Books That I Visit When I Visit Home


The first things I do whenever I come home for a visit…

  1. Hug my Mom.
  2. Call my two best friends from the area. You know the ones you have known since you were six? The ones who know your family almost as well as you do. The ones who tell you the truth before you’ve even realized what the truth is. Yeah those guys.
  3. Start pulling books from the shelf. I’m a reader and for each period of my life there is a book that goes along with it. I know how their pages feel, their physical weight, and the new ways in which they made me think. And once I’ve visited my books I head to the bookstores, to sit amongst the new titles and the old, to thumb through new stories, fresh ideas, to become newly inspired and happily lost.

Needless to say I come home to see the people that matter but also the books that I’ve missed.

Here are my favorites…

1. Middlesex – Jeffery Eugenides

“The mind self-edits. The mind airbrushes. It’s a different thing to be inside a body than outside. From outside, you can look, inspect, compare. From inside there is no comparison.”

The story of America told through the voice of Cal, a hermaphrodite born to immigrant parents who grows up in industrial Detroit.

Read this… if you’ve ever thought about the influence that history has over individuals. If you’ve ever wondered what it means to be an American. If you’ve ever contemplated the difference between gender and sex.

2. Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracy Kidder

“I think there’s a point where you realize the world has just been revealed to you…It’s sort of, Oh no, things will never be quite the same again.”

The story of Dr. Paul Farmer a young man who realized that in order to cure the world he first needed to understand it.

Read this… if you have ever wondered how to make a difference as the small individual that you are. Read this if you have ever seen the perils of the world and felt overwhelmed. Read this if you are on the cusp of wanting to do more.

3. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice of Love and Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”

Advice columnist Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, answers readers life questions with an honesty and understanding that only experience can teach you.

Read this… if you are ready to embrace life. If you find honesty and vulnerability inspiring. If you are brave and daring and are ready for change.

4. On My Way to Buy Eggs – Chic Yuan Chen

“It’s a blurry world. But Shau-yu knows the way.”

A picture book about a young Vietnamese girls journey to the market, a journey that she decides to make the most of.

Read this… if you think the world is a playground. If you marvel at children and their innocent way of interacting with the world. If you love to turn the ordinary into an adventure.

5. The Geography of Bliss – Eric Wiener

“For me, a place unvisited is like an unrequited love. A dull ache that- try as you might to think it away, to convince yourself that she really wasn’t the right country for you- just won’t leave you in peace.” 

One man travels through ten countries, examining what creates happiness in each place.

Read this… if you ever question where happiness comes from. If you have ever pondered how your culture affects who you are. If you love thinking about how external factors influence your personality.

6. Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov

“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

The story of a 37 year olds obsessive love for a 12 year old girl.

Read this… if you’ve ever thought about love in all its confusing, obsessive, and dangerous forms. The way love can be consuming, the way it can surprise you and cause you to do things that your mind warns you against.

7. The World – Jan Morris

“Certainly Delhi is unimaginably antique, and age is a metaphysic, I suppose. Illustrations of mortality are inescapable there, and do give the place a sort of nagging symbolism. Tombs of emperors stand beside traffic junctions, forgotten fortresses command suburbs, the titles of lost dynasties are woven into the vernacular, if only as street names.”

A collection of Jan Morris’s best travel essays, equally creating a portrait of the world’s best cities and Morris’s personal transformation.

Read this… if you get to know cities as you would people. If you fall in love with places. If you’ve ever marveled at the way personal history can collide with the way we perceive our environments.

8. Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer

“The more you love someone, he came to think, the harder it is to tell them. It surprised him that strangers didn’t stop each other on the street to say I love you.”

Three intermingled tales, all tied to one man’s search for the woman who saved his grandmothers life during the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Read this… if you are a lover of words, the way they can be transformed into art on a page. Read this if you are intrigued by the way our histories are all somewhat intermingled.

9. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

“You didn’t need a college degree to become one of the people who knew what was really going on. If you paid attention, you could pick things up on your own.”

A memoir of Walls life, one filled with alcoholism, poverty, and an incredible amount of resilience.

Read this… if you’ve ever thought about just how incredible each human being is. How one life can be filled with stories and plot twists best suited for fictional characters. How resilient we all are.

10. 1984 – George Orwell 

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

The story of government surveillance in it’s most extreme form, and one mans brave resilience.

Read this… if you’ve ever thought about the complexity of power, how to attain it and how to loose it. If you’ve ever wondered about the ways in which you are being unknowingly controlled. If you think language is powerful.