If you had to pick five books that defined your taste, what would they be?

My friend posted this question on Instagram and then answered it with a list of books; I’ve read four of her five and will read her fifth because Souls are ethereal, elusive things but they are probably captured by the toe in books that define our tastes – maybe a little like Peter Pan’s Shadow – and by reading the books that capture a piece of my friend, I will see her better.

Books are tangible, magical things that cling to our shadows, exposing our souls (or tastes). I think most readers just want to be seen and when we find a book that voices the invisible parts of us, we can heal with words and sentences and characters that see us for who we are.

Here are the five books that define my tastes, chosen because they have the most bent pages, the most re-reads, the most underlined sentences, the most hearts in the margins, and are always being pulled off the shelves to find myself in them:

Circe by Madeline Miller. The retelling of a witch’s story, the deconstruction of divinity, and sentences so beautifully written: “My divinity shines in me like the last rays of the sun before they drown in the sea. I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.” (385)

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. Kidd’s journey to the Sacred Feminine brought voice to my inner narrative, her research and exploration and balance of spirituality and feminine self is scripture. “I chose deviance. I chose to be a loving dissident.” (224)

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. The bold structure of this novel, the naked humanness, and the tapping when there are no words, ah, I want to read it again and again. “Holding hands, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together.” (73)

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The ideas of reciprocity and seeing the universe as living through the eyes of science and spirituality are world-changing ideas. “It is the Windigo way that tricks us into believing that belongings will fill our hunger, when it is belonging that we crave.” (308)

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The ancient stories of women, retold and explored by Estés give me hope and direction and freedom. “Focusing is the use of all of our senses, including intuition. It is into this world that women come in order to claim their own voices, their own values, their imaginations, their clairvoyance, their clear-seeing, their stories, and the ancient memories of women.” (361)

And the honorable mentions: Anne of Green Gables, The Writing Life, The Power of Writing it Down, Gilead, Mistborn, and The Book of Longings. It’s fascinating to me that almost every book that sits at my desk and is re-opened again and again is about preserving stories/lost voices, spirituality, and women. The books that express my tastes are books written for me, by people with similar experiences as me. This is why representation matters.