On Facebook, I was tagged by a friend to participate in a “Book Challenge” in which I listed ten books that had any kind of impact on me. Arguably, every book I read has changed me somehow, but these ones were the most notable.
I really enjoyed thinking about which books have changed my life in some way–small or large–but I got so passionate about it, I figured, “Why not offer an explanation for why I chose each book?”
They are in no particular order.
1. Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson
A few years back, when I first began actively trying to improve my photography, I ordered this book. To me, so much of being an artist and photographer is finding the inspiration for a great shot. I have been told I have a “good eye” and I attribute that to the way Peterson encourages his readers to seek the beautiful compositions in everyday life.
2. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
In middle school, I was obsessed with this book and the theatrical adaptation. This was the first story I read that showed how complex “good vs. evil” really can be. Maguire wrote the story so compellingly and emotionally. I enjoyed following Elphaba’s aspirations to change the world and struggle as an outcast with misunderstood intentions. Everyone can relate to it in some form.
3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This is my all-time favorite book. To be honest, at first the writing style threw me off, and I thought Holden Caulfield was just an angsty kid–but there is SO MUCH MORE. It has personal resonance to me, because Holden’s attachment to the Natural History Museum perfectly described why I love Disneyland so much. I recommend this book to all college/high school students to read before they grow up!
4. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
I am drawn to stories themed around growing up. The story is unbelievably quotable. I like to highlight novels (yes, I annotate my books directly on the pages. Some of you are probably cringing.) with quotes or points I want to remember. I fell in love with Barrie’s whimsical similes and writing style, I highlighted almost this entire book.
5. Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
A friend recommended this book to me, and it was one of the first “dark” novels I read. Palahniuk’s books are very unique and compelling, and I remember being totally sucked into this story. Even though it is about a cult-ish faith, I thought it was interesting to read about Tender’s inner-struggle about his beliefs.
6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This was my first exposure to the Beat Generation. There is something about the Beats that I find really interesting and inspiring: they just left. Traveled without a real plan. They acted on impulse, and that stunt is something I’d be too anxious do. Who wouldn’t want to travel with a bunch of friends and write?
7. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
I am utterly impressed with the atmosphere, backstory, and culture that Danielewski created for this novel. This is single-handedly the most immersive book I have ever read. When you crack this book open, it isn’t written like a regular novel. Some words are written differently, the word house is written in a different color every time. Some parts of the story aren’t even told in words. It makes you think. This book was so creative and well-written… it actually frightened me a lot. Some parts of the story freak me out still.
8. Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell
I read this book while interning at Walt Disney World for the Disney College Program. Cockerell offers such great advice on how to advance one’s career, not just with Disney, but in any profession. I annotated this book like crazy, and still refer to it when I need a refresher on how to achieve my goals. This also taught me about the way The Walt Disney Company works, and it’s interesting taking a peek inside the inner-workings of a Fortune 100 company.
9. Building a Company by Bob Thomas
It’s no secret that I am fascinated with The Walt Disney Company. Walt was a great business man and creative thinker, but I admire Roy Disney the most! Walt was the speaker and the brainstormer, but Roy made sure it was even possible to achieve those goals. That is why I have so much respect for him; he took care of all the behind-the-scenes work to help his brother succeed. Plus, he was such a humble person despite all of their achievements.
10. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
My high school Government teacher had us read this novel in the eleventh grade. I was so young when 9/11 happened, and to be honest, I didn’t quite know why it happened. I had a vague idea of who al-Qaeda was, what extremism was, and this book explained it all. This is another book I think everyone should read.
Phew, if you made it this far, I applaud you! Seriously, read some of these books. They changed my life; maybe they can change yours!