How Books Have Impacted My Life
5/14/2012 12:01:00 AM
After spending so much time talking about books, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how stories have impacted my life.
Books have shaped my life the way little else has. Important moments have always been associated with whatever book I was reading at the time. Starting kindergarten? Well that’s A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, still one of my favorite picture books. Graduating from high school? I was deep into Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. My first real job? The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. And moments that may not have seemed notable were given new meaning if they were associated with a particularly important book. That random summer trip to Connecticut will always be memorable because I was reading The Giver by Lois Lowry for the first time. Christmas Eve 1994 stands out because it was the night I finished Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. In fact, my very earliest memories of childhood are, not surprisingly, of reading and re-reading my first favorite book: A Treasury of Mother Goose illustrated by Hilda Offen. These stories and characters have not only shaped my life, but given my memories of it new meaning.
For a long time, I asked myself, how did this happen? Of course, a person tends to remember her favorite books as a child, the ones that moved her and immersed her in worlds she never wanted to leave (and subsequently entered over and over again). But to have books so enmeshed in my life story? Did that happen to other people? I decided to use this post as an opportunity to reflect. As a very young child I was fortunate to have a mother who read to me for hours every day and a fantastic library right across the street from my house. As soon as we were done with one batch of books, we’d head over to the library where Beverly, the librarian, would help us select more. In between these books, my mother read A Treasury of Mother Goose to me every night (at my request) for years. The book became so tattered and worn that we had to replace it twice. By age two, I had memorized all the rhymes. By age three, all I wanted to do was read the words myself. When I finally started reading several years later, I struggled with the ability to read silently; it was only by reading aloud that I could comprehend what the words meant. I still remember that moment when, all of sudden, I could read in my head. It was early in my first grade year and I was sitting at my desk right after recess. I had glanced at my teacher across the room and then back at my book when all of a sudden it clicked, like riding a bike.
So perhaps because reading dominated so many of my early memories, my brain was primed to associate books with everything else in my life. Perhaps the fact that I had a parent who was dedicated to raising a reader had something to do with it. Or perhaps this connection went back to that early access to a wonderful library and librarian. Or maybe it was a combination of all of these things, and, later in life, friends who craved books as much as I did. It can’t be an accident that Eric, my fiancé, loves reading aloud. Or that one of my best friends in high school introduced me to Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors of all time. And it certainly can’t be a mistake that I now find myself six years deep into the world of children’s publishing.
To make a long story short, I’ve been a member of the Nerdy Book Club for as long as I can remember. I will always feel a twinge when I pick up a copy of Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech or Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli or Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. These books still sit on my bookshelf with all of my memories resting between their pages. And now I wonder, what’s to come? I’m getting married this summer. What book will forever be associated with that event? And what about you? When you think back on the major events in your life - the births, deaths, loves and new beginnings - what books do you remember? What titles shape your life story?