My mother’s nickname for me, during my childhood and into my late teens, was bookworm. “Have you got your nose buried in a book again, Bookworm?” was the phrase that rang throughout the house on a regular basis! Being raised by an English teacher probably had something to do with it. 🙂
I loved my books. They were an instant escape from the doldrums of life. In an instant I could be transported to another dimension in time, be another person, see amazing things and feel emotions that were foreign to me. The way an author could weave their spell with only their words, but what rich and luscious words they were.
As I got older something happened. I began to read less and less. Well that’s not entirely correct…I read loads of text books, specifically on Calculus, Biology and Physics. Reading for pleasure no longer occurred as the demands of University and then real life work took hold.
When I took time off to have my first child, I was suddenly left with a lot of spare time. That’s when I rediscovered my love for reading again. I blame my friend George, who got me hooked on Katie Fforde’s fabulously optimistic struggles of strong women characters. The friendships, the overcoming of obstacles and the hint of new starts was all very intoxicating.
I have vowed to never let reading leave my life again and to always make a conscious effort to read something just for me every year!
As the new year has just begun I have decided to do some research and make a list of must reads for 2017. That got me thinking to the past and of all the fabulous literary journeys I have been on. Some book titles are forgotten, but the story remains and some books changed me as a person. You know the one’s I mean? Where each step in the journey, each turn of the page, a new connection is formed in your brain and you begin to see the world in a whole new light, never to be the same again!
Here is my top 5 Life Changing Book List (in no particular order)
1. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
The first book, I read, where I really began to understand the power of imagery brought to life through the magical interlacing of words. Set in America during the Great Depression. Taking you on a vivid journey of one family’s fight to survive after they have lost everything.
“She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt or fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build laughter out of inadequate materials…. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
2. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findley
In grade 12 I was given a choice of books to read by Canadian authors. I chose Not Wanted on the Voyage. Timothy Findley takes you on a breath taking and often uneasy journey. This is Noah’s Ark in a whole new light. I will never look at dolphins or unicorns in the same way!
“…with every new manoeuvre, the light was growing dimmer–fading by numbers as well as strength–and the sound could no longer be heard, but only the pulse of it–seen going out in the darkness–losing its edges–caving in at its centre–webbing, now, as if a spider was spinning against the rain–until the last few strands of brightness fell–and were extinguished–silenced and removed from life and from all that lives forever.
And the bell tolled–but the ark, as ever, was adamant. Its shape had taken on a voice. And the voice said: no.”
― Timothy Findley, Not Wanted On the Voyage
3.The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart (aka George Cockcroft)
Wow, what to say about The Dice Man…other than bloody brilliant! The entire concept is completely insane and intoxicating all at the same time! Following the downward spiral into unhinged psychological unravelling where one man gives his life over to the power of the dice. Side splittingly funny and squirmingly awkward! I don’t read many books more than once, but this is one that called to me again and again!
“Indecisive? Uncertain? Worried? Let the rolling ivory tumble your burdens away. $2.50 per pair.”
― Luke Rhinehart, The Dice Man
4.The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
This is one of those books that spoke directly to my soul. Peekay’s haphazard journey through life in Africa and the key characters that support and challenge him along the way to becoming one of the greatest boxers is truly exceptional. The inspiring struggle, against all odds and the most beautiful words to weave it all together.
“The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”
― Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
5.The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
One of my oldest and dearest friends, Isabelle, recommended this book to me while I suffered with post-natal depression. I was feeling lost and blue. I had stopped drawing and writing. When I told my friend she said that this book was an absolute must to helping me get back into my creative groove. A week later, while wondering through a book store in London’s Soho, I spotted it and knew instantly that this was a game changer. A twelve-week journey to rediscovering your creative self and helping to quieten the voice of the inner critic. Brilliant! Julia has a wonderful way with words that help you dive deep into your darkest corners to uncover and banish the demons that prevent you from trying!
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”
― Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
Bonus: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O – Shel Silverstein
I had to add this one in. When I divorced 4 years ago it was one of the darkest periods of my life. Things had gone horribly wrong and I wasn’t sure I would ever recover from the guilt and great sense of loss that accompanied it. Again, my fabulous friend, Isabelle sent me the video of this book (someone put it into cartoon form – how cool). Upon watching the video, I sobbed like a baby. It made sense and it was the absolute beginning of my journey to self-forgiveness and learning how to be an individual person. Not part of a couple, a wife or a partner, just me. Thank you Isabelle!
See Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O here.
What books have changed your life? Please feel free to share.