Here are 10 books that have shaped who I am today:
1. Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
An unprecedented international publishing event: the first and only diary written by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo Bay detainee. There’s a lot to be learned about the U.S. from the eyes of the people it’s imprisoned.
When I first read this book, it was heavily redacted by the government. It’s now available in its full form.
The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology by Robert Wright
Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics–as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.
I was pretty much not ok for about a month after reading this book. I felt like a robot who’d read her own manual.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dark novel, The Scarlet Letter, a single sinful act ruins the lives of three people. You see the effects of shame and hiding as opposed to living out in the open with your flawed self.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of our lives. It gave me the data to back up why I don’t like working in an office, and the guts to go out on my own as a freelancer.
The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage edited by Cathi Hanauer
This collection of essays gives women the space to write about what’s working and not working in today’s modern life. It introduced me to women who lived creatively, out outside the expectations of the world, and gave me more courage to do the same.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Frankl maintains his humanity and joy through the Holocaust. He discusses what he considered his last human freedom: to decide how he will react to his circumstances.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. Harari takes you through the history of our species, how we made up the world we live in today, and who, or rather what, we really are.
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
This powerful and inspiring book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it. It’s not just a do-gooder story though. It examines the personal costs of saving the world, along with exploring a model that might work not just for heroes, but everyday people.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Written in Greek, without any intention of publication, by the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. I love that you can read about what someone thought of life 2,000 years ago, and learn about yourself.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Largely set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific developments that are combined to make a utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider. As opposed to 1984, however, the future citizens of this utopian/dystopian society are lulled into compliance by pleasure.