books that mattered

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. More regular reading than Google Reader reading and I started thinking about the books that have mattered most to me in my life thus far. Inspired by the always intriguing “Books That Made a Difference” column in O Magazine, I’ve listed my own six below. I’m thinking of asking some of my favorite bloggers for their six in the coming weeks, since books always make great presents to give and receive for the holidays.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is probably the single most influential book on this list in terms of how I choose to live my life. I first read it almost ten years ago and have reread it many times since then, including just the other day when it felt like I was reading it for the very first time. The overall message is simple, but its truth rings more clear with each reading.

An Anthology of Odes by Pablo Neruda. This anthology was my first real foray into poetry. It was the first time I realized I could actually understand and enjoy poetry. Consequently, the hours and hours I spent in the school library reading more and more Neruda helped me survive an incredibly miserable first year of college. In retrospect, it might have been subtle, but it’s probably not an understatement to say this book altered the course of my life.

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I hold a special place in my heart for this man. The wisdom he shares through his letters is astonishing to me. I love that it’s not even poetry or prose, just honest advice. I usually open this book to a random page and find the exact words I need in that moment.

The Stranger by Albert Camus. This book stands out to me the most of anything I was forced to read in high school. It was senior year and maybe the first time I sat up and gave a crap about what the teacher was saying. Existentialism and the absurd actually seemed like things worth talking about to me. Now when I read it, what I appreciate most is Camus’ style of writing. The lucidity is inspiring and the scenes where the main character swims in the sea with his lady evoke a crystal clear picture to me. Like a perfect photograph.

Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. This book is the most recent addition to my list and I admit it took a minute to get past the cover and the tagline. However, once I got into it, Bernstein’s words made a ton of sense to me at just the right time. I can honestly say this book has shifted, and continues to shift, my perception of the world and what is possible.

Hawai’i One Summer by Maxine Hong Kingston. I discovered this book in the library not long after I moved to Hawaii. I had been a fan of Hong Kingston previously, but this collection of vignettes stands apart from her other work for me. The way she described everyday living in the same part of the island where I lived at the time felt like an accurate depiction, instead of the often easily glamorized fantasy version, of this place. Looking back, it’s almost as if these stories have blended with my own memories of a distinct time in my life.

Categories: words


  1. thanks for the excellent list! i was just about to finish my book and in the mood for something new… xo

  2. Thank you for these suggestions… I’m interested in a lot of these!

  3. Thank you for sharing, I love reading and these are all new to me. Wanna get some of them soon ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. My mom bought me a copy of The Mastery of Love YEARS ago and totally dismissed it since she’s a therapist and bombards me with self-help books. You make me think I should wipe the dust off of it and give it a shot!

    P.S. I did that with The Help a few years ago too (thinking it was a self-help book! oops!) and then they made a movie of it… guess I should learn to listen to my mom:)