5 Books that Shape My Life


Literacy for the win! Photo credit: Yvonne

When I was a kid, I always got in trouble…for reading books way past my bedtime. (Major nerd alert!) I would go the restroom, pretend I had a really bad stomachache, and then read on the toilet. The toilet tank would be my bookshelf, and the next morning, my mom would yell at me for leaving my novels all over the restroom.

Luckily, as an adult, I make my own bedtime! My books are now littered all over my room, occasionally making their way out into the living room or kitchen. I am sure my mom would disapprove of my late-night reading sessions as she claims these will age me quickly (more like filling me up with wisdom!).

Even now, I prefer a novel to Netflix. I try to go on walks during lunch to find a hideaway spot to recharge with whatever book has tickled my fancy at the moment. I even know where the closest neighborhood library is! (People always tell me it’s cute that I still go to the library, although I just think it’s me being frugal with the amount of books I read. And I’m not much for re-reading books.)

Anyway, books have played a large role in my life. During my tough teenage years, books always had my back. I have spent a huge chunk of my life in libraries – studying, working, volunteering, even napping!

Here are some books that have made a major impact on my life–

The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan: This is the first book I can remember reading in school that featured Asian-Americans as the lead characters. As you all know, there’s definitely a lack of diversity in the American literature curriculum. Although I am not Chinese-American, I was able to relate to the conflicts the Asian-American daughters had with their Chinese mothers.

Quote: “Then you must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte: Jane is my literary spirit twin. Like Jane, I have a strong sense of independence, passion, and even a bit of stubbornness. And like Jane, even though I do value relationships, I strive to put my freedom and conscience first.

Quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison: I have yet to read a book that hits my emotional gut like this one. It forces you to reflect on racism and the narrow standards of beauty. It also forces you to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Not everyone is good or bad, and it is impossible to fully understand a person until you learn about their background, history, experiences. Every single time when I think of this book, I feel haunted.

Quote: “Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling: This was when the Harry Potter series took a dark turn. This was the book where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine started to step into adolescence and faced the challenges that came along with it. On top of starting to lose their innocence as they deeply recognize societal issues. Of all of the books in the series, this is my favorite. Also, without a doubt, this just shows to prove that HUFFLEPUFF is the best house!

Quote: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” 

Mama Provi and the Pot of Ricewritten by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova; illustrated by Robert Roth: A lovely children’s book about family, multiculturalism, friendship, and food. I received this book as a thank-you gift for volunteering at a book fair. I was a teenager, so I first thought it would just be a book to read with my little brother. Wrong! My hardcover copy of this book is one of my favorite material possessions. Even as a grown woman, I pick up this book to give myself a pick-me-up on a tough day.

As I read more and more, this “life bookshelf” is sure to change. What books would be on your life’s bookshelf? Which ones shaped you into the person you are today?


One thought on “5 Books that Shape My Life

  1. Yvonne Ly says:

    – Can I say the whole Harry Potter series? (friendship, magic, and more!)
    – Slaughterhouse-Five (this has changed my thoughts on time, war, PTSD, aliens, destiny, and death)
    – The Witches (i used to devour those Roald Dahl books and this was my favorite. It taught me about blending fantasy with reality. About paying attention to the world around you. And about running away from effing witches)
    – The Stinky Cheese Man (my irreverent sense of humor was derived from books like this. my love of classics with a twists derived from Jon Sciezka’s classic)
    – The Giver (it’s a classic… and not even that old! as a kid when you’re reading it, it’s an eye-opening experience. What is it that makes someone special and what happens when we take it all away? There’s bad that comes from that, but also so much good… but at what costs?)


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