Five Books That Have Impacted Me

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Photo by Clem Onojeghu. Courtesy of Unsplash

As a self-proclaimed avid reader, many books have influenced my worldview and helped me understand my identity. I’ve learned so much about different cultures and perspectives through reading, which has ultimately expanded my understanding and compassion. 

Books have also shown me characters with whom I share similar traits and experiences. In turn, I’ve learned how to navigate hardships and taken inspiration from authors and their characters. Through reading, I have learned life lessons that have shaped my upbringing and continue to push me to grow – these books have challenged me and influenced many aspects of my life. I credit most of my personal growth to books that have influenced how I view feminism, social issues, sexuality and the complexity of humanity.

“Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” by Florence Given

One of my favorite books, “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty,” by Florence Given, changed my outlook on feminism, especially regarding internalized misogyny. Given addresses controversial topics such as female sexuality, privilege and sexual assault in an honest manner, which helped me understand these topics in a more nuanced way. 

After reading this book, my outlook on relationships and heteronormativity changed for the better. The illustrations are also very fun and I love the representation it depicts. By reading this book, you can learn about self-love and acceptance, while also challenging yourself to hold yourself and others accountable. I would suggest this book to anyone, regardless of gender, because the lessons that it teaches are important for everyone to learn. The lessons on high-value partners, consent and body positivity are applicable to everyone.

To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

My childhood favorite, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” needs no introduction. This book addresses complex issues of systemic racism and features strong characters. The protagonist, Atticus Finch still remains one of my favorite characters. His morally-upright temperament is an inspiration. 

This book helped me develop my interest and desire to work in the legal field. The lessons in this book surrounding racism are still vital in today’s society, as institutionalized racism still exists. Overall, this book remains one of the most influential books from the 20th century, as it educated and inspired generations of Americans.

“Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Andersen

Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” influenced my own writing, as it teaches life lessons through beautifully-written stories. The novel features a collection of short stories written about the townspeople of Winesburg, Ohio, and it taught me about the beauty of ordinary people in literature and the depth that exists within storytelling. 

Anderson’s novel addresses topics of social stigma, sexuality and sexism, which inspire compassion in the reader. My favorite thing about this book is that it illustrates the complexity of individuals while simultaneously affirming the basic humanity that all people have.

“Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” changed the way I understand human thought and my own perceptions. This nonfiction book presents findings from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics in an interesting and engaging manner. It centers on the concept that our decisions are not as planned as we would imagine, and this is often beneficial. 

By reading this book, my awareness of biases changed: Previously, I was unaware of the impact that one’s identity had on forming the biases that affect all aspects of decision making, but now, I have a better understanding of subconscious decision making. I can challenge myself to make more conscious decisions without such biases.

“1984” by George Orwell

George Orwell’s “1984” remains one of my favorite books because of its influence on my view of society and politics. It’s a bleak novel, set in a dystopian and authoritarian society that acts as a warning against the deterioration of democracy. This book aided in forming my interest in politics and taught me the value of free expression. In today’s political climate, this book holds importance, as it shows the dangers of a nondemocratic and authoritarian government.

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