He that loves a book…

will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes. – Barrow

List the 5 most important books you’ve ever read. Write a sentence or two about why each book ended up on your list. Do you think those books would have been more or less important had you read them at a different time in your life? Or would each one have effected you just as much regardless of when you read them?

I’ve read so many books in my life, that honestly, this is hard. I can’t remember which have had the most impact on my life, simply because they all seem to bleed together. So instead of five, I came up with a list of four. Or ten. Depends on how you look at it.

In no particular order:

1. Little Women is one of two books I own that I’ve ever had to replace. It was bound to happen though as my first copy was a hand-me-down from when my mom was a little girl. The book is ~40 years old. I’ve read it multiple times, and even though the first few times I read it, I was confused of some of the basics (like the setting. Although I was probably much younger than then intended audience at the time.) But I still got the jist of the story and have always identified with one of the March girls and yearned for a friend like Teddy. And I wouldn’t be surprised if either copy has tear stains where I bawl like a baby every time I even THINK about Beth dying, because losing a sister is far to painful to even imagine happening. I don’t know if I didn’t have sisters and hadn’t been dealt with certain situations that you’ll find out about tomorrow (cliffhanger!) if I would react to the book the same way. It’s effects have yet to diminish the further I get from first reading though.

There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.

2. Harry Potter (All of them. I treat them as one giant book because the British set I have fits into a nice little box and they’re all packaged together so they are one book.) reminds me to have an imagination every time I pick a book up. Sorcerer’s Stone is the second book I’ve ever had to replace. I’ve written ad nauseum about Potter and my feelings on the wonders of the world that was created by Jo Rowling and lives in her words and in our heads. But Harry represents more than than. It represents my childish wonder and the meaning of friends and knowing that you’re born with a family but you also get this awesome family that you chose and to be good and know that you’re stronger than you think you are and sometimes, dumb luck gets you out of the most precarious positions. (Harry beat the most evil wizard to ever live because of his mother’s love. Oh and because he knew the disarming spell.) And the best part of Harry is that I can always go back to Hogwarts and immediately be that eleven-year-old girl again.

‘Tell me one last thing,’ said Harry. ‘Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?’
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

3. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first ways that I was really exposed to knowing that the world isn’t always what we make it out to be when we’re eleven, especially growing up sheltered in a small town. Like most books, I was reading them far earlier than my classmates and maybe even some before I was completely able to process it all. Here is this girl that is so normal and just wants to know if the boy likes her and wants to have her birthday party and ride her bike but is hunted because of how she worships. And her words…I know they are her innermost thoughts and it feels invasive at times to be reading this teenager’s diary but they are beautiful. She could write. It’s powerful and emotional and awe-inspiring. It’s something I’ve appriciated more as I’ve re-read it.

I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to G-d for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?

4. Just Imagine with Barney. I would ask you all to kindly shut up now. Can you please stop laughing?

I’m honestly not sure if this is the right book, but the cover seemed right on Amazon. I don’t think it exists in this household anymore. Nor am I sure as to why I had a Barney book, as that was more my sister’s area. I do know that a Barney book appeared in my Easter basket (or maybe it was my sisters?) the spring before I was to start kindergarten. And I just started reading it. Not making up words for the pictures, but somehow I figured out that the squiggly lines on the page made sounds and put them together and I was off. Never looked back either. In kindergarten, I was reading chapter books while other kids were still having their parents read them books. I was probably one of the only kids to get yelled at for reading too fast in first grade. I dreaded when we read books out loud in classes through out school because everyone else read too slow and often got reprimanded for not paying attention while others read. (I was pages and pages ahead.) I read the entire YA section of my local library somewhere early in middle school, and finished the school library’s selections long before it was time to move on. That stupid book with that stupid dinosaur gave me the final push that I needed to discover this amazing world that’s created with books. The content of this book will never matter, it’s what it gave me that I will be forever thankful.

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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