Carey Cranston, president, American Writers Museum
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave illustrates the greatest heights and the lowest depths of America’s history and potential, while, better than any other work, showing the power of literacy—that when a person can read and write, he gains the ability to create his own narrative, and to shape his life and the surrounding world.
Michiko Kakutani, literary critic
Shakespeare’s collected plays. Four hundred years after the playwright’s death, his influence spans the planet. He was uncannily modern in his inventiveness and gift for engaging the popular imagination; in his depiction of spirited, independent women; and in his appreciation of the contingencies of life in a chaotic world reeling from accelerating change and loss.
Imbolo Mbue, author, Behold the Dreamers
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Imagine a world where we all live by this covenant: Be impeccable with your word; don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; always do your best.
Susanna Fogel, director and co-writer, The Spy Who Dumped Me
The Frog and Toad series, by Arnold Lobel. Though ostensibly children’s books, they frame depression and anxiety in the most relatable way possible. The two amphibians—one an introverted cynic who can’t stay present, the other an emotional-novelty addict—have a sweet, enduring friendship. Both worldviews are valid!