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The Most Life Changing Books I’ve Ever Read

When I was a kid, my parents would send me to bed early as punishment, but that’s where the fun usually began. I would hide under the covers with a flashlight – no joke – and devour anything I could get my hands on. Reading took me to worlds I could never have imagined with best friends I would never meet.

Here are a few of my favorite books:

1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

As a sticky 6-year-old, I refused to read (I wanted my mom and dad to do the dirty work for me). Then, one day, my mom walked away from Sorcerer’s Stone for a few moments, and desperate to prove I was smart, I started reading from the beginning. And I was hooked. I read the next three books by first grade, and I remember waiting in anticipation for each of the next books to come out; I was the first name on the list at the library for Half-Blood Prince. Harry Potter will forever remain one of the most important things in my life.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I had never been assigned to read about Scout’s adventures in school, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Within a page, I couldn’t stop digesting the amazing characters Lee fashions, her fantastic humor, and the deep concepts so weaved into the story. I will never read Go Set A Watchman – I can’t bear the idea of Atticus being racist. I will never spoil my appetite of such relatable characters and thought-provoking motifs.

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My 7th grade English teacher assigned The Kite Runner, and I loved it so much I had to read the companion novel – little did I know it would be one of my favorite books of all time. The tragic story intertwines the lives of two Afghani women married to the same man, and how their lives end up. If you are looking for a different viewpoint of life and awe-inspiring writing, Hosseini is your man. (Also check out And the Mountains Echoed.)

4. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Dealing with depression, I needed to get out of my head, and LPTNH was the perfect remedy. Lawson and her family bring to life dead animals and her fresh take on neuroticism puts life in perspective. Furiously Happy is on my bucket list, because The Bloggess gives me the ability to find joy all around. If you need something funny you can’t put down, pick this up.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)  by Mindy Kaling

Books about strong women make me happy, and Kaling’s hilarious journey to stardom couldn’t be more strength-filled. The funny lady lady worked her tail off, and thank goodness she wrote a book about it. Another fabulous read if you’re looking for something funny.

6. The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot (also the Airhead series; and all other Meg Cabot books, ever)

You can judge me all you want, but any book written by Meg Cabot is gold. Her characters are full of life and the sappy endings are always worth it. You probably didn’t know life as a princess was so difficult, or a supermodel with a brain transplant could save the world, or a cartoonist could find love in Italy, or a screenplay writer could save a man from a bomb. These novels are perfect for airplanes or sunny afternoons.

Note: you can skip the 11th book in The Princess Diaries series, because it ruins character development – but make sure to read all other 10!

7. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (From Different Seasons) by Stephen King

My dad and I used to watch “The Shawshank Redemption” all the time when I was a kid, so when I learned it was part of a four-story collected by Stephen King, I had to read it. Never one for scary books, the dramatic vignette about prison life was perfect for me (and might have inspired my current love of “Orange is the New Black”). King has a way of making the mundane exciting, and Andy Dufresne’s time in Shawshank is an excellent example. While the movie will always be dear to my heart, the piece is anything but ordinary.

8. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Thank goodness my ECON1000 professor assigned Freakonomics! Very different from the books I usually read, the stories in the book made me think and understand the world in a different way. Try it out if you want your mind blown– it’s seriously powerful.

9. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The classic book talks about a life I feel fortunate I never had to live. The characters bleed from the pages and the lives they lead are entangled with motifs of camaraderie and adventure. Loyalty and friendship can be taught through these pages, so flip through it if you are looking for something to think about. Adventure can be found even in tough situations.

10. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games author penned this series before Katniss was around, but both series contain dynamic characters and twisting plots. I like Gregor better because it’s not as widely read, the characters are more relatable, and there are huge bat friends.

What I’m Reading Now: Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

If you haven’t noticed, a lot of the books I have loved are adventure stories and Young Adult novels. A friend recommended to me Steinem’s collection of essays, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Working through essays on work, family, body image, politics, growing up, biographies and more is taking time, but each essay brings about something new and exciting – definitely a fabulous collection of feminist works.


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Sydney Stein is a junior at the University of Wyoming pursing a Bachelor’s in Communication with minors in Honors, History, and Gender and Women’s Studies.Sydney enjoys long walks in the mountains, funny conversations, receiving flowers, fiction novels, smelling gardens, jumping off diving boards, Oxford commas, and elephant rides.  
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