Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav (Simon & Schuster, $16).

A brilliant and inspiring guide to knowing yourself and living with others. Zukav's work gave me comfort and served as a useful primer on how to behave in the world. It can be read repeatedly, as one learns a different set of lessons each time.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (HarperOne, $15).

Coelho's allegorical tale teaches you to stick to what your gut and soul tell you is your specific pathway. When The Alchemist was first published in Brazil, Coelho was advised it would never be a best-seller, but he went door-to-door selling it. Today, the book is a world classic, translated into 70 languages.

The Bible

It was from the Bible that I learned how to read, and I was always fascinated by the book's generous array of stories and well-defined characters. One can discern within the text a definitive guide for gracious living.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Vintage, $16).

Reading Toni Morrison made me question whether I was really a writer. Her characters are so well drawn that a reader has no doubt about their identities and motives, and she uses them to create deep drama. Morrison's story about an ex-slave haunted by the ghost of the child she murdered is not for the fainthearted and requires deep concentration. But it compels you to stick with it until the end.

Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky (Celestial Arts, $12).

In his guide to living wisely, Jampolsky argues that the answer to all our problems is to cultivate love and compassion for all around us. This is another book that a reader can return to many times.

The Language of Love by Gary Smalley and John Trent (out of print).

I love this book. I've spent my life invested in communications: writing, news reporting, and teaching. Language is the basis of getting along with each other, and also the source of disagreements and wars. Whether you're working on a romantic, family, teacher-pupil, or workplace relationship, it is important to choose the right words and the right times to deploy them in order to build strong bonds of mutual trust.

Melba Pattillo Beals and the other members of the Little Rock Nine stood up to fierce resistance in 1957 Arkansas to integrate a new high school. She has written two new books about the experience, I Will Not Fear and March Forward, Girl.