This one’s for all my bookish readers.
I was inspired awhile back by Jodi’s post to write my own about the books that changed my life.
The books that stick in my head a decade later; the ones that spur me into action.
And I’m always curious, too, what these books are for other people. And what they mean to them.
These books aren’t necessarily ground-breaking literary works of art. Rather, they changed my view of the world, or they changed me somehow, fundamentally. Even if I didn’t know it right away.
Of course, I want to know about yours. Leave me comments!
*Some of these links are affiliate links, so I’ll earn a small commission if you decide to buy ’em (at no extra cost to you).
The Baby-sitters Club: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls – Ann M. Martin
Yes, I’m starting with The Baby-sitters Club.
This was the first novel I ever read, at age seven. Up until then I had no idea why anyone would read a book without images. Lols.
Thus this one is entirely responsible for kickstarting my love affair with books. I used to go to the public library and pick out five books at a time (because that was the limit) and then eenie-meenie-miney-mo them to figure out what to read first. I LIVED for books.
The Grand Escape – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Another children’s book, about two cats running away from home and going on a fun adventure. Why was it life changing? It’s the first book that made me really want to write. I started a whole series called “The Adventures of Lady and Beauty,” based on my two dogs.
The Devil’s Arithmetic – Jane Yolen
I attribute The Devil’s Arithmetic to being the first book to ever rob me of my naive world views. It’s a YA book, and the first I had ever read about the Holocaust. I think I was 11. I had no idea such nightmares could exist in the world, and less than a century before. It totally shattered my life perception.
For years, I read Holocaust books like a maniac, trying to make some sense of the world. I never did.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
When I was an angsty teenager, I stumbled across Sylvia Plath’s poetry. That was back when I actually kind of cared about poetry, but I think it was mostly her tragic life story that drew me in.
But then I read The Bell Jar and fell in utter love. I wish I could find a framed copy of my favourite quote:
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
(I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of my life-changing reads occurred during my adolescent years.)
The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr.
I consider this THE style and grammar bible for writers and wannabe writers. It’s small in size, so it won’t freak you out too much. And it actually makes grammar seem not-so-complicated.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
This is the book that made me really, truly want to become a strong woman writer, like Margaret Atwood. She’s my icon. I absolutely adore her.
I still remember this quote, all these years later: “A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women.”
A close second is her book The Blind Assassin.
The Odyssey – Homer
I ended up studying Classics on a whim, because I didn’t know what else to study. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Reading The Odyssey (as well as The Iliad, and The Aeneid) just kinda blew my mind. The fact that somebody could write an epic poem thousands of years ago and have it still be relevant today was one of the best learning experiences I had throughout university.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams – Wayne Johnston
Wayne Johnston has been able to eloquently put into words what I never could about how it feels to be a travelling Newfoundlander.
I exhausted myself trying to take it all in, noting every little variation and departure from how things were supposed to be. My notion of home and everything in it as ideal, archetypal, was being overthrown. It was as though the definitions of all the words in my vocabulary were expanding at once.
Cape Breton was much like Newfoundland, yet everything seemed slightly off. Light, colours, surface textures, dimensions – objects like telegraph poles, fence posts, mail boxes, which you would think would be the same everywhere, were bigger or smaller or wider by a hair than they were back home. That I was able to detect such subtle differences made me realize how circumscribed my life had been, how little of the world I had seen.
I could reread that excerpt over and over. And Mr. Johnston even signed my book.
A House in the Sky – Amanda Lindhout
Let’s call this another one of those worldview shattering reads, about a young journalist who gets kidnapped in Somalia and for nearly two years is held hostage under unbearably brutal conditions. This book haunted me for weeks after reading it, and I remember feeling so shocked that someone could live through something like this and still so beautifully tell the story.
So what are your life-changing books? I’d love to hear them.