by Paulo Coelho
By the time she's plucked from a Brazilian beach to work as a samba dancer in Switzerland, 22-year-old Maria has long banished love from her life. Her subsequent career move—becoming a prostitute—leads her to philosophize on the nature of love and sex. It also results in a relationship with a handsome artist. "Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly," she writes. Coelho can be corny, and in the hands of a less skilled writer, many of his themes would come off as New Age pap. But his satisfying message is that we are all works of art, constantly creating ourselves.