The Books That Change Your Life

| Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Today's Tune: Kingdom Come

When I was about nine or ten years old, I read a book that curled up inside me and refused to die. It wasn't my first speculative book, or my first book with dark themes, but it was a book that shook the ground beneath my feet and unmoored me from storytelling as I'd known it before. It was beautiful, and sad, and suspenseful, and shocking.

That book was The Giver.

Sometimes books come into your life that you don't just enjoy. They don't flit before you and then disappear again. The Giver is a book that changed what I wanted from fiction. It changed my outlook on life. It changed me. It seeded a love of dystopia and imperfection and melancholy in my heart. It stole my breath when I realized that the characters of this book had been robbed of color. Their lives had been sterilized. Passion had died. And Jonah fought to win it back.

Books like this are why I write. They're why I demand so much of the books I love. This is everything I want to create someday. I'm not there yet, but... maybe one day.

Maybe I could be a genius, too, right?

Is there a book (or books) that you feel changed your life, either as a writer or a reader? What was it?


{ Steph Sessa } at: March 28, 2012 at 5:38 AM said...

LOVED The Giver. Took an English class in college specifically so that I could read it again. As trite as it sounds, I do think Harry Potter changed my outlook as both a reader and writer. I reread it and realized J.K. does so much with each chapter and I always wish I could do the same, lol.

{ Rachel } at: March 28, 2012 at 8:16 AM said...

Great, thought-provoking post.

When I was ten or eleven or so (so 30ish years ago), my parents took me on a road trip to meet my much older half-sister for the first time. She was a college student and we met on her college campus (neutral ground). I don't remember that meeting at all. Or what we did with her that day. Or even what she looked like (other than from pictures).

But I do remember going into the university bookstore, walking the isles and picking up a blue paperback with a girl, holding a sword, riding a horse on the cover. I remember where on the shelf the book was siting. I where how the book section of the store was set up (it's changed several times since then). I remember the 'oh that looks interesting' feel I got when I looked at the cover.

I read that book. And then reread it. And then reread the best parts. And then reread it several thousand more times (I'm not joking - My first and second copies fell into pieces in my hands I read this book so many times. Number three is still on my shelf and I read it about once a year).

I was a horse crazy kid and the chesnut on the cover is what caught my attention.

The story is what kept it. It's an adventure. With a female protagonist who isn't afraid to do what needs to be done. Who takes risks. Who learns. Who becomes not just a girl, but a heroine in a way she never saw coming.

Until I read your post this morning, it'd never occurred to me that this book had shaped me as a writer. But of course it has. Every book I've written (but especially my current MS) is an adventure, about a female protag who isn't afraid to do what needs to be done, takes risks, and learns. My protag is trying to be not just a girl, but a heroine (and it never turns out to be the type of heroine she imagines).

(And now I'm going to copy this all, paste it to my blog and find more connections, because you really got me thinking!)

{ Old Kitty } at: March 28, 2012 at 11:20 AM said...

I'm sure I've said this before, but for me it was "The Outsiders" by SE Hinton.


Take care

{ Mrs. Silverstein } at: March 28, 2012 at 3:40 PM said...

The Giver: the first book I ever talked about with a Boy. I mean, whatever, not like, the boys in my reading group. But a Boy. THE boy, who I had had a crush on since third grade, when my sort-of-friends matter-of-factly demanded to know who I Liked, and I matter-of-factly picked the blond, gangly, adorable new kid. And when you're in the fifth grade and you've Liked a boy since third grade, and never gotten any recognition from him except the time you made him cry by asking him to skate with you during girls' choice at the school roller-skating party, and then The Boy comes up to YOU in class at snack time and says, hey, let me know when you finish that, I can't wait to talk about the ending. Well, then you remember it for your whole life, or at least, clearly, until you're 26 and married (to someone else, because the Boy turned out to be a popular kind of jerky guy the next year when the popular kids emerged). And then when you're in 8th grade, and you find a different Boy, a nicer, nerdier one, you use the same line on him when your English teacher assigns The Giver (and it works, sort of, in that it turns him into your high school best friend.)

Anyway, I have a lot of books that changed my life. But The Giver has my favorite story attached to it :)

{ Rachel } at: March 28, 2012 at 7:31 PM said...

Steph - The Giver also has some superb sequels/companions - Gathering Blue and The Messenger. Both are not well-known which is a shame because they continue Jonas's world and in one of them, Jonas' story.

I am currently a TA for Writing for Children and Young Adults at my college and we had to read The Giver. I've read it at least 3 times for school (for fun in 2nd grade, for school in 4th grade and again for school in 6th grade and of course, in college for this class). It never fails to resonate with me. :-)

The book (series?) that changed my life was Animorphs by KA Applegate. I first began reading them when I was 8 and I realized it was by a woman. I loved this fact. She was a woman and she wrote 54+ books about violence and war for kids. If she could do it, then so could I, has been my mentality since age 8. From then on, I never played "I wonder what my wedding will be like" etc... for me it has always been a game of "what will my signature look like when I sign my first book". :-)

{ We Heart YA } at: March 29, 2012 at 6:26 AM said...

Hm, THE GIVER was not it for us, but we know that feeling. What's awesome is when we still get it from reading books that are being published now. Genius isn't limited only to classics! That realization alone is a huge motivation and inspiration for us.

{ TL Conway } at: March 29, 2012 at 8:45 AM said...

I loved The Giver, but it didn't rock my foundation as much as The Book Thief did. And sadly for me, I only read those two books for the first time in the past three years.

When I was a little girl, I think I started on animal stories a bit too soon. Charlotte's Web, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller... you get the idea. Because of those, to this day I still have a VERY tough time reading books with pets. I just can't do it. The endings set me off into a spiral of sadness where I want to go adopt every shelter animal I can find.

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