I saw this Tweeted from the Guardian’s feature ‘Comment is Free’ the other day. It made me think. A lot.
A book that has changed my life.
That’s a pretty bold statement to make about some words printed on paper and bound together. Can such a thing really change a life? I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could see what was meant. Books- both novels and non-fiction can leave a lasting impression on a mind, or on emotions. I have said before that I’m a very ‘feeling’ person. I’m regularly and keenly affected by stories in the form of films, words, books, pictures etc. There have been books that have stayed with me profoundly. I remember reading the Harry Potter series and being unable to be around people, or talk to anyone for hours after the turn of the last page. So heavily was I affected.
One of my greatest pleasures has always been to cocoon myself away in a cosy room with a plate of biscuits (preferably chocolate related), a cup of tea, a soft fluffy blanket and a good book. I lose myself and find myself again in a new world, a new time and with new people. I pour so much of myself into a book that it physically hurts to pull myself back to here and now. Note how I don’t say that I bring myself back to the real world. Because when I’m left with a book in my hands, those worlds become as real to me as the one in which I have left my physical body.
So then, back to the question. What book has changed my life? I’m afraid I’m going to completely duck out of answering properly for 2 reasons. Firstly because I could never narrow this down to just one single book and secondly because this is my blog and I can write whatever I want. I will, however, keep my answer to 5 books that have changed my life:
1. A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian
You may not have heard of this one, but you I’m sure have heard of the author because of one of her other books: Goodnight Mister Tom. Another fantastic book. But the reason I have picked A Little Love Song, possibly as the fiction book that has most changed my life, is because it was one of the first proper grown up books I read. It was one of the first stories that took me to another time and another place. I fell in love when I read A Little Love Song. I fell in love with the characters, with a nostalgia that wasn’t my own and with reading itself. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read this book, but each time I feel completely at home and completely content. It’s like pulling a cosy old blanket around me in front of a fire.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This book changed my life because it was the first proper classic that I read. I think I was about 9 or 10 and I was so proud of myself for reading it. This was a proper book. I loved imagining the clothes, the buildings, the rooms, the conversations because they were so different from anything I would ever know. Also this is a captivating story and I still marvel at the emotion and passion in the words. And Mrs Rochester is the scariest villain ever created. I still can’t think about her if I’m alone in the house because it freaks me out so much that I can hardly move.
3. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
I don’t know how many people will have heard of this book. I came across this via some music that I liked from a band called Between the Trees and an organisation that supports people with self harm and depression called To Write Love On Her Arms. Donald Miller has done a lot of support work with both of these. Blue Like Jazz is kind of a rambly book of his thoughts and ideas on life. He talks about relationships and being alone, self-esteem and accepting ourselves, faith and God and a whole load of other things. He’s not a philosopher, he’s just a pretty normal guy who seems to have dealt with a lot and he writes about it honestly and openly. I didn’t feel patronised, and at the end of the book I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit.
4. Harry Potter 1-7 by JK Rowling
I had to put this in because it really truly did change my life. Or at least affect it in a big way. Rowling has received no end of praise and acclaim for the Harry Potter series and the popularity is clear from the films, the merchandise, the theme park rides and the queues of people every day at Kings Cross Station waiting to have their photo taken with half a trolley. But didn’t she do a wondrous thing? Hogwarts, Quiddich, horcruxes, wingardium leviosa, butterbeer, lumos, hippogryphs, Azkaban, the Curciatus Curse, portkeys…. I could go on for pages and pages. These things didn’t exist until Rowling took them from her mind and put them on paper. She hasn’t just affected my life, but the life of our society and the history that we are making.
5. The Bible by various authors
I’m not sure I can legitimately argue that this is one book, but it has changed my life. I believe that what is written in the Bible, in one way or another, is true and has truth. So for me, reading the Bible is a bit like looking through a window at the God I am sure exists. I don’t really need to say much else because it’s pretty clear that that would be life-changing.
There have been many other books- both fiction and non-fiction that have had a lasting impact on my life. I love that. I love that other people, people who I will never meet, have taken thoughts from their own heads and put them down onto paper in such a way that it impacts my own thoughts and way of life.