I have a cardboard box of old books in the trunk of my car. I’ve collected them since middle school and have lugged them around with me since then.

Despite moving every year of high school and finally moving across the country again for college, I’ve never left a book behind. The reason they’re in my car as we speak is that I tried to sell them at one point. My minimalist mindset compelled me to box up the excess clutter in my house and donate it all to The Salvation Army. But after the initial purge of so much, when it came time to hand over the books, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t consider them as “clutter”, they’re so much more.

These books are alternate realities I spent hours living inside. They hold lives the lives of people, albeit fictional people, that I got to know on a deeper level. I know their thoughts, desires, and what motivated them. I learned what made them feel sad and from this, I felt connected to them.

When they were sad so was I. With that being said, I couldn’t just box up all these stories and just drop them off. Instead, I left them in my car and they’re still waiting there. I'll take them inside eventually, but I’ll move in a few months to a new apartment, so that will be their new home too.

Not everyone has such a fondness for books. Meanwhile, others love them tenfold. Whether you feel the way I do or not, they are indispensable to learning. Especially as a young adult, books teach you lessons that you could only learn after living a whole lifetime. Below are five books that changed my life and I’m forever thankful for the authors who penned them.

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of goodbye. I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse.”

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

“The distance is nothing when one has a motive;”

3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

“Muscles aching to work, minds aching to create - this is man.”

4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race."

5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“As an emotion of the mind will express itself through any covering of the body, so the paleness which his situation engendered came through the brown upon his cheek, showing the soul to be stronger than the sun.”

I used to think that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was the worst book ever written but, that was until I read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Actually, at the time, I hated both. Not anymore, as a side note, I recently reread the first chapter of Heart of Darkness and appreciated his language and long, descriptive sentences.

I can't persuade you to read, but for some of us out there reading is the light at the end of the tunnel. It's like having a really good dream, but when you wake up and try to make your mind return to it, you never can. With reading, you can always go back to the story, you can always escape reality. Okay now, go read something.