Topic #199: List the 5 most important books you’ve read
Over the past six months or so, I’ve encountered a number of books that have deeply influenced how I think — to the point that my list of most influential books has changed almost entirely from what it was even a year ago. While I reflect on those changes, here is my previous list of most important books:
Nickel and Dimed (by Barbara Ehrenreich)
To be completely honest, it was probably a combination of the book and the play: my high school theatre group did Nickel and Dimed my junior year, and it had a huge impact on me. I definitely had a lot of privilege growing up — I certainly never worried about whether we’d be able to stay where we were living or where our next meal was coming from — and Nickel and Dimed made me think about all kinds of things I hadn’t really thought of before.
Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters (by Courtney E. Martin)
I read this book in college — spring semester of sophomore year or fall semester of junior year — and it made a huge impact on me with its emphasis on how the need for control and perfection plays into eating disorders. Perhaps I already knew that from the one-act play we did about people with eating disorders my junior year in high school, but the book caused it really hit home for me, and it made me more aware of my own relationship with food, eating, control, and perfectionism.
GenderQueer (edited by Joan Nestle, Riki Wilchins, and Clare Howell)
I read GenderQueer for the first time shortly after I’d begun questioning my own gender. It was brilliant. I loved the diversity of genders and experiences and the fact that so many people didn’t fall within the binary. It made being something other than the gender assigned to me as birth seem like a more concrete possibility because there were so many people with whom I identified.
Trans Liberation (by Leslie Feinberg)
Reading this book made it so much easier to verbalize why it is that the gender/sex binary systems (and corresponding rigid gender norms) are so harmful to everyone, not just to trans and gender-variant people.
Are Prisons Obsolete? (by Angela Y. Davis)
This was the first book I ever read about the PIC (prison industrial complex). I had been leaning toward the idea of prisons not being very good, based on something a friend had said, but this was really the turning point for me. I read it during the spring semester of my junior year in college, and it has radically influenced my thinking.