Books That Changed My Life

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Lost Time by Preston Reed.

Why do we read? Really, it is a valid question. Stories have been around forever (in fact, my theater professor argued that food, shelter, love, and stories are what a human has needed to survive from the beginning of time). But there are some stories that are more important than others. In fact, I dare say there are stories that have changed lives. It has happened to me several times, where a story has changed my whole view of the world.

As you look down my list, you will see that many are "younger" stories. Many of them I did read when I was young. Some, I did not. And here I will let you in on a little secret (we are going deeper I am normally comfortable with)--- this is why I write for the age group I do. This is where stories matter. An adult can pick up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and at the end of it say "that was a nice read" and there will be no more said of it. For a child, or someone who sees with a child's eyes, that book can change their life, like it did for mine.

Here are some books that have changed how I see the world.

By the way, this is all leading up to tomorrow's post. I hope you listen in.

The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I read this when I was very young and to this day I bless my English teacher who was undaunted by the controversy and "banned book" status it still holds. This is one of the books that had one of the most dramatic impacts in my life. It is not your usual dystopia where you immediately know something is wrong. In all appearances, it seems like a perfect society. But as she began to peel back the layers and show the significance of what was missing, I was awestruck. Memories, love, choice, freedom, all these were opened up to me in a deceptively simple but amazingly powerful story. It has never left me and I have never forgotten it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

This was also given to me in that same English class (this was also the teacher that sparked my love of writing. So teachers out there, please don't ever feel that you don't have an impact. You inspire in ways you cannot comprehend). This was one of the first introductions I had to racism and the outright cruelty of some people (but also the goodness of others). I had been given lessons on it before, I'm sure, but this is what finally made me see it. Stories are important. Perhaps because it was seen through the eyes of a child that I could so clearly identify the absurdity of the racism and stereotypes. Even today, I love to go back and find the layers I missed the first, second, or sixth time around. I love Scout, I love all of these characters, and they feel like family.

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.

Something about science fiction in its projections can pack a powerful punch. Such is the case for this book. I read it for fun, but took away a lot more than I expected. It opened my eyes to a world strange and foreign but at the same time one intimately familiar. I saw Mexico completely different, but because I was on their side looking over at what I already knew. It raises many questions that are not easy to answer, but these stories never seem to ask you the question outright. The story makes you ask them of yourself.

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

A required high school read, and one I did not like in the beginning. But it grew on my as the world of South Africa opened up before my eyes and the people began to become more and more real. It transported me in a way, and helped me see things I had never seen together, and helped me piece them together so that they made sense. It was one of the less "impactful" on my list, but it made me see the world differently, all the same.

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Yes, you are beginning to see this cover quite a bit. Unlike most of these others that have so powerfully altered my life, this one is relatively unknown and thoroughly forgotten. But this book changed me nonetheless. As strange as this may sound, this book was the one that opened up the world of possibility for me. Never before had I heard of tengu or Amaratsu, or Lord Emma-O, the Judge of the Dead. I knew Hades, I knew the Greek and Roman gods, even a few Norse ones, and Egyptian too, but who were these? My scope of knowledge felt incredibly lacking then, and this book made me realize how much more there was to know of the world. It was a wake-up call, and a call to me to find these hidden places I knew nothing about. It was transportive and magical and utterly mesmerizing. It made me see possibility, and that is as equally important as anything.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Now this is probably considered the "youngest" book on the list. However, I read this later than any of the others. I read it in college, and my mind still staggers by all it contains. Such a simple story, but one that has such depths to it. A French pilot crashes in the desert and finds a blonde-haired little prince? It seems so outlandish and absurd. But that is what strikes a chord so strongly. It is about belief, and taking that leap of faith, in a way only children seem to be able to do. But the journey is incredible if you can make that leap.

This is part of Color Online's call for books that gave a Paradigm Shift.


Jen said...

I'd add The Catcher in the Rye to the mix and then say you have an amazing list.

The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird forever changed my life, and I too thank my English teacher for showing me the world of words.

Heather said...

I agree about why you write for this age group; this is why I write for YA, too. As a YA/MG author, you have the chance to instill a love of reading in someone for a lifetime. By the time you are dealing with adults, they usually already have reading as a hobby, or they know their favorite genres, etc. You can change lives as a YA author, and I love that.

Ali said...

Nice list! To Kill a Mockingbird was a big one for me, too, and I need to reread it because I can't remember much of anything about it anymore. I need to reread The Little Prince, too, because I think it was read to me when I was too young to really get it.

Kimberly said...

There are quite a few on there that I haven't read, and some of them I didn't read until I was in college. I think a big one for me was A Wrinkle in Time. :D

Anonymous said...

Nice list! I also agree Catcher in the Rye is definitely in there for me.

Juju at Tales of said...

I LOVE The Giver and am getting ready to read The Little Prince for the 1st time. Crazy I know ;)

Celtic Traveler said...

The little Prince is one of my all-time favorites!

Tere Kirkland said...

LOVE the Little Prince, and I push The House of the Scorpion on everyone I know. It's a great novel!

Thanks for the recommendations!