I am always intrigued with the idea of books that CHANGE how you think. I was fortunate enough to experience a few of these reads as a child. Fiction stories that not only changed what I thought, but also, I like to think, changed who I became. Now as an adult these books have shifted to more non-fiction, but I still am charged and empowered by a book that makes me think and then CHANGES me.
I’m not talking about books I love. There are plenty of those from childhood including titles like The Little Princess, Secret Garden, Blueberry, Sky Running, and The Blue Fairy Book. These are titles I read again and again. Although I loved their stories, I don’t think they actually changed me. No these books are:
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery is still a favorite as an adult. I got a first edition for my 18thbirthday and I cried. I think I cried because it meant I was heard, my parents, who gifted me the book, knew me, knew how important the story was to me. I became Anne as a child. Maybe I already was Anne: precocious, smart, a little weird, but just longing for a place that is my own. She was her own person; she didn’t change for anyone. She KNEW she was different, but that didn’t effect who she was … well, on occasion it did, but always with disastrous results.
The Giver by Lois Lowery changed the way I thought about books. I hadn’t known before that books could have an unreliable narrator, or that the narrator could not know all the secrets of the story. I realized not everyone has read this book, and I’m super anti-spoilers, so I just have to say that the first time I read the part about the apple sticks with me even now. It reminds me that our perception is not the reality and this was an important lesson to learn as a child (and still as an adult)
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous was such a gripping story for me about how quickly you could fall into the world of drugs. Because this book made me smarter and more cautious, I was devastated to learn, as an adult, that the book wasn’t actually a diary written by a teen (totally makes sense as an adult, but as a kid I wouldn’t have imagined that the publisher was dishonest). I grew up in a sheltered home, in a small town, where I couldn’t imagine even knowing how someone would end up taking drugs and ruining their life. I think the way Alice sort of fell into it made me realize that things happen that are often outside of our control, and maybe we should all have more compassion with each other.
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was a shocking story to me for two reasons. First, here was a girl who looked like me (ie she’s white) and was still persecuted. I had read a lot at this point about other ethnicities who had been treated terribly, but the holocaust made me realize, as a young child, that people are terrible to each other. This was also the beginning of my dislike of stories about war because they were too real – I wanted to use my books as a means of escape. I also think this was the first time I read a book that was beyond my maturity level. I was pretty young, maybe 10 years old, when I read this and I remember Anne’s sexual curiosity making me uncomfortable.
Finally, The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery made me explore the world in a different way. Anne might have been my soul sister, but I WAS Sara. This is the book that started my life-long obsession with writing and why I went to college for Creative Writing. I loved that even adults appreciated her stories.
As an adult I think books change you in a different way. Instead of stories changing my world-view, I’ve been able to experience non-fiction in a way that helps me change the way I think, change my position in the world, and empower me to do more. This is part of the reason I challenged myself this year to read more diversely – to further challenge myself, to be more #woke, to change my awareness of who I am and the world around me.
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis is the book that changed my world last year. Gratitude journals, setting goals, accepting who you are and who you want to be, and being REAL with myself and others are a few of the challenges Rachel gave me thru this book. I’ve just started Girl, Stop Apologizing but I can only assume it will hit a home run for me in the same way. I love how she just tells it like it is, she is honest, sometimes even brutally so, but she says it in a way that makes me want to listen.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson is another book that helped me accept myself. Jenny Lawson, better known by her online moniker “The Bloggess” has lived a life similar to mine. She grew up in a happy home in a somewhat weird small town, she has some unusual collections and hobbies, and she is sometimes stuck down by crippling depression and anxiety. I don’t think I’d read a book before that had made me feel so accepted and understood. I majored in Psychology in college and I still didn’t feel like people understood “my kind” of depression until I read this book. It’s the book I recommend to people if they want to understand people with depression more … plus, it’s hilarious and I highly recommend the audio version that she reads and adds things to.
I know I could go on and on with this list, but I’ve tried to keep this relatively readable (it’s too long, I know, sigh, if you’ve made it this far you definitely get a gold star!). Tell me what other books are life-changing, what have changed how you think of the world, how you think of yourself. What books do I need to add to my own challenge list for the year?