Happy Sunday, Biblionerds!
Spring is here! I'm deliriously overjoyed that this past winter is behind us. Now the outdoors are no longer off limits and I can begin introducing my son to the wonderful world of sunshine and flora. My spirits are definitely lifted! Projects that I've been working hard on all Fall/Winter are nearly completed and the future looks particularly bright. Yes, it does!
I thought that I'd share a post that's a little bit more on the personal side, just for some variety. I've been thinking so much about books that I'm going to share with Boop as he grows and I wonder about which books it will be that enthrall him the most. Considering this had me mulling over my own favorites, my own literary experiences that meant the most to me or had the most impact. I thought I'd put together a bit of a list and share some of them with you all.
This list is most certainly not an exhaustive one, because there have been several books that have reached me somewhere deep inside and left a shining little star there. In particular, I'm going to be mentioning books that turned my world deliciously (and sometimes frighteningly) upside down and inside out.
"The Giver" by Lois Lowry - I read this book in the 7th grade - just before I turned 13. It was required reading in our English class and it stayed with me for years. For always, really. I read it again as an adult and had a completely different experience (though, just as impacting a one). As a young reader I was hit by the idea that there could ever be a world where people were happy being the SAME. I also couldn't fathom a place where it was okay to MURDER BABIES. The idea of giving over memories, of sharing stories, and passing on history to future generations struck me as important and incredibly romantic. I never stopped believing in that ideal - that sharing stories, the past, is part of what makes our "now" so colorful.
"Matilda" by Roald Dahl- I was the shy girl who didn't interact with other kids at recess because I was too busy READING. I got teased all over the place about it. It got to the point that, by middle school, I didn't even WANT to be around other kids during recess so I took up helping out in the school library. I would even occasionally get in trouble in class for having a book out during lessons.
So imagine my instant adoration of Matilda, a character who not only reads voraciously but also has these amazing POWERS! Do you know how many times I tried to move things with my mind after reading that book? I'd just stare at something for a loooong time and demand it to move. Nothing ever did, of course, but it was always fun.
"A Wrinkle In Time" by Madeleine L'Engle- I can't remember my exact age reading this, but I wasn't a teen yet. I was floored by the dimension traveling, the magical Ms. Whatsit, the brave girl who thinks she's not brave, not pretty, not smart, who ends up being the heroine in the end. As a girl I felt plain and boring, so reading about heroines who felt the same but absolutely were NOT was a balm to me. This is another book that I read again as an adult and it was just as magical as the first time. This will always be one of my favorites.
"Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling- I was in 6th grade when the first book released in the states. My homeroom teacher, Ms. Jones, read it to us in the 15 minute break between last class and end bell. She did all the voices. Ms. Jones was an impressively tall, very slender woman with long black hair that hung straight down her back. She wore large round glasses with lenses thick enough to distort her eyes. She looked like a character from one of Roald Dahl's books. She was my favorite.
Summer came before she could finish the book and I couldn't stand it so I had my mother rush me immediately to the bookstore where I purchased my copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". I read it in a day. My world was full of stars and magic after that and I was completely and entirely obsessed with magical stories from then on out.
"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman - I received a copy of this book on Christmas when I was 13. I read it that summer and I'll never ever forget it. I had a new writing desk and I was obsessed with spraying "White Fantasy Musk" everywhere. My summer was spent daydreaming about sword fights, adventures, and true love. This is one of the books that turned me into a Fantasy nut.
I still love that story and the smell of White Fantasy Musk. I am a proud member of the Princess Bride fanclub! "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya..."
"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck - In high school I was always looking for something new and fascinating to read, especially if it was set in a culture that was entirely different from my own. It was an adventure diving into books that offered me an opportunity to experience something outside of my everyday life. The Good Earth was a book that shook up my reality. It was really the first "literary" fiction I'd ever read that I fell in love with and it's the only book to date that I've ever read more than three times.
It saved my grade in a college level Chinese History course when I did poorly on a HUGE exam because I had been very ill and missed several classes leading up to the test. There was a very strict policy regarding make-ups and I had to take the exam on the date even though I was still not well. The professor was especially kind and allowed me to write a critical/analytical essay on a Chinese Historical Fiction of my choice to offset the poor grade. I was so grateful and actually had a really enjoyable time writing the essay on "The Good Earth", which I was so passionately in love with at the time.
I read several other of Pearl S. Buck's works but none of them stuck with me the way that "The Good Earth" has.
"The Iron Dragon's Daughter" by Michael Swanwick is really one of those books that will go down in my personal history as particularly infamous. My elder brother (who is 9 years my senior) had it in his collection of fantasy books alongside authors such as McCaffrey and Lackey. It was one of my favorite things to do to sneak into his room while he was away in the Navy and rummage through his book collection.
I was ravenous for books with dragons, and this book seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I was much too young for this particular bit of literature. It's hypersexuality was not only over my head, but extremely confusing for me. I was barely a teenager at the time. It was definitely disruptive to my otherwise innocent world view and I was too shocked to talk about it with anyone else.
As an adult woman I can look back and see how that book managed to shape me, even if its impact was mostly negative at the time, and I appreciate the experience.
"Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones. What a glorious, wonderful, incredible reading experience that was for me. I was not introduced to Diana Wynne Jones until I was about 20 years old. Howl's Moving Castle (movie) was released in 2004, when I was a Junior in High School. Instant love. That movie was my soul for so long. I never even realized it was based off of a book by DWJ until I was in college. As soon as I discovered it was a movie adaptation I rushed to the bookstore.
This book, this incredibly beautiful work of literary ART, introduced me to Diana Wynne Jones. I was lucky in a way to come to know her work in my adult life, because by that point she had so many wonderful stories already available and I was never stuck in the breathless agony of waiting for the next publication date. I became a rabid DWJ reader. "Howl's Moving Castle" was everything I'd ever wanted in a book growing up. It's still everything I've always wanted in a book.
Today it is no longer my favorite book. That spot is taken by "Deep Secret" also by Diana Wynne Jones. But Howl's Moving Castle is a close and cozy second.
"Kafka On The Shore" by Haruki Murakami. Oh help me. This was the first book that I ever read by Murakami and it messed with me. I put this book down several times and vowed not to pick it up again, but my curiosity always won out and back I went until I'd finally read the entire thing. As I read the last page I remember thinking that, as uncomfortable as the book made me, I was enthralled. Completely caught up in Murakami's writing style and magical realism. Though "Kafka On The Shore" isn't my favorite Murakami book (that title is reserved for "A Wild Sheep Chase") it's got a solid spot on my "Books I Didn't Want To Like But Just Couldn't Help It" list.
As far as how this particular book changed me, I'd say that it was more of a doorway into books that were outside of my normal reading zone. "Adult" literature that wasn't epic fantasy or science fiction. The odd, meaningful, sticky works that addressed the world in a way I wasn't used to. Murakami is still a favorite.
"Coraline" by Neil Gaiman. Neil. Gaiman. My favorite living author. How dark and creepy and fantastically magical your children's books are. I enjoyed spooky things as a kid. "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" was a favorite series of mine and I was constantly on the hunt for the gently macbre. "Coraline" didn't fall into my hands until I was an adult but it was love at first read and though I knew about Neil Gaiman at the time, I wasn't a dedicated reader until after "Coraline", which introduced me to "The Graveyard Book", which lead to "American Gods" and then on and on from there.
"Coraline" is that perfect balance of whimsical and ghoulish, the book that is pleasantly creepy for young readers and downright scary for adult ones. It's sitting on my "favorite reads" shelf awaiting the day when I take it down to read out loud to my son. I can't wait to go searching for hidden doorways into alternate realities together.
"Skinny Bitch"by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Ah yes. The book that turned me vegetarian. No, I'm not joking. After reading this book back in 2011, I quit meat cold turkey (haha, a pun) and haven't looked back. To be honest, that's all I have to say about this particular read. I can't even remember what it was about the book, exactly, that finally had me taking the leap (one I had only partially considered before), but leap I did and I haven't looked back. Even though I don't have any glowing reviews or fantastic memories about this particular work, it most definitely changed my life and deserves a spot on this list to be sure.
There! Now you know a little bit more about me and my reading history. Would you like to share a book from your past that had an impact? I'd love to know it!
Let's Be Friends!
Auggie is the 30 year old whirlwind owner of Auggie-Talk. A bibliobibuli by nature and a (potentially obsessive) lover of Diana Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman. Not so secrety secret: She's been known to consume toomuch caffeine leading to hyperactive rants about her heinous lack of shelving and the high likelihood that Hermione Granger is her spirit animal.