I came across asidefromwriting’s post, Tony’s Ramble: Ten books that made me the reader I am today and realized how much certain books mean to me. I mean, some books made emotions well up inside of me or change my point of view about the world, but I never thought about which books made me change my perspective on reading specifically.
Thus, the motivation to write this post.
It’s actually a really difficult post to write, since I’m not thinking directly about the meaning or theme of the story—rather how they affected me as a reader.
But my first pick was rather easy:
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss.
“Now, don’t ask me what Voom is.
I never will know.
But, boy! Let me tell you
It DOES clean up snow!”
According to my mother, I begged everyone to read it over and over to me when I was a toddler.
Translation: My first book love.
What better way to start this list than with the start of my obsession? Dr. Seuss is a genius…a statement I still stand by today. I owned a collection of his books as a kid, and the one that is the most worn out is no other than The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. (And by “worn out” I mean the book was literally in two pieces the last time I saw it.)
I find this ironic since I have a terrible streak of disliking sequels (or at least liking sequels less than the original). But I am more familiar with Cats A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, O, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z than I am with Things #1 and #2. I am more amazed with Cat Z’s ability to turn pink snow white than the Cat is at cleaning an entire house.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I never liked the story of Cinderella. I was too practical for it. I mean, what were the odds that Cinderella has uniquely sized feet? Maybe they are disfigured. She should see a doctor.
But I have worn this book because I love it so much. It was my first parody/re-written tale and since then I’ve read most of Levine’s other books, in addition to other retellings. It has changed my perspective of fairytales and storytelling itself.
I guess Ella Enchanted also counts as my first feminist story if you think hard about it. Ella, compared to Cinderella, isn’t passive. She works hard, choses what she wants, and (most importantly) acts to get what she wants.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Time for a book that changed me because I absolutely hated it.
Seriously, I have a personal vendetta against this book, because the writing is so darn hard. Milton’s style is so elevated and up there, I can barely understand a thing. And it’s not like I have problems with more archaic styles of writing—I love Shakespeare.
I mean the story itself is very good. I like the concept, despite some arguments of blasphemy.
But what was really memorable about this book is that it was the first time I was actually stopped in public while reading to have a conversation about how hard it was to read Paradise Lost. I was suddenly aware of the community around me that read. I mean, everyone reads, but it’s such an independent act I forget that everyone is doing it.
And it was great connecting with others like that.
Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
Sandman was not, by any stretch of the imagination, my first graphic novel. Nor my first encounter with Neil Gaiman, nor my first superhero story. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles, Coraline and Teen Titans take those spots respectively.
But Preludes and Nocturnes holds a special place because it’s so patchwork. There’s references to the DC universe, and to classic literature. It deals with heavy topics, yet has place for humour, gore, and hope.
It’s also the first graphic novel that I got me wanting to read more graphic novels. I’ve still only read the first volume of this series–if only because graphic novels are so darn expensive.
As if I don’t spend too much money on books already…
Girls’ Own by Various Authors
This book is an anthology of short stories, with females as the protagonists. I don’t say “about girls” because frankly the protagonists could have switched gender and still carried the same burdens—that’s one of the lessons this book has given me.
Since it as an anthology, I learned about a lot of different genres in one book, as well as developing an appreciation for a good excerpt or short story.
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
This series isn’t here for the reason you think.
This isn’t the first fantasy series I read. And while it’s probably one of the best, the series is part of this list is not because what I read, but how I read it.
I actually had the hardest time reading this series, and I don’t know why. I have read Philisopher’s Stone seven times, Chamber of Secrets six times, Prisoner of Azkaban five times, etc. If you’ve figured out the pattern, you’ve figured out my problem while reading this series.
I would literally finish one book, and then stop. Whether it be because I forgot to pick up the next one, or I got excited because of another book (because I multi-read), or (I don’t believe this is an actual possibility, but hey you never know, I was a fickle kid) I got bored.
By the time I’d gotten around to the series again, my OCD would kick in or I would have forgotten key points, and I’d have to restart the series.
I love Harry Potter to death, and the story will stay with me forever. But the reading experience I had taught me that I have to persevere to hear a good story. And if you’re stubborn enough, the story is often worth it.
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne
“There is no water and still less soap. We have no city, but lots of hope.”
If shonen anime and juvenile novel series have anything in common, it’s that they will never end.
Those unfamiliar with the term “shonen”, it’s a genre of Japanese animated series directed to males that often deal with adventure, as well as long running. Prime examples are Pokemon, Naruto and Dragonball Z. I saw the first episodes of Pokemon when they first came out in English when I was five years old….five! I’m almost twenty now and the series is still going.
Juvenile fiction is quite similar. My first novels were The Magic Treehouse series, which I borrowed from the school library in groups of five–out of order.
I still haven’t finished the story, I don’t even know why the Tree House was magic. The story basically follows Jack and Annie, who find a time and space travelling tree house and have adventures.
These books were a huge deal to me, not only introducing me to extended narrative but non-fiction since a third of the books had non-fiction companions about the moon or dinosaurs or vikings. Thus sparking my love for both science and reading in one fell swoop.
And I just checked it out on Wikipedia…the latest book was published in (you guessed it) 2014. And there’s a movie too? Now I have to find it…
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
This might be a little surprising but this is a list about the books that changed me as a reader—and this definitely changed me as a reader.
If anything, this book taught to not jump on the bandwagon so quickly. My friends gobbled these books up, and (rather reluctantly) I was drawn into their obsession.
Only to gobble the first three books and then preorder the finale. Which I now realize…the series doesn’t really deserve.
It’s not a good story about romantic relationships, given the premise: staying with someone because you love them despite the fact that they can potentially kill you due to their murderous nature–not really a message you want to send out to teenage girls.
But that realization really changed me as a reader.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
“The enemy’s gate is down.”
Besides being the first serious sci-fi book I’ve ever read (or is that Frankenstein?), Ender’s Game is the first book that forced me to slow down.
Basically, until Ender’s Game, I had been gobbling up books left and right, finishing them faster than I could fill my shelves.
But there was something about Ender’s Game, and my experience reading it, that made me slow down. Instead of gulping down the story, I chewed through it thoughtfully.
…and that’s enough of the eating metaphors.
Paper Towns by John Green
“It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.”
I learned in my first English class in university that all writing is an addition to an ongoing conversation. It was easy to believe in non-fiction.
Paper Towns taught me that this statement is true in fiction too. Something about John Green’s writing hit this idea home with me.
I mean, I know that stories have themes and important ideas and morals, but Paper Towns hit its main theme home, while still allowing for a lot of interpretation and question. And in doing that, it really got me thinking, and thus the conversation was revealed to me.
And I never read books the same way again.
And that makes ten! Did any of these books change your experience as a reader? Have your own list to share? Tell me in the comments below!