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The Stories That Made Me by Ella T. '25

My Identity in Books

I am a huge reader. I love hearing stories and telling them. I love reformulating them, retelling them, carrying them alongside me. I love storytelling so much that it’s become a pillar of my identity — it’s why I chose to blog.

A major obstacle to if and how people read is discovering which stories resonate the most. This is an introspective journey. Ideally, the stories you relate to are a direct reflection of your personhood. Once you’ve found them, you’ve unlocked the essence of storytelling.

So, I thought I’d share some of the stories that I love. That resonate with me. And are, in turn, who I am.

For each story, I’ll share useful prerequisite reading, one of my favorite lines, and whom I believe the story is intended for. I’ll also include appropriate content warnings.01 Please Note: All of the following discuss mature themes and aren't suitable for most young readers.

I won’t be providing summaries, but I’ll leave a link to an article about each piece. I’ll also mark some titles with an asterisk. Those are the most influential of the list.

I hope you’ll find a story that resonates with you too.

Without further ado, here are the stories02 I emphasize <em>stories</em> because though I have a handful of philosophies I love, stories are more accessible and often just as impactful. that made me:


The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, 1961 [CW: Suicide, Sexual Assault, Substance Abuse]

“If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.”

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar is Plath’s only novel. However, if you’re familiar with Daddy or Lady LazarusThe Bell Jar is written with similar attitudes. This is for those who occupy many worlds, loathe womanhood, or find themselves on the train to New York City too often.


Mama’s BoyDustin Lance Black, 2019 

Prerequisite Reading: East of Eden, John Steinbeck

“To my heart, it felt like the nation I’d always loved was finally getting to know and love their LGBTQ children.”

Mama's Boy

Dustin Lance Black is one of my favorite contemporary speakers and film-makers. Mama’s Boy is for those raised in the South, are fiercely loyal, and will fight like hell for justice.


Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson, 1998 [CW: Sexual Assault]

Prerequisite Reading: Geryon and the Tenth Labor of Herakles and Geryoneis, Stesichorus

“How does distance look? Is a simple direct question. It extends from a spaceless within to the edge of what can be loved.”

Autobiography of Red

Autobiography of Red is for mythology lovers, prose enthusiasts, and those who feel inherently unloveable or monstrous.


Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956 [CW: Substance Abuse, Self Harm] *

Prerequisite Reading: Carl Solomon’s Wikipedia page

“I saw the best minds of my generation who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, and alarm clocks fell on their heads for the next decade.”

howl

Howl is single-handedly the most defining piece of literature in my life. Howl is for those who aimlessly take the train to the end of the line, light strangers’ cigarettes, or speak truthfully, no matter how vulgar.


Ernest Hemingway On Writing, Larry W. Phillips, 1984 

“Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged.”

On Writing

On Writing is my bible. I reference it constantly. It is for those who despise thesauruses and pay careful attention to the weather. And start sentences with conjunctions.


All Over but the Shoutin’Rick Bragg, 1991 [CW: Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse]

“That is where a big part of the Old South is, on coffee tables in Greenwich Village”

All Over But the Shoutin

All Over but the Shoutin’ is for children raised by strong women, novice journalists, and those who just can’t shed The South.


The Hours, Michael Cunningham, 1998 [CW: Suicide]

Prerequisite Reading: Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away.”

 

The Hours

The Hours is for those with regrets, eternal friendships, and a taste for stream-of-consciousness writing.


Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion, 1968 [Substance Abuse] *

Prerequisite Reading: The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats, this Wikipedia page

“The stories are endless, infinitely familiar, traded by the faithful like baseball cards, fondled until they fray around the edges and blur into the apocryphal.”

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is for observers, nomads, and those finding themselves more comfortable in a crowd than alone.


The WastelandT.S. Eliot, 1922 *

Corequisite Reading: Any of the dozens of obscure literary references Eliot makes

“Gentile or Jew. O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.”

The Wasteland

The Wasteland is for those who annotate heavily. No, really. That’s all. You’re going to need it.

 

 

  1. Please Note: All of the following discuss mature themes and aren't suitable for most young readers. back to text
  2. I emphasize stories because though I have a handful of philosophies I love, stories are more accessible and often just as impactful. back to text