Messages and Messengers: My Top 7 Favorite Books of All Time

I love books! I consider them important messengers on the journey of life. Here are 7 of my all-time faves …

“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky: This was a high school read for me. It was the book that woke me up. I kind of breezed through high school. Didn’t apply myself fully academically until junior and senior years. Having a full social life was more important to me. I robbed myself of reading fantastic books (read Cliff’s Notes instead!) until this book came along. Something about it really resonated. The themes of morality and justice and living with your actions and your conscience spoke to me. Life is a series of choices. Want a good life? Make smart choices for the greatest good of all people. After reading this book, I started appreciating writing, books and novels a whole lot more. Thank you, Dostoevsky.

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger: I can’t recall the first time I read this book (college I think?!), but I do know what a huge impact it had on me. The protagonist Holden Caulfield really stood out in my mind. He was the original rebel. Did his own thing. Marched to the beat of his own drummer. Didn’t care what others thought of him. Plus he lived in New York, a place I had yet to visit (and would later call home for over a decade). The writing style of Salinger was right up my alley. Succinct, clear, powerful, raw, edgy. There’s a reason this book is a classic. It kicks ass. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and read it. Now.

“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac: I definitely read this book in college … on my summer break after freshman year. I remember that time in my life as hugely introspective. I was curious about so much. I wanted to explore, have adventures, grow and learn. Realizing there was a huge world out there ripe for seeing, tasting, feeling was a lightbulb moment. I learned about the Beat Generation in my freshman history class at the University of Florida. These beatniks sounded really freakin’ cool. I also was a fan of 10,000 Maniacs and their song “Hey Jack Kerouac.” Something about it was mysterious to me. So I picked up this significant work of Kerouac. Loved how adventurous he and his buddies were in seeing the world and figuring out who they were in the process. The message of this book has been hugely influential in my life.

“She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb: This book took my breath away, especially because the author (a man!) wrote in first-person from a female’s perspective. He knew women and this character SO well. I don’t remember all of the details of this book, but I do know how much it spoke to my heart. The protagonist was so beat down, so raw, so vulnerable that she finally realizes that the only way to go is UP. It takes her a while. She has to come undone before she can put herself back together again, better, stronger, different. My takeaway? The breakdown leads to the breakthrough.

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold: Discovered this book in my early 20s. Holy crap. The whole premise of the book – a young girl narrating the whole story after her death, from heaven – really called out to me. Since my little sister Julie died at 12 (I was 16), I had done a lot of soul searching about life, death, grief, peace. This book nailed it for me. The description of heaven made me cry with its beauty, light and laughter. When the movie came out years later I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t do justice to the book. But it did. Both book and movie are works for art. Read it. See it. You’ll be glad you did.

“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert: Whoa. Another biggie. Read this one at the age of 30 during my final months being employed in the corporate world. I was seeking, searching, yearning for more meaning. This book filled the void. I loved how Liz just picked up and totally changed EVERYTHING in her life to find her own personal truth. What a renegade! And it wasn’t all easy for her … at all. It was excruciatingly painful, but she did it anyway. Then she made her journey through Italy, India and Indonesia into a new life and a runaway bestseller. Nothing sweeter than that. The point = listen to your inner voice.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Swami Satchidananda’s translation): Read this one during my yoga teacher training in 2007. Was reading it right before and right after I quit my last corporate job. It was a huge support to me during a time of great transition and confusion. I was grieving the life I was leaving behind and celebrating my new life where I was my own boss, charting my own course. It was not the life I imagined when I was just starting my career. I thought I would be CEO of a big public relations agency. Realized early on that wasn’t my path. This book helped my find and walk my path towards the truth, towards my soul, towards allowing my spirit to run free in the world. I call it the Bible of yoga. It contains universal truths about living well, about managing the monkeys in your mind, about being healthy, about being yourself. After reading this book, I then spent time at an ashram (a yogic community) created by Swami Satchidananda called Yogaville in Virginia. To say this book was pivotal on my journey is an understatement. If you’re seeking for a simpler, more fulfilling way to life, read this!

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