I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I was definitely one of those kids that always had a book in hand, or tucked under my arm, just in case I had time. I sat in science class with my textbook propped up on my lap and my ‘real’ book inside so that the teacher thought I was absorbed in the boring words.
I stayed up late, flashlight in hand, reading until the words blurred on the page. I suffered for reading a good book, but I would read bad ones, too. I’ve just always loved the written word.
In looking back on my life there are books that literally changed me, made me think differently, caused me to view the world from a completely different perspective. I consider this to be a great thing. I’m still adding books to this list, but here’s a start:
1. The Velveteen Rabbit -by Margery Williams
This is one of the first books I remember having read to me. I identified so strongly with the child who had to have their favorite toy taken away. I felt so sad for the bunny, too. Now, as an adult I identify with the rabbit. I have written about it before, but I believe that I have been loved into being real, too.
2. The Hundred Dresses – by Eleanor Estes
My second grade teacher read this aloud to our class and then gifted me with a copy. The ending surprised me so much. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book transformed how I looked at people, but especially immigrants.
3. Rebecca’s World – by Terry Nation
This is one that I stumbled across in 5th grade. I used to go to our school library and browse for as long as I could. I found this book on the shelves and sat down on the orange vinyl cushions scattered about the library and read until it was time to go home. I think I got in trouble because I didn’t want to return this book.
4. The Hobbit – by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dad read this aloud to my brother and I, or maybe it was both of my brothers and I. What I do know is that we loved it. I looked forward to finding out what happened with Bilbo and Gollum every evening. I’d say it was also during this time that I knew I wanted to be a writer.
5. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – by Judy Blume
I was in sixth grade when I read this and loved it. If you were a girl born in the 70’s you absolutely read this book. If you didn’t, you should.
6. The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger
I found a copy of this book in my Grandpa’s coat closet. I think it was during 7th grade, and I think it may have been right he after he died. The book had a picture of Holden on the cover, wearing his hunter’s hat. I loved everything about the book, even what I didn’t quite understand at that age. I read that book every year. I adored Holden and his quirks, I loved him for his weird vocabulary. I also couldn’t stand him and found myself squirming during some of his conversations with adults. I think that’s why I liked this book so much. Holden isn’t completely likable but he’s recognizable in each of us. My daughters read it and hated it, so that stinks. I guess they’re a couple of phonies.
7. Gone with the Wind – by Margaret Mitchell
I don’t know what possessed me to read this book in middle school. I’m sure it was to avoid doing school work. It was the first historical fiction I had ever read and enhanced my love of history. I’d also never gotten to know characters so well, some I loved and some I hated. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship really confused me . That hasn’t changed. This book allowed me to see how description creates a strong sense of place when reading. It also taught me that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.
8. Julie of the Wolves – by Jean Craighead George
I picked out this book because my mother’s name is Julie. It’s a very intense story that gave me a look at a completely different way of life. It caused me to see that we are each experiencing life in very different ways. Julie is 13 and I was probably around that age when I read the book.I think I’d probably always assumed that all of us humans had pretty similar life experiences.
9. The Color Purple – by Alice Walker
I’d say this book is in my top 5 all-time favorites. The scope is incredible. I learned so much about slavery and racism, but also about how those issues are entrenched into our society. The book also illustrates the deep cords of relationship. I used to re-read it every summer. It’s been five or six years, so it’s probably time again.
10. Lord of the Flies – by William Golding
I’m sure I had to read it for school. I know I stayed up all night to finish it, and it may be when I decided to homeschool my future children.
I’m kidding about that. But really, this book made me think about society, groups, and the behaviors that drive us.
11. The Princess Bride – by William Goldman
This was one of my best friend’s favorite books so I had to read it. It is so great, so funny. Again, better than the movie. I also learned how to use humor in writing from this book. I wanted to name our first son Wesley because of this book. Maybe I’ll get a puppy, or an R.O.U.S.
So that’s the top 11. There’s more to the list, but those are the ones I read between the ages of 10 and 18 that had the biggest impact on me. In high school I entered an embarrassing Harlequin romance novel phase that I’d rather not speak of. When I met my darling husband I began reading in earnest again. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Tolkien were staples of the early years of our marriage.
What got me thinking of this list is the book I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It’s another life-changing book, at least for me. Zusak’s writing is amazing. It’s literary. It’s beautiful. The story is one that has stuck with me. I was taking a writing class at the time I read it and I felt so jealous that he’d been able to write all of this beautiful stuff.
Speaking of the writer’s class, my big news I wanted to share is that an essay I wrote (in the writing class I was telling you about) has been accepted for publication in Mother’s Always Write, an literary publication celebrating motherhood. The essays and poetry in MAW are inspiring as well as beautiful. Go check out their site and for any aspiring writers I highly encourage you to look at their Writer’s Boot Camp. This helped me take my writing to another level.
So, I’m curious…
Are there any books that have remained with you long after you read them? If so, what are they? I’d love to know. I’m always on the hunt for a good read.
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