Monday, September 14, 2009

The Book That Changed My Life

One of the books I am currently reading is The Book That Changed My Life. It's full of essays by authors about, you guessed it, the book that changed their life. It's very interesting reading for a bibliophile. The kind of book that leads you to another book, or two, or ten. It got me thinking. What book changed my life? Hmmm....

Ummm.... Uh. I dunno. I really don't. I can't point to a single book that changed my life. I've been a voracious reader since before I could read myself. My first complete sentence was, "Momma, weed it to me. Pees?" What? Not a single book that changed my life?


And, yet, it is true to say that every book I read and loved changed my life; at least a little. That's why we read, isn't it? To have our perceptions challenged, our complacencies shaken, our views widened? When we read a great book we get to slip into another skin, try on a new life, a new personality, a new way of thinking. How can that leave you unchanged?

Just Some of the Books That Changed My Life
  • The Lonely Doll is why I fell in love with black and white photography.
  • All-of-a-Kind Family was my first passionate love affair with a book. I checked this one out so often the librarian finally wouldn't let me any more. She said I had to give the other children a chance. I still don't like that woman.
  • Thirty One Brothers and Sisters by Reba Paef Mirsky was the first time I realized that everyone is kin; that we are all more alike than different.
  • I read the Chatain's Guardian for the first time when I was about 13. It showed me exactly what I wanted in a husband. And I waited until I found a Roman of my own. It seemed like I waited forever even though I was only 19 when I found him.
  • The Hiding Place is a book I read over and over again. I've read it about once a year since my first reading at 16. And you know, each time I read it, I fall in love again. Each time I read it, I learn something new.
  • J.B by Archibald MacLeish was the first book I ever read that seemed profound to me. That helped me understand the world with a more adult point of view. It is also the first book I took so immediately into my heart that I memorized lines of it on first reading.
    Blow on the coal of the heart. The candles in churches are out. The lights have gone out in the sky. Blow on the coal of the heart And we'll see by and by . . .
  • I first fell in love with fantasy when I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. That's when I realized how much I had been missing. That's when I vowed never to skip a book again simply because I think I don't like a particular genre.
  • My Antonia is the book that made me realize the deep value in being a story teller.
  • The Bible changes me more with each reading. Every time I open it, I marvel that the ink is dry, it is so real and relevant.

And you? What books changed your life?

The wonderful image above was spotted here. I wish I could tell you about the artist.


Char said...

I couldn't say one either. But so many well loved books that have influenced by life.

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

I'm with you...there is not one definitive book that has changed my life. Instead..they have all enriched it rounding me out to be the person I am today. Hope the week is fabulous!

beth said...

oh wow....what a great question?....there are so many books, where do I start ?

let me think about that for a bit :)


Marilyn Miller said...

That is a difficult question. I remember in high school, senior English class, having a teacher that opened my eyes to books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I had no idea there were books like that. Then I have found spiritual thought books that have come at a time when I was going through difficult times. Then books that have entertained me or books about a woman that I was fascinated by. Books open up many worlds.

An Open Heart said...

I don't have one book that was life changing, but, many that I have loved....but, the only books I have read over and over again are the Mitford series by Jan Karon...they are simple, quaint, comforting and easy to read, like enjoying a warm piece of pie on a cold winter's day.....


Tracy said...

"The Lonely Doll"...Oh, I loved that book too! When I was young reading "Anne of Green Gables" and "Little Women" made huge impression on me--how L.M. Montgomery and Alcott used language and transported a young person to another place that seemed very real and at home really grabbed me. As teenager reading Emily Dickinson had me exploring poetry in a new, exciting, passionate way. And reading British literature of all sorts did too--as I'm a huge Anglophile. Right now Paulo Coelho's books move me--he has a way of taking us to mystical places and encouraging question of the heart and mind. Too hard to pick just one or even a couple books though--too many have made huge impression. Wonderful, thoughtful post, Relyn! Happy Day ((HUGS))

Lubna said...

Hi Relyn,
There are some books that I shall remember.

A basket full of flowers: I read this in the first few years of primary school. Guess it was too big for me, because I did not understand it, did not absorb it. But, my mother had tears rolling down her cheeks when she read it. So this is what I remember it for. I haven't had the courage to find it and read it again.

Black Beauty and A dog so small - Phillipa Pearce (Puffin publication): The latter about a boy who wants a dog badly, cannot get one in the busy city of London -- to much cost and lack of space, so he creates an imaginary dog. They move to a more spacious place, he gets a puppy from his grandfather (the grandfather's dog surprised all by delivering puppies at an old age), now he cannot reconcile to this flesh and blood dog. Ultimately he does. I read this in the third grade and kind of remember every single line in it, I read it over and over again.

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugh: Made me realise that sometimes somethings are beyond our control

The history of Grameen Bank by Mohd Yunus: A recent read, has motivated me enough to search for a job in the micro finance sector

What shall I do with my life by Po Bronson: Yes, this imapacted me enough to realise that I was heading for a burnt out and to take time off and volunteer

Now I want to read, Three Cups of Tea -

So yes, it is true, not just one book but several books have impacted me down the years.


Lubna said...

Oops, forgot to add that Go Kiss the World by Subroto Bagchi - a book about career life and values has become almost a bible and I refer to it regularly.

Mrs. E said...

"Our Town" by Wilder, "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Lee and "Kite Runner" by...well, I can never spell his name!

Jeanne said...

Love your postings on books

I don't know if these books changed my life exactly but some of my favorites

I'll love you Forever
The Giving Tree
The Bible
My Son's baby book I put together for him.............
A tree grows in Brooklyn
Eat Pray Love

Gifts from the Sea
All the Anne of Green Gables Books
Simple Abundance
All books written by friends

The Shack
Many many others
Different books appeal to me at different stages in my life and I love childrens books and fairytales

Love you

Debbie said...

Lord have mercy, this is a hard question. I don't think I can say, actually, which book or books have had the most profound effect on me. I have been a reader all my life and the list is LONG. I could give you a list of my favorite books: The Lord of the Rings, Anne of Green Gables series, D-Day the 6th of June (Stephen Ambrose), David Copperfield (or just about anything by Dickens), Pride and Prejudice (of course), anything by R.F.Delderfield, all of C.S.Lewis.

I had better stop now.

Gigi said...

Oh, my list is long, too, but I'll mention a few. The Secret Garden made me think about friendship as well as the importance of having a special place to go. To Kill a Mockingbird (but you know that already, Relyn, because you know my cats' names!) for its gorgeous storytelling, its rich characters, and its fearlessly ethical stance. I loved Jane Eyre the very first time I read it, and every time since then. It made me think (and makes me think) about holding on, even when all seems hopeless. I first read the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz when I was a sophomore in high school. My dad had just died, and Milosz was a huge comfort. His poems made me want to be a poet. Finally, in college, Virginia Woolf's novels made me realize how very little I actually knew about the possibilities of writing. She opened up a whole new world of possibility.

Oh, my friend, I love this question. I could write about it all day, but I'll stop being a comment hog. Thank you!! xoxo

Derrick said...

Hi Relyn,

This type of question always makes my mind go blank! Although I read a lot, I ever seem to retain intricate detail s of each book. But I can say that Mila 18 by Leon Uris made me see WWII history in a different way.

Someone's Mom said...

I almost hate to admit that my reading tends to be more fluff than substance. I'm always reading. My favorite Christmas gift when I was young was always the stack of new Nancy Drew books. I am such a news junkie, that I'm overloaded with information from CNN or the internet that requires thought and stress. When I pick up my books, I want to simply read and get lost. I lean towards contemporary romance and mystery. Once in while I get into something deeper, but not often.


Ms. K @ Write On Thyme said...

Relyn~ There is one book that left me with such an impression but I've never been able to find it again or remember the author name or title. It was about a young girl who gets her very first library card and the feeling of that will stay with me until the day I die. Wish I knew who it was by and what it was called. I'd love to read it again! Another book that I absolutely loved when I was young and left a most lasting impression on my life was "Island of the Blue Dolphins".
Can't wait to read the book about books that you've posted about here.

smith kaich jones said...

St Exupery's The Little Prince, but not only for the reason you may be thinking. It has been my favorite book for as long as I can remember, but I never mentioned it to anyone unless they asked, and very few asked.

A million years ago when I was in art school, the ever-wonderful Michael & I began to date; one night he called & I complained & whined about a drawing assignment due, a drawing assignment for which I had nothing. Nada. Michael replied that if he were the teacher he would just ask me to draw him a sheep. I was stunned & breathless, this being a bit from the The Little Prince. "You've read that book?", said I. "You've read that book?", said he. "It's my favorite book", he continued.

And so here we are, almost 25 years later. It was the icing on the cake. I knew with the first kiss, but I loved him more for this.

:) Debi

susanna said...

You just brought back memories of being in church and reading a comic about the Boome family - although for all these years I thought it was the Boone family. I distinctly remember some of the those horrifying depictions of life in the camps.

And The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe was one of my sister and my favourite reads, too.

My most favourite books are anything written by Michael Ondaantje. His Through the Slaughter was about a blues musician who slowly went mad and as the story progressed, the writing read like blues music, like someone losing a grip. His English Patient read like the reader has amnesia and broken memories and a wounded soul. His Anil's Ghost read like the reader was transparent, caught in a memory, like a ghost.

A Cuban In London said...

I would not say that there's a particular book that changed my life because reading, to me, is contextual and aspects of it change as you go through life but definitely '1984' and 'The Handmaid's Tale' were eye-openers. Many thanks for your lovely post.

Greetings from London.

PixieDust said...

hmmmm... yup, too many - every, single one, even the ones I stopped reading after a few chapters because I just couldn't get into the story - why didn't I like? Why couldn't I connect? The prose? The subject matter?

Although, one of my favorites is probably LOTR series (yes, I see you and your family are reading this - yay!) I read this to my daughter every summer beginning when she was in my tummy, having fallen in love with it so many, many years ago.



Jessica said...

I saw someone write up that book just recently and made a mental note to check it out.
The book that changed my life was a book about a mouse. That's all I remember. And maybe a maze, perhaps. It was the book I read in preschool that I loved so much. The first book that I "read" over and over. I have never been able to find it, but I have searched. It opened my world to the magic which is words on a page and what a wonderful journey it has been.

Elle Bee said...

When I was young I loved Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume.

kath said...

Hi Relyn, I have a hard time choosing, Margie keeps me in book titles, she has an amazing memory for books and authors. I remember Black Beauty being the first book that made me cry. I remember being transported to a special place by a book or series of books I read in grade 3 or 4, I suspect it was the Secret Garden but cannot go back to read it to see in case the memory gets ruined.
As an adult? Every book changes my life, I always take something away.
We are enjoying being on your Goodreads contacts because you are indeed a voracious reader!

Jaime said...

Oh I could hug you I miss you so much!!! How are you?
Thank you for your sweet little whispers on my were the little tap on my shoulder that got me writing again.

As I was climbing the mountain this morning, I was thinking about how I would so love to go hide out one of these afternoons in the children's section of my favourite bookstore and immerse myself in comforting images and sweet stories.

It's so good to be here.
So much love to you.

Patti said...

I have so many books that I take a little something from when I finish. I absolutely LOVED Many by Julie Andrews and the Secret Garden which led me to my love of all things English!
WOnderful post Relyn!

Jeanie said...

Hmmm. That's harder than one might think! I'm not sure if they changed my life, but a couple books that made an impact and stuck with me, books I return to, are "A Gift from the Sea" and "The Artist's Way." Oh, and "Simple Abundance." But I suspect when I go to bed in a few minutes here, I'll be thinking about this one, and who knows what will land tomorrow!

Se'Lah said...

Without a doubt, Lucille Clifton's "Poems and a Memoir". Such gripping poetry.

Gotta dust it off now.

Gillian said...

Goodness, too many books, so little time.
Your list is amazing! xo

Bumpkin Bears said...

Hi Relyn, gosh I remember so many wonderful books that I read as a child that have formed who I am now. I feel so lucky now to have many of these old books from my Granny and opening them up and reading the text and seeing the beautiful vintage illustrations takes me right back to those times. I guess my Art now is inspired by many of these reading moments. I'm SO happy that your girl has enjoyed the bunnies on my blog :) Have a lovely weekend, Catherine x

dutchbaby said...

"Jane Eyre" had an impact on me early in life. I read it in Dutch at age 10, then I re-read it in English in high school and again in college. Each reading was so different. I heard there was a prequel recently written. It's about the life of the crazy ex up in the attic.

"The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck was important too.

Roban said...

I need to bookmark this and come back to read all of the comments. Funny, I haven't heard of many that you mentioned, other than "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," and the Bible, of course. For me, I escaped into so many books as a child. They really were my best friends sometimes! Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. Oh, I loved Charles Dickens... "Great Expectations" and "A Tale of Two Cities" were amazing to read. Lately, I've been moved and had my eyes opened by the likes of "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns." We really have no idea how others live, and although both books are fiction, the author speaks from the knowledge he has of his homeland.

Books are amazing as they take us to places we may never see and enlighten us in ways we can't imagine!

Someone's Mom said...

Relyn-thanks for coming back for a second visit to my "Thank You" post. I'm actually on vacation visiting my daughter, so I don't have my etiquette things with me. I taught private classes for little girls. I did a class for
5-6's, and one for 7-8's. We did a series of 6 classes, each with a different topic. They didn't have long attention spans. We worked on telephone etiquette (that is the one that stuck, those little girls all still answer the phone nicely). How to play nicely with others, sharing, please and thank you etc. The older girls had to learn how to write a thank you note, and actually write one to their parents. We spent one session on table manners, and the last class was a dressy formal tea party. They loved it. I quit doing them when my daughter moved to Florida a couple years ago. It really took 2 of us to keep things in check and we did them in the summers on her college break. The girls that came to the classes still talk to me about them. It was fun. I also taught a cooking class for the same age group one summer. It was awful. They had fun, but I almost lost my mind. I only did that one session. I'll be doing a post on RSVP soon, another pet peeve of mine. Thanks for making me feel welcome in the world of blogging.


Anonymous said...

Well I'd love to say there's a book that changed my life, as I too am quite an avid reader, but unfortunately being a guy I don't tend to read the profound life changing books, but more the full of action and adventure style... But then I guess the fact that I read books at all expands my imagination, so any book changes me a little bit more in that sense alone. :)

Anairam said...

I was so impressed that you still remembered all those books from your youth! But actually, when I thought about your question, I could also remember clearly some of the books that I read as a child. Probably not life-changing, although one of the books (the first one I remembered owning) was one that definitely had a lasting effect on me. It was about a little French boy and starts when the alarm wakes him up for school; on his way he folds a boat from his homework and floats it in the water; of course he ends up being late and the teacher folds him a big donkey hat and he has to stand in the corner as punishment. Well!! I'm not sure if my mom got me that book the year before I went to school for a purpose, but it certainly put the fear of God into me! For at least the first 4 years I remained fearful of teachers and their power to humiliate, and I was NEVER late - a compulsion which I have up to this day!

Heart2Heart said...


I love all the books you have listed here and also the reasons that they had such a huge impact in your life.

I loved the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as well and have found myself captured by the Twilight series as well.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Southern Drawl said...

Wonderful choices! When I finally finish school, I want a different book on my night stand every few days.
Thank you for your kind visit. You always make me smile.

Ragamuffin Gal said...

Dear Book Loving Friend of Mine,
I just love this post!!!
First book that changed my life would be "Are You My Mother" which I read over and over as it was the first book I learned to read. The books I kept checking out over and over again were... Across 5 Aprils, Julia, (both of whom had strong female characters) and Black Beauty. My first adult books were The Great Gatsby and Emma. I felt so grown up to be reading about adult stuff as I was about 16.
I love what you say about books changing your life a little at a time ~ I totally get it! See you tomorrow...I'm just hanging on to the last little bit of the weekend.
Love you, kt

Sarah said...

You are right, it is a tough one! One book that I immediately thought of as I read was "Once On A Time" by A.A. Milne. It is a comical fairy tale. I remember I absolutely loved the character of The Countess Belvane. The thing I liked the most about her was the fact that she kept a diary, written in with a feather quill, she wrote verse and she was beautiful. She was quite unscrupulous and ambitious but those bits meant less to me! The idea of carrying around a beautiful diary, a quill and sitting in woods and meadows writing poetry just seemed so lovely!

elizabeth said...

I have way too many to mention!

I always thought I didn't like sci-fi .. and refused to read it .. but a friend finally got me to read Dune. I loved/devoured it - and went out immediately and bought all the rest of the series. I realized that I shouldn't judge a whole genre like that .. because as it turns out, I love sci-fi when it's fantasy like (because i love fantasy), just not when it's the futuristic/techno/sci-fi-y type. :)

denise said...

Well said. The Bell Jar is the first book that comes to mind. It overwhelmed me. Their Eyes Were Watching God is fantastic. I also recall being quite moved by Charlotte's Web when I was a wee little girl. Such emotion for a tot and I absorbed it all...and then came Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Studying for my undergraduate degree burned me out on reading and then The Kitchen God's Wife (my mom's suggestion) brought me back to reading novels again. Recently I've loved reading Michael Ondaatje and Per Petterson. Just finished The English Patient and I'm currently reading Anil's Ghost. Yes,'s been a good book life so far.

Oldies, but Goodies