Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Books That Changed You

I have to say upfront that this blog is inspired by two events. One is that today is Mother’s Day, and I’m planning to spend a relaxing day both writing and reading. These are among two of my favorite things in life.

The second inspiration comes from an insightful discussion in my writers’ group yesterday about books we’ve been reading. That discussion evolved into a conversation about books that really changed our thinking about all the world, or ourselves, or even inspired us to write.

One of the most influential books I read way back when I was in my 20’s was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you haven’t read the novel, it’s a dark, compelling exploration at what quality and integrity really means, and how some people are truly threatened and/or challenged by these concepts. In some ways, I now find it a prophetic book.

I was also greatly influenced in childhood by Nancy Drew mysteries. The thought of solving a puzzle, of an independent teenager sleuthing her way through life to help others, appealed to me. I remember wondering, could I do that? Could I be as confident and smart and compassionate as that girl? A few years later, I wondered if I could be a writer of mysteries.

Agatha Christie novels changed me again. As I struggled to write my first mystery, I was reading Agatha Christie novels and learning a little about Christie’s life. Here was a successful author who assisted her husband on his archeological digs, and incorporated their work into her stories. Christie’s books taught me how to weave my own work and volunteer experiences into fiction.

To Kill a Mockingbird showed me what good storytelling can be, as did The Color Purple. As a Canadian girl growing up in the 60’s we were taught almost nothing about slavery and the tortuous hardships people suffered. Alice Walker revealed the faces, emotions, trauma, and scars of a part of American history I knew nothing about.

Here’s one I’d forgotten about but really shouldn’t have. Someone on a FB book reading group asked if any of us had read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Oh, my god! If there was ever a book that began to change my thinking about my place in the world, and how I didn’t have to settle for the roles expected of me, it was that book. Thank you Betty Friedan.

Are there books that changed you? If so, let me know. I’d love to hear what they were. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!

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