So I have been completely neglecting this whole Blog-Tember Challenge thing for several days. At this point, I think I’m just going to pick and choose prompts on days when I feel like posting something. I’m being very lackadaisical I know, but there’s a lot going on lately.
Prompt: The 5 books that have impacted your life the most.
I love books. I always have, and I always will. I’ve been reading at above a 12th grade level since I was 8, and I’m really happy I got started so early because it opened up so many things for me. Not that R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books everyone else was reading weren’t worthy pursuits, but I have to say that reading The Hobbit was more worthwhile for me at the time.
The problem I’ve always had is that there never seems to be enough time to read all of the things that I want to read. I love such a wide variety of books and what I’m feeling like reading in the moment is constantly changing. It’s not unusual for me to be 1/3 of the way through a (guilty pleasure) paranormal romance while being halfway through a nonfiction book on black holes and nearly finished with some mainstream piece of fiction (currently that one is A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin).
But I think I can pick out 5 books that have had special meaning for me over the years. Maybe.
Now I just need A Brief History of Time
1.) The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I read this one at least once a year. I discovered it at a book fair in middle school, and the copy I bought then is highlighted and written on throughout because at one point I was determined that this book needed to be a movie. I still think it would make a great film, actually.
Anyway, the story is of a young girl who joins her brother in a desert land where he is stationed with their home country’s military. She is more or less adopted by his civilian superior, and while life on the frontier is boring, it’s not half bad. Of course then the dashing young king of the native people from the nearby mountains shows up to try to gain an alliance against the heathen northern peoples. And he has these cool powers that sometimes make him do things he doesn’t understand, like kidnapping the protagonist and training her to fight like one of the Hillfolk.
I love this book because the main character is a strong woman who starts out with no real advantage in her situation and ends up as a true heroine. She’s awkward and gawky and not particularly insecure about herself, but she ends up doing amazing things. As a teenager, this was a brilliant message to receive. Also, it’s well-written and action-packed and just generally a great story overall.
2.) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
I’ve always been more of an Arts and Language person than science-oriented. But I read this in high school, and it inspired a certain awe of the universe in me that I had been sorely lacking up to that point. Black holes and time travel had always been these cools science fiction tropes, but I loved reading about them from a scientific point of view in both this and A Briefer History of Time. I can do math, but I’ve never been fond of it, so I know that a true theoretical physics education/career track is out for me, but I like that this type of book written for the layperson is available.
Also, Stephen Hawking is just a generally amazing person, and one of the great scientific heroes of our time. Fun fact: we have the same birthday.
3.) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I’ve written before about my love of Scarlett O’Hara. And I know that the way race is treated in the book is not kosher, and tons have people have so many problems with it, and some of those issues I can understand. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great book, and while the Civil War setting is incredibly important to it. I can’t help but read it as more of a historical romance. O’Hara is a spoiled brat who wants what she can’t have and thus ends up losing what she really wants and needs. Rhett Butler is a paragon of masculinity and the poster child for communication issues in a relationship. There are so many reason why I shouldn’t like their relationship, but no matter how many times I read it, I root for them to get back together. I want them to work things out and make it.
I like the reality of that situation, though. There isn’t always a happy ending, and sometimes even two people who seem meant to be aren’t going to work. But there’s also that truly important message that home is always there. When the person you love stops loving you, go back to your roots. Or something to that effect. I’m not even sure. I tend to ramble when I start talking about this book because my thoughts on it are all so jumbled and varied and it covers just soooooo much. I’m mostly glad that I maintain my hopeless romantic nature despite this book.
4.) La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, Fils
I bought this at a thrift store when I was 12. It’s the French version. I had recently purchased a French/English dictionary at the school book fair. I have never actually finished reading this book, though. It contains the novel, opera, and stage play, but I haven’t even read one of the three all the way through. At the same time,this book is the reason that I speak (or at least read) French. It’s what got me started on the road to learning the language, and it is what has reinvigorated my resolve over the years. After nearly 11 years of studying, one would think I would have achieved fluency at this point. Unfortunately, I haven’t been consistent enough with it to do that, though I do read the language with near fluency at this point, so that’s something. Someday, I will actually read this book in its entirety.
5.) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This is another book with underlined sentences and notes in the margin everywhere. But not because I wanted to write a script of it. Everything in the book is thought-provoking. And even when it is nonsensical and obviously fallacious logic, it sounds beautiful. Lord Henry is my favorite character. He spouts the most wonderful things that sound beautiful, don’t make sense at first hearing, but then require a second look just in case he’s being sincere without meaning to. It is easy to point to him as the reason for Dorian’s degradation and eventual destruction, but for Dorian to be so easily led points to a flaw in himself. I know the book was basically intended as a philosophical (and it’s Oscar Wilde, so also satirical) look at the society of time, but I have also found another message: Think for yourself.
Honorable mentions: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Emma by Jane Austen; Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde; Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas; Black Coffee Blues by Henry Rollins; Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno.