Green River Star -

By Lindsey Travis
Sweetwater County Library System 

Books can change lives


Last week on the library’s Facebook page I asked followers to share the titles of books that changed their lives. We received a lot of responses:

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

“Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy

“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker

“Siddhartha,” by Herman Hesse

“On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac

“The Stand,” by Stephen King

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” by Hunter S. Thompson

“Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” by Katherine Boo

“The Solace of Open Spaces,” by Gretel Ehrlich

“Many Lives, Many Masters,” by Brian Weiss

I love this list. I’ve personally read some of these books, but there are quite a few that I haven’t read. Something I forgot to do, however, is ask why these books changed their lives.

When looking for books to read, I’m always asking others for recommendations, and part of the fun is finding out why people loved certain books. While I read for entertainment, I also read to learn something, to find meaning in things I don’t understand, and to find out things about the world and how people fit in to it.

In that respect, here’s a list of books that have changed my life, along with a quick explanation of why:

“Invisible Man,” By Ralph Ellison – I read this book in high school and it had a profound effect on me. While this book is mostly about race, its message goes beyond race. Ellison taught me that it’s OK to be myself. I don’t have to act a certain way or do things based on stereotypes. It also made me look at others differently. I learned to look beyond someone’s outer appearance to see who they really are.

“The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother,” by James McBride – I read this book in the late 90s when I was in my early 20s and considering starting my own family. In the book, James McBride gives the true story of his mother, who as a Jewish woman has a completely different background than others in their Harlem neighborhood. The book takes a look at how family has an effect on a person’s life and how understanding your family history will help you appreciate them, their moral beliefs and what they sacrificed.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns,” By Khaled Hosseini – I read this book after I had kids, and it was very emotional. The women Hosseini writes about stood by each other, protected their children and survived despite desperate circumstances. These characters showed me the power of hope.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” By Gabriel Garcia Marquez – This is a long, dense read, but its message is powerful. I read it when I was younger and looking for meaning in life. Following a family over the course of a century, this book shows that it’s important to learn from history, because if you don’t, it’s bound to repeat itself.

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” by Barbara Demick – I read this book recently to get a better understanding of life in North Korea. Demick interviews North Korean citizens who have defected. The book shows that will to survive is stronger than any rules or laws out there. It also taught me that while democracy isn’t perfect, we are fortunate to have the freedoms we have here in the United States.

So as we descend on Thanksgiving, I find myself being thankful for the gift of reading, and I will continue to find books that pique my interest and will forever change my life. I encourage you to do the same. If you are looking for more great books, stop by the library and ask for recommendations. We have lots of them! Also, if you’ve read books that have changed your life, make sure to share them with others. You’ll be thankful that you did!


Speaking of Thanksgiving, the libraries will be closed on Nov. 27 and 28 for the holiday. Make sure to check books out for the long weekend before then. You can also check out eBooks from the library anytime, even when the libraries are closed. Visit the Sweetwater County Library System’s website at to find out how to check out eBooks.


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