All of this talk about Thanksgiving has gotten me thinking about which books I’m most thankful for. You know...those certain books which changed your life or influenced your thoughts and opinions in ways you never thought possible. So I thought I would share my list with you.
And the Band Played On by Randy Shiltz
In 1987, Randy Shiltz, journalist of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote the first comprehensive, investigative report on the AIDS crisis. Documenting multiple points of view from the first known cases to the government failures to prevent the spread of the disease to the doctors scrambling to find a cure, the book reads more like a medical thriller than a dry piece of journalism.
This book changed my thinking in such a profound way. I read it when I was in my early twenties. AIDS didn’t seem very real to me, as I didn’t know anyone who suffered from the disease, and since I was married young, I didn’t think it would be something I would ever have to worry about. What this book did was put a face on the AIDS crisis for me. Even twenty years later, this book is still relevant, and I can’t recommend it enough (although it really is intended for mature audiences).
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
When I was twelve-years-old, I bought a copy of Gone with the Wind. At almost 1,000 pages, the book looked more like a door stop than something I’d be able to read. But I was determined. I knew that if I just took it a sentence at a time, and didn’t think of it as this overwhelming task, I could do it. And I did. And when I was done, I read it again. And again.
Throughout my teens, I read this book at least twenty times. Not only did the story appeal to my youthful romantic sensibilities, but I grew fascinated by the history around the American Civil War. What GWTW taught me was not to be intimidated by literature. Just because a book is large, doesn’t mean it’s got to be difficult. The words between the covers are the same English words I’ve been reading my whole life, nothing to sweat over. In fact, if the story is good enough, I don’t want it to end. I think this is why I love to read series books so much.
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
I first read Love Medicine in a literary criticism class in college, and I fell in love with this extraordinary piece of literature. The book can be read two ways, as a novel or as an intertwining collection of short stories, since each chapter can exist on its own. It focuses on the lives of two Native American families living on a reservation. Many themes thread throughout the book, but one of the most important is what it means to be civilized versus savage, and is assimilation the answer or a detriment.
This book taught me to recognize how the structure of a book can contribute to the author’s meaning. There is nothing in this book that is accidental. Yes, you can read it purely for the story and enjoy it, but once I began picking it apart, I felt like a new world was opening to me. As a result, I changed the way I read books. I look for what the metaphors, the structure, the placement of characters and plot points are telling me.
The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Okay, before you all roll your eyes at me, hear me out. This series did change my life, but not because Edward is so dreamy or Jacob’s abs make me swoon. These books changed the types of books I read, opening up a whole new world for me.
Prior to Twilight, I read exclusively adult, literary fiction, classics or history. When a friend of mine (also a literary fiction reader) suggested I read Twilight, I thought she was crazy. The last young adult book I read was Sweet Valley High in fifth grade. Not only that, I did not read vampire books. (Okay, I was a total snob. I know.) But I decided to give it a shot, because I’d just lost my job and had nothing else to do but read.
Of course, I loved the books, but more than that, I began seeking out other paranormal young adult books, which led to paranormal romance, which led to other types of romance, then sci-fi, etc. As you can see, Twilight was my gateway to all sorts of genres. Now, I read just about anything! It truly changed my life and for that, I’m thankful.
While these four books are not an exhaustive list, I think you get the idea. Now, tell me which books you are thankful for. How have they impacted you or influenced your life? Have you ever had a book change your opinion on particular topic? I’d love to hear your stories!!!