25 books for 25 years!

Today is my birthday! To be honest, between quarantine, working from home, and just the general busyness of life, it’s kind of snuck up on me. But 25 is a big year! A whole quarter of a century. And while year no. 24 wasn’t the easiest, it was filled with so many incredible blessings. I married the love of my life, moved back to my hometown of Cincinnati, continued with a career in journalism that I love, started up both my bookstagram and blog, so much more. So in honor of year no. 25, here are the 25 books (in no particular order) that really shaped who I am as a person, from all walks of life.

  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Out of all the books I was made to read in school growing up, this is the one that spoke to me the most and helped encourage me to both major in English lit and pursue a journalism career. It discusses the importance of stories in telling the truth, both real stories and fictional — what a powerful theme for any book lover!
  • The Shack by William Paul Young. This book broke my heart but then helped it heal all over again. It’s a powerful book about God that reminded me of the power of forgiveness.
  • The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. This is probably the first book I read post-college by an Asian writer. I loved reading a book that featured characters who looked like me, and it really sparked my desire to learn more about my Chinese culture (and Asian culture in general) through fiction.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. This book just spoke to my imagination as a kid — it’s such a deep, thoughtful read that even as an adult, I still find some new lesson to cherish.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I picked up this book on an amazing trip to New York City at its popular The Strand bookstore. I read it in just a couple of days and it just hit my emotional core. Haig really knows how to speak about mental health in a way that resonated deeply with me. And a bit of a brag moment — my review of this book got me featured on Good Morning America!
  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. This is one of the funniest, sharpest satires I’ve read, but it also really made me feel heard as an Asian America. Using Hollywood as a backdrop to express the microaggressions and flat out racism that many Asian Americans face, this story has a beautiful message that it’s okay to crave more for yourself than what society may make you feel like you deserve — it’s okay to want and be more.
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff. This is just one of those stories that is an all-around joy to read! It’s got a bit of everything — laughter, friendship, just enough violence, humor, romance, and some solid sex jokes — that made it such an enjoyable book. Reading this book is just a lovely reminder of why books are great!
  • Recursion by Blake Crouch. This mind-bending story was my first major foray into science fiction. It definitely helped spark a love of the genre that I’m continuing to explore to this day!
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This sparked my love of mysteries as a 6th grader when it was required reading. I remember reading the entire book in one sitting, which may have gotten me in trouble in class when I accidentally let out some spoilers!
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I absolutely love poetry — I took many a poetry class in college. But the first poems I really fell in love with were Shel Silverstein’s collection. They were just so sharp and funny and made me enjoy the English language so much for how creative it allowed people to be!
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Kreuger. This tale is exactly what the title suggests — absolutely tender. I’ve always been a sucker for coming of age tales, and I found this one to be so touching. It is at once an odyssey of sorts and also a story of four orphans just trying to find what home really means.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune. This is one of those just perfect, feel-good, lovely stories that touches your soul. I read it as the pandemic/quarantine really picked up, and it just filled my heart with such warmth and TLC — who wouldn’t love reading about a home full of magical children?!
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. How could I not include the story that my sweet pup Addie is named after?! Addie LaRue is an incredible character, so resourceful, brave, and clever, yet so relatable in her desire to be seen, loved, and remembered. I also loved how this story was a historical fiction, romance, and fantasy all at once — it takes a talented writer to create a genre-bending story of this level. You can check out my full review of it here.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I read this story first during my senior year of high school. It was one of the first modern literary fiction pieces I had read, and I loved the alternating points of view between all of the women in the family and how much it taught me about faith, family, and womanhood.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Ah, such a classic. My mom encouraged me to pick these up as a kid, and I’m so glad she did! This was certainly my favorite of the entire series. I adored the adventures of the four Pevensie children and the wonderful lessons it taught about love, bravery, family, friendship, and goodness.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This was one of the first truly “adult” fantasies I had picked up. Of course, I had read a lot of ones that were geared more toward children or young adults, but I fell in love with Gaiman’s atmospheric writing, as he created this underworld that mirrored the above-world of London. It was super dark but also had the most classical elements of a good fantasy, including awesome world-building, a surprising hero, and creepy bad guys.
  • Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare. Of course I couldn’t make it through this entire list without including at least one Shakespeare play! This lesser-known play of his is one of his most thought-provoking, in my opinion, and covers such an array of feminist-related issues. Plus, I focused on it for my senior capstone in Brit Lit, so I definitely am a bit biased toward this one!
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. This is just one of those outright wild books that I absolutely adore, but if you asked me why, I couldn’t totally pinpoint it. Hawkins’ apocalypse story is just so original, humorous, and outrageous that I couldn’t put it down! I’ve read it twice and it was even better the second time.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This powerful YA book is probably the book that resonated with me the most when it came to the Black Lives Matter movement and why it is so important, tackling heavy topics like racism and police brutality in a way that was so real yet with grace, honesty, and truth. I listened to the audio book version, and the narrator Bahni Turpin was fabulous, bringing so much emotion to the characters and story.
  • Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour. I just read this book earlier in 2021, but it is one that I am positive will stick with me for a long, long time. I loved how it discussed race and made me feel so heard as a POC — and while it seems like it was directed mostly at BIPOC, the dedication is to anyone who has ever felt less than, which I believe is a universal feeling any reader can relate to. You can read my full review of it here.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This story brings back such fond memories of my childhood — my mom read Dahl’s classic to me before bed each night. As an adult, I definitely think my love of fantasy comes from stories such as his, and Dahl truly is the king of capturing childhood whimsy.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I finished this book while sitting lakeside and remember having a full-on cry fest right in front of all of the other vacationers at the campsite we were staying at. This WWII-era story told from the point of view of Death is such a heartbreaking, yet hope-filled novel. While it’s geared toward children, I can say with surety that adults have so much to gain from it — after all, I was 21 when I first read it!
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Before I got to the end of the list, I had to include just one more Shakespeare piece. This one is filled with magic, romance, a shipwreck, and adventure — as one of Shakespeare’s final plays, this one just helped bring so much closure to my career as an English major.
  • The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle. One of my closest friends — who also happens to be a major reader herself — lent me this book while I was in graduate school at Syracuse University. I can definitely point it out as the story that helped get me back into reading just for fun! It’s such a creative concept centered around the idea of “If you could eat dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would it be?” that brought me to tears at the end thinking about life, loss, and love.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. And as my last pick on this list, I had to give one of my favorite writers a feature. The Night Circus is one of the most magical tales I’ve ever read, and I try to pick it up again every few years just to read Morgenstern’s fabulous writing. I’m not sure how to describe it, but her use of imagery is so powerful and when I read her debut, I felt like I was tucked inside the pages of this novel alongside each character!

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