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Readers weigh in on books that made an impact for them

We asked Maine Women Magazine readers what books they’d read that had made an impact on them—not necessarily their favorite, oh-so-well-written novels and such, but for them a mic-drop book that stuck it personally, that made a difference in some specific, lasting way. Many said they returned to these memorable books during times of need.

From the political to the scientific to the feminist inspirational, here are the books they cited (there are certainly some you may want to add to your To Read list):

“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. “I used to get so upset/mad/offended when people would say they hated the book and that the author was selfish. Now all these years later I see how it depends where you are on your own journey and that is how we respond to things (in this case, someone else’s story).”
—Jill Upham, Scarborough

“Dune” by Frank Herbert. “It has always been a book full of intrigue, family struggles, politics, spies, mysteries, drugs (‘the Spice’) and above all stunning and memorable descriptions of the world Frank Herbert created. It’s one of the few books I feel transcends typical genres, because, although it is set on a fictional planet, its human interactions are very real. It sticks with me because it taught me so much about how language can be used, and how humanity I understand can be present in a fantasy story.”
—Corissa Haury, Portland

“Sophie’s World,” by Jostein Gaarder. “A fictional account on the history of philosophy, it was the first book to make me question ‘reality’ and my perception of it. I read it in 1995 and I still go back to it occasionally to take my mind on a philosophical journey that is pure in nature and without political commentary.”
—Casey Mac, South Portland

“The Wonder Spot” by Melissa Bank. “A novel that develops in a series of loosely connected short stories. I love Bank’s voice in the lead character. It is a dry, dark humor that I connect with especially as the character ages. I have gone back to this book in different times in my life and keep connecting with it.”
—Kimberly Curry, Portland

“Diet for a New America” by John Robbins. “I read it my freshman year in college and went vegan as a result. I had become aware of factory farming and the problems with meat a few years earlier. But until I read it, I hadn’t made the connection to milk and eggs.”
—Avery Yale Kamila, Portland

“Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson. “It takes a candid and real look at mental health and how it looks living day to day with it. Plus it’s the only book I can remember laughing so hard I cried chapter after chapter.”
—Michelle Belanger, Old Orchard Beach

“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie. “Because of the lush prose and the parallel stories of Pakistan and the main character. It was a bath in a new world and luscious word paintings from a different perspective from my childhood.”
—Koo Kullen, South Portland

“The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. “‘Pillars of the Earth’ is important, ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is amazing and terrifying. ‘Pillars’ made me realize the importance of the Protestant Reformation to the evolution of political development, art and science. ‘Handmaid’ was a protest song that looked into the terrifying reality of political religiosity.”
—Stephanie Takes-Desbiens, Yarmouth

“Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig. “The discussion about quality very much impacted my approach to teaching. There’s a particularly good story about analyzing bricks.”
—Becca Boulos, Portland

“Swimming to Antarctica” by Lynne Cox. “The best book I’ve ever read and I’ve constantly referred back to this book when I’m going through a difficult time, whether swimming 2.4 miles in 50-degree water or persevering through a difficult stage in my life.”
—Mary-Theresa Tringale, Portland

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. “’Wild’ changed me in so many ways and one day I will go away on a long hike to find myself more.”
—Dana Johnson, Biddeford

Amy Canfield is a writer, editor and bibliophile. She lives in South Portland.

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