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    26 Books That Had A Huge Impact On The Lives Of The Folks Who Read Them

    I'm going to justify my ever-growing book budget by renaming it my "epiphany budget."

    The impact of reading the right book at the right time can't be overestimated. For some people, a work of literature means the difference between the path they took and the one they might've chosen before coming across it. So there were plenty of impassioned responses when Reddit user u/Elegant-Truth3903 asked the folks of r/books, "Out of all the books you['ve] read, which one do you remember the most that impacted your life?"

    From classics to modern young adult novels, here are 26 books that changed the course of these readers' lives.

    Responses may have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

    1. "Maybe this is stupid, but the last book of The Hunger Games series. I’ve survived through a lot of dark things in my own life. So, when I finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, it left me feeling that it was normal to have a somewhat perfect life, but internally feel moments of pure sadness and that it's important to find moments of peace and to seek joy. I appreciate life a little more because I’m a survivor like Katniss. Even with all of her strength, power, and fearlessness, she will never be 100% okay, and that's okay."

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    2. "I read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou when I was about 12 or 14, and it was the first time I had ever felt deeply seen and had my experiences in a book. There weren't many books with Black girl leads in my school library, and I was definitely struggling with being the sole Black girl in a white space. There were events I'd been through, and ones I hadn't, but I read and thought, 'Angelou and I are made up of the same stuff!'"

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    3. "The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It's just a short story, but books never really stick with me long, because I'm just there for escapism. This is true regardless of whether said book throws insanely deep stuff at me. Same with most media. But I read The Yellow Wallpaper and was like...finally, a realistic depiction of a severe mental breakdown. So few writers can get that down right. (The only other example I can think of is Arcane on Netflix.)

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    4. "The Parable series by Octavia Butler. This book opened my eyes to a future that's entirely sci-fi, yet also possible, and to the fact that the world will change in horrific ways in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean good people will disappear. It made me terrified of the days ahead, but at the same time, made me realize that change happens, and we have the power to decide how to react to it. Seriously, read these books, but be warned they're extremely graphic and very triggering if you have past trauma related to violence or sexual assault. Regardless, it convinced me I should get into foraging and learn survival skills that I might desperately need one day."

    Parable of the flower by octavia butler

    5. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. There is a scene where they go to get vaccines and get dirty playing, and the doctor scolds them for being poor and dirty, and the nurse, who is also from Brooklyn, chooses to go along with what he is saying, instead of saying, 'Kids are kids, they get dirty.' And it devastates Francie, the main character. That has always led me to remember that I don't know the whole backstory of people's lives. And to be kind to children."

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    6. "Definitely A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This masterpiece touches on such deep and dark subjects and opens up the door to uncomfortable realizations. The relationships between this book's characters have left a mark on me, especially Mariam and Laila's. The story was heartbreaking. The book had me in tears for weeks after and even thinking about it now makes me tear up. If you have not read this, I highly recommend it. You will not regret it; Hosseini is a wonderful author."

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    7. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I read it as a young teen and it showed me that writing can be full of joy but still make a point. I've ended up enjoying allegorical stories, as well as rereading Hitchhiker's Guide and Terry Pratchett's novels on a regular basis."

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    8. "Native Son by Richard Wright. It made me feel empathy for what happened to the main character and why he felt trapped and desperate. I read it for a class and it is still the only book that I had to finish in one sitting. I stayed up all night because I could not put it down. It really changed my outlook."

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    9. "This will sound silly next to all these other profound books, but Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. I was dyslexic growing up and reading was difficult and exhausting, but I was so interested in what Alanna was doing that I would read the next paragraph (at first), then page, then even chapter, after my mom left. I read that whole series."

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    10. "Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. The book is about a young man having to survive in the wilderness alone. I was in middle school when I read this book. I grew up without a father and felt like I was navigating young boyhood 'alone.' (My mother is an absolute saint, and I definitely had a support structure through her.) The book sparked a sense of strong self-worth in me. I started looking at the challenges in life through a new light."

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    11. "Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, in large part because of this quote: 'It seemed incredible to me now that I had never understood. I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of silence and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.'"

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    12. "The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Even though the characters' lives are not similar to my own, there is something in the message that really resonated with me. It’s weird, I don’t understand it, but I somehow feel that reading it somehow changed me as a person and that in an alternate timeline there’s a me who didn’t read it and is completely different than this me."

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    13. "Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I first read it when I was 13 and it broke me. I’d read some sad books before but this one just wrecked me. I remember I didn’t even cry at the end; I felt this numbness for weeks afterward. It was the first book I read that talked about race and racism, and it made me a more empathetic person. It came at the absolute right time for me and I’ll always remember the impact it had on me. I gave it to my English teacher and she put it on the curriculum. She may have come to read it in her own time but I like to think it was partly my doing and that other students may have been as affected."

    two people on the book cover

    14. "Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut really helped me through the death of my father; I found out later that it was a book he really enjoyed as well, so it's another way to feel close to him, nearly ten years after he died."

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    15. "Battle Royale by Koushun Takami showed middle school me that books could be 'cool' and new. I liked The Hobbit growing up, but books seemed so old and a bit on the dull side. Battle Royale was fast-paced, gruesome at times, and formatted a bit like an anime: Everything that would appeal to a middle school boy."

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    16. "I know a lot of people hate it, but The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My English teacher lent me her copy at the age of 13, when I was going through a pretty rough time, and I connected with Holden so much. I loved it so much that by the time I was 16 and we formally studied the book for class, I’d already read it around ten times and aced that final exam. It was such a confidence boost and it’s what made me want to study English literature further. I haven’t re-read it since about the age of 18 because I don’t want to realize Holden was actually as insufferable as a lot of people say when they criticize the book."

    horse on the book cover

    17. "Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. Provided a lot of perspective for my young brain. Orwell's so readable; I revisit it every few years."

    london bridge on the book cover

    18. "I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley because I adored the musical. It changed not only my taste in books but quite literally turned my life around by 180 degrees. I found a small Tumblr community dedicated to the book, fell in love with one person who’s a member of the community, deconstructed and threw away my bigoted views on the life and world, and changed my worldviews. Now I’m a completely new, happier, and incredibly loved human being. So yes, even if it’s not the book that changed my life, I would still be an old, bitter, bigoted person with no hopes in life. Me and my girlfriend respect Mary Shelley for such a masterpiece of a book. And I won’t deny that I know more people whose love for this book and this community transformed into new hope, new love, and a new way of life."

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    19. "Kitchen Confidential. The way Anthony Bourdain wrote about his experiences in the restaurant industry with both deep love and brutal honesty convinced 16-year-old me that I should not pursue a career as a chef. It is one of a few books I reread from time to time."

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    20. "It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. I read it as a freshman in high school and it hit me hard at that time in my life. It’s a book I’ll always be grateful for; Vizzini was a real one."

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    21. "It's pretty random and obscure, but The Man Who Talks to Whales: The Art of Interspecies Communication by Jim Nollman. I read it as a high school student for research into a science-fiction RPG setting in which animals were uplifted, and to learn about animal intelligence. Then I realized, 'Hey wait, animals do feel happiness and pain.' I became a vegan after that...there was no going back. It's had tons of spill-over effects. I've made many connections through activism and the vegan community. I wouldn't have met my girlfriend. It oriented many of my priorities in life. All from the ripples of that one random book I checked out from the public library when I was 14. Moreso than any other book, it has literally changed my life."

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    22. "The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Whenever I started feeling depressed as a kid, I’d reread it."

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    23. "It may seem a bit on the nose, but Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I was a redheaded, freckled, bookish girl with a vivid imagination who was adopted by a father who was a generally quiet man from a farming background, who really only showed his incredibly silly and loquacious side to his closest family and friends. Around the time of my adoption, my mother and I moved from large cities to a rural community where I was able to ramble, read, and get lost in my imaginings, as I was not free to do before. While my life was neither as difficult nor my community as quaint as Anne's, there were clear parallels. The book, and to a lesser extent the rest of the series, were the most frequently revisited novels of my childhood."

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    24. "Dune by Frank Herbert. I read it during a really pivotal time in my life, and the themes of being swept up in religious fanaticism while only ever wanting to be your own person really resonated with me as a person who grew up in an extremely oppressive church. The rejection of fear was another aspect of the book that made a strong impression on me, and the Litany Against Fear became a sort of mantra I used to help me when I became anxious. I still use it to this day!"

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    25. "A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It is brutal, triggering, and absolutely devastating. However, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that is as beautifully written and tender, because of the overall theme of survival coupled with friendship and love. It is just so powerful. Every single character is so complex and well-written that they almost became real to me, and due to this, it is the only book I’ve ever read in my 44 years that made me actually sob. It’s definitely a tough read, and it is not for everyone because it is so heartbreaking. There is something hopeful about it too, I feel. People either love it or hate this book, though."

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    26. And finally: "The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is, to date, the only series I have read where I ended up feeling genuine love for the author. Like, proper love. His story spoke the secret language of my heart."

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    What's a book that had a big influence on your life? Tell us about it in the comments!