in a bookshop as a hardcover which, at thrice the price of a paperback, was something we rarely countenanced buying in our family. Some time later, back in the library, some fateful gravity had pulled me away from the sci-fi section, and I saw this book again, picked it up, read it and loved it for the rest of my life.

    My own copy, bought later, I lent to a girl who never gave it back. And she didn’t even like it. If one sees her again, one shall have to cut that bitch.

    5. This space is reserved for when I write the (straight) Mills & Boon I keep telling all and sundry I will write one day. I am currently still stuck on the names for the hero and heroine.

  82. I have been away from my computer for too long!

    The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
    East of Eden – John Steinbeck
    As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
    Naked – David Sedaris

    And I tie between Stargirl and Wringer, both by Jerry Spinelli

  83. A book not previously mentioned that played a poignant role in my life:

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

  84. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – Tom Robbins
    The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac
    The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
    Dangerous Angels (The Weetzie Bat books) – Francesca Lia Block
    The Farthest Away Mountain – Lynn Reid Banks

  85. I don’t read. I read for 2 years when Harry Potter came out and it changed my life. For those 2 years. I now listen to Harry Potter on Audio and watch Family Guy. I know that’s not a book, but it’s using my eyes. However – while I was reading Harry Potter I found Comic Books, and Young Adult Fantasy. If you’re like me and wish there was something tailored to your childlike, Fantastical, ADD brains – here’s the list for you:
    1. Harry Potter
    2. Harry Potter
    3. Harry Potter
    IF you like me are obsessed with Harry Potter — You kind of feel like after the 4th book that you’re the author. I’m pretty sure I wrote Harry Potter.
    4. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
    5. The Abhorsen Trilogy – Garth Nix

    OH and BONUS: The Big book of Jewish Holidays. That’s a good one with lots of pictures – especially if you’re a Jewess and you forgot what Holidays you’re supposed to celebrate.

  86. Huzzah to Laneia for including Spiritual Midwifery! I also love Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

    Our Bodies, Ourselves -Boston Women’s Health Collective
    The World According to Garp -John Irving
    Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife -Peggy Vincent
    Middlesex -Jeffrey Eugenides
    The Vagina Monologues -Eve Ensler

  87. Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding
    Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
    May Sarton, A Shower of Summer Days
    Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72
    Anything David Sedaris

  88. i saw this thread and it of course got my mind turning and here is what i came up with:

    1. the handmaid’s tale- margaret atwood
    2. paddle to the sea- holling c. holling
    3. (tie)valencia- michelle tea/ like son- felicia luna lemus
    4. our bodies ourselves- boston women’s health book collective
    5. assata- assata shakur

  89. Jitterbug Perfume- Tom Robbins

    It’s Kind of a Funny Story- Ned Vizzini(which is now going to be a movie :D Yay!)

  90. Well, I’m 16, so anything that made me think super hard for more than a few minutes changed my life.

    An Abundance of Katherines — John Green. Besides being an amazingly well-written book that expanded my vocabulary, it also introduced me to my first functioning online community — the Nerdfighters.

    To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee. For humanizing historical figures and facts. Before this book, it was like “Oh, people were mean to each other before you were born, so there’s that.”

    The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath. + The Catcher in the Rye — J.D. Salinger. After I read both of these books, I carried around a copy with me everywhere I went (i.e. school and band class) for weeks, hoping someone would talk about them with me. I felt like I was missing something and understanding something for the first time.

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — Judy Blume. Because I’m 16.

  91. 1. Song of the Lioness quartet (Alanna, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, etc.) by Tamora Pierce
    2. His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman
    3. Abhorsen trilogy – Garth Nix
    4. Fifth Business – Robertson Davies
    5. Self – Yann Martel

  92. Tuesdays with Morrie
    Harry Potter!
    The Hobbit
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  93. 1. Looking For Alaska by John Green
    2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
    3. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
    4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    5. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

    1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    2. The Freddy the Pig series by Michael Cart
    3. The Whisper of Glocken by Carol Kendall (which is the most under-appreciated children’s novel ever).

  94. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
    Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
    The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

  95. 1.) Zami: A new Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
    2.) The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
    3.) Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault
    4.) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
    5.) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safron Foer

  96. Veronika decides to die – Paulo Coelho
    Man and wife – Tony Parsons
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
    The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Animal Farm – George Orwell

  97. Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris (I give this book as a gift to everyone!)
    The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
    The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
    On the Road – Jack Kerouac
    Physical Geology and the Environment – Plummer et al.

  98. 1. The Candy Bombers- Andrei Cherney
    2. The Forever War- Dexter Filkins
    3. Walden- Henry David Thoreau
    4. Hardball- Chris Matthews
    5. Life of Pi- Yann Martel

    1. One of the best books I’ve read on World War II, although it’s not the typical WW II story. It gives great detail to the politics of post-war berlin, but also the human factors of giving enough supplies offering hope, even when it was from chocolate bars falling from parachutes from planes to help the children of the soldiers they fought against in the war.

    2. The best and most personal recollection of the Iraq war from a journalist that was in the war himself. From running in the streets dodging snipers to coming home and meeting the parents of the soldiers that died along side him, it’s the best book on the war that i’ve read.

    3.Walden is a book that’s about transcendentalism but it also mocks the notion of it as well.

    4. Hardball is like a crash course into politics while also being humorous about it. You learn all the ins-and-outs of the game of politics while learning about the players, their past moves, and what will win the game, even though the game never ends.

    5. Life of Pi- Yann Martel (because i’m still a teenager still)(still in highschool, couldn’t think of more that weren’t school related). Even me, no imagination other than thining of the worst case scenario liked this book… but i was listeing to artie shaw the whole time so it may have just been the music.

    Added Bonus: 11,002 Things to be miserable about: the satirical not-so-happy book- Lia Romeo, Nick Romeo. This book makes you think both of how f’ed up the world is but for some reason also makes you think of how all the crap you’re going through doesn’t even compare to things that could happen. One of the funniest books ever.

  99. Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
    Complete Plays – Sarah Kane
    Harry Potter and the (any/all of them) – J.K. Rowling
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
    Eve Green – Susan Fletcher
    Orlando – Virginia Woolf

  100. I kinda love how many times Harry Potter is on this list. it is so very awesome.
    it’s on mine too.

    a rough draft:
    the harry potter series by my queen JK Rowling
    perks of being a wallflower by stephen chbosky I’m ambivalent about the movie. it’ll never be as good but it is being written/directed by the author and features emma watson so I have my hopes up
    good omens by terry pratchett and Neil gaiman who belong in the “authors that changed my life list”
    I’m not sure which Salinger book to add. see I first read Catcher and loved it but I dont love it as much as Franny or Nine stories or carpenters but I only read those cause I first read Catcher.
    so can I just say Salinger changed my life?
    and final I’m going to go with Paper Towns by John Green, also an Author Who Changed My Life and introduced me to leaves of grass which should be on this list.

    I am of course leaving many out such as annie on my mind, bermudez triangle, the tunnel, and everything by agatha christie which instilled on me a love of the UK and detective stories.

  101. I’ve read and loved so many books, and together they’ve had a collective impact on me, so it’s hard to narrow it down to five…

    Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card (he’s a homophobic bigot but that book turned me onto sci-fi)
    The Lioness series — Tamora Pierce (kickass young woman/tomboy)
    Immortal Poems of the English Language — anthology (got me hooked on poetry)
    Savage Inequalities — Jonathan Kozol (everyone in the US should read this)
    Gender Trouble — Judith Butler (wrapping my head around this book fundamentally changed the way I think about identity, gender, power, language, and practically everything)

    Also, these two currently changing my life: The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron and Nina Here nor There by Nick Krieger


    The Babysitters Club – By Ann M. Martin and a crack team of ghostwriters (HATERS TO THE LEFT DAMMIT!)
    Watership Down — Richard Adams
    Blue Monday — By Chynna Clugston
    Take the Cannoli — By Sarah Vowell
    Strangers in Paradise — By Terry Moore

  103. Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
    The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
    Harry Potter – obvs
    Just about anything by Tamora Pierce
    Zami – Audre Lorde

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