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Books That Made Me Wiser or Gentler

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The list author says: "The most worthwhile books change you forever. Some help you acquire perspective, others provide answers to questions you never thought would be answered, another might allow you to accept an aspect of life you previously found disheartening. But the very best show me why I loved who or what I loved, and why I will never be the same because of it."
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
"Perhaps most of us believe we loved with an unreasoned passion not cordoned or understood by others.  Afraid of being ridiculed we keep the depth of our ardor to ourselves.  Then we feel isolated and alone.  This book enabled me to realize that others love and want to the depths of their souls also.  I never felt as alone again after I read this beautiful monument to pristine, if misdirected love."
Death in Venice
Death in Venice
"This is about the all-consuming power of immaculate young beauty, about what we once were but are no more, because time and tide take their toll.  It is not about gay beauty; it is about all beauty.  I wish we could all have as our last sight in this world the image of the most beautiful thing we have ever seen."
An American Tragedy (Signet Classics)
An American Tragedy (Signet Classics)
"How can chance and timing push an ordinary, decent, ambitious young man to the point where he considers murder as his only way out.  This is a tremendous story that gives you the uncomfortable feeling that this tragedy could have happened to you.  A murderer, me?  Read it. You won’t be able to put it down."
Wuthering Heights (Bantam Classics)
Wuthering Heights (Bantam Classics)
"The greatest, most passionate loves cannot survive.  This unforgettable tale shows you why that is.  Our most powerful experience of love turned us all into Heathcliffs, to one extent or another.  The profoundest tragedy in life is to not have experienced this hellish, obsessive passion at least once in life.  For those who have, it is both our best and worst memories."
The Razor's Edge
The Razor's Edge
"If you ever thought you had a secure handle on how to live, read this book.  You will then realize how far we all are from what really matters.  It shows us what a modern saint would be like if we could meet him or her.  We all look for peace.  The hero here finds it entirely from within, without a struggle, and without conflict.  Though I can never hope to get there completely, he is my hero."
The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead
"What would a totally honest, direct man be like? As you read this classic you begin to appreciate just how far short humanity is from this icon. I have never met anyone even remotely like Roark, the hero of this story. How sad is that? This book makes you understand just how impossibly courageous you would have to be to be honest and truthful all the time. A very high price to pay for consistency."
The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
"I underline in pencil most of what I read. When reading these timeless chunks of wisdom I underlined almost every line.  There is vast insight in virtually every single sentence.  Just read one short essay and I promise it will change your life for the better.  Then you will be hooked as I was and go on to read the rest."
The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers
The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers
"No better introduction to the life of the mind exists in my experience. Durant explains the ideas of some of the greatest thinkers in everyday language. You will pick your favorites and move on the primary works, and then be on your way to a lifetime of intellectual adventure.  I found this book so exciting as pure adventure I could hardly sit still while reading it."
The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962
The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962
"What does an insecure soul experience who is hyper-sensitive and picks up everything?  The content here is both distressing and mesmerizing.  This is a no holds bar, very personal, expose of the saddest life I am aware of.  You can sense all this is leading to suicide; as it did.  The horrifying part is you will recognize yourself in many of her struggles.  A petrifying education."
The Magic Mountain
The Magic Mountain
"No other book in my experience grabs hold of you like this one does.  A young man who is a blank slate receives a complete education from unusual and unexpected sources.  Illness becomes education; lethargy energy, time insignificant. Somehow the author gives you the impression of time coming to a halt. The chapter “Snow” is the greatest piece of writing I have ever encountered."
John Keats
John Keats
"What can one accomplish if they die at age 25? How about the 2nd greatest poet in the language. Read this revelatory, inspiring, and tragic biography along with Keats’ poetry and his phenomenal, supremely touching letters. When you do you will discover just how much a single human being can achieve in a short lifetime. I read these 22 years ago and the experience changed my perspectives forever."