‘Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle’ by Peter Coyote
“Peter Coyote is a successful Hollywood actor now, but in the ’60s he was a full-on counterculturist living a thousand miles off the grid and trying to inhabit the social extremes of that time.
“The memoir taught me that if you’re attracted to extremes in your life, you should explore that urge — up to a point. Coyote eventually realized that the extreme is rarely long term and returned to a (sort of) normal life. Everyone needs to learn their limits firsthand.” –Matthew DeBord, senior correspondent
Amazon synopsis: “In his energetic, funny, and intelligent memoir, Peter Coyote relives his fifteen-year ride through the heart of the counterculture — a journey that took him from the quiet rooms of privilege as the son of an East Coast stockbroker to the riotous life of political street theater and the self-imposed poverty of the West Coast communal movement known as The Diggers. With this innovative collective of artist-anarchists who had assumed as their task nothing less than the re-creation of the nation’s political and social soul, Coyote and his companions soon became power players.
“In prose both graphic and unsentimental, Coyote reveals the corrosive side of love that was once called “free”; the anxieties and occasional terrors of late-night, drug-fueled visits of biker gangs looking to party; and his own quest for the next high. His road through revolution brought him to adulthood and to his major role as a political strategist: from radical communard to the chairman of the California Arts Council, from a street theater apprentice to a motion-picture star.”
‘Drown’ by Junot Diaz
“I read ‘Drown’ during my freshman year of college and it changed my conception of literature, or what constitutes literature. Before ‘Drown,’ I didn’t know a book could be at once entertaining and relatable, and also a piece of art.” –Zach Wasser, former video intern at Tech Insider
Amazon synopsis: “This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic — and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream — by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind.” –San Francisco Chronicle
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce
“This coming-of-age novel affected me deeply, and I reread it several times in my late teens. The protagonist comes to understand critical truths about himself, his family, his country, and his world. It’s also just a beautifully written book, and one of the finest novels ever written in English.” –Daniel McMahon, copy chief
Amazon synopsis: “Like much of James Joyce’s work, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ is a fictional re-creation of the Irish writer’s own life and early environment. The experiences of the novel’s young hero, Stephen Dedalus, unfold in astonishingly vivid scenes that seem freshly recalled from life and provide a powerful portrait of the coming of age of a young man of unusual intelligence, sensitivity, and character.
“The interest of the novel is deepened by Joyce’s telling portrayals of an Irish upbringing and schooling, the Catholic Church and its priesthood, Parnell and Irish politics, encounters with the conflicting roles of art and morality (problems that would follow Joyce throughout his life), sexual experimentation and its aftermath, and the decision to leave Ireland.
“Rich in details that offer vital insights into Joyce’s art, this masterpiece of semi autobiographical fiction remains essential reading in any program of study in modern literature.”
‘Wise Blood’ by Flannery O’Connor
“I finished this novel over the course of one trip to the beach (where I got burned, because I was too transfixed to bother to reapply sunscreen). To give a very basic, incomplete summary, it’s about a vet who experiences a crisis of faith. Insanity ensues. I don’t really know how to describe ‘Wise Blood’ without just throwing out a bunch of adjectives — beautiful, bleak, angry, funny, disturbing, and strange. It’s not for the faint of heart. This book really forces you to take a hard look at your values.” –Áine Cain, careers intern
Amazon synopsis: “‘Wise Blood,’ Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. Focused on the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate fate, this tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.”
‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton
“I almost never reread books, but I’ve returned to this one over the years. It’s about high schoolers, but it’s relatable no matter where you are in life. It shows how dark and harsh the world can be, but also that there are good things and good people if you stop to appreciate them. Something about that dichotomy leaves me stuck on this book no matter how many times I’ve read it.” –Emmie Martin, Your Money reporter
Amazon synopsis: “A heroic story of friendship and belonging.
“No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends — true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs — a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on ‘greasers’ like him and his friends — he knows that he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down …
“Written over forty-five years ago, ‘The Outsiders’ is a dramatic and enduring work of fiction. SE Hinton’s classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was first published.”
‘I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This’ by Kate White
“White recounts a time she was hiring to fill a position on her team. After she filled it, she heard through the grapevine that one of the existing editors was upset she hadn’t been considered for the job. Kate wondered: ‘How was I supposed to know she wanted it? She never told me.’
“Hearing that genuine, confused perspective had a huge effect on me, someone who has never, ever liked to ask for anything. Just keeping your head down and working hard isn’t enough — if you want something at work, you have to ask for it. Otherwise, how will your boss, who might be well-meaning but definitely isn’t psychic, ever know?” –Libby Kane, deputy editor
Amazon synopsis: “In ‘I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This,’ [White] shares her secrets to success. A witty, wise, straight-talking career guide for women, ‘I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This’ is the perfect book for the current economic climate, whether you’re just starting out, re-entering the workforce after maternity leave, or simply looking for a career change; essential tips and bold strategies from a gutsy innovator who helped increase Cosmo’s circulation by half a million copies per month.”
‘The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment’ by Eckhart Tolle
“This book taught me that most of our problems are really a fiction created in the mind. Problems are either stressing about something that already happened, or worrying about something in the future that hasn’t happened. If you stop that and simply focus on what’s going on right now, at this very moment, you instantly become a more peaceful, happier version of yourself.” –Julie Bort, enterprise editor
Amazon synopsis: “To make the journey into the Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. From the very first page of Eckhart Tolle’s extraordinary book, we move rapidly into a significantly higher altitude where we breathe a lighter air. We become connected to the indestructible essence of our Being, ‘The eternal, ever present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death.’ Although the journey is challenging, Eckhart Tolle uses simple language and an easy question and answer format to guide us.
“A word of mouth phenomenon since its first publication, ‘The Power of Now’ is one of those rare books with the power to create an experience in readers, one that can radically change their lives for the better.”
‘The Defining Decade’ by Meg Jay
“‘The Defining Decade’ is loaded with business, career, and relationship advice for post grads — from the incredible value of ‘weak ties’ with acquaintances, friends, or former colleagues, to the importance of cultivating a strong personal identity, which includes having the nerve to make commitments. This book is the holy grail for 20-somethings.” –Tanza Loudenback, Your Money reporter
Amazon synopsis: “Our ‘thirty-is-the-new-twenty’ culture tells us the twenty-something years don’t matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twenty-somethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.
“Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, ‘The Defining Decade’ weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-ifwe use the time wisely.
“‘The Defining Decade’ is a smart, compassionate and constructive book about the years we cannot afford to miss.”
‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ by Tracy Kidder
(Penguin Random House)
“This book made me think deeply about whether it’s better to help many people in small ways, or one person in a significant way.” –Dan Bobkoff, senior editor
Amazon synopsis: “At the center of ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer — brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti — blasts through convention to get results.
“‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that ‘the only real nation is humanity’ — a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb ‘Beyond mountains there are mountains’: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.”
‘Animal’s People’ by Indra Sinha
“I read this book in a college literature class, and it truly made me think differently about what it means to be human. It’s this constant struggle against feeling alone and different. Even when writing about tragedy and hopelessness, Sinha narrates the protagonist’s inner experience with incredible grace.” –Shana Lebowitz, strategy reporter
Amazon synopsis: “Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of ‘that night’ when a burning fog of poison smoke from the local factory blazed out over the town of Khaufpur, and the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now just turned seventeen and well schooled in street work, he lives by his wits, spending his days jamisponding (spying) on town officials and looking after the elderly nun who raised him, Ma Franci. His nights are spent fantasizing about Nisha, the girlfriend of the local resistance leader, and wondering what it must be like to get laid.
“When Elli Barber, a young American doctor, arrives in Khaufpur to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk — only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn’t there to do the dirty work of the Kampani — Animal gets caught up in a web of intrigues, scams, and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.
“Profane, piercingly honest, and scathingly funny, ‘Animal’s People’ illuminates a dark world shot through with flashes of joy and lunacy. A stunning tale of an unforgettable character, it is an unflinching look at what it means to be human: the wounds that never heal and a spirit that will not be quenched.”