Books That Changed Our Lives

We’ve all heard it at least once, if only from our high school English teachers—books have power.

Even if it felt cliché, the sentiment is not empty. Some stories shape how we view the world, and some books even change our lives in various ways.

From fantasy to historical fiction to childhood favorites, take a look at some students’ most impactful reads. 

For some of us, series had the most impact:

The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater

“As an English major, I’m asked about my favorite books a lot. Unequivocally, without rival, the books that have had the greatest impact on me are The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, which is comprised of four books: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue and The Raven King. I’ve read these books at 16 and 18 years old, and now, at almost 20, I’m reading them again. I always find the same joy and wonder in them as I did during my first reading.” 

“For as much as I love these books, I cannot ever find the best way to sum up the series. I could talk for hours about the complexities. Stiefvater’s writing is just that good. Essentially, The Raven Cycle is about five Virginian teenagers searching to reawaken a dead Welsh king to receive a favor, but it’s also about true love, magic, friendship, dreams, sentient trees and vintage cars. It’s about finding something more in life. The first time I read this series at 16 years old, I felt entirely inspired. I’ve always loved writing fiction, but I’d stopped at the beginning of high school; after finishing The Raven King, I knew I had to write something, anything, to find my something more and the magic that the series promised existed in the world. Without this series, I wouldn’t be writing and wouldn’t believe that magic, in some form, exists in the world.” 

Morgan Spraker

Sophomore English major

Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“As a kid, I found myself drawn to the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer to the point where I would constantly read the series over and over again. The series follows the exploits of a young criminal mastermind as he manipulates his way through Ireland, where faeries and other magical creatures reside underground, hidden away from humanity. One of the particular details I fell in love with was the consistent character development—something you really get to see in The Time Paradox, a later book in the series where Artemis needs to travel back in time to save the world from a younger version of himself. If I had to pinpoint the exact series that got me hooked on how characters evolve and interact with each other, it would definitely be this series!”

Kaitlyn Molnar

Sophomore mechanical engineering major

Others loved a good coming-of-age story… 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“My favorite book ever is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I read it in 7th grade and it resonated so deeply with me. Their stories and the way they fell in love was inspiring, and it reaffirmed my love of reading and my love of music. To this day, when I read novels of a similar genre, I hold them to the ‘Eleanor and Park standard,’ because the book impacted me so deeply. It taught me to love others, even if I wasn’t loving myself. It taught me to be brave and live for myself instead of the pleasure of others, which were all the lessons I needed to learn at that age.”

Taylor Perkins

Freshman political science major

Demian by Hermann Hesse

“Hermann Hesse’s Demian is the most memorable, thought-provoking book I’ve read. While reading an analysis of BTS’s Blood, Sweat, and Tears music video two years ago, I found that its concept was based off of this book and my interest was piqued. I added it to my list of books to read but it wasn’t until a few months later when I had to do a creative writing project that I decided to kill two birds with one stone and read it. Demian tells the story of a young boy on his search for something more; Emil Sinclair, the main character, is an extremely curious boy and feels as if he’s not being taught about the world in its entirety, only the good things. After meeting Demian, he learns about Abraxas, a God who personified both divine and infernal elements, and he’s attracted to the idea that both good and evil exist. The book is filled with symbolism, deeper meanings, and great quotes like:

“Whether you and I and a few other people will one day renew the world remains to be seen. But we must renew it daily within us, otherwise we are of no account” and “I live in my dreams — that's what you sense. Other people live in dreams, but not in their own. That's the difference.” 

Demian impacted me in so many ways. It made me think about reality, my own spirituality and identity, the presence of good and bad, and how the relationships you develop with people can impact your life and their lives in both big and small ways. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover a new piece of themselves.”

Gabrielle Gray-Case

Sophomore microbiology major

Historical fiction made some of us consider our own circumstances… 

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

“This book was a birthday gift from my great-grandfather a few years ago, and he had written a little message to me in the front of it, so it was already sentimental to me. But the whole time I was reading the book my jaw was just on the floor. It was about this woman whose father owned a watch repair shop below their house, and they slowly started using it as a front to hide Jewish people during the holocaust. It talks about the conditions and the lengths they went to to hide these people, and what happened when they got caught. It was super eye-opening, because you learn about this kind of thing in history class, but hearing someone talk about it firsthand is so much more emotional. When I finished the book, I just kind of said ‘I’m so grateful for the life I have,’ and I try to remember that every time something goes wrong or inconveniences me. I am so blessed, even with the rough patches I go through.”

Jaden Anderson

Sophomore APK major

And some of us couldn’t pick only one book!

Various Titles

“One of my all-time favorite books is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It introduced me to a whole new level of witty banter and philosophical musing. As a child, I loved The Secret Garden and The Mysterious Benedict Society books. The Outsiders and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian were very influential books during my late middle school, early high school years. A book that had a huge influence of me was The Stranger by Albert Camus. I have never been so mesmerized, confused, and swept away by a book in my life. Mrs. Dalloway was amazing too. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Virginia Woolf's writing style. It was so much fun to get a glimpse into people's minds and thoughts.”

Carson Leigh

Freshman political science major

No matter the genre, all of these titles are an example of the power books can have over us.