As the night draws dark and sullen most of the world escapes into the ataraxia of their overzealous day nestled asleep in the safe haven of  their beds. On those nights while my emotions run ragged and my heart whispers secrets my brain rejects, I treat my insomnia with lucid adventures buried in books that project me into a world of comfortable escape. I become enthralled in the lives that exist on these pages – I love books. Reading is just one of the many textures weaved in the fabric of my being and has become a source of small talk surrounding my interactions with many people.

“Hey, what are you reading?”

“Do you have anything good to recommend for me? I want to start reading a little more.”

As much as I read, I always find these questions a bit intrusive for small talk because I’m the type of person that takes reading and writing seriously. Could be because I want to be behind the words that change someone’s life one day or that I feel reading is intimate and that everyone brings their own agency and life experiences to the things that are consumed on a daily basis. There are books that I suffered through reading but finished because my OCD will not allow me to leave anything undone and there are books that changed my life. I think people override that subjectivity for conversation’s sake and sometimes end up reading books that do nothing for them.

As a critic of social critique, I think the key to a good book is reading the words that speak to you and exploring your own interests.

People declare that books changed their lives and as flattering a sentiment as that can be there is never really an explanation on the how or the why. Proclaiming a book changed your life is a pretty high honor but I do not think it should be interchanged with acknowledging a book that is just really good or entertaining.

Strand Bookstore usually labels books as temporarily life changing because most of us loss interest in things because we barely let the effects of external experiences marinate into our own routine. As someone who recommends books, I don’t want to label all the good reads I digest as life changing. As a society we weaken the potency of phrases be letting them develop into everyday colloquialisms. Not everything is awesome or dope or epic. So I asked myself are there any books that changed my life and how have they done so. It was a grueling task because every book added to my bookroom resume changes or reinforces my perspective on life. The few books I chose are ones that nourished my soul’s longing for intellectual connections, love, wisdom, peace, happiness and success.

The list of life changers is long but these are the books from the last few years that communicate with the amalgamation of my existence; one, that doesn’t have a solid existence but is fragmented across relationships and are the truths I revisit while the world is asleep.

All About Love by bell hooks

bell hooks is a phenomenal feminist thinker and social theorist and her work analyzes contemporary culture and how gender, race, and class and their interconnectedness depict what is acceptable for a society. In this book she provides a definition of love, how a lack of love or a misunderstanding of what it is in family life can create dysfunction in our intimate relationships and how as Americans we are fed narratives of effortless love that desensitize us to the continual work required to keep a committed relationship and how often times we lose a chance at fulfilling love because of it. This book spoke to my issues with abandonment and how I carried much of that anger and hurt into my former partnerships, more specifically the former love that inspired many of the posts on this blog.

The Buddha Walks into a Bar by Lodro Rinzler

Though I come form a Christian family, I don’t think any book has spoke to my spirituality as much as this one. Most books on spirituality I find can be forced or spoken from an arena of condescendence. This book spoke to a generation of millennials who don’t have the same issues as their parents but still need to etch their space in the world. It was really my getaway into exploring spirituality, Buddhist principles and how to incorporate that mindfulness into my everyday.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is one of those books that the employees at Strand labels as “temporarily life changing” and it surely delivered because this book knocked me out my socks for quite a while. I wouldn’t suggest reading this right after a break-up, I was Draking for a few weeks after, and clearly mistakes were made on my part. Junot Diaz is a very profound individual and through these pages of fiction he demonstrates how the love we see in our youth shapes who we are and how we will love in the future. It is love with complications, love with loss, love with regret, love with sorrow, the intimacy of love we feel before it slips away and the love we hope to mend or to replace – if only we realized all this before it was too late.

The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay

I wish I got my hands on this book when I was 19 or in the earlier half of my twenties. Not to say I feel like I wasted the former half of these years but much of the information in the book were things I needed reaffirmation on. Growing up I did not expect my life to be as colossal in my twentysomethings but figuring out who you are at this age has been extremely difficult for me. Whether it be my career, love life or formulating my own opinions outside of the ones force fed by my culture, I’m learning to be unapologetically me. I found the book very insightful and a very clear indication of why your twenties are a very important factor in your life and not just the live-it-up decade we’re conditioned to believe it is.

The Book of Understanding: Creating Your Own Path to Freedom by OSHO

I binged and read this book. It was my first Osho read and I find him polarizing to say the least. Reading this on the heels of analytically breaking down Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, the ideologies are similar. I would not recommend this book to the religiously devout who is faint of heart. As someone who teeters the line between a traditional religious upbringing and seeking out an identity outside of organized religion I was more than intrigued. I find myself in a consistent conflict as I question the Universe and when I step outside the control of my imprinted faith. I love his comparative argument and how he so effectively blends the two hemispheres’ beliefs in an attempt to teach one to live an identity true to self and still be aware of the gifts of nature and life

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs was a fascinating visionary with a meticulous agenda and belief to get his visions out to the world. His dedication, confidence and diligence in his ideas made me believe in my own story and the words I want to ultimately share on my career path. So often people will tell me I have to submit to certain areas of our culture or behave in marginalized ways because of who I am or how I look. Steve’s vehement dismissal of these boxes and his loopy path to success is reassuring. It also helps that Walter Isaacson provided a narrative that was engaging, compelling, and informational.

Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been

Many people don’t know this but Pharrell is in my top ten role models of all time, simply because he can translate all his ideas onto different platforms. As a creative, though held in high regard I feel like he is highly underrated as having the total package. I love the way he presents his path to success in a narrative that involves him having a discussion with the people he worked with throughout the years and who were influential to him and not just some humdrum way of presenting his legacy. There are gems within the text and pictures of this book it’s more that just a coffee table read.

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