Hi everyone! I’ve been tasked by Kim, as you already may know, to choose a book or books that have changed my life. This of course is no small task. To review my quarter century of a life and reflect on all the books I’ve read is a large enough task, and picking from that a few outstanding books that have shaped my life is even harder. However, I feel as if I have done just that. I have identified two books which I feel changed the course of my life as I know it. These books are The Giver and Watership Down.
Interestingly enough, I only read one of these books through school. One would think that because these books were so important and life changing, they surely would have been covered in the curriculum of my roughly 12 years of pre-college schooling. However, Watership Down was not. Watership Down was recommended to me by my mother, as she read the book in her youth and really enjoyed it. The copy I inherited was well-worn and seemed to me to be a true “book”. It had a yellowish tinge to the pages, and smelled musty and aged. Perhaps that in and of itself was responsible for some of the allure of the book, yet I tend to think that it was the story that captivated me. Written by British author Richard Adams, the book tells the story of a group of rabbits that leave their home (referred to as their “warren”) after one of the rabbits has a premonition that their group will be killed en masse if they do not escape. The book continues to tell the story of this small group of rabbits, as they travel the countryside and try to create a new home. They encounter numerous difficulties and problems along the way, but they persevere in the face of this adversary. I think one of the main themes of this novel that really resonated with me was the idea of independence. The main character, Hazel, is ostracized by his original warren due to the lack of clarity in his premonition, and he is ridiculed. However, the fact that he ignores this and decides to set out on his own to save himself and others is very noble and self-sacrificing. Hazel taught me that viewing myself in the greater context of those around me and thinking of myself as a player in the greater good of my friends and family helped to shape my actions and see how they affected these people. I learned not only to be independent, but to be respectful to the thoughts and feelings of those around me.
The second novel that changed my life was The Giver. This may seem more familiar with those of you reading, as it is often included in curriculums as a book that teaches about self-awareness and the dangers of a society based on close minded thinking. This book introduced me to the dangers of influence, as many of the adults in the novel are taught how to believe and think from a young age, creating a society perfectly built on the morals and ideas of its founders. This idea is even taken to the extreme physically: the world is actually flat and colorless, and the adults are given medication to keep them from having sexual desires and depress their individual feelings. One man, the Giver, is left to hold all the “true” emotions left in the world: pain, suffering, elation, joy, contempt, depression, etc. Although not always called upon, he is the authority when community decisions must be made, as he contains the experience, literally, that is needed to make some decisions. This book shows how modeling one’s thoughts and actions based on too much outside influence and ignoring the true passions and feelings of one’s own heart can have catastrophic results. I feel that as we enter a new political era in this country where people are constantly bombarded with influence and opinion from so-called “experts” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is easy to forget how to feel sometimes. We are often so critical of what others think and what others think of us, that we often mimic others in order to feel accepted. Yes, it is hard to stand out from the crowd, but The Giver shows us that doing just that allows us to gain a whole new perspective and live our lives to the fullest.
So, those are the two books that had a definite impact on my life. It was hard to narrow my choices down, but I believe that it’s fitting that these novels have similar themes. I like to think of them as the themes of my life, as they helped to shape me and make me into the person I am today. It is because of these books that I began to view my life in a different life, and perhaps subconsciously directed me to the career or activities that I do today. I think that reading was a vital part of my upbringing, and I’m excited to see which books do the same to me as I continue to grow in my literary future.
GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Leave a comment below of a book that has helped shape you in who you are today! Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight. Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st. Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only.