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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Books that change your life


Small press publisher Jacqueline Church Simonds has just posted her list of books that changed her life. Every other book blogger does it, she says, so why not join the throng?

I read her list with intense interest. There were a couple of nods -- Frank Herbert's Dune, and Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions are certainly up there, in my opinion, though I would make a trio by adding Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

There were raised eyebrows, too -- I may have a go at Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, a book I never imagined trying to read. But if it is funny, then I'll certainly give it a try. (Is it as disturbing and compelling as The Kite Runner, I wonder?) But as for Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire ... A long, wet weekend was spent with that book; it had been loaned by a friend who said, "You have to read this," and she was such a good, compatible friend that I was convinced I was in for a long, luxurious read. Instead, I endured three long days of frustration. I just could not get into the story, no matter how hard I tried. But then again, for me the ultimate vampire book is Richard Matheson's I am legend, which I discovered long before it became a cult novel. And of course there is Dracula ...

So, what about the books that changed my life? The list would certainly include Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War and I am the cheese. The first is a study of power and the ultimate hopelessness of mutiny, the second the strangest and most compelling thriller I have ever read. Another thought-provoker was Kate Wilhelm's The Clewiston Test, which made me wonder deeply about the role pain plays in life.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was the first of many wonderful books that have brought the past alive. Melville's Moby-Dick taught me how the facts can be manipulated to create a dark, compelling, multi-layered yarn. Looking at books that stick to the facts, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale has to be the most astonishing piece of research I have ever read.

More to be added as titles come to mind. All suggestions and comments welcome.

2 comments:

Vanda Symon said...

As a youngster T.H White's The Sword in the Stone was a life changer, it was the first chapter book I read which fueled future obsessions which have stayed with me all of my life.

Joan Druett said...

I'd forgotten that book! And yet it had a profound impact on me, too. To that, I would add Beowulf -- much older, of course, but the same introduction to a wonderful world of myth and saga.