Creating a Bookprint — or choosing the reads that most defined me

Every reader has stories that defined them.

Whether it’s assigned reading from high school or a novel lovingly passed along by a parent or friend, we all have those books we reflect upon with reverence. Stories that changed our perceptions or inspired us. Novels that altered the way we viewed the world, or helped us through a difficult time.

Scholastic has just launched its “One Million Bookprints for One Million Books” Campaign — an initiative to donate one million books to needy children through Reach Out and Read. At You Are What You Read, we can make a Bookprint — a collection of the five books that made an everlasting impression on us. For every Bookprint created on the site, one book will be donated to charity. More than 21,000 have been donated so far.

Choosing five books for my own Bookprint was challenging and fun. The key was to find the five stories that changed or defined me — not just the five stories I liked best. They could be one in the same, sure, but that wasn’t inherently the case. Upon reflection, a few of my first picks didn’t really define so much as entertain me, so I scratched them from my roster.

So after much soul-searching, my selections are:

1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake has the distinction of being the first book to keep me up late into the night crying uncontrollably, contemplating life and all its complications. I’ve read many books before and after The Namesake, but it remains firmly ensconced as My Favorite Book of All Time. It has everything: love; family; death; grief; hope; salvation. It moved me so completely, it would be impossible to say how much.

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Read the summer I turned 10, Walk Two Moons was my first experience with life, death and family dynamics. Though Walk Two Moons is considered middle-grade reading, I felt decidedly adult while reading it; its themes translated beyond my elementary years.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. We all know of my rampant JSF love, and this book — his second novel — was another serious tearjerker. I bought it after finishing and loving Everything Is Illuminated, but I think Extremely Loud is actually my favorite. The first book I encountered to deal with Sept. 11, it was profoundly moving. I can still remember hunkering over the book while commuting to D.C. for an internship, hunched over in my seat with tears streaming down my face. And the movie trailer gets me all misty.

4. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. It’s impossible to overstate the important of the Berenstain Bears on my childhood — I mean, they were everywhere. I learned the meaning of the word “moral” from our bear friends and can clearly remember reading the stories aloud with my parents and little sister. We had many books in the collection, but Too Much Junk Food really stands out in my mind. It could be because the pictures were so darn appetizing to a chubby kid like me, but I like to think it’s because I recognized the value of healthy eating at a young age. (Sure — we’ll go with that.)

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The quintessential American novel, Gatsby has the distinction of being the only book I’ve read more than twice. Though many readers seem to be firmly in the pro-Gatsby or anti-Gatsby camp, I’m all for it — and can’t wait to see the remake with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby (swoooooon) next year.


I’m not the only celebrity (ahem — joke!) creating a Bookprint; famous folks like Suzanne Collins, Jim Parsons, Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Radcliffe share theirs, too (and yes, Harry Potter appears on Daniel’s). Head over to make your own Bookprint now and help the next generation find their own influential reads.

Have you created a Bookprint?

What are some of the books

that most defined you?

14 thoughts on “Creating a Bookprint — or choosing the reads that most defined me

  1. wow what a great concept!! I remember reading Walk Two Moons for a book report, and crying my little eyes out. My 5 books would include the Berenstain bears too, I owned the whole series. My favorite would be “the Berenstain Bears and the Messy room”. Not because I was messy but because my organization obsession started when I tried replicating the Berenstein Bears organization by shoe boxes in my own closet! 😉 Other books that made a mark on me are “the Giver” and “Catcher in the Rye” and Suze Orman’s “Young Fabulous and Broke” definitely changed my life and left marks on me and come back to me every once in a while. There’s probably more, but it would take me longer to think of! 😉


  2. I want to do this but I can’t decide what books have actually had that kind of an impact on me. Horrible, right?! I have to think about this one… great choices though!! I’m going to check out the celebrity ones!


  3. I can’t decide if it would be difficult to pick five books or difficult JUST picking five books. But I”m with you on EL&IC–it had me crying on the recumbent bike at the gym!

    I was really curious to see The Namesake on your list. I read it while I was on maternity leave and wonder if I read it in too short of snippets (mostly while nursing) to get the full impact of the book. Would love to read more of her work one day, though.


  4. I love the idea of these bookprints and I thought it would be easy to find my five books, but like you, I realized I was thinking more in terms of entertainment that books that actually changed my life. I love that you included “Walk Two Moons” – that has long been one of my favorite books.


  5. I can’t believe I haven’t read anything by JSF. But the rest of the books on your list are some of my favorites as well. Walk Two Moons makes me smile just thinking about it. Such a beautiful book.


  6. Wow, this would be SO hard to do! But a great cause. I haven’t read The Namesake yet, but I have read her two short story books and they are so wonderful. And yes, Extremely Loud was amazing (could have done without the grandparent thread) and that trailer sends me into uncontrollable fits of crying and chest-heaving.


  7. This is an awesome idea, and I’m going to start mine right now! I wasn’t even finished reading your post before thinking of which books I would add to my print.


  8. I love this idea (almost as much as I love the Berenstain Bears and Gatsby!), and did make my bookprint. It was so hard to choose just five books, but in the end I went with “Miss Rumphius,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Bird by Bird,” “Walking on Water,” and “The Lorax.”


  9. 1. Good to know. I’ve been wanting to read The Namesake. Did you see the film? I thought it was amazing.
    2. Been wanting to read that one too.
    4. I adore The Berenstain Bears!
    5. I can’t wait for that film and seriously need to read the book.
    GREAT post.


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