Three Books on my Nightstand

By Sara Hinojosa

Editor’s note: A first-year student from Chicago, Sara Hinojosa, ’22, describes the books she couldn’t leave behind. This assignment is from Sara’s FA18 Media Writing class.


When I decided on a whim to go to school in Alaska, my plan was to fit my life into a single suitcase. Though I was tempted to haul all my favorite books along, I decided on three that I’ve never finished reading: “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer, “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman, and the Bible.

I started “Under the Banner of Heaven” solely because Krakauer, a journalist, is a writer I most aspire to be like. Alaskans may know his earlier book, “Into the Wild,” about Christopher McCandless, who died alone in 1992 in an abandoned bus north of Fairbanks. I admire Krakauer’s ability to help me relate so deeply to people he writes about.

For instance, “Under the Banner of Heaven” centers on Mormon Fundamentalists who live in polygamous and consanguineous marriage groups. Finding this title on my nightstand doesn’t mean I endorse these practices. But it does mean that I’m interested in beliefs of others and why they do what they do.

The same interest in people explains why the novel “A Man Called Ove” is on my nightstand. Backman has a way of making me empathize with a character’s point of view, especially when that character is like Ove – an elderly man who isn’t easy to get along with. This book and Krakauer’s book capture worldviews to explain why people are the way they are. To me, that’s the most interesting thing to learn. It’s something I strive everyday to learn more about.

The last book is one on the nightstands of religious people and modern saints. I’m neither of those, but I think the Bible is the most essential book on my journey. The reason is simple: I grew up in a very religious household and I’ve seen the Bible’s message taken up by close-minded individuals who use it to spread hate or treat the Bible as a list of rules to gain a cozy afterlife.

To me, however, the Bible has less to do with rules and more to do with loving people, regardless of whether you see eye to eye. Though I don’t consider myself religious, I use the Bible to form many of my own beliefs. It has had a strong influence on who I am today.

These three books have less to do with the stories and information in them and more to do with the authors who’ve written them. In each case, the writers share essential lessons and wisdom that broaden my perspective on the world and the people around me. It’s easy to see now why these books traveled 3,500 miles with me to APU.

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