Ten Books That Have Had the Most Lasting Personal Impact

A number of my friends on Facebook have recently shared lists of ten books that have had the most lasting impact on their lives and challenged others to do the same. I decided to cheat a little bit and post a separate category for childhood favorites and those that endured into adulthood. That there is no room on the list for The Great GatsbyInvisible Man, or Underworld is astonishing–and subject to change as soon as an hour from now.

Honorable Mentions–Childhood Favorites

3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle

2.  This series of books about Little League baseball and a boy whose father is, I think, missing in Korea. I’ve never been able to remember their titles or the author, but these books made a profound impact on me as a kid. Thanks, Toole County Library!

1. The Lord of the Rings

Tied for 10th-2nd Places

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

“Perhaps we all give the best of our hearts uncritically–to those who hardly think about us in return.”

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Chris McCandless

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain — why he did not instantly disappear.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.” 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“He soon felt that the fulfillment of his desires gave him only one grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. This fulfillment showed him the eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness depends on the realization of their desires.”

First Place, Probably Forever

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy

“The whole trouble lies in that people think that there are conditions excluding the necessity of love in their intercourse with man, but such conditions do 51ZlFVbM3kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_not exist. Things may be treated without love; one may chop wood, make bricks, forge iron without love, but one can no more deal with people without love than one can handle bees without care.”