How a Book List Turned Into a Lifelong Project

My grandmother was one of the wisest people I knew. When my days with her were numbered, I was desperate for scraps of her stories, knowledge, and love. During one of my last conversations with her, I asked what was the most influential book she ever read. She told me it was The Devils of Loudon by Alduous Huxley because it taught her the difficult concept that for good to exist, there must be evil. By reading this book, I hope to gain a small piece of her knowledge and character that I admired. This gave me the idea to start asking the people I look up to for the name of the most influential book they have ever read. Each person gained something valuable from the book they recommended to me.

Books have always been a way for me to transport myself into another time and place. It opens my mind to new perspectives by telling a story from another person’s point of view. They are my release, my education, and my passion. Books shape the way I think and view the world, and by compiling this list I can find the ones that will be most impactful.

The second person I asked was my mother, who is brave, curious, and adventurous. She recommended Exodus by Leon Uris to me. She said it taught her more about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and ultimately lead her to travel to Israel for a few months. This summer, I will also be travelling to Israel, so this book is a great way for me to educate myself before my trip.

My grandpa told me that he first read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy at my age. He rereads it every 20 years, and says it feels like a new book every time. As he ages and his perspective changes, he gains something new out of the book.

My sister recommended Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, a book that taught her more about privilege and the impact of globalization on the lives of many. When she marched at the Women’s march, her sign read a quote from this book.

My neighbor recommended The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, her mother told me White Oleander by Janet Fitch, and my plethora of cousins recommended many more.

The list goes on and will continue to grow. Each recommendation comes from someone with qualities I aspire for and someone who I care about. By reading these books that were so important to them, I can begin to understand them better and learn more about myself. I may not have the same takeaways that they did, but if they found the book valuable in some way, then I am sure I will too.

The conversations themselves that stem from me asking people for the most influential book they have read have been fascinating as well. I have heard stories about pivotal moments in their lives, difficult times, and triumphs. Through this, I have grown closer to the people I care about and learned lessons that continue to shape me.