‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus
“It introduced me to a new way of thinking about the world — that people are required to create meaning for themselves in a world that lacks it. My understanding of the book’s message has grown as I have.” –Rich Feloni, senior strategy reporter
Amazon synopsis: “The ‘The Stranger’ is a novel by Albert Camus published in 1942. Its theme and outlook are often cited as exemplars of Camus’s philosophy of the absurd and existentialism, though Camus personally rejected the latter label. The titular character is Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian (‘a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa, a man of the Mediterranean, an homme du midi yet one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture’), who, after attending his mother’s funeral, apathetically kills an Arab man whom he recognizes in French Algiers.
“The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault’s first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively.”
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky
“The perfect coming-of-age story: sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and love, all in the dorkiest of ways. My copy is highlighted and scribbled in like a diary. Beautiful prose paired with dark humor is sure to appeal to the angsty teen in everyone.” –Caitlin Harper, operations manager
Amazon synopsis: “This cult-favorite coming of age story takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. Now a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a funny, touching, and haunting modern classic.
“The book follows observant ‘wallflower’ Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.”
‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking
“To say this book made an impact on my life is an understatement — it helped shape it. It opened my understanding of just how incredible and beautiful our organized chaos of an existence is and what there is to discover in our lifetime. It also really hit home just how small and insignificant we are individually in the universe and we should always live and learn as much as possible every day until it’s all over.” –Lianna Brinded, finance editor
Amazon synopsis: “A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin — and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending — or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
“Told in language we all can understand, ‘A Brief History of Time’ plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and ‘arrows of time,’ of the big bang and a bigger God — where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.”
‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller
“When I read ‘Catch-22’ in high school, I think the book’s story of this smart-ass Army Air Force captain, John Yossarian, who would try just about anything to get out of a war he didn’t want to fight, really appealed to my own frenetic desire to rebel. But even into adulthood, some important lessons stuck with me: Don’t blindly put your faith in the system. Question everything. And, while sometimes it can feel like the world around you is crazy or against you, doing whatever it takes to stand up for what you love can help you keep you sane.” –Rachel Gillett, careers reporter
Amazon synopsis: “Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy — it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.
“Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.”
‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer
“Jon Krakauer’s firsthand account of climbing Mount Everest during the deadly 1996 season is by turns thrilling and horrifying. Years later, he said that summiting the world’s tallest mountain was the biggest mistake of his life, and that he was still dealing with the emotional aftermath. He produced a thrilling and deeply moving piece of journalism, but at what cost? It gave me a lot of food for thought about my chosen profession.” –Jacqui Kenyon, senior syndication editor
Amazon synopsis: “A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that ‘suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.’ He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more — including Krakauer’s — in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
“By writing ‘Into Thin Air,’ Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer’s highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber’s death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others’ actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.”
‘Love You Forever’ by Robert Munsch
“My parents first read ‘Love You Forever’ to me when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I’ve probably reread it a thousand times since. The sentimental children’s book taught me a few important lessons about life and death, the unbreakable bond shared between a parent and their child, and, perhaps most important, a lesson about the existence of unconditional love … all of which changed my life in important ways. My younger self found much comfort in knowing that the love my parents had for me as a child, and I for them, was not something anyone could ever outgrow.” –Jacquelyn Smith, careers editor
Amazon synopsis: “A young woman holds her newborn son and looks at him lovingly. Softly she sings to him: ‘I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always; As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’
“So begins the story that has touched the hearts of millions worldwide.”
Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
Salt is not a poetry collection as much as it is a journey. You can feel the warmth radiating off of each page, sometimes comforting and sometimes scorching. This is love and discrimination, healing and oppression, the community and the self, but above all, this is pain and growth. Raw and empowering in ways only the infamous Nayyirah Waheed could be; no other writer in the world can impact you with 3 lines as much as she can. This is not for the feminist in you, or the liberal in you, or the activist in you, this is not for the anything in you, it is just for you – the human you. Reading this, I was murmuring “bless up” over and over and over again; yes, that’s how good and soul nourishing it is.
Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed
You know how sometimes you feel so very haunted but do not know why? Reading Nejma, you will know. The words will wriggle themselves down to the deepest recesses of your thoughts and feelings, and they will pull at your ghosts and demons. This is for the oppressed, written with people of color in mind, this is chains and shame and discrimination and suffering and suffocation. But. it is oh so beautiful and ensnaring. This is for the woke, for the weak, for the powerful. This is for the ones who belong solely to themselves. Nejma is the book you need for a sense of belonging and deep peace to bloom within you.
Mind Platter by Najwa Zebian
This is for the silenced, for the invisible, for the moved, for the struggling, for the ones who take and take and take and never make a sound. This is for the unheard, for the beaten down, for the ones who’ve seen too much. Najwa has a way of voicing her stories, journaling her very much human stories, stories that many go through, it is by far the most relatable written text published in the last 20 years. It is powerful in its voice and empowering in its tales. Most importantly, Mind Platter is a series of reflections – thoughts, ideas, and dreams – on basic things, happy things, and traumatizing things, but none of the things are particular to just Najwa, but they’re shared human experiences, it’s just that the perspective is different. Essentially, how downright honest and overflowing Mind Platter is, is what makes it so special and soul touching.
The Nectar of Pain by Najwa Zebian
Healing. This is what The Nectar of Pain is all about. Healing. Physical Healing. Mental Healing. Emotional Healing. Spiritual Healing. Soulful Healing. This is for the ones seeking a way out, looking around for an anchor, for something or someone to keep them going, to help them up, to water them with just a bit of numbness and a lot of healing. This is for the ones who say “i won’t break” and choose to allow their experiences to help them grow. This is about understanding pain, making friends with it, and how much that can honestly heal you. Soulful doesn’t even begin to cover this collection of poetry and prose.