I have always loved reading... from non-fiction to fantasy, I have thoroughly enjoyed what reading has brought me and the many life lessons it has given me. To read is to immerse yourself in the life of another person and walk alongside them through their life, experience the highs and lows, smile with them and cry with them... to truly become that person for a brief moment in time. I was inspired to share my reading after being given a new book by a stranger on campus, so without further ado here are 5 books I believe everyone should read at least once. (Listed 1 to 5 but in no particular order.)

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust- Immaculée Illibagiza

I was introduced to this autobiography by my father, who always encouraged me to expand my knowledge about countries outside of the United States. I was skeptical at first, as my father and I have polar opposite tastes in what we consider enjoyable reads, however, all my doubts dissipated by the second chapter. The author, Immaculée Illibagiza is a survivor of the Rwandan Holocaust that occurred in 1994 and in her autobiography she recounts the horrors of trying to survive the bloody war, with particular emphasis on the 91 days she spent in a cramped bathroom along with seven other women all in hiding from the killers hunting them. While both graphic and heartbreaking, it is truly one of the most inspirational stories I have read and serves as a constant reminder of both the will to survive and the inherent desire to help that we, as humans all possess.

East of Eden- John Steinbeck

I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school, during an almost 8 week unit in which we read only the works of Steinbeck. I chose this particular book over his other notable works for two reasons: one- it had biblical references weaved all throughout it and I've always been intrigued by how authors manifest these ideas in their works and two- there was a book based on the movie that I could watch in the event I ended up not being inspired to read it for myself. Well, thank God I read it because it soon became the book I read whenever I was bored and needed something to do or needed something to occupy myself as I traveled long hours. This book brings to life two families, the Hamiltons and Trasks and their lives as they weave in and out of one another. He perfectly describes the triumphs and failures of each individual character as well as exploring major themes such as love, struggling for self-acceptance, and self- destruction, all of which are key points discussed in the Book of Genesis.

The Help- Kathryn Stockett

I have never cried more while reading a book in my entire life. NEVER. I found this book particularly interesting because it is a direct reflection of the dark past of the U.S. and brings to center-stage the silenced stories of black maids working during the era of Segregation and the horrendous plights they faced as a result of their skin color. This book serves not only as a lesson for our past, but also reminds us of the determination humans have to overcome atrocities and the effects those in positions of power can have on those who are routinely marginalized.

Anthem- Ayn Rand

This is probably the only dystopian novel I have actually enjoyed reading. This book takes place in an undisclosed future date, in which the world has entered another Dark Age. As a result of mankind's downfall, the concept of individuality has been completely eradicated and every individual exists as part of a larger body of people. The book is written from the point of view of the protagonist, Equality 7-2521 who begins questioning and searching for the concept of individualism and uniqueness, in hopes of establishing a new society based on those lost principles.

Notes of a Native Son- James Baldwin

This is probably one of the best-required reads I have ever been assigned and I am forever indebted to my dear World Literature professor, Dr. Fish for bestowing this book upon me. She assigned me and two other students this book so that we could analyze the African Diaspora and the effects race and geography have on the development of masculinity and the toxicity that may arise from it. On the surface level, it sounded like a daunting task, however, as soon as I began reading the chapters I was enthralled. Baldwin recounts his struggles living in both America and Europe as a black, gay man and how every aspect of his identity was routinely challenged- so much so that he began condemning himself and the black community as a whole. This story is the perfect example of coming over self-loathing and learning how to live a fruitful life despite the copious challenges that may arise.