What early book(s) impacted your life?
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For me, I think it was Why Am I Afraid to Love by John Powell. It was an assigned book for a college class and was my introduction to self-help literature. That class and his book opened my eyes to the possibility of growth through reflection, and changed what I read. My library is now full of such books.
"That's a terrible book!" she said.
"Really?" I asked. "Have you read it?"
"Of course not!" she said.
"Then how do you know it's terrible?" I asked.
I got in trouble for smart-mouthing, but like to think that summer I was 14 was when I started defending free speech against the uninformed.
For me the act of reading changed from work to one of playful exploration and wonder in my early teenage years. At that time I read Issac Asimov's short story Nightfall in Nightfall and other stories.
The story creates a world of multiple suns where it is always day and where the population has never seen the stars. The issue at hand in the story is that the plant is about to experience multiple eclipses that only happen once in 10,000 years. When this happens the background stars will be reveled.
This opened me to the possibilities and wonder of the world around us. My reading has expanded over the years to include more more genres.
I cleaned up 'Gone With the Wind' in about three days when I was twelve - under the bedclothes at night with a torch, as it was a Strictly Forbidden volume.
H. Rider Haggard was another author who contributed to my misspent youth, as mathematics classes were devoted to reading his books, under the desk.
Regardless of the plot, novelists who have attracted me have all possesed a sure touch, and an ear for language.
I also still have my beat-up college copy of Hell's Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las vegas. Loved Thompson not just for being an iconoclast, but for being such a great writer.
Later in grad school I did a paper on Thompson's and Hemingway's "reportorial eye" that affected both their styles. I hadn't really realized how deadpan funny Hemingway could be at times until I saw him in light of Thompson.
In grammar school, I remember being impressed by a book of Greek Mythology. I still love mythology, and perhaps have a broader appreciation now:-).
Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden were my heroines at that time, too. I still love good mystery stories.
Wrinkle in Time was a favorite, but I did not even know the other books about the Murrays existed until about fifteen years ago.
In junior high (late 60's) Stranger in a Strange Land was a bit of a cult book, but I never went on to other Heinlein or other science fiction.
Somehow, my reading diversified in spite of my limited youthful reading. Now I am allowed to stay up with a real light to read, if I want to.
A teacher in Grade 5 introduced me to Science Fiction, Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein for one, and the simple fact that there were other genres out there, ie The Black Stallion for two. What to read?! About the same time I remember reading a book about cats, Egypt, and code writing.
A couple of years later I got stuck in Harlequin world for awhile, but then discovered Jules Verne and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
The next turning point for me was a required read in high school with The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. The same teacher also introduced me to Richard Bach and Biplane and for a long while it was a done deal if the book had planes in the title, or even the cover art. The genre didn't matter, just the plane! What can I say? I also love planes! Another high school teacher forced a poetry assignment on us and that's where I discovered Leonard Cohen, both his poetry and his music.
I never totally write a book off, although I have a few that have been waiting a long time for me to finish them. I've managed to slog my way through a few real clunkers but for the most part I enjoy discovering new books and new authors. The book just has to be well-written and able to draw me in to the author's world, or perspective.
Another event (in addition to #5) that shaped my love the book (we might expand the conversation into that area), was the working with my Dad at his second job (in the evening). He was the janitor of the Huntington Public Library in Long Island in the early 1970's. I got to spend about four hours with him there. He let me vacuum the big downstairs rug, which took about an hour. Then the library was all mine. I enjoyed looking at very old Life magazines in the basement periodical area and got to use old cartridge type move cameras to view documentaries and newsreels from times past. It was wonderful and got a dollar for my vacuuming efforts too.
When I was 13, we moved into a house that had a spare bedroom that we used as a guest room, TV room and book repository combined. We grandly called it The Library and it was always the warmest room in the house during the winter, so everyone other than my post-Brit-hardy Dad would spend much of our time there. I now have most of my parents' books. Mostly uncataloged, as yet.
The first made me aware that girls could be strong and brave. I admired Joan and rather romanticized her death.. but mostly longed for her strength and courage. I tried to emulate her in my own way..
Francie was an avid reader... and she faced a lot of difficulties in life.
It made me feel less alone in my own difficult life...I feel that they helped me get through~We were very poor after my dad left... sometimes hungry poor... my mom and I had issues.. it was often pretty hard..
Iʻm reminded of baseball manager Dick Williams reply when asked his opinion of a second book by Jim Bouton. (Nearly all the other managers had said they liked parts of it and dissented from other parts.) Williams said, "I didnʻt read it, and Iʻm against it." When I read that reaction, the "how do you know..." question came to mind, but I still thought his answer had a certain logic to it --though itʻs not MY logic.
Perhaps you can know in advance that youʻre "against it" without reading it. This would be just a "gut feeling" of course --based on the reputation it picked up by being so much discussed.
Probably my deepest connection was with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I don't know why. My life was as different from Francie as is possible, but the book resonated deep inside. An incredible book.
Funny, I haven't listed any of those books I read as a youth in my collection of books read, yet they were probably more significant to me than a lot of the stuff I've read as an adult.
When my 7th birthday came along in December, my sister gave me a Whitman colored-cover copy of "The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore". The Bobbseys go the the oceanside to visit their cousin Dorothy's family.
Cousin Dorothy was described as beautiful -- and she was firmly of the opinion that girls could do anything boys could do, and she wanted to do them *better*!
It was years before I realized what an impact that book had had on me.......
One book I loved was called Poor Felicity about a very plain and sickly girl on the frontier (Oregon I think) who becomes well and self sufficient. Also, Understood Betsy. I think I liked those books so much because I was mildly handicapped (in an age that was called "crippled")
One of the few books I have read multiple times is Goodbye Mr Chips. I read the book after watching the Master Piece Theater Version of the story (it's still my favorite version.) I guess it's the "teacher in me" that helps create the strong connection for the work and I love the character of Chips.
The story is also connected in my mind to a loved Twilight Zone (TZ) episode "The Changing of the Guard." Check it out on www.hulu.com Another Teacher moment.
I suspect the Chips book and the TZ episode are some of the drivers that caused me to contact many of my past teachers to convey the significance of their time and guidance to my present status and success.
This awareness of student long time success often seems to be a missing piece in a teachers life...not knowing if what they are doing is of any value and is really paying off for their students in the long run.
Books like The Green Hills of Earth by Heinlein that introduced me to science fiction. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall and Beat to Quarters by C. S. Forester got me reading 'Age of Sail' type books.
Elmer Gantry introduced me to Sinclair Lewis, which led to Steinbeck, Hemingway etc.. And way back in the third grade buying my first books with my birthday money Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe.
I hadn't heard of this book, so I looked it up. It sounds pretty out there. I'm curious to know how it impacted you, ilducio?
Slaughterhouse Five which taught me that we don't need nuclear weapons to kill huge numbers of people and destroy beauty.
A Canticle for Leibowitz which taught me that religion and faith can be complex things with mixed messages, some of which are amusing.
Riddley Walker which taught me that language and myth can be manipulated in astonishing ways.
Little Big which taught me that fairy tales for adults can make one cry.
The Cyberiad which taught me that robots can be funny and teach us deep things about the absurdity of being human.
Death in the Afternoon which taught me to understand, love, and feel guilty about the corrida de toros.
I was baptised in what is now the Public library of Wilmington, MA - -a former church.
I think living in a former library would depress me. I get depressed even passing on the bus a bureaucratic building which used to be one of the libraries in which I worked for a few months, though I sometimes visit the building that replaced it as a library.
I always regretted not getting to the Plaza when I learned she had a corner dedicated to her where you could get tea. I rawther think that would have been fun! (Julie Andrews played a wonderful Nanny in the Disney versions of the books.)
Are we twins separated at birth? I also taped a book behind the toilet tank so I could disappear in there with the door locked.
I remember when I was in third grade, my Mom went to school to inform the library nun that she had no right to limit my reading to the books she considered "my grade level". I will always love her for that! And it probably explains why I support the ALA's Banned Books Week!
Loved The Bobsey Twins and Cherry Ames, hated Nancy Drew. But the book I still remember best is The Ship That Flew. History and fantasy - what better combination?