Five Books That Changed Me (Warning: Not An Exclusive List!)
I saw this question “oot thar” somewhere on t’interwebs and thought—what fun, I should do it on “…Anything, Really.” So here goes…
Five Books That Changed Me (Warning: This Is not An Exclusive List!)
I still recall the sheer wonder and delight of that moment when, together with the character of Lucy, I first stepped through the back of a wardrobe and into a snowy wood, illuminated by a solitary lamppost—and a few moments later met a faun (at age 8 I had to look up what a faun was!) carrying an armful of Christmas presents. That moment sparked a lifelong love of fantasy that eventually inspired me to write my own fantastic stories.
I was a precocious reader and so first read Pride & Prejudice at age 9—and again, still remember laughing out loud over Mr Collins’ proposal to Lizzie Bennett. I have reread the book many times since then and each time I discover a new layer of enjoyment, most particularly around Miss Austen’s acute and ironic eye for the frailties of human nature—and am impressed by the way her writing still “speaks” to us, two hundred years on.
I first read Homer’s Daughter somewhere in my teens and loved that not only was the central protagonist a young woman, but a young woman who was using her wits to survive in difficult circumstances—and better still, subsequently wrote/composed (according to the story) The Odyssey based on her experiences! I found this all seriously cool, especially the way Graves wove the threads of myth and the events in the later part of The Odyssey into a story that had a sense of real history—what I now call “legendary history.”
We mostly remember Huxley for Brave New World, but I found Eyeless in Gaza a defining reading experience. I struggled to come to grips with its disjointed chronology and unsympathetic characters, yet the narrative came together in the later stages to the extent that I still think it is one of the most compelling books I have ever read. And it certainly taught me that sometimes it pays to persevere, even with a work that may not initially appeal.
Another compelling read, one that opened up a new style of Science Fiction for me—not “space opera”, but serious speculation about the nature of space travel (eg juxtaposing the “ansible”, faster-than-light communication, with sub-lightspeed travel) and the nature of how societies might evolve with differing sexual, social and political absolutes, as well as the sociological-anthropological responsibility and vulnerability of the outside observer in an alien world. And did I mention—beautiful, spare, powerful writing.
So there you are—that’s my first take on five books that changed me.
How about you: what are your five, (or initial five anyway), or even just one?