Books That Changed My Life

Books usually fall into three categories for me: Not for Me, Good, Great.

I love books. As an escapist in the purest form, I've always been greedy about reading anything I could get my hands on. And even the books I don't like, the ones that leave me feeling irritated at the end - I still read them to the end, lose myself in them, and end up irritated only because I could have spent my time reading something better.

I read all the commercial bestsellers because I want to know what people liked about them, and I want to be able to speak up and weigh in when someone mentions a book they've read. And of course there are the authors and books I read and save and read over again because the characters came alive and I love them.

Then there are the books that have the power to change your life. And they're a category all on their own.

The first time I read a book that changed my life was when I read Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I sat on the floor of the gym in the middle of swim practice when everyone else was running laps, and I was physically unable to tear myself away from the book, and my coach let me sit there because I was sobbing. And no matter what came after that moment, I was forever changed.

Then in Prague, a Czech photography student handed me a beat up tattered copy of a book by Milan Kundera and swore it was the best book he'd ever read. Since I'd already burned through all the novels I brought, I read it. And then I read it again, again, and again. I read it so many times, curled up on my bed in the hostel, stretched out on a park bench, scrunched up in a theater seat in the back of one of my classrooms, that I lost count and the binding fell apart before I could ever give it back to him. It was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And it changed me.

Standing in Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, somehow my eyes were drawn to an unusually plain cover for a book in the "fantasy" section - a pale turquoise with a picture of a young girl's legs and shoes. I picked up the trade paperback and one of the booksellers sighed. I bought it, along with nine other books, and cracked it open when I got home. There are a lot of characters that I like, but when I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife I wanted to be Claire Abshire. At one point I cried so hard, I had to stop reading because I couldn't see the words on the pages - everything was too blurry. Again when I closed the cover, I was changed.

It's happened again, and when I least expected it, especially after a friend in the industry didn't have many good things to say about it. But I loved Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It's changed my life.

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1 comment:

Ajax said...

The feeling of finishing a book and wishing there were more to read - just feeling so sad it's over - is one of the most mixed of feelings in the world. It's an awful feeling, but also a little pleasurable because I know I've read something quite incredible.