Friday, June 10, 2011

10 on the 10th - 10 Books That Changed My Life

Welcome, readers! Today I am initiating a new feature on my blog inspired by Shimelle Laine and her Beyond Blogging for Scrapbookers class called 10 on the 10th. Each month on the 10th I will unveil a new listing of 10 - it could be 10 things I love, 10 ideas I Wish I Had First, 10 Favorite Desserts, even 10 Things I Hate This Month.

I really love this feature.

For this month, I wanted to showcase something a bit meaningful and truly personal to me. Ask anyone that knows me well to name one of my defining characteristics and the majority will tell you that I am a reader. I love to read, always have and always will. I am prolific in number and eclectic in taste. I believe that books have the power to shape and change what we know, what we believe and even who we are.

Here are 10 books that changed my life, changed in both big and small ways.

The Velveteen Rabbit is the first book that I remember reading on my own. My mother had read it to me many times and I always associate this story with her. Loving something (or someone) so much that it becomes real is a theme that resonates deeply in me...and has remained with me since my earliest days.

Bridge to Terabithia is beautiful story of friendship, love and loss. It is the first book that touched me so much that I cried. It was also the first time I really identified with a character. I vividly remember sitting at our kitchen table, sobbing as the story came to its close. I was 9 or 10 years old but I knew then that I wanted to be gifted with this type of friendship, a deep, loyal and abiding friendship. And I have...

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was the quintessential coming-of-age novel for girls like me, becoming a young woman in the 1980s. I walked each step with Margaret as she moved, made new friends, had her first crush and even started her period. Her confusion, insecurity and courage were supremely reassuring to an awkward teen like me. I knew if Margaret could do it, then I could, too. This book gave me strength at a time I desperately needed it.

The Handmaid's Tale was a revolutionary read for me, delving into gender roles, feminism, patriarchy, the religious state and childbirth as a reflection of society. It challenged my rather narrow view of the world and pushed me to think of myself in terms of my sex.

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a novel I return to again and again. I love the exploration of spirituality, social justice and fate. This is the first book I ever read that explored the Vietnam War and its effects on America's psyche. It opened my mind and my heart, reinforcing my own belief in God and a commitment to evolving my own life's purpose.

The Prince of Tides introduced me to the wonder that is Pat Conroy. He speaks my language, knows my heart. This story also cultivated a lifelong love of the South Carolina Low Country, despite or maybe because of the very foreignness of this place compared to my own home in the Midwest. A story filled with the beautiful balance of comedy and tragedy, love and loss, forgiveness and rage and family.

Bridget Jones's Diary was the breath of fresh air that brought me laughter, hope and a renewed belief in love when I was scrambling to find a way to believe that I might be happy again after a crushing heartache.

The Harry Potter series holds a very special place in my heart. This is the first set of books that my son and I read together, every one. We started when he was 5 and finished when he was 15. All but the last two novels I read aloud to him, even when he was clearly capable of reading them alone. We shared and inhabited this wondrous world together. We discussed concepts like destiny, magic, sacrifice, love and honor. My son is a fervent crusader for social justice and always looks to uphold the rights of the underdog. I like to think of this as a bit of the "Harry Effect" and it makes me smile.

Life of Pi was an amazing adventure to me, filled with equal parts beauty and horror. Themes dealing with religion, what it means to be human and what it means to be animal captivated my imagination. I dwelt on the nature of solitude and the concept of a strong, independent self. I wondered at my capacity for survival. I questioned if I could kill. And I celebrated in the very notion of being alive.

The Kite Runner is one of the most beautiful and tragic stories I have ever read. Its themes of family, betrayal, shame, love and redemption set against a backdrop of war torn Afghanistan are difficult to read. There is violence and horror, racial and religious persecution that sometimes is sickening, but it is tempered with friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and love that is a balm to the soul.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I'm sure I could come up with another 20 or 30 books that changed my life. But I'm more interested in you right now. What are some of the stories that changed your life?


  1. I may have to check a few of these out as I love to read and haven't read any of these.

  2. nice reading list~I will checksome of them out!

  3. I love reading too, and always enjoying seeing what other's read! Great picks for our 10 things assignment!

  4. Great list, some I've read, some I haven't.

  5. mine would include the alchemist by paulo coelho which made me questions so much about where you come from and where you end up and the journey inbetween, also the power of one by bryce courtney,
    jo xxx

  6. A very interesting list. My book would be A Town Like Alice.

  7. Anne of Green Gables! :)

    Love your list!

  8. This is a great list - I've read many of these too. I love your statement that you are "prolific in number and eclectic in taste." That would describe me; I'm reading five books right now. One of the books that changed my life is Corrie ten Boom's Hiding Place - I highly recommend it.

  9. Great list, I have read quite a few and in fact, just like Melissa you have described me!

  10. Wonderful list - I've read some and added the others to my need to read list.

  11. What a great "10 Things" list, Jenn! It's so thoughtfully composed and useful to your readers. I will be putting a few of your recommendations on my reading list, too. :-)

  12. My life changing book would be To Kill A Mockingbird. My parents read it aloud to us when we were little and then later we read in school.