What’s One Book, Movie, Song, Poem, Etc. You’re Grateful For?

DT4- grateful skinnyFor 51 weeks of the year, it’s fine to focus all your energy on obsessing over what you don’t have and take the good things in your life totally for granted. But not this week.

This is gratitude week.

Reader Jane U. from Atwood, NY sent us a gratitude question we loved that’s an interesting twist on the standard “What are you grateful for?” question:

What’s one piece of art—a book, a movie, a song, a poem, etc.—that you’re grateful for? Pick only one.

There can be a broad definition of why a piece of art might make you grateful—because you loved it, because it inspired you or others, because you bond with your mother over it, because it’s the reason you met your husband, etc.—anything goes.


Tim’s Answer: The book John Adams by David McCullough.

I unfortunately never had great history teachers growing up, and I finished high school with history as my least favorite subject. Today, I’m riveted learning about the history of almost anything, and I’ve spent a lot of time reading history-related biographies, novels, articles, and Wikipedia pages. The turning point for me was John Adams.

I read this book when I was in college, and it was so good that I followed it up immediately with David McCullough’s 1776. Then I read about FDR and Truman. Then about World War II. Then about World War I. Then a biography of Hilter. Then I started moving back to the Middle Ages and to antiquity in different parts of the world. Today, I’m no history buff, but I have a pretty good knowledge foundation in many areas of history, and when you have a knowledge foundation in something, that topic is suddenly really interesting to you, so you keep learning. John Adams ignited my love of history in a way a dozen or so Boston area teachers had failed to do.

Reading this book also left me with a permanently better understanding of how my country came to be and who these incredibly famous forefathers really were. You can read factual histories in textbooks, but by absorbing the book’s facts along with its insane amount of detailed, primary source anecdotes and written correspondence, I felt like I really got to know the forefathers—it completely reshaped my view of many of them—and what life was like in what is now the East Coast of the US from 1750 – 1825.

So thanks, David McCullough, and thanks, Jane U., for the great question!


You can sign up for the Dinner Table email list here to be notified about the new topic each week, and remember to submit future topics to table@waitbutwhy.com.

  • Felipe

    I’d have to say the visual novel Katawa Shoujo. It seems like a perverted Japanese pseudo-game at frist glance. After all, the premise is that you’ll be romancing disabled girls. And it contains mature content warnings. But this is far from the truth.

    Katawa Shoujo is a beautiful work, it’s not perverted (and it’s not even Japanese). It treats the subject matter with utter respect. It promotes treating disabled people like people. It has important lessons about love, the kind many grown adults are yet to learn.And the stories are genuinely beautiful.

    I am grateful for Katawa Shoujo’s existence because it promotes tolerance towards the disabled, because it taught me lessons that are still applicable, and because it’s a work of art in a medium that needs more respect.

  • Carl K

    Tim, regarding your post. If you are into podcasts at all, check out Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. He gets really in depth into history. Like, he won’t just say, “10,000 people died that day.” He will tell you how practicality each person died. It is awesome.

    • Truliner

      I started listening to his podcast maybe a month ago and it really is engaging.

      • DeeDee Massey

        How does it rate against “Drunk History” though?

    • Babette

      It looks like Hardcore History is going to be my new obsession. Thanks Carl.

      • Carl K

        Excellent. Enjoy.

  • Fams

    ” Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.” – Ray Bradbury

    Fahrenheit 451 made me more interested in learning new subjects in depth and to quit using mindless time wasting internet sites that made me feel smart by mindlessly scrolling through quick fact “articles” and lists. Oh god, I think I just dissed your site.

    • Zach

      This book also made a similar impact on me: alway refine your knowledge. I remember a different quote:

      “You’re afraid of making mistakes.
      Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in
      people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been
      honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll
      never learn. “-Ray Bradbury.

  • Fábián Emőke
  • PinkTheBush

    Stephen King’s IT. I was 7 when I read it (I’m assuming a lot of the vocabulary escaped me at the time but I was pretty literate early on and I remember it clearly). My grandmother made it absolutely clear that I was forbidden to touch it. So naturally I nabbed it and pulled the ol’ flashlight-under-the-sheets stunt for about a week and put it back on the shelf each night before I went to bed.

    That book made absolutely all the difference in what I would end up loving as I grew older. Pennywise scared the living shit out of me. I mean, I was a complete wreck. I was petrified of storm and shower drains, and God forbid a clown passed by. Arizona summer nights sweating under the blanket afraid he was waiting under the bed, and losing my shit if the closet door was cracked open.

    Once I’d developed enough to really think about it, I became obsessed with the idea that someone had clack-clack-clacked a bunch of words onto paper with a typewriter, and managed to orchestrate those words in such a way that they fell away and I *saw* blood-filled balloons bursting in a library. King had some sort of crazy power in that he could fill bunch of pages with text — not pictures — and yet all I remembered was scenes in my head and the nightmares they caused.

    I could go on for hours about how magnificent I think the written word is. In the end I really just have IT to thank for starting that fiction-loving fire in me like a slap in the face.

    • Lizzie

      Ugh, I read some Stephen King when I was that age too (I also snuck it from a shelf without the permission of adults who would have known better) and it just gave me nightmares for years. I’m glad you got more out of it. 😉

  • Bob Rubbens

    I don’t think I have a piece of art like that. I mean, I’ve read books which stirred up my mind, listened to music which sent shivers over my spine repeatedly, and I’ve seen movies which kept my mind buzzy for weeks. And naturally, I’m grateful for those pieces of art, I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything. But, in time, they fade from my memory. I haven’t encountered a piece of art yet that doesn’t, that sticks around more than others.

    I’ll keep looking for it, though.

    • Truliner

      I feel kind of same. Whenever somebody asks me a question like today’s dinner table topic, I’m just “Uhm… I dunno…”. I don’t think I have any one piece of art above everything else in it’s genre. Instead of keeping collection of the best art I’ve experienced I just concentrate on the most recent great experience I’ve had.

      Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m not involved enough in art to have that kind of sense of “best”. I don’t have huge collection of music or movies or books. For me, too, those fade away to be discovered again at some later point in life, still leaving a mark in me.

      • Bob Rubbens

        Yeah, I’m interested in that too. Would you need a certain minimum understanding of a certain genre or type of art to have an opinion of the ultimate piece in that genre/art (or maybe in general)? Or can you walk into a random piece of art someday and think, without any knowledge about the genre or type of art, “this is it”?

  • Dai J.

    It may sound dumb, but I really don’t care. The french movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, or, as it’s known in America, simply Amélie.

    This is my movie for sad days or depressing moments. No matter how many times I’ve watched it, I ALWAYS (I really mean always) feel happy and less heavy after the credits end. I don’t know if it’s related to the use of certain colors (though I’ve analyzed it at college and, yes, the main colors do lift the mood of the viewer), the soundtrack, the story, the acting… It doesn’t matter: Amélie never fails to bring joy. At least, to me.

    • Kate

      That’s my absolute favourite movie…and the soundtrack…

    • PinkTheBush

      I get all watery every time she walks the blind guy down the street. Every time.

  • Martin Nick Smolík

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqWxSPPxgCY song by Nox Arcana: Angels are weeping.

    It captures almost whole of my character, from my rebellous nature (free from The Mammoth), through misunderstanding I face, to the fact that I live for today, but I no longer see what for.

    I am not unhappy, but it feels like something is missing what I can’t quite put my finger on. I live the life I always wanted, only to find out I want something else.

  • Cherry Zimmer

    “She loves you yeah yeah yeah and with a love like that you know you should be glad. wooooo” http://vimeo.com/85085658

  • Carl K

    My favorite form of entertainment is movies. I will narrow it down to being most grateful for the Coen Brothers. Decades of solid entertainment spanning all genres.

    • Judy Ruth

      Carl, I don’t see any reason why The Big Lebowski can’t count as the same Work as Cat’s Cradle.

  • champioz

    “Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the ’60s” by Ian MacDonald. This book takes The Beatles’ complete recorded works track by track and discusses their origins, their impact on the group and the world around them, and their context in each Beatles’ span of creative growth

    It’s a bit of a polarizing book. Many fans feel it doesn’t do justice to some of The Beatles’ best works through purely subjective criticism, others feel it’s one of the only honest volumes on the market for those looking at a blunt look at the world’s most famous musicians and their creations. Here’s why it affected me.

    I am a growing musician. I wasn’t an avid music listener, or much a listener at all, until about the age 16. I discovered some of my favorite groups at that time, and started to take my own membership in concert bands and choruses more seriously. By the time I started college I had a very strong grasp on my own tastes, and what music meant to me. But I was still new. Halfway through college I decided that I wanted to expand on my own talents and pursue music professionally, as a singer and as a songwriter. I took many necessary steps in classical education to make this a possibility, and this is all ongoing.

    But I was still severely lacking in a lot of the historical context of music I love, and music I wanted to create. I had minimal listening experience and appreciation for many powerful names in music, first and foremost The Beatles. So I buckled down about a year before graduation and made a list of acts I wanted to consume and learn about, and started there since I’d heard the masses insist for years that they were the best there ever was. (I now agree with them ardently.)

    But for these sorts of groups I didn’t want to just listen and enjoy, I wanted to learn. I wanted to ream from these recordings some insight into the musicians’ processes that I could latch onto and incorporate into my own work. So I bought some books, bought their recorded works, and listened chronologically as I read along with Revolution in the Head.

    It was world changing. Ian MacDonald’s thorough, informed analysis gave me insight not only into their music, but into their lives and how intimately connected the two were. I heard the chord voicings he pointed out that I may have missed, grinned at the bizarre rhythm in “Happiness is a Warm Gun” (now one of my late-era favorites), found myself agreeing with some of his criticisms during the span of time he deemed their laziest (right around Magical Mystery Tour), and wholeheartedly disagreeing with his dislike of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I felt like I was having a conversation about this music that was entirely new to me with someone who had been listening himself for 50 years.

    This experience gave me a lot of musical appreciation I previously lacked. I pay attention to lyrics now, and as such have actually grown tired of some music I previously praised. I embrace happy accidents and deliberate contrivance alike when working to make a bland tune worth anyone’s time. And I respect the hell out of a lot of musicians that used to bore me.

    So yes, Ian MacDonald and “Revolution in the Head” guided me through a very pivotal period of my musical growth, and helped me develop an analytical ear while having fun, discovering my own tastes, and experiencing some of the most important pop/rock music ever made.

  • manchildren

    Brothers Karamazov and Notes from Underground helpt me a lot in my post-angst years

  • Ryan

    The book “Resurrection” by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. My gratitude towards this book is simple: I am likely here today because of it.

    I am a descendant of the Doukhobors ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doukhobor ) – a religious/cultural community that was being heavily persecuted in Russia at the end of the 19th century for their beliefs, which included pacifism and a rejection of the excesses and institutions of the Russian Orthodox church and the Czarist government. By the 1890s they were verging on extinction and some of their key friends and supporters, notably the Quakers in Britain and Tolstoy, were helping to organize their migration to somewhere they would be free to practice their beliefs, namely Canada. In order to help raise the funds needed to get the Doukhobors to Canada, Tolstoy donated the proceeds from his novel “Resurrection” (details here: http://www.doukhobor.org/Pashchenko-Nagorna.htm ). It turns out that this would be the last novel that Tolstoy ever wrote, and his later excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church was in part because of it.

    The efforts that Tolstoy supported were successful, and in the end some 7,500 Doukhobors migrated to Canada in 1899 and settled in what is now the province of Saskatchewan. I am one of the last direct descendants of this community (on both my mother and father’s side, going back many generations). Whenever I see it on my bookshelf, it is a reminder to me of the incredible impact that one person can have on so many.

    • Cherry Zimmer

      I have not read that book, but love Tolstoy and that is a great reason!

  • Zach

    There was an animated video for “Dare you to move” that I saw probably 5, 6 years ago that really made me think. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it since, so it is the memory of it more than it itself I am grateful for.

  • Rox

    “I know these will all be stories some day, and our pictures will become old photographs. We all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here, and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song, and that drive with the people who you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.” — The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    So, it was Christmas Eve and I was a little bummed out. Among other reasons, I was alone at home and I made a cake for the family party the next day and it didn’t turn out so well. So, I decided I needed a distraction and watched “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. I liked that particular quote so much, I decided to write it down as a reminder that things get better and magical moments can and do happen.

    Not long after that, I was in Iceland — a trip that was filled with some of the most magical moments I’ve experienced. The last night I was there, I experienced a moment very much like the one described in the quote. We were driving, I was with the people I wanted to be with, and we were chasing the northern lights — it is something I am grateful for and I won’t forget.

    • Jo.C

      You know you’re a fan when you read the beginning of a quote and immediately recognises it is. Good choice 🙂

    • India

      I got the chills reading that quote. I think it’s so beautiful that contemporary writing is raw and emotional and simplistic like that. Different from the classics, but just as important.

      • Guest

        I agree. As much as it’s fun to analyze classical literature, I like how that quote is filled with such imagery and raw emotion, as you put it. You can picture yourself and relate to that very moment…

  • Eneira Fyrion

    I know it sounds ordinary but it’s Lord of The Rings…book or movie (both has some advantages). I love the world, the history, the languages, the epic fight against evil and of course, the elves 🙂 this book and a club brought me my best friend 10 years ago, and it’s still a part of my days. I wrote short stories about it and of course I would love to live at Lothlorien 🙂 have to say, I’m 38…. 😀

    • Judy Ruth

      A perfectly lovely choice!

    • Artyom Karapetov

      I have a similar experience with LoTR. Tolkien and Jackson are saints 🙂

    • Bonnnie

      It made me want to come back as an Ent.

  • Sia

    The book Dervis and death by M. Selimovic. It has meaning on so many levels, the sentence of mr. Selimovic has rythm, soul, music, balance and the whole novel is so pregnant with meaning that almost any part of it can be taken out and considered as little piece of art that can stand alone. I read it so many times, and its still hard to believe that this book actually exists, and that unfortunatelly its not known worldwide!!

  • Judy Ruth

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and all else that, by virtue of internal principle, is One with this Work of Art.

    • Carl K

      Not kidding. I almost wrote Cat’s Cradle. It opened me up to a new world when I was about 14. Love it. Bokonon for ever.

    • AllisonErin

      The Hitchhiker’s Guide is way up there on my list too. First book that got me thinking that humanity will always have a whacky streak, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. And that’s a good thing 🙂

  • Emerson Dameron

    I am grateful to Jon Favreau and everyone else involved in creating the film Swingers. Because of that movie, I know exactly what to say to *anyone* who is pining for someone who just isn’t that into them.


  • Kellyanne Fitzgerald

    Mere Christianity. I’m going to get a lot of flack for picking something to do with religion, which really seems to be taboo around here, but honestly, when I was struggling with a faith I’d grown out of and a sneaking suspicion that it didn’t all add up, I read Mere Christianity, and God reignited my faith. I sincerely recommend it for anyone who, like me, grew up Christian and secretly wondered if it was all fake. Lewis starts from absolute zero, asking you why you believe there is such a thing as right and wrong, and from there he- if not proves- makes an extremely compelling case for Christianity. It convinced me it was the truth. There are countless other books, movies, poems, etc, that had a huge impact on me. But I think this one was the most important.

    • SiliconScribe

      I loved Mere Christianity too. For many of the same reasons you point out those were eye opening moments for myself as well.

    • Steph

      Huh. I read Mere Christianity when I was struggling with my belief, and I kept thinking ‘No, that’s not right’ and ‘That doesn’t make any sense to me.’ So it was the final push to becoming an atheist for me. Guess it’s good to read because it makes you figure out what you really believe.

    • Bailiuchan

      I am worried about the taboo thing here too because I picked a book that has to do with religion, in part, as well. Man’s Search for Meaning. I respect your choice.

    • Jo.C

      You don’t have to be a religious person to notice that in some parts of the internet (or in our society), the expression of one’s theism has indeed become a taboo subject unless the individual desires to be ridiculed and judged as less than rational. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this is yet another form of bigotry. Since WBW dinner table is a place for readers to interact and discuss ideas, I think it is important that no one here is made to feel like certain topics are best to be avoided. So I’d say post away!

      PS: as a non religious person, it amuses me that my first internet comment EVER (on WBW and on the internet in general) is religion related. Thank you WBW for bringing me out of my hermit shell!… Uh so many smart people here…

      • DeeDee Massey

        The Dinner Table intro did say “anything is on the table.” Considering the nature of so many WBW posts, it would be hard to consider the typical taboo subjects as truly taboo here, especially as several WBW posts themselves are about religion/spirituality in very stirring ways. So far, it has done a pretty good job of avoiding trolls who want to bash others’ beliefs. Most comments are respectful, even when they disagree, as demonstrated in this thread. Nevertheless, it is a Dinner Table, so that suggests some etiquette is warranted. IDK, I’m confusing myself now.

        • Jo.C

          Not sure about the etiquette part too, but as you said most comments (both on dinner table and WBW posts) are respectful. I really do think that we have a pretty damn awesome community here at WBW and I couldn’t appreciate it more considering how much I love this blog, I mean website, I mean content site!

    • marisheba

      I’m not religious, and I love hearing peoples’ thoughts and experiences on religion. It’s such a rich, personal, and important part of the human experience. I agree that it’s taboo in many intellectually-oriented places, and also that that is very problematic. I REALLY don’t like the New Atheists and the bigotry and plain wrongess I see in their arguments. At the same time, that taboo is no stronger than the taboo against atheism in most public discourse in the US. I think it comes down to people being uncomfortable with realizing that people you may have a lot in common with (ie readers of a blog) can be coming from such a different place than you are in this deep, fundamental way. I think for atheists a lot of it is defensive, and comes out of a desire to protect the safe places for discourse that we do have. For example, in the comments sections of Tim’s religion/spirituality pieces, there was definitely some judgy proselytizing by a few religious folks that apparently couldn’t even see that that’s what they were doing (I’m sure there were atheists in there doing the same). And it’s just so tiring sometimes. None of this justifies jumping down the throats of a thoughtful comment by a religious person about faith (such as yours), but I do think that’s WHY it happens.

      • Kellyanne Fitzgerald

        Oh yes, I definitely understand why it happens, but in places like WBW, reddit, etc, it often does feel like I’m the only Christian in the room, and I wonder how much of that is because Christianity is treated as something which no rational person could ever accept. We lose credibility, because we believe in Jesus Christ. And it’s not religion, as some atheists would shoot back, because I’ve seen Buddhists and Confucianists and Muslims be admired for their willingness to stand up for their faith, speak out about it on the Internet (which is becoming more and more anti-faith) etc, while when a Christian does it… it’s seen as just another fundamentalist idiot shooting their mouth off. I’ve heard reasoning behind it being that since so many of the new atheists were brought up Christian, they tend to have dislike in particular towards Christianity, but that doesn’t make it any more okay. It makes me wonder how many serious Christians are here, are on reddit… but just don’t talk about their faith, because they don’t want to become the targets of bigotry. And it is ironic, because I agree with you, in real life, it’s atheism which is the taboo thing, in America at least. On the Internet, it’s being a serious Christian.

        • Cabeto

          I live in Colombia, where over 95% of the population is either Catholic or Christian… Having a non-standard view of life and death here is probably one of the most tiresome things I have experienced.

          Talking from what I’ve lived, SOME Christian practitioners give the rest of your faith a bad rep mostly because of how pushy and preachy they can get. I have seriously been called out because of my faith in all types of discussion, sometimes when the topic has nothing to do with religion.

          One notable example was a tabletop game with some friends of a friend which basically was resolved by luck in a single roll of the dice. I lost and the other guy, being a terrible winner just made a backhanded compliment I still remember to this day. He said “You are a good player but I prayed harder than you and Christ chose me”.

          I know that guy is one in a hundred or even a less representative part of your faith and you would probably even say he is not a good Christian, I have met dozens of others who are amazing people and I know this for a fact.

          But reality remains that a vocal minority of your group has managed to tick enough people off (isn’t that something new!) to elicit from them a negative response before they even finish reading or listening what another Christian has to say.

          I am not excusing for the behaivour you have been forced to experience but you have to look at both sides of the issue, a person who hates your faith, or any religion for that matter, has probably been subjected to some very traumatic time in the name of faith.

          Religion now elicits some very violent responses but that is nothing new, the only difference is Internet now gathers many different people, empowers them with anonimity and gives them the chance to troll as many people as their free time allows.

          Not all Atheists/Muslims/Buddhists/Christians/Truists are bad, it’s just a few bad apples that make this world a shittier place thanks to the way they enforce what they believe. Thankfully the Dinner Table here is a good example of how religions can coexist and create interesting and meaningful discusions instead of Crusades and Holy Wars.

          Have a great day!

    • Elisma(SouthAfrica)

      You are not the only Christian in the room! I absolutely love reading these comments. I would like to let you all know though that those religious comments you see that is ticking you off so much is ticking other Christians off even more.

  • human

    Because I just finished it… Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: “A landmark 2010 study from the Massachusetts General Hospital had even more startling findings. …. The result: those who saw a palliative care specialist stopped chemotherapy sooner, entered hospice far earlier, experienced less suffering at the end of their lives – and they lived 25% longer. In other words, our decision making in medicine has failed so spectacularly that we have reached the point of actively inflicting harm on patients rather than confronting the subject of mortality.” p177 Thoughtful, well researched, well written.

  • Eli

    A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

  • Eiron

    For this one I’m gonna go with ‘Wealth Beyond Reason’. If you want to read it, add ‘pdf’ in your google search. The book basically explains The Law of Attraction. It is not the best book I’ve EVAR read, but more importantly it made me tear myself apart from my skeptical and narrow view on the world (I always thought I’ve had everything figured out). From this point on I understood that everything in the universe consists of energy and vibrations, and that likewise energy attracts itself. Starting from this I could see that the Law of Attraction is all around us. Rich people get richer. Poor people stay poor. Negative people stay negative. You get coming to you what your point of view is on life. That why ‘why does this always happens to me’. This mind blowing perspective made me discover more and more great books that expanded my view even further, something along the lines of your post series ‘A Religion for the Nonreligious’, where I commented my real top #1 book 🙂

  • Russell Scott Wollman

    I”m grateful for this question because, now that I give the answer some thought, I realize that I can’t come up with a single thing that I’m grateful for. There have been too many, especially lately There is one thing that has made a lot more life possible for me, and that is Transcendental Meditation, which I was extremely fortunate to learn on April 10, 1976.

  • Willian Sousa

    JD Salinger`s “The Catcher in the Rye”. After reading it I started looking at my life in a different way than I used to. Holden’s view of everything is an incredible exercise of critical thinking. Also, the book teaches that the importance is at the simple things, “Ask her if she still keeps all her kings on the back row” is one of my favorite quotes of all time, it just says so much saying so little. But I particularly love the book because it inspired me to write my first novel. Thank you Salinger!

    • MomCat

      Me too. My brother, who was in college and much older gave me the book when I was 11. I read it and loved the writing, but didn’t understand what the heck was going on. Years later, I asked him why he gave me the book and he said when he read it for the first time in college he thought the relatlonship between Holden and Phoebe was so sweet. My big bro decided to pay more attention to me, to treat me like a person instead of an annoying brat. And he did. And I stopped being so bratty.

  • Sandy

    I’m most grateful for the “The Liveship Traders” trilogy by Robin Hobb (I’m cheating and naming a trilogy cause you can’t talk about one without talking about all of them). All these books are so well written, beautiful character development, intricate plot. And the characters CHANGED in very human, believable ways that you understood and felt. Hard to write that. So that was cool. But the big awesome is that a half dozen of my friends and I in junior high/high school/even college passed the trilogy around so we’d ALL read them and it was this great common story that we all knew and loved and would reference.

  • Veronica

    I am very grateful for Langston Hughes, and specifically his story Thank You, Ma’am. It’s a story about forgiveness and the importance of being kind, especially to people who wouldn’t do the same to you. My parents were very big on ‘if someone needs help, and you can help them, you are obligated to do so,’ so the story also really resonated with me because it shared that idea. Lastly, I’m white, and from a very white suburb, and being introduced to Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance in 9th grade English was actually the first time I remember reading multicultural literature in class (sadly). His poetry and stories led me to discover other favorite writers like Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. Du Bois.

  • Astrid

    I’m grateful for “Harry Potter”, the book that changing my life by opening it to the beautiful and wonderful worlds of fantasy, magic and dragons, and making me fall in love later with the Lord of the Rings, thanks to which I met some of my current best friends

  • Mark Gromko

    I am grateful for The Tao Te Ching. I’m not a mystic, and neither is the Tao Te Ching about mysticism. It is a book about how to be a good parent, how to govern a country; it is a book about practical matters and living “artfully.” Quoting from Stephen Mitchell’s translation, “Lao-tzu lived for a long time in the country of Chou, but seeing it decline he departed. When he reached the frontier, the guard said, ‘Since you are going away, Sir, could you write a book to teach me the art of living?’ Thereupon Lao-tzu wrote his book about the Tao, and departed.” The art of living. Even though the story is legend, I am grateful to the guard for having the wisdom to ask the question.

  • Katharina

    I’m most grateful for the book “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. I first read it when I was around 14 and I think it was the first thing that inspired me to think about all the big philosophical questions and what my view of the world actually is. Since then I have read it many times and it’s probably also one of the reasons I ended up reading and enjoying this blog so much.

    • cuddles

      ME TOO

    • Luis Cavaco

      Me too.

    • Vancesca Dinh

      When I read this, it was for a class; I’ve always wanted to reread it but never got around to it. Thanks for reminding me some things I have yet to do!

  • VioletBaudelaire

    I’m grateful for “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut. I used to be afraid of dying, but this book completely changed my view on death and existence while also being a fantastic antiwar novel. Not many authors have ever been as talented at blending absurd science fiction and tragic reality in just the right amount of words. I never appreciated black humor until I got into Vonnegut.
    I completed the novel in high school, just before my grandmother passed away. Vonnegut’s idea that “people are always alive in the past” was such an indescribable sense of comfort to me during that time.

  • Jaimi

    Ok, pretty random but I’d have to say “the alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo and “the game” by Neil Strauss. Totally different, w the first being intellectual and about following your dreams (life philosophy) and the latter having to do w fundamental human psychology in the weirdest possible settings. Both worth the read, one inspirational and the other hmmmm….transcendental?

  • Luc Beaudry

    I tend to go to music to be moved emotionally and to books to be moved intellectually. I don’t have it in me to pick only one song, or even musical artist… so I’ll go to the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I credit it for really opening my mind to reading, and reading a greater variety of genres. It’s also the only book that I can re-read endlessly and keep enjoying from all angles. Finally, although it didn’t mean as much to me 25 years ago, this quote “in the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” is one that I now find extremely powerful. Today, we chastise those who even hint at seeing things from “the other side’s” perspective when it comes to hot button issues (religion, war, abortion, etc…), yet I think the only way to make real progress on those issues is to be willing to look at them from all angles and truly try to understand the other side. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, really takes that them to a wonderful place.

    • Kory

      Everything by Orson Scott Card has been deeply meaningful to me, and then he just burned me when I learned how much time, money, and energy he has devoted to the eradication of my family. I’m a woman with a wife and three kids. It’s really being a journey, for me to keep the meaning I find in his books, knowing he is wasting so much effort on hating my family.

      • Luc Beaudry

        Indeed Kory, that has me in many minds as well. I find it hard to be consistent in my appreciation of a piece of art or entertainment when I have serious reservations about the artist or entertainer’s choice of behaviour. When I’m not “hooked” yet, I find it easy to cast them aside. When I already have a strong connection to their work, I more easily convince myself of the separation between the person and their work. It makes for some lovely personal reflection about where I sit on the hypocrisy scale 🙂

  • Erwin

    I think it must be Dostojevski’s Crime and Pinishment. It was a Dutch translation as my Russian tongue is about zero to none and as hard though it started off as a fairly hard to read book – as the translater tried to keep the Russian construction of the text as close to the original as possible – as soon as I came to feel familiar with that it started to get under my skin right away. The way Dostojevski had in a way explained the workings of human psychology is simply fascinating and insane. I remember that moment standing outside of the Alexanderplatz subwaystation in Berlin – a fairly crowded place – and I was there because I had to be there for some reason I can’t remember for some reason, but I was there, reading my book just outside of the subway station on the pedestrial walk, as I couldn’t stop reading after I had opened my book in the subway train. In the end I’ve stood there for over an hour. No book ever did that to me – as being someone who has an furious ADD-brain it is definitely not usual, to say the least, to read a book so hyperfocussed that even in the middle of a very busy place nothing can distract me. It is one of those extraordinary works of art that gives you that feeling that it made you more rich, wiser, a better person in a way. If I made it to the final destination… I can’t remember. But whatever it was, chances that it was more important than the story in that book are as small as they get.

    • Luis Cavaco

      I like russian authors too.

    • JB

      Dostoyevski is great! His prose is a little (okay, /very/) winding, but as you said, his psychological understanding is superb. Since you liked it, you might like The Brothers Karamazov also, another great piece of work by him.

  • Niki

    Will probably get shit for this – U Smile by Justin Bieber. It’s not even that I favour how the song sounds very much, but a few years ago I was just in a real bad place you knoooooo parents arguing, flinging shit around the room, and I sat in between it all crying, ignored, with U Smile playing in my ears. I feel like if it weren’t for that song, or Justin Bieber for a matter of fact, I just wouldn’t like… exist anymore. Ye, hate JB as much as you want or whatever but I was thirteen, and he told me everything I needed to hear in a time of neglect and melancholy. He means a lot for me, and I’m grateful for that song because without it at that point in time, who knows where I would be today. I think he’s a real inspiration and role model and I’m very grateful for his music.

    • Judy Ruth

      Thank you for giving me a reason to like Justin Bieber.

    • Jessica

      With how he acts and the shit he’s pulled I don’t think he’s a role model at all, but as someone who went through emotional abuse during the years that my parents fought and threw stuff like yours did, I’m very glad you had something to comfort you. I’m very glad you weren’t alone in that sense.

    • Bailiuchan

      I’m glad that you shared, regardless of your worries about others not liking it. I respect and admire that a lot.

  • Spants

    “Live”, two-track comedy album by Tig Notaro. I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer about a year and a half ago, when I was 31. I didn’t know anyone who had had breast cancer; cancers don’t run in my family and only two of my friends had fought any kind of cancer. I moved forward with the philosophy “I can’t un-get cancer,” making jokes at the specialty bra store, etc., but it was still a profoundly isolating, lonely experience. A friend tipped me off after hearing Tig on NPR; I downloaded some episodes of her podcast and eventually the album. It’s amazingly powerful and it keeps me from feeling too alone when I’m having issues with treatment side effects or just the mental aftereffects of the whole cancer experience.

    “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you?”

  • suzanne

    Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (TV series)

    It’s so rational, it’s so deep, it’s so human, it’s so critical…

    Thanks to that amazing journey I learnt the meaning of NULLIUS IN VERBA, check the meaning if you’re courious enought 😉

    • Pam Collins

      Bang on! I felt this too when I watched Cosmos

  • Andy Bax

    “Man’s Search for Meaning”, by Viktor Frankl, was, and still is, incredibly influential for me. For those unfamiliar, Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived life in WWII concentration camps. Whilst living this hell, he noticed that some people seemed to fare much better than others, psychologically and spiritually speaking. What he realized about these people would become the central thesis of this book. Though the focus is on Holocaust survivors, the overarching themes are resilience and meaning, and the lessons Frankl teaches are ready to be applied to any life.

  • Pam Collins

    Music Album: White Ladder by David Gray, because it lit the spark that brought me to my husband.

  • d

    I am most grateful for all the fairy tales involving a goldfish that grants three wishes. Those stories taught me to think critically and beware of loopholes, and that, ultimately, the world is not a nice place.

  • Christian A. Larsen

    THE HOBBIT. When I was ten, it opened the door for me into another world. It was just a crack, but Middle-Earth symbolized for me how reading and writing can give us access to another dimension, so to speak. It cemented in me my love of reading, and inspired me to write my own stories. I now have an award-winning novel out with a foreword from a bestselling author, and I owe it to THE HOBBIT.

  • Jerome

    Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I’m a composer. I first heard it when I was in sixth grade, and I remember lying on my bed, face buried in the sheets, listening to the piece on repeat. I saw a scene arise within my soul–a garden, a wall of trees, young men and women dancing, a fence, green everywhere. It was the first time I witnessed music’s power to evoke a world, and the composer’s power to create a world. Years later, I can instantly summon that scene in my mind, and it brings me peace and rest.

    • Steph

      Yes. I don’t have a particular image associated with this song, but regardless of how stressed I am feeling, when I listen to this song I am calm by the end.

    • Bungdeetle

      YES. The first time I heard it I wanted to weep. With joy and other emotions that I can’t really articulate. I saw flowers blooming, I saw curtains being pulled up, and other curtains being pulled down, an interior being arranged to be more warm and inviting, a final ceremony, a chapter ending, the beginning of a peaceful and beautiful end. It’s the ultimate “everything’s going to be ok” song.

    • Vivid

      The first time I heard it was on my mobile phone. It wasn’t a song; it was an app that teaches piano. Basically blocks fall on piano keys and we have to press where they fall, resulting in the music. The better and more accurately you press the keys, better the music will sound. At first, I was really an amateur in the game, but as time passed by, I got skilled in catching the falling bricks and pressing the correct key at the correct time. Oh boy! When the first time, I heard Canon in D (and symbolically, playing it myself), I just went euphoria! Since then, I am spending hours learning that song in my guitar.

  • SiliconScribe

    A Christmas Carol – by Charles Dickens. However, over the years I have really enjoyed this classic in many forms from the book to plays, musicals, spin off movies and ideas based on the themes from the novella. This story is so rich in the human condition of pain, joy, love, heartbreak, greed, wealth and generosity that it doesn’t surprise me that some people get PhD’s on Dickens master piece.

    • Lizzie

      Forget all the other contenders I was mulling over. You hit the nail on on the head.

  • Great question! I have two thoughts (I’m a cheater)…

    When I was 12, a dog-eared copy of Plato’s Five Great Dialogues fell into my lap, and it made a profound impact. It led to so many questions: What do I know? What do I assume? What do I believe because I’ve been taught to believe it? What do I truly believe? etc. It was at that point, the summer before 8th grade, that I think I went from child to whatever it is that comes after childhood.

    Later, in college, I discovered Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And since then, no matter how down, how scared, how depressed, how confused I find myself…re-reading the adventures of those hoopy froods always cheers me up.

    I can never choose between these two; I’m infinitely grateful for both.

  • Frank

    One Hundred Years of Solitude. As I read the topic, it was the first thing that came to my mind. I read it a while back in high school because it was part of my final literature exam and I enjoyed every single page of this mysterious, magical and often weird book. I was able to keep track of all the characters almost all the time and after finishing it I finally understood why are they making all those Latin American Soap Operas. They’re all just dumbed down OHYoS. So thank you mister Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    • Bailiuchan

      Read it in a matter of hours. Very profound, and I was entranced by how his sentences, which read so simply, can convey enormous depths of meaning and imagination. Brilliant writer.

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      Amazing choice!

  • Beth

    I am beyond grateful (countless Thanksgivings’ worth) for Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. It was the first novel I read in college and encompassed and epitomized everything I wanted to “grow up” and “be/do” – to be THAT person that asks the difficult (albeit seemingly obvious) questions, to be THAT person that values the worth of humanity, and, most importantly, to be THAT person that inspires the fight for life. “The spirit gone, man is garbage” is tattooed on my back – so thank you Joseph Heller, thank you Yossarian, and thank you Wait But Why for asking your devoted readers all of these great Dinner Table questions!!

    • Oona Woods

      This is what I came here to say!

    • chrisplumb

      I too, was going to reply with Catch 22…but since you said it, I’ll go with my 1B, which is The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was good in high school. Better in college, and ever so true in my thirties. Like Catch 22, it makes you look at life a little deeper than you want to (at society and oneself), and ultimately, both are about hope even though they seem bleak on first reading. Both books I reread every few years and find inspiration to keep “beating on.”

      Oh wait…that doesn’t sound good at all. Whatever…Gatsby fans know what I mean.

    • Tim Urban

      My favorite book by far. Only book I’ve ever read twice.

  • T

    A poem by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska,”Openness”… because it makes me think of one of the happiest periods of my life, and every time I read it, the feeling I had finding it written on a piece of paper in my purse after spending the night at my boyfriend’s place, comes back.

    Here we are, naked lovers,
    beautiful to each other—and that’s enough.
    The leaves of our eyelids our only covers,
    we’re lying amidst deep night.

    But they know about us, they know,
    the four corners, and the chairs nearby us.
    Discerning shadows also know,
    and even the table keeps quiet.

    Our teacups know full well
    why the tea is getting cold.
    And old Swift can surely tell
    that his book’s been put on hold.

    Even the birds are in the know:
    I saw them writing in the sky
    brazenly and openly
    the very name I call you by.

    The trees? Could you explain to me
    their unrelenting whispering?
    The wind may know, you say to me,
    but how is just a mystery.

    A moth surprised us through the blinds,
    its wings in fuzzy flutter.
    Its silent path—see how it winds
    in a stubborn holding pattern.

    Maybe it sees where our eyes fail
    with an insect’s inborn sharpness.
    I never sensed, nor could you tell
    that our hearts were aglow in the darkness.

    • Judy Ruth

      What a nice story! It made me remember the happy feeling I had finding a note on my door and realizing the boy I had met and been conversing with the night before had walked a mile or so to my apartment to add a thought/question. Not a whole poem about hearts aglow in the darkness (Wow! lucky you!) but still, there’s somethings so special about finding unexpected notes when you’re falling in love (or more deeply in love)!

      • T

        🙂 yes indeed… and as nice as an sms can get, it’s not the same thing… the surprise effect is missing!

  • Jack

    *The Fifth Elephant” for introducing me to Terry Pratchet.

  • Eric

    Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman

    • Bailiuchan

      Without a doubt. I still re-read it.

      • Vikram Kalra


  • David

    Handel’s Messiah. I stumbled across a performance of this piece of music while switching television channels one weekend. I stopped switching and listened to the whole of what remained. It was the first piece of “classical music” I had ever really listened through and enjoyed. And that led on to discovering vast amounts of great music.

  • Ingvild

    The time traveler’s wife, the book by Audrey Niffenegger. I do love that book. If I ever get a daughter, I’m gonna name her Alba.

  • Sid

    Wonderful question, but I’m going to cheat on this one and give you two. Back in the doldrum days of Junior Year in high school–so like three years ago–I was not exactly having the best time of my life (possible depression, undiagnosed). I would like to thank Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for helping me laugh my way out of that funk.

    More recently I have been drawn to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses. Just about every time I feel inadequate about what I’m doing in life, I read that poem; then, I motivate myself to do something more, to be something more, “to strive, to seek to find, but not to yield.”

    • Valerie

      I read Ulysses in an advanced English class in 8th grade, and it’s stuck with me ever since. For me it has the air of nostalgia to it, but a solid core underneath as well.

  • Robin

    It’s going to be kind of lame, but the piece of art that has had the greatest impact on me is the film, The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont. Growing up, my parents were not great lovers of art. My father was an engineer, my mother a radio technologist at a hospital. Both of them hated each other, which made for a tough childhood for me and my brother. I was flipping through TV stations one day, and came across the story of Andy Dufrense, and the twenty plus years he spent in jail for the murder of his wife and lover. For those 2 and a half hours, I was riveted. I had no idea a piece of cinema could make a person feel so much. It was an awakening for me, both intellectually and emotionally, and I have spent my entire life, in a sense, escaping into the world of cinema and stories. The Shawshank Redemption is no longer my favorite piece of cinema (that place now belongs to the Before series by Richard Linklater), but it will always hold a special place for me for introducing me to the amazing world of film.

    • Bailiuchan

      Your story makes me think of Cinema Paradiso, a lovely film with an amazing soundtrack.

  • Cormac

    I am a poet & recently I came across the poem “Screensaver: Pharaoh” from the collection “World Tree” by David Wojahn. I immediately fell in love with the poem, and thought maybe some WBW readers might too. It is a bit weird, but I find it exciting, insightful, completely original, and an all-around great read. I couldn’t find a link to the poem online, and wanted to preserve his line breaks, so I have here attached the .jpg version of the poem. Enjoy!

  • Guest

    “Screensaver: Pharaoh” by David Wojahn

    • Cormac

      When I posted this, I attached a .jpg of the poem, but it’s not showing up in the post. Any ideas how to get it to show? There weren’t any links to the poem online, so I thought a .jpg would be the easiest way to share.

  • Cormac

    Okay I realize that the old posts with only the first third of the poem didn’t delete when I hit delete, but rather stayed posted as from a guest. So I don’t know what to do about that exactly, but here is the whole poem. It really is wonderful, I hope you enjoy! Sorry for the excessive posts.

  • hipNo#

    The one book I am grateful for is my own autobiography. I don’t know the name of the book yet as it is still being written. Yet I am able to write a new page each day; and can even look back on previous pages to understand the story a bit better; and as yet I don’t know how the book will end, as I am unable to flick to the last page to see how it all finishes up!

  • Debs

    There are so many… I’ll have to cheat too and choose two!. Shine on you crazy diamond by Pink Floyd and The Love Song of J. Albert Prufrock – I only posted the beginning as it is quite long :-):

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question …
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit.

  • Cleon

    It is admittedly hard to make a single pick, but the one that instantly came to mind after reading Tim’s question was “La vita è bella” (which means “Live is beautiful” in Italian), a 1999 movie by Roberto Benigni (he directed and starred).

    It tells the story of Guido, a Jewish-Italian book shop owner, who, after being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, must employ his humor and fertile imagination to protect his son, Giosuè (Joshua), from the horrors of internment and death.

    To me, the movie is a powerful reminder to stay optimistic and maintain a sense of perspective during hardships in life.

  • Valerie

    I’m grateful for The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I grew up in a tiny church of evangelical young-earth creationist Christians. Through grade school, I parroted the beliefs I’d learned at church, and became distressed and retreated quickly anytime those beliefs were challenged publicly. I knew that a lot of the beliefs of my church didn’t make much sense when questioned, and the adults around me didn’t have good answers, but I had no idea what else was out there.

    Reading this book in private helped me challenge my long held beliefs on abortion and started a domino effect of challenging other beliefs, eventually leading me to be the confident, comfortable, science-minded thinker that I am today.

  • Douglas

    It has to be pulp fiction for me, As a high school freshman I don’t have much experience with books and literature in general.
    I remember watching this movie when I was a 6th grader and after the movie it left an inspiration. I still think about the moral choices of the characters and really learned and reflected a lot from it.

    • middleclassgenx

      My opinion is that Pulp Fiction is the best movie ever made.

  • Simon

    I really enjoyed the movie “American Beauty.” It had quite an effect on me and reminded me of the superficiality of everyday life. I understand that it’s quite a depressing movie, but it did have a very powerful message. As an optimistic antidote to the movie, I heartily recommend the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” It was very powerful for me. When I first read it, it didn’t make a lot of sense but I persevered and re-read it over and over again, as well as listening to the audio recordings. Slowly the fog began to clear and I found the book extremely helpful and empowering.

    • Unqlefungus

      Yes! An excellent choice. This book is a gift.

  • Em

    The Pursuit of Happyness. If I’m ever feeling like the world is trying to get me down and make me fail, I watch this film. It inspires me to believe that I can get through the worst of times and achieve my dreams if I just put my mind to it.

  • Bailiuchan

    I am extraordinarily grateful for Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Setting aside the topic of religion, (which I realize is not a favored topic here), the book speaks to the mobius-strip like experience of individual and shared human experiences. We are all alone in our journey through life, and yet we are surrounded by others searching for meaning and connection as well. It is a book that I review at least once a year because ever since I first read it (in a matter of hours), it has had a profound impact on me and in how I view others. What Frankl survived and his legacy is astounding.

    And I am also extraordinarily rational and scientific-minded. I simply cannot discount that for the most part, the world around me doesn’t think that way, regardless of whatever judgment I may have about a method of thinking which doesn’t fit me. Frankl’s insights made that understanding a lot easier for me.

  • Jay Kay

    The Fist of God by Frederick Forsyth – The single best opening line of a novel ever: “The man with ten minutes to live was laughing.” – why did he have only 10 min left to live? why was he laughing/ did he know he only had 10 min left to live?
    For those who didn’t read the book, esp. in the 1990’s – this character was an american, who was working for Iraq to develop his passion: a gun that could send a satellite into orbit or that “they” could strike the US from Iraq.
    So much that was so good: Early Sci-Fi was based on this, terror, truth, what is possible, with slight spins.

    Book 2: Fatherland by Robert Harris – from the back cover: It’s twenty years after Nazi Germany’s triumphant victory in WWII… (WTF?!) One hell of a What If.

    Book 3: God’s Debris by Scott Adams (yes of Dilbert fame… hey I worked at Ma Bell too!)

    So it’s not 1…. At least they are in order.

  • I’ve been greatful for the podcast series Hardcore History. History becomes more and more fascinating as I’ve get older which has enabled me to really put time, experience, and geography into perspective.

    Along the lines of wait but why, Hardcore History does an excellent job of adding narrative and insight that compells you to want to search for more depth while reading/listening.

    This inspiration and instigation of curiosity is often the sign of somebody that is a great teacher.

  • Ekin K.

    Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It is the one great comic book that lead me to the world of comic books, which is basically art in readable form.

  • Anneka Pearton

    I love many a book, song and movie, but none spring to mind that I should choose above the rest. When I consider art I often find myself thinking that nothing beats the spontaneous beauty of nature and that would be my pick. I think that most mornings if I walk to the beach, or when I look out into the garden. But may be when I live to 500 I’ll come back to myself at 22 and remind me of the choice that I’m obviously blind to at the moment.

    • Anneka Pearton

      Thinking further about why my gratitude for human creations of art pales compared to my profound awe for nature I am thinking that it is something to do with the fact that nature is ever changing and renewing, while human expressions are stagnant and subject to entropy. And see; WaitButWHy is also ever changing and renewing…

  • David Callahan

    As Falls Wicheta, So Falls Wicheta Falls by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. For me , this album pointed to where jazz was and where jazz was going. If you require an explanation about the importance of Jazz, then I can’t help you in the alloted space

    • Bailiuchan

      Love Metheny. I have been bewitched by Beyond the Missouri Sky for years.

  • Nawid Norouzi

    The anime “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. I know I just picked an anime, but if I had to pick any form of media, it would be this. I have learnt so much about the things that matter to me in this anime. I live by all of its philosophies, and I aim to make these philosophies well-established in the world.

  • Ria M.

    Here’s an odd one. When I was an awkward little 11-year-old girl with some pretty serious life issues happening, a live-action movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out. It’s ridiculous, but that version of the Turtles helped me stay alive over the next few years. It’s because they were a Family (something I didn’t have at the time) but they understood what it was like to be an outcast. They also had Purpose: they were trained and dedicated to doing good in the world, saving good people from bad guys, even though no one else would ever know. They had a Jedi-like Spirituality that allowed them to communicate telepathically with their missing “father.” And all of it seemed possible if I just learned martial arts and meditation and how to pursue justice in the world — and that kept me going when nothing else seemed worth living for.

    I did go on to study martial arts, meet fellow TMNT fans through the comic books and, later, online fan groups, and even pursue justice of a sort through a career in journalism. I got to know and thank several of the artists and creators behind the Turtles, too! I’m so glad heroes like the TMNT exist for kids to look up to. Stories like those may seem like junk as we get older and more sophisticated works capture our minds and hearts, but wow…it’s not just the people on the screen or in the pages whose lives they save every day.

  • Michelle D

    For me it would be The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which makes no sense since I’m not religious, but I see it as more of a poem than a prayer. I work at a Catholic hospital so I’m exposed to things like this a lot, but this particular prayer/poem really struck a chord with me. I dig the part about being an instrument of peace. It really speaks to my hippie sensibilities.

    • meregoround

      I just looked this up, thanks! I’m not religious either and I really appreciate its sentiments.

  • MeretO

    An Imaginary Life, by David Malouf. It’s a fictional account of Ovid among the Goths, after he was exiled from Rome and vanished from history. Woven in to this narrative of a man creating a new life in an alien world, is the story of the capture and taming of a feral child.

    I still don’t know why An Imaginary Life moves me so deeply. Each phrase, each word counts, and it moves to an end of such transcendence that even now, as I type this, I must pause to take a breath.

  • DrSuess

    First, Sorry, Tim, but I’m going to ignore the “there can only be one” commandment, because I think the triangulation of the data from the 3 might give an interesting profile into the mind of the person selecting. Someone who picks the movie, “Annie”, and “Paranoid” by Sabbath as the song, then “Handmaiden’s Tale,” for the book might be someone interesting to have lunch with.

    When I consider my answers, they tend to lean to the darker side of things, which is odd, because on the whole I am a very happy, positive, optimistic person. Maybe, I’ve faced my anxieties, come to grips with them and can accept happiness within an uncaring universe. Maybe it’s Sunday at 8, and I’ve had one too many glasses of wine.

    book: Against the Fall of Night by A.C. Clarke. No S.F. author, living or dead, can write about big, and long like Clarke. A billion years to him is nothing, and somehow he makes you FEEL it. I survived your last two posts about big numbers partially because of what he did to my brain at age 12.

    Song: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” by Smashing Pumpkins. I like my life. I’m a fulfilled and happy guy. But, “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage,” is still the best descriptor of living a life in a world that is good but not perfect when you consider all of the g(64) possible universes.

    Movie: A Clockwork Orange. It’s nice to know I’m not the only sick puppy out there.

    Sorry for being long winded. Excellent topic!

  • Kora

    There are many works of art that have resonated with me in some way, but the novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is one of the most profound, beautiful, tenderly crafted books I’ve ever read. This book helped me heal; it helped me come to terms with my inner darkness and embrace my flaws as things that complete me. It’s as if the author understood me so wholly and deeply. Here is one of my favourite passages:
    “I stared hard, trying to find a pattern. Thinking if I kept looking hard enough, maybe the pieces of the world would fit back together into something I could understand.”

  • Ehi Binitie

    I am grateful for waitbutwhy. This blog really has changed my life over the past few months. Presenting boring subjects in an interesting voice really inspired me to want to learn more about history and myself. It also made me appreciate today a lot more, and realize how much time I have wasted chasing the wrong things.
    I wish I had more teachers like Tim when I was growing up.

    Thanks Tim.

  • Tootiebird

    I love to read and my degree is in history in art, so I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about art, there’s plenty of books and paintings and buildings and sketches that have inspired me and pulled me out of the smallness of my mind. Even so, I’d have to pick Love Actually. It is such a sweet movie and always reminds me of the funny, sad, intimate pieces of our lives and relationships with others that make our day to day lives meaningful and make the mundaine constantness of life worthwhile.

  • Jo.C

    Okay I’m gonna proceed to semi cheat and say that it was a pretty tough choice between the song “Mad World” (Gary Jules version) and a Zach Braff’s “Garden State”. So Garden State won, not because I like movies better but because it profoundly changed my outlook on the future that was awaiting me at that time and what to expect from it. It was very critical and liberating. Also, it may have possibly contributed in helping me overcome my quarter life crisis (Yes, I am aware it’s a very self absorbed and GYPSY sort of crisis to have).

  • Kent McDonald

    Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams. I read it and it’s sequels the first time when I was in High School and thought it was funny then. I revisited a couple of years ago (Many years after the first read) and they were even funnier, primarily because I got more of the more obscure jokes, and I realized how profound some of the ideas in that book were. The other good thing about that book is it introduced me to Douglas Adams and all of his other writings, all of which have had quite the impact on my outlook. DNA left us way to early.

    • Shareiro

      Have read all five from the “trilogy”, loved the first 3 a lot. But the last two for some reason did not feel that exciting. Maybe because they started to repeat or just maybe I overdosed by reading them all in very short time one after the other. Didn’t you have the same feeling?

      • Kent McDonald

        The last two were admittedly a bit darker. Based on things I’ve read, it’s a reflection on where Douglas was when he wrote them, which I can understand. The first three were certainly the most impactful of the series.

        That said some of his Non Hitchhiker stuff is some of his best. Check out Salmon of Doubt if you haven’t already.

        • Shareiro

          Thank you. I haven’t read but now it’s on my list 🙂

  • Truliner

    I was thinking this for a while and even though I can’t say that any one thing is the most influential in my life (they all mix together), I’m saying that the movie Contact keeps visiting my thoughts quite often.

    Only a scientist-poet like Carl Sagan could come up with a story that kept me on the edge of the seat as a kid and from which I found more layers when I revisited it as an adult. Especially the final scene brings tears to my eyes because it resonates with what I think is important to me as an individual and to the mankind as a whole.

    My thoughts wandered back to Contact while thinking about the movie Interstellar, which I saw couple of days ago. Without going too much into detail, for me both movies connect the awe of the physical cosmos with our human experience as integral and derived part of it. Both movies leave you with a sense that you’re holding something beautiful inside you, even though you can’t quite put it into words there and then (which I think is an essential part of an art experience). Something that I wish all people could share with each other. To have a contact that spans space and time 😉

    • Vivid

      I think this blog has got one hell of a community. I found ZERO fans of the movie “Contact”, in real world or online, till today, but now I have got 3 fans in a single page. that’s really shocking.

    • marisheba

      Really lovely meditation. Thanks.

  • Joan

    I’m grateful for Tim Kreider’s book of essays “We Learn Nothing”. It’s such a funny, honest examination of the human condition (including the lesson in the title, that no matter how profound the experience, we humans will forget the enlightenment we gain temporarily). His sense of humor, humanism and forgiving spirit have carried me out of many a bad mood.

    Acknowledge that we are deeply flawed in a variety of ways as humans, laugh about the absurdity, forgive yourself and others, and then appreciate all the things that are beautiful in life! I flip through his book whenever I feel outrage at people’s stupidity (sometimes my own) to remind myself of that attitude.

    • Judy Ruth

      I read this last year and you describe it well! Everyone should believe you and read these essays!

  • JameyB

    Physics of the Future – Dr. Michio Kaku.
    I’ve always loved reading books and watching movies about science fiction but this book took everything to the next level for me. Michio Kaku did an amazing job of interviewing top scientists all over the world, explaining in detail what they were up to and then exploring the next steps of what that might mean for the rest of us. He goes through all of the huge concepts we see in movies, tv and books and gives the reader a more realistic vision of what’s coming in the next hundred years (future computers, nanotechnology & it’s medical applications, space exploration and genetic advancements of the human race).
    I realize a lot of what he discussed was speculation and some of his ideas were a little ‘out there’ but I don’t care – it was an awesome book that opened my eyes to what the world could be like when we’re gone. If anyone has suggestions for other futurists like Dr. Michio Kaku, I’d love to hear them.

  • Bonnnie

    So hard to choose . . . among many wonderful books, East of Eden by John Steinbeck because of timshel. Yes, we can choose. Among poems, even harder to choose, but “What Work Is” by Philip Levine remains timely, poignant, and moving.

  • Andreea Dumitru

    “Gone with the wind” the book. Why?! It will sound silly…but it really made me think about balancing my extreme new found self esteem. I did not want to be a bitchy but I came across that way to people. Reading that book made me realize my behavior through Scarellet’s over the top behavior. I am all about women being empowered and self sustaining…but that can be done without tempting your life of important people. So, her story was a wake up call for me.

    And super thankful for a show “Cosmos:A Space Odyssey”. Hoping it will help ignite wonder and curiosity in a new generation….and I could write a book about why the show is so great.

  • The Junior Lebowski

    The Trial by Franz Kafka. This book has helped me in the most difficult period of my life. This book helped me making peace with my past. It taught me life is not fair. Sometimes you just have to silently suffer for no reason of yours. This book gave me courage to fight my lonely battle even though I knew I was always gonna lose it.

    • I agree, it is a work of paramount importance. A book which emphasises the state of allienation with your surroundings, caused by differences of your ideal image of the world and the harsh reality.

    • Vivid

      Oh Boy! Sounds scary, but this book is the first recommendation I picked among all of the responses here. Isn’t that ironic? So, it is in my reading list, next to “A Tale of Two Cities”.

    • marisheba

      The Trial was a game changer for me too. And The Metamorphases was the first really weird, challenging thing I ever read. It actually crossed my mine as a “most grateful” candidate, since it really broadened my horizons in terms of what was out there in literature, and how much books could expand my thinking and make me question.

  • Spike Peterson

    I am thankful for the 6th installment of the “Harry Potter” series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” To further answer the question, I am more fond of the book than the movie, for reasons I will soon explain. When I was younger, my parents, particularly my mother, believed that “Harry Potter” was truly of the devil, and decided that I should take no part in it. Despite what she would say, I read the “Harry Potter” series and could read the entire thing (1-5) in a week. Then I’d pick up “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and start all over again. That was how much I loved reading “Harry Potter.” When I first heard about “The Half-Blood Prince” coming out, I was so excited for it, but I knew that my mother wasn’t going to get it for me. As it turns out, she did. When the book first came out, she had gone to the bookstore after she got off work to buy it and when she got home she took it from her arms and placed it into my hands as a late birthday gift. That was the best gift I have ever received.

  • Aristo

    Book: Brief history of time by Stephen Hawking set me on a course of doubt and inquiry which has influenced my life profoundly in the intellectual sense.

    TV: Star trek influenced my worldview from childhood to pursue to the ideal of a united space faring species. Carl Sagans Cosmos was also profound.

    Movie: Contact was so subtle in its treatment of science and religion while toying with the big question of the impact of the discovery of an alien species on society.

    So thank you Stephen Hawking, Gene Roddenberry and Carl Sagan!

    • Vivid

      Contact!!!! Yes. My favorite sci-fi movie of all times.

      • marisheba

        I’ve decided that I only like Matthew McConaghey in quiet, philosophical space operas. I mostly can’t stand the man, but I loved Contact so much, and then just recently, loved him in Interstellar, which I have decided has a lot more in common with Contact than I would have thought.

  • JuliaNP

    I’m very grateful to
    the book ‘The unbearable lightness of being’, by Milan Kundera. I found
    this book in a bookstore during the time I’ve been in London, the draw in the
    front just caught my eyes and I bought the book after read a little of the
    dialogues inside, but I couldn’t start right away and the book stayed a long
    time just sitting in my drawer, waiting. The true is, more than a year after
    buying it I had a holiday and with the amazing 4 days to do whatever I wanted I
    decided to start the book! And it was just Amazing! That time I was in a
    relationship that was really messy, and the book, with such an incredible way
    to describe what character was doing, why and how do it affect everyone around
    just bright my mind for what I was going through (really, when you read it, it
    seems like everyone is just open up and you can see the integrally the
    feelings, ideas, hopes, fears… Everything)! In the same time, some of the
    things that is inside really hurt when you realize that you’ve been mistaken
    yourself and the illusion that you created is just unreal. One of my favorite
    thing that is said is that “compassion is not love” but the entire book is a
    mix of memories, histories, explanations and reality. ‘The unbearable lightness
    of being’ helped me a lot to grow, so I could understand better myself and the
    people around me.

    • T

      I really loved it too… and the part about Kitsch is eye opening. I ended up writing my thesis about Kitsch Art! 🙂

      • JuliaNP

        Really? that’s amazing!!! *O* your thesis must be awesome! I don’t know much about kitsch art, but I remember that the paintings are really different and it’s inspiring. I love the part of metaphorical death that start the chapter where kitsch is explained! (sorry if I wrote something wrong or even incomprehensive, english is not my birth language and I’m kinda rusty in it ^^’)

    • T

      If you didn’t, give “Immortality” a try as well 🙂 it’s amazing too

      • JuliaNP

        Is ‘Immortality’ from Milan Kundera too? Thank you for the tip, I’ll look for it next time that I so to the book store 🙂

  • Anna

    Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XXVII:

    Naked, you are simple as one of your hands,
    Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round:
    You have moonlines, applepathways:
    Naked, you are slender as a naked grain of wheat.

    Naked, you are blue as the night in Cuba;
    You have vines and stars in your hair;
    Naked, you are spacious and yellow
    As summer in a golden church.

    Naked, you are tiny as one of your nails,
    Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born
    And you withdraw to the underground world,

    as if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores:
    Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves,
    And becomes a naked hand again.

    Soundtrack from Il Postino (The Postman) with Neruda’s poetry read by different actors and musicians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Wm-k0sodEg&list=PL9CD05F16F67BF74E

  • DeeDee Massey

    I have my own distinct taste in artistic compositions from various genres and media. Regarding books, I already started a series of introspective essays about the top ten that left the deepest, longest lasting impressions on me. I am not going to reproduce any of those essays here. I do have a favorite piece of art work for which I am very thankful, and I will tell you about it after I briefly explain why I appreciate art in general.

    Art is a symbol of luxury. You need four walls and a roof above you, but they will provide you adequate shelter with or without murals and decorations on them. You need clothes, but they do not have to be stylish to keep you warm. You require food, but it need not be finely seasoned or garnished and arranged in a fancy presentation in order to fuel your body.

    Essentially, all art is unnecessary, but because it fulfills desire and enhances life, I am extremely grateful that I can afford to have it in mine. Archaeologists can determine social statuses and the overall wealth of a
    civilization by its art. Are the pottery shards plain, or are they embellished with painted motifs? Are the textiles simple, or are they woven in intricate patterns and with multicolored threads? Making everyday objects look fancy takes time, and a civilization can afford creative leisure only after basic needs are met first.

    I do not take for granted that I live in a time when our civilization has a surplus capacity with which to enhance the mundane. We value art to the point that it can be a lucrative vocation for some gifted individuals. For instance, we can hire people to make art out of our food, so that it is not so bland, not so boring. I am not a professional chef, but I do like to cook. Thanks to the efforts of various chefs, I have several well-written cookbooks that go beyond merely listing a bunch of recipes. They are very educational, not only about the basics of cooking, but also about the cultural history and context within which a particular dish is eaten. Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is a masterpiece collection of 684 pages of instructions and over 100 illustrations. The two-volume manual delves into an array of French culinary customs and adapts them to American conventions, from purchasing ingredients to wine pairings.

    The author’s interesting personal story and experiences that led to her writing the book are depicted in the movie, “Julie and Julia.” I thought the film was cute, although rather corny, but I tolerated the corn because…. Meryl Streep. I attended a culinary class taught by a local cheese maker who was a long-time friend of Ms. Child, and she considers the movie mostly accurate, except that the chef was not particularly keen about all the hooplah.

    My oldest daughter gifted Volume I to me, and I remain absolutely thrilled she did. She is formally trained and works in the culinary arts, and occasionally one of the ways we share quality time together is by creating new dishes. We learned how to make boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin together, using Child’s book as a guide. I adapted the bourguignon method for my annual Irish stew and I plan on doing something similar with the Indian dish pork vindaloo. I continue to draw inspiration from this book and enjoy the luxurious fruits of my labor with relish – pun intended.

    Alas, tonight I snack on cheese and crackers. I do not need much. Besides, I am building my capacity to enjoy a special holiday feast soon and with much flair.

    • Emily

      You’re right of course that art is technically a luxury, especially in the forms that we think of it in now. No one ever chose a sculpture over water to drink. But I also think in its most fundamental form it’s a very instinctive part of human nature, and in times of suffering it can actually flourish as the need to express and make sense of the world in abstract ways becomes essential. Many forms of art, particularly things like music and dance, have been fundamental to human beings since very early on – music (pitch, rhythm, etc) and the development language are linked, for example.

      What I mean is it’s not necessary to biologically stay alive, but an appreciation of aesthetics and a desire to innovate is hard-wired into all human beings to some extent, so to me it’s not a luxury in the sense of handbags and iPhones.

      Enjoy your cooking adventures, sounds really lovely!

      • DeeDee Massey

        Those are some great points that remind me how music or painting, for instance, can be instrumental in various physical and psychological therapies. The music of Mozart has been used in autism therapies with some good results – improved focus, increased IQ scores. It makes one really wonder how tied our normal functioning is to the aesthetics of the world, the things we don’t normally consider as necessary like air and water.

        I really sense that fundamentally, the DISCIPLINES of science and art are interlinked, but each have their own functions. Science gives us a way to systematically analyze our existence and art gives us a channel to free-style express it. We need both logic and creativity to survive.

        The kind of art WORKS that I was referring to as “unnecessary” was that which is generated to be appreciated primarily for its aesthetic beauty, rather than its beneficial function. Some products of expression make all the difference between eking out a life and thriving robustly. I am grateful for those innate gifts we have that allow us to color our world a little brighter.

        The idealist in me can appreciate a work of art for art’s sake. And the nerd in me spazzes out when a functional item is elaborately crafted, like some technical systems I’ve had the honor of working with and considered masterpieces of programming. Also, your example of language development reminds me: the Rosetta Stone, a gorgeous tool!

      • marisheba

        I think it is expression that is fundamental to human nature–self-expression, and shared group expression, and that that is what art IS (though expression can lead to some other areas as well, like engineering and design, and sports, but plenty of people will call those things art as well in certain circumstances). And appreciating art is also expression, though often a private one, in which someone else’s work of art (ie of expression) helps us to understand or articulate something within ourselves.

  • Lord of The Rings.

    J.R.R. Tolkien, Thank you for giving us this whole new world, a story which stands as a promise, as a hope for all those who feel the evil doing its work in our beautiful Earth. And thank you Peter Jackson for sharing this story with a wider audience, for redefining the word “absolute-awesomeness”.

    It’s not just a fantasy work (i am no fantasy fan), it is a story, highly symbolical, about the human nature, the ways society should function, the ways us, people should think and take care of each other. It is a promise that if we stand together, if we look our frirends’ backs, darkness will not overhelm our lives, hope and light won’t be lost. Just think about Sauron – an amorphic eye, the most significant “villain” who does not even have a body. Because it stands for evil itself – no body but sees everyone and especially when you put on the RING, which is an metaphore for sin (yes, that’s right, Tolkien was a christian – I am not a christian myself, but I trully appreciate the way he portrays the importance of Christianity).
    Just listen to the new soundtrack of the third Hobbit movie, it’s blissful, you will get my point.
    That’s what I’m Tolkien about.

    • Emma

      For me also, the piece of art that I am the most grateful for is definitely Lord of the Rings.

      I read it when I was eleven, following the advice of my then history teacher -thank you so much Mr. Lefort!- and it stayed with me ever since. What I loved was not the epic fight against evil (I have a disturbing tendency to prefer the bad guys of the novels anyway) but Middle Earth itself. It felt real. It was the very first time that I read about another world and that this other world had such depth that I really could believe in it. I longed so much to visit the Shire or Lothlorien!

      “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step
      onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where
      you might be swept off to. One of my favorite quotes. It describes so well how enchanting the world is!

      -And I am so grateful for this blog, thank you Tim Urban!

    • Vivid

      “That’s what I am Tolkien about”
      Nice move there 🙂

  • Gilgamesh

    This is turning out to be quite a fascinating list for me 🙂 My book would be Martin Ling’s Muahmmed:His life from the earlier sources…mainly because it boosted my faith at a bad time and of course its wonderfully respectful and paints a great picture about that time in history. The other book was Stephen Hawking’s A brief history of time…it got me interested in the science of our universe in a big way and still has me hooked to this topic. Movie/Anime would be “Full metal Alchemist: Brotherhood” because of the message that you cannot do good with the wrong foundation of human character…only good can breed good

    • EidoTee

      You were to pick only one sir!

      • Rodrigo Gomes

        stop reading when I saw that he was going to cheat 🙂

  • Shareiro

    After reading so many good books it is hard to say which is the best. One thing I am sure, that it’s not a movie or piece of art that I am grateful for, it’s book definitely.

    Lot’s of good movies as well, but to my mind the only movie that was close if not even better then the book was “A Clockwork Orange”.

    My Book No. 1 is “The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart (George Cockcroft). It is the book that left longest lasting impression. Even now when I remember the episode how he rolled his dice for the first time and what happened next gives me goosebumps.

    I loved the idea about many personalities living in every person who need to get their piece of action so much that for some time after that even carried my own green dice in pocket.

    And I think it is also because of the idea to give up control and not resist the decision of dice even if it’s not something pleasant you would like to do. It is something like a practice for a real life because not always in one’s life everything goes as you want. And if you practice it with dice when some serious unexpected thing happens, you are sort of ready for it and do not overreact as you know not everything is in your hands.

  • aliceinherwonderland

    Very difficult to select just one… I guess it will have to be The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. I’ve been listening to it since I’m a toddler. As a French baby living in France with both parents being French, I didn’t understand a single word of it – neither did my parents I must say – but we loved the melody and we kept on listening to it and even singing it. So: 1) family bonds. A few years later, my English skills improved and I watched The Graduate, which immediately became one of my favorite movies, so 2) soundtrack of my teenage rebellion and hippie-inspired period. Later on, as I reached my 30s (I’d like to say “maturity” but, errr, not quite) the lyrics eventually dawned on me. For personal and professional reasons, I moved away from the big cities I’ve had been living in so far and I told myself that I was moving from this “noise of silence”. So 3) the path to wisdom. This summer, I finally decided to learn how to play the guitar and, my aim is of course to be able to play this single. I find it very soothing and it helps me to get focused. So 4) new objectives and expectations (being able to play it for my baby once he/she is born, for instance).

  • minimax

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams it is.

  • Andy Ross

    Papillon by Henri Charriere – a memoir (factual accuracy disputed nonetheless) about a French man falsely accused of murder in the 30s and sent to a penal colony on French Guiana.

    This book was very powerful to me as I read it as a 17yo trying to find my way into adulthood. Having been diagnosed with a chronic illness at 12 that really shook up my teenage years, Papillon inspired me to move forward and keep up the battle no matter what life throws at you.

    Charriere shows a superhuman resilience to continually escape from the prisons and predicaments he finds himself in, but rather than through fanciful Disney-esque plot devices he scrapes through on his cunning, endurance, problem solving skills and charm. As I was lacking most of this, it was an incredible life lesson. Up until then I’d never been able to empathise with a character who’d had many episodes of crippling loneliness (solitary confinement) that I felt close to experiencing while at my sickest.

    Still haven’t made it to Venezuela, but I’ll get there someday.

    Also, I notice that many people read their most inspiring, meaningful books many times over, but I’m the opposite. The details of Papillon are hazy to me now, but I prefer it that way. The memory of its enormous effect is powerful in itself, and a re-read with experienced 30yo eyes may kill that charm.

  • Gernot

    The book Illusions by Richard Bach. I laughed, I cried, but mostly it made me think.

    • DeeDee Massey

      I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” in high school and a few years ago “Illusions” got me hooked into the rest of his books.

      Have you read “Illusions II” yet? It was published back in February and I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet. 🙁

      • Gernot

        I didn’t know that it had been written, can’t wait to read it ! I also read most of the other books because of the first one. The (p)reviews of Illusions2 are a mixed bag; some say it shouldn’t be called a sequel while others gave it 5 stars. Its extremely sad that they (the subject matter of One and Bridge across Forever) got divorced irl, especially since the books made it seem that the author had transcended the fickleness of mere mortals and they had an inseverable bond. One reviewer said there is no mention of Leslie in this new book at all. Thank you for making me aware of the new book though, I AM looking forward to reading it soon.

        • DeeDee Massey

          I don’t recall his romantic relationship being that prominent in the “Illusions” experience, as it was in other books like the ones you mentioned. So it’s no surprise to me if “Illusions II” doesn’t showcase it either. I haven’t read “Travels With Puff” yet either (I know, I suck), and don’t know if it mentions her or any other love interest (Bach was married several times).

          Sadness is an understandable initial response to have at the ending of a relationship, but don’t be too dismayed. Bach may have indeed “transcended the fickleness of mere mortals and they had an inseverable bond.” I’m moved by the way that Bach expresses his philosophy about such deep and mystic relationships. When asked if he would ever write about their choice to break paths, he said:

          “I’m not sure. I could write my perceptions but not hers. I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There’s so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation. We didn’t say, “I guess we weren’t led to each other, I guess we’re not soul mates after all.” Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go. We’re two expressions of life, which decided to share the experience of 21 years in space time. Good times and terrible ones, everything in the books and more, they’re still true. We’re apart because we decided to have different futures. I’ve remarried now, beginning a new adventure as Leslie begins hers, but I’ll never forget that she’s always been as much a soul mate to me as I’ve been to her–we’ve lived some powerful lessons together.”

          People tend to regard relationships ending as failures to regret, but he seems to observe them as graduations to celebrate. Yep, he’s more highly evolved than most of us. At least on paper. 🙂


  • Super Fan

    Unnecessary Invitations, by Dino Buzzati. It’s a very short story, but it’s so poignant it makes me sad in a good way.

  • makeuswait

    Man’s search for Meaning by Vickor E. Frankle is a book I have read over and over. If I am going through a particularly rough patch in life I pick it up and it always manages to ground me and give me perspective.

    My favourite quote from the book – there are many good ones.

    “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

    • Unqlefungus

      Great man, great work.

  • Bogdan Voicu

    Murakami’s “South of the Border, West of the Sun” is the thing for me thus far. After reading it, I was astonished to discover that I could be sad and happy at the same time, relieved and carrying a big burden all
    the same. That book made me see life with other eyes, and that’s why I am so grateful.

    P.S. Not like it would matter at this point, but this blog has done a lot of that for me as well. Thanks Tim!

  • Emily

    My choice would be The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. To me it is the embodiment of inspiration, creativity and innovation – art in its truest sense. The music and accompanying ballet were so groundbreaking at the time (1913) that it literally caused a riot. Even now, having influenced a range of composers and musicians since (and the harmony having been largely incorporated into general consciousness), it still sounds almost other-worldly.

    To be clear, I think every artistic medium can be perfectly valid and important purely as entertainment (or as culture, or as aesthetics for the purpose of aesthetics) and there are many things I appreciate highly on this level, but real art comes from the very core of a human being. Somewhere that bypasses conscious thought, social worries, concerns over validity or judgement, commercial intentions. Reading the WBW post about spirituality was super interesting for me as I’ve thought about this topic a lot and concluded that, for creative people, this is their road to that higher being in themselves. Not just artists but all innovators – Einstein used to talk about a mental space he accessed in order to receive inspiration and intuition. Seems to me like the same space that an inspired artist would tap into when in ‘flow’ mode.

    I’m not a religious person, or particularly ‘spiritual’ in the sense that the word is often used in, but I believe that all human beings are consciously or subconsciously desperate to reach that place that bypasses all that noise and fog in their conscious mind. There are many roads to that – art, meditation, religion, drugs.. some are more sustainable than others. Art can not only help an artist access this place, it can provide a map to others so that they can find their own pathway to the inner being more easily. Perhaps this seems a simplistic way of viewing it, or perhaps over-analytical, but it makes sense once you break things down and consider why we do them.

    There’s a lot of music across a wide span of genres that I consider ‘true art’ in this sense, but The Rite of Spring was the first work in any genre of any medium that made me view art in this way, and I will always remember the first time I really, properly listened to it and felt like I was being transported to another plane of consciousness. All the dissonance and pulsating rhythms that had sounded aggressive and chaotic when I’d heard it before suddenly sounded like without exaggeration the most perfect and beautiful thing I’d ever heard!

    • DeeDee Massey

      That was beautifully written.

      I don’t think the thought of listening to the entire concert has appealed to me before, because like you said, the sound is aggressive and chaotic. Abrasive to me. Plus, as kids many of us were introduced to it as “Extinction” aka “The Mean T-Rex Music.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3VqcTDf6l4

      But I might give it a try. I’ve stumbled into listening in love with other compositions, which never occurred to me to do until I did. Like Mozart’s Requiem. I mean, it’s death music. I wouldn’t have felt compelled to listen to it, if it weren’t for a few popular sequences that lured me to it.

  • Vivid

    O.K. No one particular piece of art came to my mind when I first read Tim’s question for the dinner table. For me, it would be rather an artist- Bob Dylan – that I am most grateful for. I can’t begin to describe how my life was back 5 years ago, when I first heard his album – Another Side of Bob Dylan – and how he changed it for good. There was this night, just an year ago I suppose, when I was hearing his song “Long and Wasted years” and something just hit me profoundly. I text my friend in excitement and we talked all night long about poetry, human life, tragedy, happiness, etc. All of his songs are just so powerful, they make for forget everything around me, and just think about poetry and art. Many of my friends are his fans, and we can’t imagine if he weren’t here, what songs would we be playing when camping alongside Ganges.
    If I have to pick one of his songs, it would be “Visions of Johanna” and “Desolation Row”. I so desperately want him to come to India for his concert, which I am assuming is the least probable, since he has not shown interest in coming to India. Therefore, one of my goals is to earn enough money to go to a foreign country where he performs his shows.
    Edit: I picked two songs, didn’t I?

  • Toni

    When I was in 8th grade, I really didn’t have a clue what I was interested in. Except books. I’ve read around thousand of them so far (I’m 30). But the one really amazing one was given to me by my parents. It lured me into the world of science; showed me the universe; explained what time is; told what all is made of. For christmas, I was presented The Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

  • Emiliano

    There are soooo much pieces of art that I would be grateful for, first of all because I think art is one of the very few things that makes life actually bearable. When I started thinking to the one I should pick to answer the table topic I was very puzzled; then, in a sudden, all came clear to my mind: no doubt, it’s the song “Come As You Are” by Nirvana.
    I know it’s a very small thing in front of other masterpiece in the world and in History, but this one piece of art makes me think of a wonderful time I had in my life something like 10 years ago, and made it possible to meet a wonderful girl I fell in love with at that time. And, most of all, catches up a peculiar mood I feel very close to.

  • Niklas Carlsson

    Attic Nights (Noctes Atticae) by Aulus Gellius. This is the notes on various topics by a fairly regular guy, who happened to live in the Roman Empire in the second century AD. He comments on different subjects such as plays he has seen, contemporary authors, politics, rumors and so on. And he also writes some passages about his own recollections. He tells us about a sea journey by sea between Rome and Athens, where he and his friends stay up all night under the stars and talks about life. For me, he instantly erased the almost 2000 years that separate us. I felt that I got to know him, and share some experiences together. It is awesome to have a pal who is a regular guy who lives at the height of the Roman empire. Parts of it can be read here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Gellius/home.html

    I will also share a poem that I love. This is an english translation from the original in swedish, so it does not have the exact same feeling and rhyme. It is called “in motion” (i rörelse) by Karin Boye:

    The sated day is never first.
    The best day is a day of thirst.

    Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path –
    but it’s the way that is the labour’s worth.

    The best goal is a night-long rest,
    fire lit, and bread broken in haste.

    In places where one sleeps but once,
    sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.

    Strike camp, strike camp! The new day shows its light.
    Our great adventure has no end in sight.

  • marisheba

    I was sure that I would pick a book (but picking one is so hard!) Then I remembered that last week I was doing a “what are you thankful for” activity with a bunch of middle schoolers. In addition to obvious suspects like family, friends, and the city I live in, I added dance. I am so grateful that dance exists. It brings me entirely out of myself, while simultaneously anchoring me into my body and the present moment. For me it is one of the most joyful shared activities; yet there is also nothing like dancing by yourself to a blasting stereo.

    And it’s just as enjoyable as a spectator experience. I struggle with depression a lot (it’s a symptom of an entirely physical chronic health problem I have, annoyingly). I saw a dance performance recently (an all-male ballet! It was incredible!), and I was rapt the entire time. I cried during the performance because I became aware that I was completely, wholly, humbly grateful to be alive at that moment–a feeling that is hard to come by when dealing with even mild depression. And then, when I watch dance performances I always dream about an alternative path as a professional dancer or acrobat that I didn’t end up taking–but it is very pleasant to dream about.

    Of course, if I had to pick between dance and reading as Things That Exist…well, I’m just really really really glad I don’t have to pick!

    • marisheba

      PS–I think these comments are going to make for one hell of a great reading list.

      • Gina

        Thanks for reminding me of dance- it is my favorite art form and one path not taken of which I also dream.

  • Todd B

    “No Language in Our Lungs,” by Andy Partridge and XTC. It’s the most articulate and compelling examination I’ve come across of how, ultimately, there is no real way to articulate who we are/what we feel/etc. This from the same man whose “Dear God” has become the atheist’s anthem — written, of course, as a letter to God.

    Here’s a link to “No Language”:

  • EZnded

    I will be forever grateful to the poem, “Invictus”, by William Ernest Henley. It’s the poem that saved me from myself–from my depression. I came across it during my lowest point, and the timing couldn’t have been better. It immediately resonated with me. I started reciting it everyday, taking in every word, and breathing in its meaning. By the time I memorized it by heart, I have been lifted from my darkest corner.

    Words truly are powerful.

  • GemmyB

    Sorry, I’m breaking all the rules. These all stand out the most during the period when I think I went through the most radical and turbulent changes in my personal development (at least to date) – whether dark, angst-ridden, wistful, awe inspiring, or just plain silly. Everything since has been a gradual process of refinement.

    Books/Authors: Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Stephen King
    Music/Artist: Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, David Rudder
    Movies/Actors/Characters: The Devil’s Advocate, Hannibal Lecter/Anthony Hopkins, Freddie Kreuger, Meg Ryan
    Art/Monument: The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre

  • Jason Gonzales

    This isn’t the most important song of my life, there are WAY too many contenders with none of them winning number one spot for that. But this is a song I’m really grateful for, and it is among my most favorite of all time. ‘Artificial Red’ by Mad Season, a band formed as a side project by Layne Staley, lead vocalist for Alice in Chains (my favorite band) and Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist, Mike McCready. The song is a perfect blend of blues, and hard rock with intricate guitar bits and dramatic vocals.

  • Karla M.

    I need to brake the rule and pick one of each:

    Book: THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende. It is just such a beautiful book, much better and rich than the movies. Is like being a child while reading, everything that you imagine suddenly exists someway somewhere.
    Art: JOURNEY, it is a video game for PS3. But it is pure ART. This game is an emotional ride. So insightful and peaceful. Makes me cry every time.
    Movie: BIG FISH Beautiful movie, beautiful message.

    Now that I read this my choices, seem like a teenager’s… but I’m a 32 year old woman.

    • Karla M.

      *break …. Sorry not native English speaker.

  • Claire

    The Little Prince is the one for me.
    It can be read at all ages and a new level of reading is discovered.
    It is beautifully written and poetic.
    It manages to be melancholic and optimistic at the same time.
    It invites people to trust themselves and listen to their inner voice.
    It looks so simple and childish and yet is wise and discusses complex matters.
    A real book for life!

  • kts928

    “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

    Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

    As a senior in HS when my favorite English/Writing teacher shared this shortly before graduation it struck all the right chords: I was a New Yorker getting ready to up and leave for a new life at college; I was getting ready to “be myself” somewhere entirely new, leaving behind my childhood and not sure what greater and lesser persons I’d encounter. It felt like the perfect coming of age guide. In the years since, I’ve reread it countless times at different stages of life and it never ceases to be applicable. Specifically, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Such an oddly comforting thought. Love it.

    • Jessica

      That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ana Pinho

    This might seem like cheating, but I think it’s not. Let Tim judge on that. I’ll go first with music: “The Beatitudes” by the Kronos Quartet. It’s the credits song from “La Grande Belezza”, and it’s so riveting I cried for the full five minutes of it while the little boat goes through Rome at dawn. When I learned the band was asked to turn that particular Bible text into music, I googled what the Beatitudes were (I’m not religious but I remembered they were quite famous). Read it while playing the song. Gratitude and happiness just showed up and hung out for hours after that. It’s such a beautiful coupling.

  • Brian R.

    My answer doesn’t exactly meet the criteria set forth in the question because it’s a collection of art versus one piece, but I am so thankful for Dustin Kensrue and the band Thrice.

    Dustin and I are of similar age and thus “grew up together”, though we only met once. Yet, we experienced teenage angst together, we became men together, we became fathers together, and we found God together. His lyrics have followed my lifeline so precisely that it’s scary.

    20+ years of listening to southern pastors rail on about heaven and hell, good and evil, sin and repentance; it did nothing for me. Dustin was the guy who made me realize it was okay to be a Christian. You can still be “cool” and be a Christian. You can listen to heavy music and be a Christian. You can have tattoos and be a Christian. Being a good person is more important than how you look or how you dress. So I am thankful to him for that.

    The power of music is truly amazing. If you are ever going through a difficult time, turn to music. No matter the circumstance, there is someone creative out there that is going through the exact same thing. Connect with them and their music, they will help pull you through it. Happy Thanksgiving WBW!

  • Matt

    Bear with me here, because it’s tangential, but I think many of us have experienced something similar. I’m grateful for the film High Fidelity because it put me on a path to finding so many other books, music and films that I’ve loved.

    It’s a solid film in and of itself. It has top-five lists, Cusacks, just the right amount of Jack Black, and offers the chance to vicariously experience the fantasy of owning a record store. But it’s where it led me that I treasure. Loving that movie turned me on Nick Hornby. The next steps go something like this. I’m in an airport bookstore and pick up Speaking with the Angels, an anthology of short fiction edited by Hornby –> which contains After I Fell Into the River and Before I Drowned, a brilliant short story by Dave Eggers told from the perspective of a dog, that just nails it –> which leads to reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and pretty much everything else by Eggers that I can get my hands on –> which leads to a McSweeney’s subscription from my then-girlfriend for Christmas –> which both directly and indirectly leads to so many other great authors and bands and films. I even think I first heard about the Decemberists and Arcade Fire on the McSweeney’s website.

    [ Insert your derision of my hipster-ish cultural touchstones here, I’m not ashamed ]

    I could keep going and going, not unlike how Rob reorganizes his record collection autobiographically in High Fidelity. But I’ll stop and just say that, for all that came later, I’m thankful for High Fidelity.

  • maxkubert

    “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro–amazing book that seems to mean something different for everyone who reads it.

    For me, it showed how randomness and the little things that happen to you are eventually what determine how your life will pan out. Nothing is “meant to be”, and a random sequence of arbitrary events could lead you to follow a certain career path or fall in love with the right or wrong person. It’s up to you to look past materialism and society-defined values–to recognize what is important/meaningful in any given situation–in order to get the most out of your life.

    Read it 🙂

  • DeeDee Massey

    I have a feeling we won’t get any pies out of this topic (one for the art medium and one for its selection justification). I see perhaps a 7-layered bar chart as our dessert.

  • HockeyMom47

    While I am grateful for ALL books and music and most movies, the one movie that came to mind was an old Ealing Studios comedy, “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, where Sir Alec Guiness plays multiple roles. Someone took me to see a screening of it the night my father died and it provided a temporary escape from what would be a very long week.

  • hepcatbflat

    one thing? The NY Times crossword. It makes every day alittle better

  • Jacob Nestle

    Definitely Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. My philosophy teacher put it on the curriculum as an afterthought and it made me think about philosophy in a way that’s still influenced me today. I would make it required reading for anyone who wants to learn to think if I could.

  • What Makes Us Human

    What a wonderful topic yet again, Tim….
    The one work of art I am most grateful for is a book. “Talking with Angels”, transcribed by Gitta Malasz. The English title has always bothered me – far too woo-woo for my tastes; the French translation seems far more subtle (“dialogues avec l’Ange”). I’m guessing the original Hungarian was even more powerful. It was written at the height of WWII, when Hungary was occupied by the Nazis . Gitta (a former national swimming champion) was living out the war with three of her best friends, all three of whom were Jewish and ultimately were deported and died in concentration camps. Before this happened however, for about two years they appeared to have been “visited” by some sort of divine inspiration and every Friday, wrote down the words spoken by one of the friends (Hanna). It sounds like some sort of granola/ New Agey channeling material , but to date it is the most powerful, meaningful material I have ever read about what it is to be fully, beautifully human. It took ne a few attempts to read the entire book (and it is not very long, written in a sort of short verse), as if I couldn’t fully embrace the content until I had accumulated certain life experiences. But now, decades later, I seem to find extra layers of meaning with each new reading . The facts surrounding its publication are equally extraordinary – Gitta, being the sole survivor of the group, held onto the manuscript for decades and kept them a secret until she managed to defect to the West (France) in the 1970s.

  • Saphir

    I would like to name the Merlin-Saga by T.A. Barron which actually consists out of seven books. If I had to name only one of them I would choose the second one which is called The seven Songs of Merlin. I especially recommend this book to young readers as it is a book for adolescens anyway. But that does not mean that grown up people cannot learn from it. It rather is the other way around because what I got out of those books when I was younger was the basis for quite centrals parts of my identity today.

    Having to describe now what it is that fascinates me so much about these books is the fact that although they are fantasy books their topics and the values that are transmitted are such an essential part of our human lives. And furthermore if everyone followed those principles by heart they would be the basis for peaceful life on earth.

    Also, the books are entertaining. (A not to be underestimated and important fact.)

  • Karen

    Definitely thankful for the book “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman.” Feynman has become my great role model and inspiration to keep on pursuing a scientific career.

  • BreezyM

    Short and sweet:

    “Blackbird” by The Beatles. It made me feel less weird…less ‘other’…in a time where I felt nothing but.

  • Andy66

    “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His
    Comets? Why? Well, the song always brings back the memory
    of my then three-year old son sitting on the couch with massive headphones on
    his little head listening to that song over and over and over and over
    again. Not really sure why the song so
    grabbed the little guy. Fact is, though, it impressed on us that the boy had a passion for music. So we got him going on piano early and it
    turns out he had an aptitude for music to match his devotion to Bill
    Haley. He became quite an accomplished
    pianist and composer, at least as an avocation.
    He’s also a pretty good writer.
    His name is Tim.

  • Ofey

    A.Camus “L’etranger”

  • PeteM

    Tough question to answer but I would have to go with the sculpture “Laocoon and his sons.” When I first saw this piece, it made a profound impression on me. Aesthetically beautiful, emotional and poetic; arresting and inspiring. These are the qualities I search for and appreciate in art and this sculpture embodies them perfectly. Definitely an important contributor to my artistic sensibilities.

  • Beebles

    There isn’t a single piece of art that I am more grateful for than others, but one thing that pops into mind is that I’m grateful for my Debate class in my senior year of high school. Through it I met one of my best friends, and through him his group of friends that I’m glad to call my group of friends as well. It also gave me the skills I needed to defend my position on the war in Iraq to Navy recruiters, in which one of them suggested I join the Peacecorps instead, which has become my current plan. I owe a lot to that class because of the people I met and the skills it gave me.

  • Orkhan Jafarov

    Dexter. It isn’t my favorite piece of art or even my favorite TV series for that matter. The thing is, the period when I srarted watching Dexter coincided with me discovering Wait But Why. Reading about Instant Gratification Monkey, Panic Monster and Social Survival Mammoth I came to conclusion that Dexter Morgan’s dark passenger is not too different from them. More importantly I understood that these beasts can be dealt with if their victim/host accepts them and tries to study them, as was demonstrated by Tim and (at some point) by Dexter. This helped me a great deal to come to terms with my own beasts and to leave behind a somewhat depressing way of life.

    P.S. No spoilers, I haven’t finished the series yet.

  • Nickie

    When I was a child I would spend time/days at my grandparents house. There was always a lot for my sister and I to do. On the rare occasion that we would be bored enough to put a movie on in the den the only VHS movie they owned was Flowers in the Attic. For those of you who don’t know this one….the rich grandma imprisons and poisons her grandchildren. They find a way into the attic and use their imaginations to find happiness. I am pretty sure the older siblings start a “relationship” of sorts and one of them dies.
    Now, my grandparents are WONDERFUL people so I am certain they never actually watched this movie they repeatedly put in for me and my sister.

    This leads me to the second VHS movie they ever owned and the one I am most greatful for Charlotte’s Web.

  • Triumphant Mole

    Just one thing? I’m not sure my age or knowledge qualifies me to pick just one.
    But alas, I must. Okay, I’m not required, but I do want to participate. So..

    Half Magic by Edward Eager, of course. My dad bought that book for me when I was about seven, and though I will admit that I found it boring at first, I seriously couldn’t keep it out of my hands until I finished reading it. I had held off on books before that beautiful story reached my little paws, but can you really blame me? They were smelly, possibly dangerous (gotta watch out for those paper cuts!), heavy blocks we used at school. Why would I use them more than I had to. Boy was I ever wrong.

    • Michael

      I loved that book as a kid and completely forgot it existed! Man, that series was fun.

  • SailorMoon manga by Naoko Takeuchi.

    This is all stuff that I never really thought about at the time, but rather in retrospect, looking back at how this show has informed practically every aspect of my life:
    — It normalized the idea of women as heroes for me. It taught me that “girly” didn’t have to mean “stupid.” As a kid, I thought of myself as a tomboy. A few years after I started getting into SailorMoon, I had pretty much forgotten the term.
    — It normalized queer characters for me. The manga (not so much the anime) plays a lot with alternative sexualities, usually in pretty subtle ways. It’s really obvious that the main character is bisexual, and the rest of the characters run the gamut in terms of sexual, romantic, and even gender identities.
    — It provided me my first female rolemodel as an artist and a writer.
    — It connected me to my first group of friends.

    I could probably think of more but there’s just so much.

  • Adam

    I’m grateful for Peter Pan the musical. I first saw it when I was 4 years old with my mom, and to this day still remember Peter Pan flying over the audience (I was crushed when I realized it was wires and Peter Pan was not actually flying). That sparked my love of the theater and acting, and as I got older I started auditioning for every single play I possibly could all the way through college. I met a lot of life long friends this way, grew in more ways than I can understand, and found that thing that really makes me feel alive.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have the guts to pursue it as an actual career because I figured I would just end up waiting tables or tending bar most of the time. Being able to support myself financially and not living paycheck to paycheck became a priority, but acting certainly was my first love thanks to Peter Pan the musical.

  • Annie

    I’m grateful for the song America by Imagine Dragons. It feels as if I am on the 4th step briefly when I listen to it.

  • Paula M Perez

    The movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I was too young to rent by myself , so when I was 14 my older sister promised me that if I read the book, she’d rent it for me. I read the book and loved it. We watched the movie and I was OBSESSED. I started to find the book to film adaption process fascinating. This led me to film studies for undergrad and grad school, and I’m now in L.A. adapting a book series for film. This movie was the beginning for me!

  • Michael

    I’m grateful for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. By making hilarious comedy out of dry, underreported issues, I feel like John and his team are doing my homework for me and presenting it in an easily digestible, informative, and entertaining manner. I still follow “regular news” via the NY Times, NPR, etc., but it does feel like work to some degree. I learn almost as much from an episode of Last Week Tonight as I do from a half hour of reading the news, and it’s a much more enjoyable half hour.

    The same can be said of this website. I can learn about complex math, or history, or the culture in distant countries while simultaneously being entertained.

  • Janine

    Jane Eyre, a bit clichéd but I always pick this book up when things are too horrible, I can flick to any page and read it for ten minutes and feel totally grounded again. Plus it was the first grown up book I remember my mum talking about, she was telling my older sister she should read it and that she would enjoy it, but because I was young when she died she never got a chance to give me any recommendations, so I always remember this one to my sister.

  • Gibbet the Grisly Ward

    It’s hard to choose just one thing, but I will have to go with the book “Still Life with Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins. I enjoyed reading when I was a kid, but this book – the first “grown up” book I read – gave me the LOVE of reading. It was so strange and bizarre, and so different from the children’s books I had been reading. I was instantly hooked and I have been an avid reader ever since.

  • Vikram Kalra

    Flatland by Edwin Abbott. About a two dimensional world where the narrator (A. Square) is visited by a Sphere.

  • Steve Swinnea

    Wow, so many things to be grateful for. I’m glad this wasn’t phrased as most grateful. I’m pretty much defined by music, so for now I’ll go with Townes van Zandt, Snowin’ on Raton. Townes I think introduced me to singer-songwriters and pushed me in a completely different direction musically.

  • jamaicanworm

    I’m grateful for the book “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Not only is it a riveting story about overcoming adversity, but also a fascinating addition to the “nature vs. nurture” debate. Hirsi Ali was raised among fanatics, bigots and sexists–after escaping, she was able to totally change her worldview solely by reading philosophy/history books and thinking by herself. She went on to become an elected politician and think-tank leader. It’s inspiring to see how goodness can be sought even by people who were raised to avoid it, and it’s inspiring to see how much of an impact reading and thinking critically can have on one person–and, by extension, on the world.

  • Gabe

    What I’m most grateful for is stumbling upon a podcaster years ago that in essence changed the way I view the world: Dan Carlin.

    For those who aren’t familiar, he has two shows – Hardcore History, and Common Sense (political commentary) – and both are absolutely amazing. Tim already stole my thunder about my lack of good history teachers growing up, and therefore zero interest in the subject; but because this guy is the best teacher you could ever ask for, he arguably has some of the internet’s most rabid fans, and also made history one of my biggest passions now. I could ramble on and on gushing over this show, but just know that it’s totally awesome.

    And if that wasn’t enough, his political commentary is also one of my favorite shows ever, as it is the most refreshing take on current events I’ve ever heard. I think he’s one of the best (if not the best) Independent voices out there. For those of you who are fans of The Young Turks (as am I), think that, but a much more refined, nuanced, and eloquent version. Unfortunately, because of the medium he uses, and possibly the fact that he’s an independent (lot of tribalism out there), he remains relatively under the radar. That makes him, I think, one of the best hidden gems out there. If you have any interest, please check him out; I would love nothing more than to drum up more support for him.

    Here’s a link to his website:


  • Maps

    Picking just one piece is quite difficult. I could write essays about the importance or enjoyment I derive from entire genres of music, literature or film. There are so many great and not-so-great (at least by the usual metrics) pieces of art out there that have had positive impacts on my life. For a majority of my life, I’ve taken up an almost religious pursuit to take in as much art as I can, whether that be visually, literary, musically, or whatever central point in that Venn diagram movies encompass. As such, it seems simply impossible for me to name just one piece that I am thankful for.

    But I’ll do it anyway, albeit with a five part answer: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (of five books) by Douglas Adams.

    Now, clearly, this may not be the best example of classic literature I could have picked. I would have liked to have said some beautiful foreign work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Fyodor Dostoevsky or an American Masterpiece by William Faulkner, one of the three of which I may regularly cite as my “favorite author” (whatever that means) in everyday conversation. I could have picked some piece that is “new” and “fresh” and pushed the envelope for me at the time I read it. Maybe some Palahniuk or Mark Z. Danielewski (Yes, I just finished House of Leaves, and while I am not sure I would say it was a “good book”, I certainly thought it was different, engaging, different, entertaining, and different. Did I mention it’s different?)

    I also didn’t pick any of the punk rock albums that fueled my rebellious youth, the indie rock that fueled my emotional college days, or the experimental, avant-garde music that fueled my pretentious 20’s.

    Maybe I should have picked an art piece by some famous classical artist, who, just by mention of his name, would make me sound cultured and intelligent, but alas, I can’t think of any names that I’d really want to insert here. So instead, maybe I could have used a more recent famous artist like David Choe, whose work I actually really, really like.

    I certainly could have picked some artistic movie directed by Wes Anderson, or Michel Gondry, or Kubrick. Or I could have picked Waking Life by Richard Linklater because it’s totally like super deep and philosophical and stuff. Or maybe some lesser-known film that I like but most people hated or haven’t even heard of like the Man From Earth (which almost everyone I know hated or hasn’t even heard of).

    But instead I picked the Hitchhiker’s Guide. The reason is really pretty simple. It’s a series that I really liked. It’s not the kind of book I think will impress people. it’s not the kind of book that’s going to make it into a better human being. It’s not the kind of book that will cause that cute girl on the other side of the cafe to come over and start talking to me about it. It’s just five books that I genuinely enjoyed reading.

    But, if I must (and based on the other answers on here, I believe I must) I’ll go further. It’s the first books that I really read for enjoyment. I discovered them in the 9th grade and found time to read them between the classics I was assigned for my advanced high school English course. Up through that point I had taken all of the “advanced” middle school English courses, and only read books that I had been assigned. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were very good. But even a good book is dulled a little when you have to read it. Even when we were given the opportunity to read one of our own books for a report or whatever it is we wrote back then, I would always pick something that was in line with what the teacher would want us to read. So when I picked up the Hitchhiker’s Guide in my first year of high school, it really opened up a new world to me. That reading could be fun, and not just a means to getting an A in some class. I got C’s in all my high school English courses and I couldn’t be happier.

    P.S. I’m sure the astute among you noticed that I not-so-subtly dropped several titles, authors, artists, and directors into here. I suppose that’s my way of saying, “I really can’t pick just one.”

    • Shareiro

      Interesting topic you touched here – classical literature and authors who make you look smart, intelligent etc. It is strange or stupid, call it as you want that if you say names that people know and that are considered to be examples of good literature, you suddenly become smart and educated. For me it is the same with movies, music, books and art: if something was good, nice, new, modern or whatever time ago it does not necessarily mean it’s still relevant and of the same value today. I can already hear some people saying “you don’t understand a thing, these pieces of art/literature/music survived so many years just because they are brilliant and time does not matter”. Well few of them maybe, but I have read (or tried to and did not finish in some cases) classic literature and it simply does not resonate with me, I don’t find anything relevant to modern life we live now and values world has now. The same with classic music, just very few pieces sound good to me, the rest just don’t sound nice and that is it. I am not a musician and don’t know much about music, but music is something that has to make you feel good and if it does not, for me makes no difference who and how many years ago composed it and whether he was deaf or not.

      • Vivante

        That´s the wonderful thing about people–they are all different. Beethoven knocked my socks off when I heard him for the first time and has been a sensual pleasure through my whole life, as “relevant” to me as the Rolling Stones were a decade later. Relevance is in the heart and mind of the individual–if you don´t “feel good” when you hear Mozart, or Pergolesi, or Josquin des Pres, or Ockeghem, then that´s just the music you are not attuned to, while someone else will be incredibly moved by the same compositions.
        I still love to listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash or Jefferson Airplane and HipHop also makes me feel good, but I can´t stand Rap. People are different. The important thing to remember is that our taste in music (or art, or books, or food, or dress) is completely subjective and a result of our experiences, and that in matters of taste, judgement is a pretty futile activity.

        • Shareiro

          Completely agree and that was my point that I was perhaps not able to express in clear way: there can not be some predefined authors or composers etc. who are just good because they are and someone who likes them and their creations are cool just because they do 😉

    • Tom Miller

      The thing about THGTTG, is that whilst it might not be a “literary classic”, when you hear people like Stephen Hawking talk about “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, you realise just what a “classic” it really is, and how it has pervaded so many walks of life.

      Plus it has some of the best one-liners ever: “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so”.

  • Daniel

    I am grateful for Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. I’ve been really focusing on personal development ever since graduating college a coulple years ago. There were some behaviors of mine that I really didn’t like. For example, I’m not naturally very empathetic or compassionate. Daring Greatly got me to understand that everyone lives with fear, shame and vulnerability. No one is ever fully comfortable with every aspect of themselves. We all have certain people or situations that make us feel small and terrified. One of the most courageous things we can do is to open up to someone close to us about it. And the best way to help someone who is opening up to you is to listen to them without judgment.

    There have been so many things that I’ve read in the past couple years that have helped change my perspective on life and have shown me that I can choose how to see the world. But Daring Greatly was the one that helped me realize that I can choose to be compassionate and empathetic to others. And in a very spiritual but not religious way, see that we are all in this together. We are all human and that connects us.

    Like Tim mentioned in his post, A Religion for the Nonreligious, when I think of myself “as a miraculous arrangement of atoms in vast space that for a split second in endless eternity has come together to form a moment of consciousness that is my life… and I see [other people] as another moment of consciousness that happens to exist on the same speck of time and space that I do. The only possible emotion I could have for [them] is love.”

    I now am far more understanding of people and less focused on myself. If someone does something that I don’t agree with, I try to put myself and their shoes and often realize that what they did was totally legitimate given the circumstances. I realize now that there is hardly anything in this life that requires forgiveness. What the world truly needs is empathy. Even the people who we would consider the most evil on the planet: the criminals, the terrorists, etc. They are worthy of our empathy. What would any of us have done if we were born from stupid parents, our father left us at birth, our mother did drugs, our schoolteachers stereotyped us and called us a “problem child” enough times until we believed it?

    I am grateful for Brené Brown’s work in showing me that the world would be a better place if we shamed less, and loved more.

  • Bookworm

    Okay I know this bends the rules a bit, but every book I read becomes my new favourite. Although I’ve become fairly interested in Barbara Kingsolver’s stuff lately.

    • Vivante

      Try Barbara Kingsolver´s “Flight Patterns”

  • Instant gratification monkey

    Kafka at the beach by Haruki Murakami.

    I spent a wonderful time in this book, in this world that is more than a great book’s world, but the book’s world is inside yourself. I’m grateful for this experience, which had a lasting impact on which things I allow myself to perceive in the real world.
    It gave me so much, instead of reading it in 3 days, I lived almost 6 months with this book and world.

    Try it, you’ll know after the first pages if you like it or not.

    • Vivante

      Murakami is fabulous. I´m just reading “1Q84” which I´ll probably still be reading next year!

  • Priya

    I’m grateful for the internet.

    I know this sounds silly, but I grew up in a small remote village in India. Before my 7th grade, we didn’t even have a cable TV connection. During my days in elementary school, my house was not even plumbed with water taps and I never had any cool toys to play with (this to give an idea of how underdeveloped my village was- we were one of those well-doing families and the only house with a TV in the neighborhood). Barbie was something I wanted badly even during teenage years, but it was too expensive. I played with marbles and clay and cheap plastic dolls mostly.

    My worldview was solely shaped from the things they taught at school. But school education wasn’t that great either. School taught me things like Britishers are bad cruel people who killed many Indians and looted our country apart from Jack and Jill rhymes, Nobel Prize Laureates and Tom Sawyer. School didn’t help me understand the real world or how people elsewhere lived. Once we got TV installed-with very limited foreign channels, things didn’t change much. I was so curious about the life in the first-world (my idea of first world was America- and I formed an idea of American lifestyle from the Hollywood movies they used to show on TV like Jurassic Park, Jumanji, The Mummy etc).

    Still first world felt like some fantasy land. Like I used to get confused as to how Americans live without eating rice and why they kiss in movies. I had never seen people kiss in Indian TV shows, so I thought kissing was something that only Americans do. Sex is not something we talk about in Indian societies, so as a kid I thought it was some serious crime like murder but somehow Americans in Hollywood movies seems to be okay with it. Everyone in my friend circle thought the same. I’m sure boys must have figured out stuffs much earlier but we girls were pretty naive.

    And then we got Internet connection when I got into High school (We were again the first family to buy a computer and get internet in our locality) And I must say it changed my world. Orkut was a thing back then and I made a lot of foreign friends and such virtual friendly conversations really helped me get a better idea of the world beyond me. Then I started reading blogs, foreign magazines and newspapers and had instant access to materials written by foreign authors. Forums like Yahoo Answers gave an idea of how everyday life was in the west. I was able to browse and download foreign movies of my choice and it made a huge difference in the way I saw the world. I used to get caught in Wikipedia loops like forever because there was so much to know about the world! I learned to write decent English from Internet and not from school. This has helped me access more information online. I think learning English is important because most of the scholarly articles online are written in English and the command over such a universal language opens up more opportunities to learn.

    I’m 21 years old now and I moved out of my village to a nearby town for college. Everyone here has access to internet now and my village has changed a lot in the past few years. I haven’t traveled outside my country (I’ve never been to an Indian Metro city either) but I feel wiser and more connected to the people in this world. Because internet 🙂

    • Vivante

      I love your post. I grew up before television and internet and although I lived in a suburb of New York, my life as a kid was almost as restricted as yours. Sex was never mentioned in middle-class America in the 40´s and 50´s, my mother threw away or forbade me to read any book where sex was mentioned, the
      local movie houses only showed “harmless” films and our only “library” was a “Bookmobile” with restricted choices. Going away to College was my salvation.

      • Priya

        Thank you Vivante. Really surprised to hear this. I’m still ignorant about the America in the 40s and 50s. Can you tell me more about it? I’ve watched Mad Men and I believe the life portrayed in it is kind of how life in New York was in the 60s. The sexist attitudes are really surprising. Did the second wave Feminist movement in America change this situation? Would love to hear about that.

        Btw I watch loads of American TV series and sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother, Breaking Bad, Big Bang Theory, Friends, Sienfeld, New Girl, Vampire Diaries, Modern Family and Two & a Half Men. My idea of American society is drawn from the life I see in these sitcoms (there is a sharp contrast between the kind of life I live here and the one I see on TV I must say. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to enjoy that kind of a life). How accurate is the real American life shown in these sitcoms? Because the real Indian life is totally different from what they show on Bollywood. That kind of world does not exist here.

        • Vivante

          Middleclass America in the fifties as I experienced it best shown
          in the movie “Pleasantville”–white only, sexist and sexless, tasteless and colourless. I hated it. My first French book in highschool was illustrated with fotos from Henri Cartier-Bresson
          of street cafés, lovers kissing on the street, a little boy with a baguette under his arm–I decided then and there that I wanted to live in Paris, because everything seemed ALIVE there.
          As for the life you see in those sitcoms, 50 percent of the Americans will also never be able to enjoy a life like that. The characters are almost all upper middle class, the women are beautiful and the men are educated, no one is living in their car or in subway tunnels or in parks, no one is out of work, unable to pay a doctor, illiterate, really stupid, bigoted, prejudiced, fanatic right-wing, fundamentalist…breaking bad is the closest the series get to showing this aspect of american life. Did you know that over 45% of all Americans do not know about or do not “believe” in Evolution? That many can´t read or write? That life in many parts of the rich and powerful USA is as bad as or worse than life in an impoverished indian village? As a series that´s just a little bit different, try watching “Everyone hates Chris” about a little black kid in a white school.
          There are lots of unbelievably rich people in America and every day they are getting richer. And there are millions who live in dreadful poverty and are getting poorer every day.

          • Priya

            Interesting. I remember reading John Grisham’s Street Lawyer and it talks about homeless in America in the 80s. Then there is Pursuit of Hapyness, but I thought America got rid of those issues. I’m downloading “Pleasntville” right away. Thanks 🙂

            I’ve heard about this 45% Americans not believing in Evolution statement before-in one Sam Harris fan page I guess.That is surprising. I also hear about students in America doing part-time jobs to pay their bills and their expensive education loans. That is something we don’t have to deal with in usual Indian middle class families. Here it’s like, parents fully support their kids financially even after graduation. Letting kids to work while attending college is kind of frowned upon. So educated parents mostly don’t let their kids do that.

            But still I see more American atheists online and find a lot of people talking sense when I follow discussions on your news media. As in I find it far better than the kind of crowd we have here. Bad apples are everywhere but I guess the public there has relatively better education and hence make a more sensible crowd. Here people still cast votes based on religious interest and inter-religion or inter-cast marriages are extremely rare among rural population.

            • Vivante

              His, Priya, I answered your last post but my answer disappeared..
              The people I was privileged to know in Boston did indeed have a better education and were a more sensible crowd–liberal and open-minded, relatively unprejudiced and sensible. Boston was wonderful, intelligence and creativity were everywhere.But in other parts of the country–mostly the middle west, but also large parts of California–there a a lot of bigots, fundamental christians, the supporters of the Tea Party who also “cast votes based on religious interest”–“marriages between races are extremely rare among these populations”. More than one politician has been voted into office ONLY because he doesn´t believe in Evolution, rejects abortion and homosexual relationships, and (new part of the right-wing creed) doesn´t believe in global warming. You don´t need much more than that in your political platform if you want to become a Senator in, say, Texas. Having a lot of money is also important….

            • Priya

              I see. So is that the reason why I see these jokes made on Texas on the internet all the time? I see a lot of references in your TV shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and all. But I never get these inside jokes.

              Btw I saw “Pleasantville” today. Thank you for suggesting it. It’s so hard to believe that there are people in the US who don’t believe in global warming and evolution. Your country is something I look up to for its liberal culture. One of my biggest dreams in life in to visit the New York city.I know that I’ll never be able to afford it but I wish I’ll make it there someday. Look at all the freedom your women got there. My name is not even Priya but I’m scared to talk about sex in an open forum, for people will judge me. Things in urban India are a bit different, but in the place where I come from, we are not even allowed to talk to boys of our age. That will make us girls with “loose morals”. I see all these American teen movies and the kind of lifestyle young adults have there. When I was in high school, we hardly saw any lovers openly confessing about their relationships. First of all, high school love was rare and it was more like just holding hands like in Pleasantville. Kissing is a serious offence. I’ve never seen anybody kiss in my real life. I’ve never been kissed either. Oh you should check out this protest that is happening in India btw: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/The-Kiss-of-Love-campaign/photostory/45109061.cms You could try googling about it for more details-it’s something that’s happening here right now. This might give you a feeling that India is becoming liberal but it’s not. These movements are only happening in the urban areas, I’m sure those protesters will be dead if they try something like that in my village.

              We have these self proclaimed moral goons who beats up couples for PDA and women for going to pubs because they believe it’s against the “Indian culture”. I think India is in that 50s era of America right now.

            • Cardiomyopic Grinch

              Many of the things you describe sound horrible. I live in the Midwest (Oklahoma; no, it’s not all tornados, though there are many) and it sucks here because of the fundamentalist religious people, but it isn’t even close to the level of sexual suppression you discuss. Not having ever seen someone kiss (or being kissed) should not be a thing. My parents frequently kiss each other, and most people here have their first kiss before they even enter high school (although there is definitely a difference between a kiss and a “real” kiss, they feel amazing). Those jokes about Texas are about the fundamentlists, and most Americans think of rural Texas as a backwater (it has a lot of oil and farm revenue, but it is not a good thing to be different there). Many of your country’s issues have mostly already been dealt with here, but that only means that you will likely hit our problems (feminism, homosexuality…) in the near future. I don’t know what to say here, but I really do hope you have a better time in the future (although heroes (such as America for you) are often disappointments, so don’t put all of your hope into them). May the force be with you.

    • Jo.C


    • humanequalswanderlust

      It’s really sad how things in India are still so restricted for girls… I’m from south India but I live in Australia right now so I’m really grateful for being able to experience freedom 🙂

  • Vivante

    I can´t pick ONE! When I was 12 or 13, a neighbor I didn´t know very well was browsing in the “Bookmobile” (which visited next to the grocery store once a week) when I climbed in for my weekly book feast. She saw the books I had chosen–a Nancy Drew Adventure and similar kids` books–and recommended “The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. I had learnt from my family that Great Classical Books were all BORING–we had only Book-of-the-Month selections in our one bookcase and “Classics” (also “serious” classical music–we only heard “light”and “cheerful” music) were to be avoided. I was too polite to reject Sherlock and took him home with me. And reading those wonderful stories opened up a huge door, a golden gate–my fear of big, dark, heavy books with the wonderful smell of old paper was gone and I plunged into an orgy of reading which has held for seventy years.

    So: “Sherlock Holmes” is the book I am most grateful for.

    With classical music it lasted longer–I was 19 when a classmate at Cornell invited me to a concert . I was horrified (how should I deal with the boredom?) but he was so charming that I was flattered and went. My first ever-heard piece of classical music was Beethoven´s Violin Concert (followed by Mozart´s “Turkisch” and Bach´s Doppelconcerto for two Violins). Played by David Oistrarch and Isaac Stern. They were on tour through the Ivy League universities.
    Beethoven almost killed me. I stood up after 3 minutes and couldn´t sit down. Afterwards, I cried. The next day I went out and bought the record and carried it around with me until I could find someone with a record player. Another Golden Gate opening, another universe. I still love Beethoven´s Violin Concert and still keep buying new recordings. I still love classical music–along with Rock and Hip-Hop!

  • Saber Uddin

    One song I would say over anything else

    Anybody here heard of super smash bros and donkey kong
    I like the remake of stickerbrush simphony or bramble blast
    The song is my single favourite song ever and its from donkey kong

    But there is one thing I think should be said and that’s my old computer emulator that my uncle showed me which got me into gaming in the first place

    Theres too much come to think of it (so good question)

    So I would sum it up with that song because I dunno

    • Bill Warren

      All 3 DKC’s had THE absolute best game music in the history of gaming. Including Mario and dare I say even Zelda.

      • Saber Uddin

        The mario galaxy theme and zelda dark world theme stand out for me though

  • Maria Luisa Medina

    Many books, songs and movies have made an impression on me and have been part of important times in my life. But if I have to choose only one that I’m grateful for, is the song “Throw it all away” by Toad the Wet Sprocket. Every time I listen to it, it conveys the message I need to hear, specially if it’s in time of some sort of spiritual need (sadness, doubt, anger…), it reminds me of what I know I need to do, what I know I need to remember, what I know I need to appreciate, what I know I need to forget and throw away. I have it as a quick reminder that life is good, no matter what curve ball you get, you just need to get rid of the things that stop you from enjoying life, you know, all those “coulda-woulda-shoulda”: “with the time I waste on the life I never had, I could’ve turned myself into a better man”.

  • Just Some Guy

    Book: Ayn Rand’s “atlas shrugged”. Movie “The Big Lebowski”. Artwork “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck. Music “Tangled up in Blue”

  • some poet

    the mission thief by forrest gander. it’s beautifully human and expertly crafted. it motivates action in a solipsistic time

  • Bill Warren

    I’m going to go with Super Mario Bros. for NES…without it…where would we be!?!?

    • Krattz

      Definitely one of the most important games of all time. I also believe that it has *the* best tutorial in all of video game history. Stage 1-1 teaches you everything you need to know to play the game without writing a single word on the screen or without the player even realizing they’re being taught which is exactly what a tutorial should be.

  • vitaminCMC

    I’m of the same mind as many, here. Choosing one is basically impossible! But, I suppose that’s the opposite of a problem: having an abundance of things to be thankful of.

    One thing I would like to note is that I took a bit to think about this, and all the reflection greatly improved my current outlook. I’ve been dealing with depression, on and off, for most of my adult life, and it’s been really bad recently. So, being “forced” to take stock of things that I am thankful for (because I totally ran with this thought about, like, everything in my life) dragged me out of a particularly bad stretch. Guess that’s just one more thing to throw on the thankful pile!

    There are three things I am thankful for, as a working screenwriter:

    – “Jaws”: it was the first movie I watched as a kid (about 10 years old) that scared the shit out of me – aside from the Large Marge scene in “Pee wee’s Big Adventure.” But, because I’m drawn to that feeling of terror, I ended up watching the movie obsessively; and I still do, to this day, if it’s on, I’ll sit and watch. And, because of this, it was at that tender age that I wanted to make movies.

    – “The Sandman” series, by Neil Gaiman: I discovered the graphic novels sometime, early, in high school. It had a pretty profound effect on me, mainly that it introduced me to the idea of writing fiction for a living. I can go back to those books at any time and find something to inspire me.

    – Mr. Ola, an English teacher I had in my Junior year of high school: not a “thing”, obviously, but he can be credited with knocking over the first domino that put me on the track I am still on today. He didn’t stay the whole school year because he got a better job in another school district, but the time he was with us was exceptional. He saw talent in my writing and encouraged it. Every time I’ve doubted myself, I’ve thought of how he saw something in my writing and I don’t stop.

  • The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve loved Batman since I was 5 years old and the Burton/Keaton movie came out. Actually, I might have loved Batman even before that depending on when I started watching the old Adam West show. I won’t get into a long review of Rises. But I’ll just say that it nailed so many things that I love about the character and did so in the typically beautiful and slightly plot twisty (less so than his other films) way that Nolan makes movies. It’s my favorite movie, with my favorite ending, with my favorite fictional character.

  • Anton

    I’m immensely grateful for Arvale. It’s addictive and superb for learning English. Were it not for this lovely game, I’d probably loathe myself today – I’d never have read Wait But Why, AJATT, any book in English, played Redshift The Quest, watched any Vsauce video and missed out on even much, much more. I’d just suck now.
    You can download it here (it’s free): http://pdamill.com/prod_pc.shtml
    I LOVE it all : )

  • Emily

    Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher

    I recently read this book, and though it was incredibly intense and riveting, it was definitely not an enjoyable read for me. If you didn’t catch on from the title, it’s a memoir written by a woman who struggled for most of her life with eating disorders, and she explains her journey through adolescence and her personal experience with the terrors and consequences of anorexia and bulimia. Now, I don’t struggle with an eating disorder but i can definitely empathize with a lot of the feelings of insecurity and lack of body confidence Marya struggled with (though she also had a lot of other feelings and traits that led to her disorder that I definitely do not share)

    This brings me to the reason I am thankful for this book: it was an eye-opener. I initially found the book on a list of books given to my psychopathology class to use for a project; I was drawn to it because I have always had an interest in learning about eating disorders. Everything I believed about these disorders was quickly unwound and disproved when I read this memoir. I used to believe it was selfish to have such an intense fear of being fat, and in a more general sense I used to think that mental disorders were something that simply required a quick switch in cognition, that the only thing wrong with someone suffering from one was their lack in exercising self-control. (In addition, I had a dense lack of understanding about the comorbidity of mental disorders; this factor is extremely relevant in Marya’s memoir).

    I have become more invested in learning the truth about things, in getting to know the individual before the stereotypical group, and in gaining knowledge and understanding before forming judgement. Though I can’t really attribute everything I’ve learned recently solely to Wasted, I believe it was the memoir that opened my mind in so many ways, and enabled me to see things differently than I did before.

    I hope a lot of people read Wasted. However, I find it necessary to warn those who have not yet read it: this memoir could potentially be very dangerous, especially to those who have previously or are currently struggling with an eating disorder, negative body image, or have personal issues related to either of these things because this book contains a LOT of triggers. Marya Hornbacher’s story should be shared and I hope people gain from it the way I did but it is not right for others to suffer as a result of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

  • Patricia Cunningham

    I’ve narrowed my 3 down to 1: Vermeer’s painting “The Cook.” First time I laid eyes on it was in an art history lecture. I turned a page in the text–and there was a full page print of the painting. I sat scarcely breathing, staring at the picture (and missed part of the lecture). There was captured a luminous, timeless moment in time of a rustic young kitchenmaid pouring an exquisite creamy liquid from the dark circular opening of an earthenware jug. Upon reflection, it is vaguely reminiscent of illustrations I have seen depicting Aquarius the water-bearer. At any rate, true to the promise I made to my 18 year old self, that I would someday have a print hanging in my house, I happened to find a print at an art museum in Montreal. It has hung, framed in gold, in my various living quarters for decades now–and I still feel a life-affirming, blissful calm when I stare at it, its magic undiminished.

    • DeeDee Massey

      Coincidentally, my post was heavily about the culinary arts, so I had to look up this painting. The history of a piece of art can be so interesting and even educational. Your selection, also called “The Milkmaid”, gives us some glimpses into the daily life and culture of days past.

      You might be interested in Steve Melcher’s interpretation of it for his humorous art appreciation series “That Is Priceless,” for which I am also grateful. He posts a new masterpiece almost every day.


      • Patricia Cunningham

        @ DeeDee: Have spent a delightful hour perusing the essentialvermeer website, and plan to return to it again and again. Thanks for the tip. I plan to explore the “priceless” blog tomorrow. Should be fun.

  • Gina

    Fiona Apple. All of her music. She and I have dealt with a lot of the same issues and pain in our lives and the music she creates speaks to my heart and mind. I feel less broken and alone when listening to her. If I had to pick just one song, it would be “Every Single Night”.

  • Ady

    Right now I’d pick the show Ballet for Life by Maurice Bejart with music by Queen & Mozart

    Does not get any better than this

    Totally changed my perception of ballet, classical music and even Queen music.
    Huge eye opener and total delight overal
    Recording is not HD and does not quite capture the spirit of the live show but it was magical truely

  • cathy

    I am thankful for the book and movie: Bridges of Madison County. I plan on visiting these bridges one fine day with a very expensive camera to capture the moment!

  • S Theman

    The book I’m most thankful for is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. As a white male, this particular book seems like a particularly interesting choice for me, but even with the race questions it brings up, which I am, admittedly, not in a great position to understand, Ellison’s philosophies about invisibility and the nature of whether or not people matter really resonate with me. His idea that no matter who you are, you don’t really matter, and the main character’s eventual acceptance of that put words to a ideas that I had held for a while before reading the book but never been able to express as meaningfully as Ellison was able to. In terms of the artistic values of the book, it is Invisible Man that first made me fall in love with surrealism. The in-depth metaphors used to explain Ellison’s thoughts on race and individuality, metaphors that carry on to to affect the real world of the book, are beautifully written, portraying a marvelous, psychedelic world just beneath the surface.

    • Vivante

      Bravo! A great book, and a great insight into it.

    • Krattz

      I’ve heard of it but never read it. from your description it sounds like it would be of great interest to a wannabe philosopher like myself. I intend to read it at some point.

  • Thiago Guido

    The movie I think I’m most grateful for is Truman’s Show. It somehow made me think over some things and I just really like both the sobriety and comedy in it. As for a book, I think the first book I ever read whole, which I believe was Harry Potter atPS, for introducing me to reading in such curiosity-inducing and not-off-putting splendorabulous way.

    • Krattz

      We watched that in school. I was never a big fan of Jim Carrey (Got nothing against him, he’s just not my style) so that distracted me for a lot of the early movie but towards the end I could definitely appreciate the kind of ethical questions it raises.

  • hepcatbflat

    ok… i changed my mind.
    it’s not the NY Times crossword.
    It’s albert brooks ” Defending your Life “

  • shayar

    “Oh, the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss. Simple yet deep. Everytime I read it, the metaphors continue to amaze me.

    • Vivante

      My favorite is “Green Eggs and Ham”. “Would you eat it on a boat,
      would you eat it with a goat, would you eat it in the rain, would you eat it on a train”–my grandson learned to try everything on the table first before saying “I don´t like that”.

      • Heather

        I just read this for the first time, and it is indeed amazing. Thank you for the share

    • Guest

      My friend is a librarian and for her baby shower we were asked to bring a book and write inside why we have given this book. I bought ‘oh the places you’ll go’ and have fallen in love with it all over again!

  • Andreas Goldmund

    I thank Richard Dawkins for “The God Delusion” Brought up in a roman catholic family it took me several decades pain, uncertainty, bad feelings being an atheist. The book told me that not believing in God is as natural as not to smoke. Well, give up superstitions is not so easy like giving up smoking but I did both.

    Movies are not so determining and fade away quite speedy. But maybe Melancholia by Lars von Trier.

    • Priya

      Am I the only one who feel Melancholia is overrated? What is so awesome about that movie? I find it to be too pretentious.

      • Shareiro

        I am with you here, was not able to watch the full movie, simply did not hook me.

  • David W.

    “The Last Man” By Clint Mansell, from The Fountain soundtrack.
    By far my favorite song: I’ve been listening to it for years and it never gets old. Whenever I need to really sit down and think about something that’s been on my mind, this song has always helped me calm my mind and reflect on whatever issue is at hand. I feel like there’s a vastness to it and I think it’s beautiful. It fills me up in a weird abstract way that is making me tired just thinking of how I’d try and explain it!
    The rest of the soundtrack is pretty amazing too in case you all were wondering!

    • Orkhan Jafarov

      I second that. It’s like Clint Mansell has a way to address the audience not as a whole, but individually, on a deeper and more personal level. It shows not only in The Fountain soundtrack, but in his other works too, like “Memories” from Moon.

  • Leo X

    Despite of its misuse by religion, I’m grateful for the Bible.

    This little book collection has everything: variety of style (it was written by about 40 people of different cultures, level of instruction, age, lifetime – a sample of humankind), fascinating storyline, beautiful poetry, practical advice and a positive message. It has a powerful impact on the way I try to live my life.

  • Just A Girl

    I have to pick the poem “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry. Because it reminded me not to dwell on what might happen and that, even when things are really dark, you can find peace remembering that the universe is actually really beautiful. You can find it here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171140

  • wobster109

    The Boxcar Children. My teacher read it to my class in I think it was first grade? It was my favorite book for a couple years, but it taught me to love reading, and that’s stayed with me since.

  • Krattz

    I love “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. It taught me that all of our problems in society (not just problems with communism) all eventually trace back to human nature. It taught me that every law made to protect will also harm. It forced me to accept that we cannot live in a perfect utopia, we are too primitive for it (that may change… who knows…). When you first read it *SPOILERS* you initially buy most of the pig’s propaganda just like the rest of the animals do until you start to get this uneasy feeling that things aren’t what they seem until eventually it becomes abundantly clear towards the end what’s actually going on. When you read again the spell is broken and you see everything from a far more sinister perspective. *END OF SPOILERS* ——->————->—————–/
    ^—-<–Just in case they didn't make you read it in school.

    The book has characters for almost every archetype of person so when I ponder ethics or government or something similar I always apply my ideas to those characters to test how my theories might be corrupted by the fallibility of the human condition. Without this book I would have far less insight into humanity. READ IT!

  • For me it’s “The muse and the beast” by Yana Frank. It’s a book about organizing your time for artists, but it’s applicable to every person. Particularly, I’m not a professional artist, but this book helped me decrease my procrastination dramatically!

    Yana is an artist who is recovering from cancer, and she is being very effective for her situation because of her techniques. I’m grateful that I read it, because I’m interested in very many subjects and have many hobbies. Because of this book I can do a lot within a day and thus make my life much more interesting.

  • Bill Mason

    One piece of music that I’m grateful for is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In particular, I enjoy the 4th movement with the adaptation of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”.

    I think it’d be difficult to choose a theme more noble than that of the universal brotherhood of mankind, but I don’t think it’s this work’s major draw for me. I think the human story behind this piece is the greatest component of this piece’s pull. Beethoven is, for all intents and purposes, deaf during his composition of the symphony. By this point his interactions with guests and visitors take place in written form via conversation books. Reports from the symphony’s premiere state that at the conclusion (of either the entire symphony or of a particular part — it’s not clear), he had to be physically turned toward his audience so that he could see (but not hear) them applauding for a piece of music that he composed but would himself never hear.

    It seems pretty rare to actually listen to long pieces of music. By that, I don’t mean having it on in the background while you read the news; I mean direct the entirety of your attention to it. It seems that often we will spend similar amounts of time watching marathons of TV shows or a terrible movie on Netflix or in the theater. I think that roughly an hour and fifteen minutes listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from start to finish with headphones and without interruption is a good use of time.

    • Curmudgeon


      I once heard that when the compact disc was being developed the Chairman of Sony ordered that the CD needed to have enough space to fit Beethoven’s 9th in its entirety.

      You’re in good company.

  • Crazy Woman

    Emily Dickinson..Part One: Life VI.

    IF I can stop one heart from breaking,
    I shall not live in vain;
    If I can ease one life the aching,
    Or cool one pain,
    Or help one fainting robin 5
    Unto his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.

    This is the one poem which has touched my life completely. I ran across it back when I was a sophomore in high school and has touched my soul. This one poem has lead me through my life and kept me centered on helping others. No matter how hard life is, if I can help another person, it makes my life worthwhile.

  • matt

    1984 by George Orwell..
    Read it again in your adult life, revelations abound…

  • triplestaff

    either The Silmarillion by J R R Tolkien or Our mathematical universe, my quest for the ultimate nature of reality by Mag Tegmark

  • A simple quote I carry with me at all times:

    “I’ve got dreams in hidden places and extra smiles for when I’m blue.”

    and a poem I wrote called ‘Unrequited Love’ which you can read here if you have the time: http://poetry.mariosevripidou.com/#/2013/01/01/unrequited-love/

  • Diane dB

    This is sooo hard. So many inspiring books and quotes and movies to be grateful for.. I’d go with Chopin’s Piano Concerto n° 2 in F minor. It’s the first thing that came to my mind, which has to mean something. Furthermore, I still feel the same when I listen to this concerto now (especially the 2nd movement) than the first time I heard it: completely amazed. The music is so beautiful that you forget everything else. It has helped me in so many different moments and different ways, and I am very grateful for that.

  • Great Pierre

    I think I’d choose Beautiful Pain, by Eminem. It makes me feel the feels.

  • Jessica

    I guess that would be “The broken circle breakdown”, a fantastic flamish movie about an ill little girl, the love between her parents, and their passion for music… I get the shivers every time I listen to its soundtrack again, and I guess that allows me to suggest a song in the music category, “The boy who wouldn’t hoe corn”… It’s very country-ish, but once you’ve seen the movie you can’t help but love it

    • Jessica

      Yes, I meant flemish

      • Sarah

        Yay, Belgium! and Flanders!

    • Karen Edgerton

      That movie was an experience never to be forgotten. A look into ordinary lives of extraordinary people or perhaps the other way around.

  • Cabeto

    I’d have to go with “The Malazan Book of the Fallen” by Ian C. Esslemont. The books are so incredibly deep and riveting that I have read and reread them many times. The amount of knowledge and comprehension of human nature you can gather is amazing and I can’t reccomend them enough to anyone who likes Fantasy or Historical Novels.

  • Jack Maughan

    If- by Rudyard Kipling. It seems to list all the virtues, ideals and humanities that we should all aspire to in one poem. It serves as a reminder to keep to these values, as they are what make us human. In years to come I’ll be reading the poem again and hoping that I have stayed true as best as I could to the message of the poem – that the best we can do is be true to ourselves, that people will break down your life’s works, people will criticise, and people may not feel the same way about things as you might, but to persevere in your own path will be rewarded in the end. If you can make the most of your time on this earth, then “yours is the Earth and all that is in it.” And that view of life, that virtue truly is its own reward, is what I am grateful for.

    • Marie

      Yes, I agree with you – although I’ve never been able to understand that part about gambling everything you have on one throw of the dice – the rest of it makes you feel that that’s what it means to be a good human

      • Jack Maughan

        I think it goes to say that if you can be brave and risk it all, and lose, but not complain because it was due to the risk you took, as it was your own choice to take it – kind of a commentary on how in life you make your own decisions and good or bad you have to continue on.

  • Thorsten Schulte

    At first I thought, this might finally be a question I’d have anything to say about, but as soon as I started thinking about what that might be, I realized, I’d fallen in a Trap! Grateful is not nearly a specific enough question. While I’m very grateful for one book, because it is incredibly enjoying to read (many times over) , there are others that sparked interest in other Fields (yeah I know the history-rollercoaster, too). Even if most of that knowledge might be buried deep (hopefully, otherwise I hope I won’t need it any more ;), but there are so many other rollercoasters out there, and many of them still are running frequently.
    Same goes for Music and Poems…
    So…how to value Gratefulness for different Reasons against each other? I don’t know…

    But because there was a question I still try to answer it as good as I possibly can…and I will go with a book I didn’t even read (yet) 😉

    Aristotle (Reasoning, Logic)

    Because (as I’ve read) it was the first book, promoting these invaluable Tools given to us, which are enabling me, to realize, there is no one thing… I have countless possibilities to chose from, which are no lesser to anything I would rather do! (at least if I have the time ;))

  • Karen Edgerton

    Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It isn’t money or status or power that leaves a mark on the world and those in it after you are gone. It is what you have done and the way you did it that matters.

  • Kate

    A quote by Elizabeth Barett Browning: “Earth is crammed with heaven; And every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off their shoes – the rest sit round it and pluck black berries.”

    Reminds me to see God in the mundane everyday things in life and to be awed by Him.

  • What am I grateful for? Pink Floyd’s 1973 breakthrough album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. The first time I heard it, I was mesmerised. And it gets better every time thereafter.

  • Claire

    ‘It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.’

    Reminding me not to give up on anything I believe in.

  • Dirk

    a book! ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie.

    Rather than the manipulative title suggests it is a book on ‘how to be a nice person’.
    Very practical advice on how to act and react in various social situations. Naturally I am not the most social being out there and this has really changed my life in an positive way since I read it. I was fortunate to read it early in my life (17) and have read it 4 times since. I am 21 now and I am not sure if any book is ever going to have such a great impact on me ever again. I think the world would be a better place if everyone read it, I creates nicer people. 🙂

    • assburgers

      I’m glad to see this book mentioned here. I do think there is a lot of “how to be a salesman” in the book, but the “how to make friends” part is golden. I have Aspergers and at the time I read this book I had no friend and was feeling indeed very lonely.
      I need to have social situations completely explained to me as “rules” or else I am completely oblivious to them. Two years later, even though I am still an awkward ball, I have a few friends who, for some reason, enjoy my company. Also my social anxiety is completely gone.
      This book is a good start if you’re looking for an explanation of some social rules.

      • Dock Miles

        Oddly, and I don’t know quite what it implies, this seems like a crucial “Wait But Why” type of post. Ol’ Dale’s classic remains a favorite of Charles Manson.

        C’mon folks — it’s no more than a guide to “seem like a nice person even if you are not.” One of the greats.

        A truly nice person has a lot more ups and downs and ins and out with everybody they relate to. May make you a crummy salesperson. May make you a straightforward human being.

        • Dirk

          I disagree. It is a book for people who lack the instantaneous verbal creativity/EQ to give more positive responses. It is very useful. I am grateful for it.

          Take this example: In your answer you use ‘C’mon folks–‘ this comes across as you thinking you have a superior taste or moral attitude. Had you used ‘I do not agree’, ‘I feel’ or ‘In my opion’ you would have come across as less antagonizing. This would make me think of you as a nice person. We both win, your reputation has increased, I think I am surrounded by nice people. We are both happy.

          • dirk

            Pointing this out in front of the WBW public is not very nice of me. I admit that.

  • Laura Răus

    I am so grateful for the music of Pink Floyd. If I had to choose (and btw, hating you for this, Tim :)) ), I would go for Brain Damage. I just feel like Pink Floyd totally captures the sociopath in me. And I am grateful for that, as I am not feeling alone anymore. And of course, for the thought provoking poems and beauty of instruments.

  • Maddy

    One piece of art i’m grateful for is David Attenborough’s documentaries. They never cease to amaze me and makes me feel in awe of the living world.

  • Darkwulfz

    i’m beginning to appreciate the artistic value, the creative perspectives and the beauty of the stuff that i listen, read and see. This appreciation for thing came out recently after some struggle against the narrow minded values which are so hard wired in me since i was a kid. so pretty match all that i listen, read and see is making an impact and choosing one among them would be a difficult task.but still i managed to pull together a list:
    Road not taken-robert frost
    the fig tree-sylvia plath
    nuvole bianche-ludvico einaudi
    and the list goes on….

  • Melisa

    One Hundred Years of Solitude; it was the first thing I read that made me think anything was possible.

  • Tim Hatton

    “A Walk in the Woods” -Bill Bryson … Hilarious, inspiring, and…did I mention hilarious?

  • Tom Miller

    My favourite film is Memento.

    I think it’s a masterpiece of film making. The way the story unfolds backwards puts you, the viewer, in the exact position of the protagonist (an excellent Guy Pearce), in that like him, you too do not know what happened five minutes ago.

    When I first saw it, it just blew me away.

    “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different.”

  • Sleeper

    Im Grateful for The Book
    The fault in our stars
    By john green

  • Gretchen Spitsfire

    T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” I am eternally grateful for, as I use so many lines from it daily as mantras.

    “Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    ….. I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.

    ….. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

    It’s an existential life manual.

  • Wiley Keeton

    If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: the Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients by Sheldon Kopp. Wish I had read it when I was 20.

  • al holman

    al holman
    I’m torn between the movies “On the Beach” and “Forbidden Planet” both from the mid 50’s when I was about 12 yrs old. Both sent me on a clear path to studying science and technology, and building a fetish for SciFi. My mind continues open to understanding the wonders of the universe and the the fears of possible futures.

  • Elisma(SouthAfrica)

    Gladiator theme song “Now we are free” by Lisa Gerrard. Allow me to show you why, instead of telling you. Play the song on very high volume but first go lie on your bed in a dark room with your arms and legs spread out and your eyes closed. My favorite part is halfway into the song.

  • Misteja

    I’ve always appreciated “Desiderata.” Simple, but covers pretty much everything:

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

    Max Ehrmann

  • Shelby

    *Sometimes a Great Notion* by Ken Kesey is likely the most under-read but greatest book of the 20th century. I know that sounds overly subjective, but this was the first book that ever validated my own ideas about the ways in which humans, and especially humans who are part of the same immediate or extended family, try and try but cannot find a way to understand each other. *One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest* was pivotal, but *Sometimes* is galaxies away and it changed my life. NOTE: Do not try to teach this book to undergraduates. They will hate you for it.

  • Panda Morse

    Simon and Garfunkel “the Only Living Boy in New York.” And, Echo and the Bunnymen “Ocean Rain.”
    And as Misteja said below, The Desiderata is a beautiful piece to read. My husband and I used the work for our wedding vows. There are way too many influences to list and it’s all so subjective… but art never fails us. Find some, and wallow in it.

  • melissa

    I’m grateful for The Godfather (both the book and the movies). Funny how I encountered the book. I loved Tom Hanks and Meg Ryans’ movie You’ve Got Mail. There’s a particular scene there where Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) started gushing about The Godfather as the I-ching, the sum of all wisdom. This made me very curious so I bought a copy of the book (Really, really good decision buying the book first before watching the movie). I can’t quite express how I felt after reading the book. It was an adrenaline rush of all sorts. It didn’t teach me about violence. It taught me about family and culture. And after watching the movie, it taught me about a certain level of taste and class, and the importance of simple but deep cinematography, which made me love watching films more. I’m grateful because it woke up a side of me that’s hungry and curious for this type of art, which later transformed into a hunger for life, travel, experiences, music, and everything else.

  • Amylynn Marie

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    It is a beautiful story that reminds adults to remain young at heart and constantly search for deeper meanings.

    Every time I’m invited to a baby shower that asks for books instead of cards I always give this book. It’s beyond the reading level they are looking for but I believe it should be read to children at an early age so that grow up loving it and then when they are able to they can appreciate it for it’s more complex themes and meanings. This book has made me a better person.

  • lynnth

    tool – wings for marie /part 2/

    i like the time when i felt the song is about a guy i loved
    and i like the time when i realised it’s about me
    /and about anyone, for that matter/

  • xendawg

    “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, by Annie Dillard. – “I had been my whole life a bell, and did not know it until that moment when I was lifted and struck” Also, “Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance”, and the exposition of the idea of “quality”.

  • Pingback: Hospital Beds Dustin Kensrue | My Health()

  • Betty Nayar

    Harry Potter. It encapsulated all the feelings and worries of my childhood and was a source of comfort throughout my teenage years as well. Its such a lovely series, one I definitely feel I’ve grown up with, and a great avenue to igniting a love of English and well phrased words as well helping me understand themes of love and friendship.

  • laura

    Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” It’s not my favorite of his novels (that would probably go to “In the Skin of a Lion”), but I still remember exactly where I was when I first read it. I was a teenager, and I read the book slowly, and mostly I read it outdoors — sitting in a hammock on my parent’s patio. Ondaatje’s novel introduced me to literature that unveiled characters slowly, where interactions had resonance — maybe not at the time, but later. It showed me how connections can form in unlikely places. And the power of memory and loss. I’ve since read all of Ondaatje’s novels and many other novels that follow a similar style (in that the character’s connections are not always immediately known). I went on to get my MA in literature. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of re-reading the books that have greatly impacted me at different stages of my life. I think I’ll start with this one.

  • laura

    I somehow accidentally disassociated myself from the post below. So I’m going to post again (apologies!).

    Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” It’s not my favorite of his novels (that would probably go to “In the Skin of a Lion”), but I still remember exactly where I was when I first read it. I was a teenager, and I read the book slowly, and mostly I read it outdoors — sitting in a hammock on my parent’s patio. Ondaatje’s novel introduced me to literature that unveiled characters slowly, where interactions had resonance — maybe not at the time, but later. It showed me how connections can form in unlikely places. And the power of memory and loss. I’ve since read all of Ondaatje’s novels and many other novels that follow a similar style (in that the character’s connections are not always immediately known). I went on to get my MA in literature. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of re-reading the books that have greatly impacted me at different stages of my life. I think I’ll start with this one.

  • Mike

    Ayn Rand; “The Fountainhead”.

  • Moorkan Ettadi

    The movie ‘Fight Club’. We can really apply that in our life. It tells us that many things we perceive to be important are actually not, like cars, bank balance, money etc. Love that guy Tyler Durden.

  • jonas

    the book “Askitiki” from Nikos Kazantzakis, which is an overview of his philosophical ideas about the world. Made me realise at a young a age when i needed it, that I wasn’t the only who tried to find a meaning in life. It was very relieving to read about someone who had supposedly found it.

  • Anonymous

    There is something I heard a long time ago. It has always inspired me (but it has already been posted, I’m sure) Something called “Commitment” By W.H.Murray. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

  • Philipp

    Siddharta from Herman Hesse. I recommend this book to everyone I ever talk about good books, its a comfort book for tough phases in life, and it is especially helpful when your primary strive for happiness, balance and love seems too overwgelming at times. It gives you perspective, especially when you are young and bright, maybe too bright leading to depression of havoing figured out the world and being sick of it, and it cures you and gives you hope.
    And if you re-read it years later, you will find that you have changed and are still the same, you will find the book more clear and colourful and rewarding and this sensation comes again if you re-re-read it another some years later. It’s fascinating.

  • Madame Blue

    “The soul secure in her existence smiles at the drawn dagger, and defies its point.” (from Cato, by Joseph Addison) I read this quote 10-12 years ago in a newspaper article about 2 cryptograms that Edgar Allen Poe had devised, and had proven extremely difficult to solve. This is the one that scholars solved about 100 years later, and I seem to recall they were still working on the other. The words have stuck with me ever since. They’re a reminder that I know who and what I am now, and that I can maintain my confidence in the face of adversity. They have bolstered me when, in less-confident moments or days, they enter my mind or I find a stray copy of them somewhere (I’ve written or typed the quote several times over the years. Why, I don’t know, but I’m glad I did). And they help me remember that the “daggers” of my teen years can’t hurt me any more.

  • Dave W

    Ender’s Game still stands as one of my favorite books of all time. Say whit you will about the author and his politics of late, but I read that book when I was 12 and it blew my mind. In the 20+ years since, I’ve easily read it another dozen times.

    • Zimm

      There’s a book between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead that details more of Ender and the colonizing of planets ..really interesting.

Home Archive