I was drawn to books and writing simultaneously almost as soon as I came to consciousness as a young girl. Daddy read Zane Grey novels and so did Mom, in the afternoons, after her chores were done, her feet propped up on the window sill in the kitchen. Sometimes she smoked or drank a Tab. Daddy worked two jobs, his full-time job as a carpenter, and his part-time one as a gas station jockey, which meant I barely saw him, which meant I particularly was annoyed when he spent what little time he had at home with his nose in a book. If books were so interesting as to draw my parents’ attention away from me, perhaps they were usable as a device to draw attention back toward me. As soon as I could, I set about writing and making books in hopes of doing just that.

All of this was stark enough in my young mind that I can still, 60 years later, remember what it felt like. By the time I was 4, I had created my first tome. I have no idea what the story was, but it was augmented by pictures I drew myself and sewed together with a needle and thread. I got in much trouble for that last part.

Of course, then I learned there were such things as libraries, and my school library kept copies of biographies about women who had defied convention to do amazing things. Women like Sojourner Truth, Joan of Arc, Sacagawea. I imagined myself one day to be listed among these women.

From this, then, a lifelong love of books. Not the dime store novels my parents preferred, but true literature, the meaty stuff that not nearly as many people take the time to read and absorb. The stuff that if consumed regularly enough will make us into better people.

The goal of this list, then, is not simply to share favorites, but those that have impacted me deeply enough that I felt changed by them, for the better. I don’t summarize or criticize, merely list. Look them up. Buy them. Read them. Come to your own decisions.

If it seems like a short list, that’s because I’m only getting started.

In no particular order:

Stars Go Blue by Laura Pritchett

Seven Stages of Anger and If the Ice had Held by Wendy J. Fox

Before We Died and Gifts for the Dead by Joan Schweighardt

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheeses’s by Tiffany Midge

Boundaries of Her Body: The Troubling History of Women’s Rights in America by Debran Rowland

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

Memorabilia by A.S. Coomer

Nietzsche’s Kisses by Lance Olsen

–Anything by Ed McClanahan

The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson

Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary by Laura Stanfill

frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch