I started thinking about why I began writing, why I love it so much. My initial thought was the first Creative Writing course I ever took in high school. I had finally found a place where I was understood, where I could be myself, where I could release emotions by placing words strategically on a page. It was a great feeling. But I wouldn’t have taken the class if I hadn’t read one particular book…To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In thinking about To Kill a Mockingbird, I came up with a list of books that have and continue to change my life and shape the way I write. Books change lives. I’m sure of it.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Synopsis from Amazon.com: ” ‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and
unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscious of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man’s struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.”
Why it Changed My Life: I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird when I was a Freshman in high school. I wasn’t in love with reading at the time, but from the first page Lee’s novel, I was hooked. There was no going back. This book is the reason I studied literature in college, introduced me to one of my mentors, became my all time favorite book, and made me yearn to be a writer. Harper Lee, I am forever grateful for you and your magnificent work.
The Dive from Clausen’s Pier: A Novel by Ann Packer
Synopsis from Amazon.com: “At the age of twenty-three Carrie Bell has spent her entire life in Wisconsin, with the same best friend and the same dependable, easygoing, high school sweetheart. Now to her dismay she has begun to find this life suffocating and is considering leaving it–and Mike–behind. But when Mike is paralyzed in a diving accident, leaving seems unforgivable and yet more necessary than ever. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier: A Novel animates this dilemma–and Carrie’s startling response to it–with the narrative assurance, exacting realism, and moral complexity we expect from the very best fiction.”
Why it Changed My Life: When I read Ann Packer’s The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, I was in a tumultuous relationship. I could relate to Carrie. She was more real to me than any other character I had ever read. She made poor choices; she made good choices. She had dreams and failures. Her emotions were so real. Her issues were so real. The plot and Ann Packer’s characters helped me deal with my own emotions and relationship issues.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Synopsis from Amazon.com: “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon
diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears
at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.”
Why it changed my life: I read this book a few months after losing a good friend to cancer. And while, I didn’t always agree with Hazel’s point of view, the book was absolutely, tragically beautiful. It was funny, eccentric, sad, tragic, and extremely heart warming. It helped me cope with losing my friend. In a way I felt like I was destined to find that book at that point in my life. It’s one of my absolute favorite books in the entire world. John Green quickly became one of my favorite authors. I recommend The Fault in our Stars to almost everyone I meet that enjoys reading. I love the title; I love everything about the book. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t think of Green’s story. It’s story that breaks your heart and stays with you for always.
31 Dates in 31 Days by Tamara Duricka Johnson
Synopsis from Amazon.com: “On the eve of her 31st birthday, after yet another painful breakup, Tamara Duricka Johnson decides it’s time to overhaul her dating habits. When a friend jokingly suggests that she embark on a “dating project,” inspiration strikes: in honor of turning 31, she’ll go on 31 dates in 31 days — and resist the urge to turn each date into her next relationship. Instead, she’ll have to wait until the 31st date to pick one of the 30 men to go out with a second time. Some dates are awful, while others are amazing—but all of them help change her attitude about dating and men in general. She opens up to the world around her and develops a handful of crushes, making it difficult to decide who will be the lucky final date. In the end, though, she realizes there’s only one man of the entire thirty that she can see herself marrying — and one year later, she does. Chatty, fun, and confessional, 31 Dates in 31 Days is an entertaining journey that offers astute insights into the modern dating scene.”
Why it changed my life: Over this past summer, after almost three years of singlehood, a friend of mine recommended 31 Dates in 31 Days. After reading the synopsis, I was instantly hooked and purchased the kindle edition. I could relate to Tamara’s frustration with dating, as I was experiencing the same frustration. I was quickly becoming discouraged with dating and finding “the one”. Reading Tamara’s book felt like talking to an old friend. I was so taken with her project that I decided to reach out to her and create my own little dating project through her guidance. I went on a series of interesting dates during the month of July. I also began meeting with Tamara for dating coaching sessions via Skype. Because of 31 Dates in 31 Days, I put myself out there, went out on more dates than I would have normally gone on in 1 month, and I made a new friend in Tamara.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen
Synopsis from Amazon.com: “In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world—no matter how out-of-place they feel. Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes. Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past? Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.”
Why it changed my life: This book was another recommendation from a friend of mine. I knew instantly that I would love it and I was not wrong. Allen’s book is whimsical, eccentric, and absolutely stunning. The story and Allen’s writing took my breath away. It gave me so much inspiration and a new appreciation and love of writing. Reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon was like biting into a decadent, delicious chocolate, a piece you want to savor because it’s THAT good.
These books have made an enormous contribution to my life and have convinced me that authors and their stories can change lives for the better. I look forward to adding more books to my list. And I hope one day my books can make as big an impact on others, as the books above have made on me.