First of all, this is an excellent question. I think you should ask this of everyone you meet. Here are the answers we could round up.
Ellie: The Presentation of Self in Everday Life by Erving Goffman has, sometimes in ways I haven’t even been conscious of, been at the heart of almost everything I do. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity by Marshall Berman, along with all the other books assigned by Greg Stroud in that class completely changed how I think about the world and experience. Also, though I had read parts of it before, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity has been very influential. Those are only books that have been assigned in classes - there are a lot of books that I have read for my own research that I won’t count in this question. Can you tell it’s hard for me to answer this?
Liam: A Village Life, by Louise Glück. It speaks for itself.
Kenny: Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut brought a whole meaning to the adage “somebody up there likes me.” It shamelessly presents the question of the meaning of life and even offers a possible answer, one which I tend to live by. “The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn’t want to be used by anybody.” Perhaps being useful is all the meaning we need.
Emma: Eula Biss’ Notes from No Man’s Land was my most recent lightning strike. I will never think about writing or telephone poles the same away again.