"What is your favorite book?"
I've been asked this question numerous times throughout my life. Even now as a 19-year-old college student, I find this question nearly impossible to answer. I've read hundreds of books in my lifetime; how can I pick just one as superior to all the others?
I think this question haunts me so much because every book I've read has impacted me in some way, shape or form. The best feeling in the world is the weird, tingly zeal you get inside your stomach after you finish a book. You think about the story for a couple of days, convinced that this book pertains to every aspect of your life. This feeling has happened to me so many times, and I think that's why I continue to devour book after book.
I'm well aware that this is probably the nerdiest thing in the world. I've been called a book nerd so many times the phrase doesn't faze me anymore. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I like to read; I'll scream "I LOVE BOOKS" and sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world if I have to.
Reading has shaped who I am as a person and how I perceive the world around me. If I were to answer the question posed at the beginning of the article, I would have to choose a book that helped me grow as a person. I would have to choose a book that challenged my beliefs and ideals.
After a lot of thinking, I was finally able to gather a list of five books I have read that changed my perspective of the world. I read these books both inside and outside of the classroom, and I hold them very close to my heart.
1. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Despite the fact that The Fountainhead is 800 pages long and highly controversial, it will forever be one of my favorite reads. While I don't necessarily agree with Ayn Rand's objectivism, this book made me confront the way I live my life. Through witnessing Howard Roark's triumphs and failures in modern architecture, the reader learns a valuable lesson: the most important quality a man has is his integrity. The only way to succeed in life is by staying true to oneself.
2. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut's satirical novel taught me something I never expected. Slaughterhouse-Five tells the tale of Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist whose life flashes between the bombing of Dresden in World War II, present day, and the alien planet of Tralfamadore. Billy's life represents how unpredictable human life can be. Vonnegut stresses that life is a giant void of nothing, yet this nothing is somehow comforting. Death is inevitable, so live in the present and cherish every moment of it. So it goes.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I was ecstatic when it was announced that Harper Lee would be releasing the sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird this summer. This book is a classic that every high school student should read. While Lee touches on many major themes in her novel, the most prominent is the idea that prejudice is absolutely wrong. As Atticus Finch defends an African American man on trial for the rape of a white woman, readers observe how detrimental racial prejudice can be.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald pulled at my heartstrings with The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald captures the disillusion of the American dream and proves to the reader that it's not easy to leave the past behind. Jay Gatsby cannot escape his messy history, and Fitzgerald demonstrates this with an absolutely tragic conclusion, along with the greatest ending line ever. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Sometimes after reading a book, I cannot get the story out of my head. This was especially true with this novel. Never in my life has a book completely satisfied me but also caused my skin to boil. Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American author, and he manages to bring his passion for Afghan culture in his novels. A Thousand Splendid Suns follows Mariam and Laila, two women living in Afghanistan during the Taliban's reign. Hosseini highlights the brutal mistreatment of women during that time period, as well as the strength it takes to survive.
I'm sure this list will change as I grow older and my literary taste expands. As for now, I can honestly say that the lessons I learned from these books altered my outlook on the world. In the future, opinions will change, people will change, and the world will change. Books, however, are a constant force. Their themes will continue to be relevant, no matter how different the world may appear in the years to come.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more