So – you’re on my Facebook author page, or my website, so you must like reading. You probably love reading. Some of you will love fantasy, but have never read, say, biographies. Others might love everything. You might be the sort of person who reads the back of other people’s newspapers, if you’ve nothing else to hand (or possibly not these days, because who reads newspaper when you’ve got 24 hour news feeds on your phone?). Anyway….I thought it might be interesting to start asking people of my acquaintance the question: what book/books changed your life and why?
So here are some of the responses. I’ve collected a surprising number, so I’ll post a few month. (As some of my dear girlfriends (DGFs) across the globe prefer to keep their anonymity, please forgive my naming system…). And if you’d like to share, send in your nomination via the “contact” page.
John (husband) Age: prefers not to reveal. Clue: definite baby boomer. Lives: Australia
“A book that changed my life? Must have been “Principles of Accounting” in Grade 8. Yep. Never looked back.”
DGF1 Age: prefers not to reveal (spotting a trend?) Lives: Australia
“Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. It was so evocative of time and place and the story was so sad and moving, the family so poor, I had to keep putting it down and waiting a week before I could tackle it again. I was an adult when I read it and living in another State, but it conjured up many thoughts and emotions in respect to my own growing up in Perth. When I look back, I think it made me appreciate what I have, what we all have, and how you can change your life, with determination.”
Former colleague and friend (male)
“Books? Never read them. No time. Plus I’d have to sit still. I’ll read your book if you like though. Well, maybe the first chapter. Or tell you what – can you do me an Executive Summary?”
Jinx the cat. Age: 14 Lives: with me at home.
“Books? I can’t read – I’m a cat. And if I could, it wouldn’t be yours. I heard a dog features prominently in Chapter One of Stone Keeper. I’m hugely offended. Now go away, I’m trying to sleep.
Me (June) Age: cough. Well, you can probably work it out. Let’s say 50 something.
“Books – there are so many I’ve loved to death. But the first standout, the one that scorched its way into my teenage consciousness, was Wuthering Heights. Not because I was thirteen and it was a love story (which I always argue it isn’t, at least not in the normal way) but because it was the first time I realised the full power of language. The way description of character and place can knock you for six, leaving you feeling drained, literally suspended in another world. If you haven’t read it, do.”
DGF2 Age: similar to me. Occupation: writer, sculptor, artist.
“The book that changed my life…? There’s more than one. I guess the first was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I grew up in a wealthy family and had not seen poverty, let alone imagined what it would be like. I read Steinbeck’s novel in 1974, when I was about 14. The events he wrote about felt close: a history just behind my back. The book awakened within me empathy for strangers. I read it again as an adult and it read like propaganda so I’m not sure about re-reading these most significant books. The next book that changed my life was Mila 18 by Leon Uris. I read it when I was about 15. I hadn’t known about the holocaust, or that there were Jewish people in the world, until I read that book. The book triggered my commitment to human rights and strengthened my dislike of patriotism and the opinions of the crowd. The next book was The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, after which I became a feminist and extricated myself from my misogynist marriage. Hopefully, there are more to come.”
William Shakespeare (ghost of). Occupation: World’s Greatest Writer
“A book that changed my life? Surely thou jest. The mountain hath no interest in the molehill. And betimes, I’m much occupied with keeping yon Tudors happy: a task that takes all my ken.”
Ruth (ruthrowlingwrites.wordpress.com) Age: fifty something Lives: Norway
“Once I started reading, which was a struggle as I’m dyslexic, I never stopped. So the most momentous reading experiences were the first ‘proper’ books I read as a child. The first was Prince Caspian from the Narnia series. I didn’t really know what was going on, but it felt magical. The second was Shadow the Sheep Dog by Enid Blyton, a homely tale that turned my everyday life into a romance (I grew up on a farm). I remember these books as a huge breakthrough: the moment I discovered I could read and absorb a story without just struggling with the words.”