I’ve read a lot of books in my life, but these are the ones that I loved and that really meant something to me.  I’ll add more as I think of them.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I read this book a countless number of times as a child.  There is absolute magic in this story.  It doesn’t gloss over the trauma and pain of the main characters, and it really highlights the healing power of friendship and nature.

Favorite Quote: “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

This book was my first real experience with government paranoia.  Once you read it, you can never go back.

Favorite Quote: “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

This book is an incredibly entertaining science fiction novel, but it also has a lot to say about humanity, societal responsibility, and the evolution of mankind.

Favorite Quote: “Now I understand,” said the last man.”

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

My dad first read this story to me when I was a child, and I loved the fantastical nature of the setting and characters.  When I reread it as an adult, it was an entirely different experience revolving around language, war, and the balance of everything.

Favorite Quote: “Happy endings must come at the end of something,’ the Walrus pointed out. ‘If they happen in the middle of a story, or an adventure, or the like, all they do is cheer things up for a while.”

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This book revolves around a 30-something-year-old, educated, lazy, and self-involved man who still lives at home with his mother.  He is not a lovable character at all, and yet, for some odd reason, you find yourself fascinated by his delusional worldview.  The story takes place in the 1960s in the south and does delve into some of the societal issues of the era, including the blatant racial discrimination and exploitation that was so common during that time.

Favorite Quote: “Stop!’ I cried imploringly to my god-like mind.”

Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson

This book chronicles a journalist’s interviews with various extremists groups.  It is hilarious, which seems so wrong, but sometimes you need a little humor to coat the bitterness in the world so you can actually swallow it down and digest what’s happening.

Favorite Quote: “They can’t shit on us,” said Alex. “That’s really what I’m saying. You can’t shit on us anymore.” There was a silence. “I just want them to stop shitting on us,” said Alex. “OK,” I said. “Sorry.”

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is another book that I read several times as a child.  It takes place in a world of sameness where everyone is at peace, but at the cost of being stripped of feeling and individuality.  It has an important message about not blindly conforming to society and how significant memory and history are to progress, and it stresses the importance of individual expression and emotion.

Favorite Quote: “The worse part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”