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?

Book review: ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ by Jhumpa Lahiri

maladies1I’m a little afraid of short stories. What I crave most in fiction is depth, characterization, richly drawn and fully fleshed-out people and places — not halved and truncated stories of people about whom I will ultimately feel nothing, if only because I never really got a chance to know them.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s stunning Interpreter of Maladies is seriously working to change my opinion.

I don’t know what took me so long to pick up this book, exactly; Lahiri’s novel The Namesake is probably my favorite book of all time. Seriously. It was the first book I set down after reading and thought, “If I’m going to be a writer, this is what I have to be. How can I be this?” And not to put a damper on my dreams, but I don’t think anyone could write like Lahiri — simultaneously combining themes of love, family, respect, devotion, rebellion, fear, desperation, loneliness and hope in, oh, twenty pages or so.

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