Books, Features

20 books that have moved me in some way

December 16, 2013
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Whoever has seen my room can immediately understand how much I treasure books. Reading perhaps makes up half my life. I have since then grew to enjoy reading a wide range of genres: psychology, philosophy, religion, graphic novels, anthologies, essays. But I get the most pleasure from fiction, especially those with romantic plot lines and beautifully crafted sentences.

I’ve been meaning to write about books that moved me and helped shaped the way I think and perceive the world. It’s quite timely that my good friend Sheena tagged me in this Facebook challenge asking people to list down ten books that have touched them in some way.

Because I can’t help breaking rules, I’m placing my list here instead of a status and listing down an additional ten titles – I’d like to take this chance to perhaps give recommendations to those who might be looking for their next good read!

I left out many other good books from this list – including those by J.K. Rowling, Cecilia Ahern, John Green  – but I want to include titles that have less likely landed in the bestsellers list of local bookstores. There’s the Bible as well, which has been a significant part of my life in recent years. It’s also the only book that I still pick up to read countless times but haven’t really finished reading yet.

Here’s my list (in no particular order):


The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult

“Do you know what it’s like to love someone so much, that you can’t see yourself without picturing her? Or what it’s like to touch someone, and feel like you’ve come home?”

The Pact is a love story that begins with a tragedy. In my entire reading life, this is the first book that made me shed real tears. I bought this a long time ago, but only decided to read it last summer. I remember bringing this to the office and sending my boyfriend shots of a few pages, telling him to read it. I have been intensely affected by the story that I needed to share it to someone right away.

I have read other Picoult novels, and for me, this is one of the most compelling ones. People might be smitten right now over Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, but it’s the story of Emily Gold and Chris Harte that has given me the most tears, goosebumps, and rapid heartbeats.


I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak19057

“Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of.”

I brought this while traveling in Australia, immersed in its pages while lining up for a train ride in Melbourne. I am the Messenger is one of the most unputdownable books. It can push you to live less passively, and make you realize how a simple act can possibly change someone’s life forever.



4588Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” 

If you have read this, then you don’t need to watch the movie anymore. Then again, it’s still worth a watch if only for the purposes of visualizing Foer’s novel in dazzling cinematography. The film understandably wasn’t able to capture the novel’s mesmerizing lines, the cryptic passages, and haunting images. It won’t give you a chance to pause and think about what what just transpired. Get the book in its printed form – and revel in the adventures of Oskar Schell in your own pace and time.


Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami11297

“In his own way, he’s lived life with all the intensity he could muster.” 

The first time I picked up a Murakami book, I was thrilled to find out it’s a love story. (Yes, I grow weak for love stories, but you can never find me in the romance shelves of bookstores.) Norwegian Wood is a riveting romance set in modern-day Japan. What’s more, Murakami makes ordinary everyday activities – eating, cooking, walking – sound more…interesting. I don’t know how he does it. But after reading this, I’ve been a Murakami fan since.



The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

Proof that this stayed with me years after reading is how I mentally recite Randy Pausch’s brick wall quote when I feel lost and confused. The Last Lecture can make you less afraid of dreaming big. It’s worth reading more than once, and makes a great gift for those who need an extra push in chasing their dreams.



The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

“I should have known by then that it’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass; it’s the ones you don’t expect at all.” 

The Age of Miracles is about humans experiencing the slowing of the Earth’s rotation, from the perspective of a young teenage girl. Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars, it’s a coming-of-age story that is still a worthwhile read for readers of any age.


room-by-emma-donoghueRoom by Emma Donoghue 

“People move around so much in the world, things get lost.”  

This is another book from the perspective of a child – this time, a five-year-old boy’s. It’s one of the most chilling books I have read. The first few pages of Room already gave me tingles up my spine. The story is not frightening, but when I looked up from the pages of this book back to my room, I was breathless and in a daze. Are you looking for a book that will make you see the world differently? Donoghue’s novel will give instant, breathtaking results.



Blankets by Craig Thompson 

“At night, lying on your back and staring at the falling snow, it’s easy to imagine oneself soaring through the stars.” 

I’m very grateful to Sheena who introduced this to me through her blog. This is the first graphic novel I own, which made me open up to exploring this genre. Blankets is a wonderful starting point for people curious about graphic novels. It’s a story about faith, finding love, and self-discovery.


18619684The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger

“We are often insane with happiness. We are also very unhappy for reasons neither of us can do anything about. Like being separated.” 

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a book that can make you believe for a moment in the reality of time travel, or more specifically of chrono-displacement disorder. It’s a remarkably well-written book that it’s easy to get lost in the story – to feel the pain and longing of Clare Abshire as well as the persistence and love of Henry DeTamble. Clare and Henry are another of my  beloved literary couples, alongside Emily and Chris (see above).



Every Day by David Levithan

“Part of growing up is making sure your sense of reality isn’t entirely grounded in your own mind.” 

I have mixed feelings about this book but its provocative premise made me appreciate Levithan’s attempt to encapsulate the diverse lives of teens and the struggles they face. Every Day could have been expounded more, but it’s a captivating read nonetheless. The story explores the concept of identity and personality, the meaning of courage, the thrill and messiness of first love.




Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

“Ladies and gentlemen…we are floating in space!” 

Sophie’s World is like Alice in Wonderland for people curious about philosophy. It made me excited about taking philosophy courses in college. It’s beyond thought-provoking and is one of the few very readable books that can already serve as a lesson in Philosophy 101 in its entirety.




A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig

I stumbled upon this when I was about to leave the bookstore. Intrigued by the title, I bought it right away. This was before I started taking philosophy classes, and the first time I met Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. This could be the only chick lit novel where you can find philosophical passages in it.




5986375This is Water by David Foster Wallace

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” 

I finished this in less than half an hour – while standing in a bookstore. This is Water is a commencement address given by the author to graduates of Kenyon College in 2005. I haven’t read other David Foster Wallace novels, but reading about his thoughts on how to live with compassion made me understand how he has become one of the most renowned American authors of our time.



Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann 

“He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it.”

I found this while aimlessly walking around the shelves of our university’s library. I remembered borrowing this over and over from this library, before eventually finding a copy in the bookstore. Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin is a contemporary masterpiece. The story is set in New York with utterly relatable yet intriguing characters. It’s one of the books that deserve to be assigned in university English classes.


reading-like-a-writer-francine-prose_mediumReading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

“Books are still the best way of taking great art and its consolations along with us on a bus.” 

I consumed this entire book on a 13-hour flight. This is a very good book for wannabe writers who often wonder how writers read. It’s filled with passages from literary masterpieces, where Prose manages to interestingly explain the meaning, emotion, or characterization that authors wish to convey. It’s a guide to reading that won’t make you feel incompetent, but rather empowers you to read better.


214332The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist.”

Lee Strobel manages to write a compelling and easy-to-understand book for people who are beginning to explore their faith. The Case for Faith (as well as The Case for Christ) is suited for people who have questions about the rationality of believing in God and Christ. I like how Strobel makes very reasonable arguments for each topic at hand, while leaving room for the reader to decide for themselves what to believe.



Flow by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi

“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”

Being a self-confessed geeky psychology major that I was, I often borrow books from the library for my nonrequired reading pleasure. Flow is a book that will make you rethink the way you work. More importantly, it gives practical tips based on quantitative psychological research on how we can experience life more fully. If you are curious but have no time to read hundreds of pages, the author’s TED Talk sums it up in a few minutes.



7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

“We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.”

As a teen, this urged me take responsibility for my life. It’s not that hard to take Sean Covey’s words seriously, as this book is really fun to read with its silly illustrations and comics. Looking back, I might possibly have been a less proactive person now if I hadn’t read this book. If there is one self-help book that should be found in every teenagers bookshelf, it’s this one.



Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.” 

This is another book filled with beautiful, rereadable sentences. Gilbert wrote her memoir in a way that blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction. After reading this book, I suddenly wanted to learn how to reach one of the highest meditative states like what Gilbert did in India, go on an ashram retreat, and learn how to speak Italian because she said it’s one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I guess this is proof of how effortlessly moving Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing is.


historyofloveThe History of Love by Nicole Krauss

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

The History of Love is a story about… so many things. It’s also a book within a book. The complex plot can be quite confusing to follow at the beginning, but it’s worth the time to read carefully while trusting that all these tangled mysteries and questions will be somehow unraveled in the end. That said, I’m excited to read this again.


Photo of books taken by yours truly in LA Central bookstore in Madrid, Spain.

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