If you have been on Facebook recently, you have probably seen the "10 Books That Have Stayed With You" meme. Participants have listed 10 books that continue to impact them and then challenge friends to do the same. Author Roxane Gay took it one step further with this post entitled "The Books That Made Me Who I Am". In it she states: "I could not limit a list of important books to a number or a neatly organized list. The list, whatever it might look like, would always be changing because I too am always changing. I am not influenced by books. Instead, I am shaped by them. I am made of flesh and bone and blood. I am also made of books."
It got me to thinking about, not my "favorite" books, not books that have "stayed with me", but the books that have transformed me as a person and that influenced me in different ways throughout my life.
My inquisitiveness must stem from my early love of mystery novels. My mind goes back to the moments spent curled up on the couch as my mom read me the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators Series. I was caught up in the mystery and the knowledge that you could solve the problem if you were observant. As I grew, this was only encouraged by the Sherlock Holmes stories.
My love of the magic and beauty of childhood and home certainly comes from classics like The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, and Paddington Bear. Even now, reading them brings me a sense of peace, safety, and a love of the simple and funny moments in life. As I grew, I learned that comfort and safety isn't guaranteed. But reading The Chronicles of Narnia gave me courage and helped me realize that though God may not always seem close, He is there and has equipped me to face every battle.
My idea of friendship was influenced by Little Women and the Anne of Green Gables series. I always envisioned me and my sisters as being an extension of the March family. We were very close as children and often found our amusement, our encouragement, and our strength within our family circle. And Anne Shirley taught me that it isn't age, gender, class, or proximity that determines if someone can be your friend. It is choosing to see beyond what is visible in people and embracing the spirit within them.
The hopeless romantic in me is fed by the likes of the Jane Austen novels, North and South, Rebecca, and classic fairy tales. I'm a sucker for a romance, and my idea of the perfect man has (for better or worse) certainly been shaped by these stories.
My self-worth, as a person and as a woman, has been influenced by various female characters. Elnora Comstock from A Girl of the Limberlost taught me that self education can take you as far as any structured classroom. Marian Halcomb from The Woman in White taught me that strength, love, and intelligence are more important than traditional beauty. Laura Ingalls from the Little House series taught me to embrace an adventurous spirit and to not let others' ideas of who you should be keep you from living the life you want.
The one book that has had the most influence on me from the very first time I read it was Jane Eyre. As I have grown and matured, it has become what I needed in each stage of life. As a teenager, I reveled in the romance between Jane and Rochester. Now, as an adult, I see in Jane not only the person I am, but also who I want to become. A passionate person enclosed in a quiet frame. Someone who feels that she must do the right thing, no matter how much she wishes not to. Someone who cares about herself and reputation, yet doesn't allow the opinions of others to dictate her life. Someone who is comfortable in solitude, and yet desires true companionship. No matter how the rest of my life turns out, I can't help but feel that this book will always be one of my touchstones.
What about you? What books have shaped your life and the person you have become? Share with us!
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