Books That Have Changed Lives

Every summer I have high aspirations of moving through a list of "must-read" books. Now here it is time for my summer to wind down and I gaze longingly at the basket of still unread books wishing I had just a few more weeks to immerse myself in reading. I love to read and I love a variety of books. A fascinating volume I just finished was " The Book That Changed My Life" edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen. Writers wrote short essays on books that changed their lives. Some were expected and others were surprising. Here is a sample of the powerful words these writers penned about the books that changed their lives:

Jacquelyn Mitchard chose "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. " She writes," I take from this book lessons in writing, courage, and the absolutely intransigent necessity for utter honesty. Perhaps because of who I am , and from whence I came, nothing else between two covers has ever meant more to me." That makes me want to read this classic again.

A favorite title many writers chose was "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Susan Vreeland writes," Atticus's lessons of respect for all people and his efforts to instill in Scout a sensitive awareness of others culminate when she greets Arthur Radley with the simplicity of 'Hey, Boo'. It's one of the greatest lines in literature because it acknowledges a human being naturally, on his own terms, without requiring anything of him in return, which is the highest kind of love." I related because I remember getting to that scene in the book and having tears streaming down my face as Scout first greeted Boo Radley. This book changed my life also.

A book I have always wanted to read is "I Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown . After reading what Sebastian Junger expressed in his essay about this book I am more convinced I need to add it to my list. "We wiped out 90 per cent of the native population-even using Gatling guns against Sioux and Cheyenne villages in the last years of conflict. By any modern standard, that is genocide. Dee Brown's great service was to bring that painful truth to a country he clearly loved." When I converse with elders in the community where I teach this book often comes up. The words of Dee Brown helped many of these Native Americans come to terms with the history of their people. I hope to read it soon.

A few other titles recommended in this book are:
" The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison
"Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
"The Nancy Drew Mysteries" by Carolyn Keene
"The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald
"The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell
the Works of Shakespeare
the Bible
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

For book lovers that are always looking for titles to add to a must-read list, this book is a good resource. What books would you add this list that have changed your life? Please share and I will post a book list on the blog.
The love for reading began early for my brother and I. This is a picture I treasure of our dad reading to us on our parent's bed when we were very young.

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  1. Hey Christy! I look forward to reading some of books on your list that I haven't yet read. I sent you an email but just to cover all bases, I would like to add "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser, to your "must read" list. This is my all-time favorite book and one I believe many will enjoy. I continue to LOVE your blog, friend! Keep in touch!

  2. Christy, I have been reading your blog, and Pert's since getting a hot tip about your writings. I have been moved and inspired by both of your writings. So I have created an account, maybe someday in my chaos I can share some of my thoughts as clearly as you and your brother (and sister). I loved the photo of your dad reading to you kids. I was always a bit afraid of your dad. He always was kinda of loud and gruff, but obviously a softy. What a shame so many children you teach do not have a Mom & Dad like yours, or a family like yours. It is tough to learn when we live in a family in crisis. Tom t 1973

  3. It's hard for me to choose a favorite book. There are so many that I love. One I've just started teaching this week is Cry, the Beloved Country. The prose is achingly beautiful, and paints a picture of an equally achingly beautiful country. I had the privilege of visiting South Africa a dozen years ago and it was like stepping off the plane and into the book, so vivid a picture I still had in my mind of what it looked like. Paton tells a powerful story of love and forgiveness here.

  4. Hard for me, too, to choose a favorite. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott for the adult me, the Narnian Chronicles for the kid me.

  5. Dawn: That book has come up over and over as a recommendation. I am going to read it this fall. Thanks for an idea. I am going to put a list together soon for the blog.
    Tom: Thanks for commenting and I appreicate your kind words. Please let me know when you begin posting on your blog. It has opened a whole new world of writing for me. I love it and I think you will also. I was scared of my dad during times in my life also. If you knew him in his later years, especially as he fought his cancer you would have seen a different person. I agree what you said about the students I teach. That is why I provide lots of opportunities for them to come in early, stay late or eat lunch with me so they can read. Many choose to do it.
    Thanks for a book for the list Rondi. I haven't read that book , but will add it to my list.
    Rena: Both of your choices are on my top favorite lists. We will have to share other reading favorites!

  6. Laurie31.8.07

    The Book That Changed my Life sounds awesome. In fact, it sounded like the perfect birthday gift for a friend, so I just ordered it at Amazon (although I'd life to read it first myself). Thanks for the suggestion.

    One of my favorite books is called Five Smooth Stones. It came out in the late 60s, and it deals with the civil rights movement, through the story of one young black man. I need to reread it one of these days.

  7. Five Smooth Stones is on my list also. The emotions of that book stayed with me long after I read it in high school. I did just reread it.You will have to also. It was different just because of what I know now and where our country is with civil rights.

  8. My dad used to read to me at bedtime, also. I remember I had a favorite book of nursery rhymes that I had memorized before I could read. I think it was one of a collection of "Junior Classics." I still had some of the books for many years, and now my oldest daughter has them. She adds to the collection from second-hand stores.


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