Be Here Now by Ram Dass (Three Rivers, $15). I was given this book at a point in my life when I needed it most. I digested its meditations on consciousness and spiritual identity, and knew I had met a lifelong friend. “Be here now.” What else needs to be said?
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Picador, $16). The mini-universe created within these pages, lost in time but forever timely and relevant, never fails to move. The human experience, the heights of emotion, the depths of sorrow, love, war, loss, and comic books are all vividly portrayed in Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel.
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey (Harper Perennial, $15). Monkey wrenchin’. Stickin’ it to the man. For his 1975 comic novel about a band of eco-saboteurs, Abbey invented some of the most memorable characters ever set into motion. High adventure in the great American West. Pure mental cinema. Great escape with a great message to boot.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Vintage, $15). One of my favorite voices. What creativity and depth Eggers poured into every aspect of his personal story about his family’s tragedy. What a good force for this planet Eggers has since become! All the proceeds from the sale of his recent novel What Is the What go to benefit the Sudanese in America and Sudan.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf; drawings by Robert Lawson (Grosset & Dunlap, $4). “All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand.” This simple story about finding peace and contentment within oneself remains relevant more than 50 years after its publication.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $16). This was the first of Murakami’s books to grace my mind’s eye. I liked it so much I read all his books back to back and found myself lost in one giant blended story of surrealism so normal and strange.