Albeit this meme seemed to circulate the "intellectual community," but lists like this, of inspiring or influential titles, always contain the same expected few. And they're books to which most people (at least the ones I know and like) would say, "Gross, BORING." It's like these are the expected answers; you mention them so you'll sound smart and worldly. But really—influential works and theories on society? Maybe. But most influential books to YOU on YOUR world and YOUR viewpoints? C'mon now. Don't just recite my reading list from freshman year Western Civ. With what books have you formed a personal connection, so they stick with you forever?
I can't think of too many, but there are a few that never fail to pop into my head when the situation comes along:
- Harriet the Spy—I know I mention this one all the time, but it was the first story that made me want to explore and try a different way of life than the one in which I was raised. Harriet was always surrounded by people, and she became so observant of them, able to put herself into their situations. And now...well, I'm not called The Great Empathizer for nothin'.
- The Nanny Diaries—I did not like this book when I read it back in the 10th grade, and there's not too much to take from it. But for some reason, I always think of the ending when I get really riled up about something. My first instinct is to just say what I think and react without censor. It would feel SO GOOD to just tell someone off, but then I think of this book and how it's better to pick your battles. So now (for example) instead of sending back really passive-aggressive emails when dealing with incompetence, I type out my anger, pause, hit delete, and then write a rational reply.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—Another favorite I mention a lot but from the moment I read this, I've been reminded to pay attention to the small things and look for the beauty everywhere.
- The Laramie Project—I read this play a few years ago and was struck by the lack of bias about a story that has always been so slanted in the media. Regardless of the why, the story is a tragic one. But, this has since led me to question the people and the lives behind any story. On paper, they're just a name, but individuals are complex; a lot can be behind a story, unseen. Also, I see how the media can stereotype a story—categorize it one way while ignoring all the details surrounding it, just so it becomes a phenomenon, incites emotion in people, and ultimately makes the news media a lot of money.