Fifty-two years ago today, Harper Lee’s only book (and masterpiece), “To Kill A Mockingbird,” was published. An incredible story of growing up, societal stereotypes, racial tension and so much more, it was a book that gripped me from the beginning when I first read it at 15 years old. It also is a member of a short list of books I could not only read over and over again, but played an incredible role in shaping who I am today.

What books did you grow up with that helped define you? The list could get quite long for me, but I managed to narrow it down to my top five. Tell me yours in the comments!


1. The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Quite simply, the greatest story ever told, in my opinion. Tolkien created a world beyond imagination, and the world of Middle Earth and its inhabitants are all crucial elements in an epic quest to save the world. I always credit “The Lord of the Rings” when I think of my sense of spontaneity and adventure. There are plenty of books and movies built around fantasy worlds and tales of great wars, quests and characters, but Tolkien set the standard, and I don’t see anyone else coming close.


2. To Kill A Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

There are few authors who can say their first book was their best — and that it was the only one they would ever need to write. With more than 30 million copies sold worldwide, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” has proven it can grip the heart of anyone and any age. When I first read it as a high school sophomore, I was enamored by a book that tackled harrowing subjects such as racism, hatred and social inequality with such warmth and, honestly, humor.


3. Harry Potter

By J.K. Rowling

I’ll be the first to admit: When I first attempted to read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” I hated it. HATED. I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t buy into a story that, in my opinion, too closely resembled “The Lord of the Rings.” It would be several years later when I picked up the first book again, and here we are. The Harry Potter books touch on characters’ more intimately than any other fantasy books, and that’s the component so many of us can identify with — being a kid and facing a big world.


4. The Catcher in the Rye

By J.D. Salinger

Every teenager experiences times of feeling like an outcast — like he or she is losing their identity and desire being accepted and loved more than anything. “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been the example of a book, namely a character in Holden Caufield, who grows up wanting these things more than anything else in the world. It was a tough read and hard to understand when I first read it as a young teen, but as I got older and read it more (I read it every year in high school), that sense of understanding came to life more and more. Convenient, right?


5. Luckiest Man

By Jonathan Eig

Baseball has been a love and passion of mine since I was 3 years old. Lou Gehrig has long been a subject of admiration, too. A man with no ego, who let Babe Ruth always have the limelight — and a man who, shortly before his death, called himself the luckiest man on the planet — was an example we all need. I obviously never got to see Lou Gehrig play baseball, but his story remains an incredible one. If you like sports, in general, and reading — you need to read this book.


Well, there’s my list. What’s yours?