You know how you can be listening to the radio and a song comes on and suddenly you are thrust back in time to a specific moment? Or a smell that brings you back to your childhood? Because I grew up as a bookworm (and still am), I get that way with books.
There are so many books that have influenced my life at different times. That “influence” changes each time I re-read a book; sometimes it becomes more profound, sometimes less. But I always think back to the first time reading that book.
As a 14 year-old romantic, reading “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough was….eye-opening. I thought it was the most romantic, meaningful, greatest love story ever. When I went back and tried reading it again, as an older, wiser (perhaps more jaded?) woman, I was not nearly as impressed. But for my teenage years it was the love story of all love stories.
When I read “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald the opposite was true. It had no significant meaning for me until I read it again as an adult. As I was re-reading it in college and then again in my late-twenties, I found myself reflecting back to that high school class and some of the discussions I remember the teacher trying to have with us. How I wished I could go back and talk to him about it now!
In college I read “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. It was the moment I knew an English major was for me and that teaching was in my future. It still stands as one of my favorite books.
I first read “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in high school, in French. When I read it later, in English, I picked up a lot of the little things I missed while reading it in French, but truly appreciated the story in its original language a lot more. French is a beautiful language and it fits perfectly with this lovely little book.
I was in my mid-20s when a co-worker loaned me “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton. It was in February, which was the perfect time to read this novella as it matched with the dreary landscape and mood of the book. Every winter, post-holidays, I find myself wanting to pick it up and read it again.
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho was introduced to me my freshman year in college, by a guy I liked. The book left a much more lasting impression than he ever did. I do think of him and that year in school each time I read this book. But mainly just as a “thank god I got something out of that relationship.”
But, the book that influenced me the most, at a very young age, was “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl. I know where I was when I read it (my grandma’s house), the season (winter), and the smell of the house (stew cooking, windows fogged because of the steam in the kitchen). But most of all, it was the first book that completely took me out of my world of sadness (my father had passed away the year prior) and into a fantasy world where anything was possible.
The excitement it created in me is something I’ll never forget. A true desire to read everything I could get my hands on and a need to WRITE. It taught me that anything I could dream up I could write a story about. I mean, “James and the Giant Peach” is all about a little boy and a group of human-sized insects going on an adventure in a giant peach. If that’s not enough to inspire the imagination, I don’t know what is.
I read “James and the Giant Peach” again, recently, and a whole new excitement was born. I cannot wait to read this book…and so many others…to my children. And I cannot wait to see what that inspires in them.
What books have made a lasting impression on you?