Tuesday, 20 December 2016

6 Books That Have Changed My Life

Reading has always been a strong passion of mine. I love how books have the power to allow the reader to escape, live many different lives, and be transported to different worlds. Books have been there for me throughout tough times in my life and have fed my imagination. Some books have even challenged my perceptions, opened my mind and challenged my thinking in profound ways. As digital technology continues to dominate our leisure time, I feel like going back to basics and reading a book often gets overlooked as our attention span rapidly shortens. Reading has so many benefits and throughout my life there have been many books that have stuck with me for many reasons. I would like to share the top six books that have had a profound impact on me at different times of my life.

One of the first books I can recall reading, Matilda made a big impression on me as a young child. It is actually a surprisingly dark story of a very bright girl born into a family who are abusive, whilst she is also subjected to the notorious Miss Trunchball and her tyranny at school. Personally, as a child who thought adults were annoying I delighted in the pranks Matilda concocted to teach the adults in her life a well-deserved lesson and I am pretty sure it inspired me to do some pretty impish things to my own parents. Mainly, I most strongly related to Matilda’s love of reading and how it allows her to bond with other people, learn new things and feed her curiosity. Matilda is a truly timeless story and is just as enjoyable (if not more) to re-read as an adult.

Tuck Everlasting is the first book I can remember reading as a child that inspired philosophical thinking. Winnie is a privileged ten-year-old girl who stumbles upon immortal Jesse Tuck who is drinking from a mysterious spring. Jesse panics and whisks her away to spend time with the rest of his immortal family so that she will understand that she has to keep the spring a secret. The main theme of this book is the meaning of life and death. Winnie’s pivotal decision to drink from the spring or not at the end of the book made a big impression on me at the time and made me understand that death is a natural and integral part of life. A pretty impressive feat for a book that is less than 150 pages.

I could not compile this list without mentioning the magnificent J. K Rowling. I was the same age as eleven-year-old Harry when I read the first book of the Harry Potter series. I grew up with the characters and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first series to properly get me interested in reading as I didn’t read much at all before reading Harry Potter and it was the first series I can ever remember affecting me so much I actually sobbed. I am definitely not the only millennial who feels such a connection to Harry Potter, this series got me through the trials and tribulations of secondary school where I felt completely out of my depth. It taught me the power of friendship, imagination and triumphing over adversity. I think it is amazing what J.K. Rowling has done for so many generations of readers.

Gone with the Wind is not without its flaws but it also has a lot of really positive messages that inspired me. Set in the deep south of the U.S. Scarlett O’Hara is a privileged southern belle whose rich plantation owning family loses everything due to the civil war. Scarlett’s transition from privilege to being dirt poor, and then her subsequent claw out of poverty taught me that tenacity is integral to get through the tough times in life. I think ruthless and resilient Scarlett was the first fictional character that inspired me to take a non-nonsense approach to my own problems in life and reminded me to remember to never give up.

I read Me Before You a few years before there was massive hype and before it was adapted into a film. It had a profound impact on me. The blossoming romance between paraplegic Will and his temporary carer, Lou touched my heart in so many ways. Lou is a twenty-something character that is stuck in life, she settles for mediocre lowly paid jobs and lives with her parents. At the time I was reading this book, I strongly identified with Lou and was in a similar rut in my own life. Will constantly tries to inspire her to take more risks so she could better her life, move on from the past and let things go. Those are powerful messages for any reader to take away and needless to say, they had a profound impact on me but also, Lou made me feel better about the situation I was in at that point in my life.

Outlander is exquisitely researched and blends lots of genres but at its core there is a strong romance. Claire is a married woman from 1945 who is transported back through time to Scotland in 1744. It’s essentially the story of Claire trying to get back to her own time. The relationship between the two main characters Jamie and Claire weathers many storms and Claire herself is a profoundly strong female character. Diana Gabaldon originally started writing this book in mid-life as a practice because she had always wanted to write a novel. That is truly inspiring to me because Outlander is proof that in order to write a book, fancy creative writing qualifications aren’t always needed. This was the first book that inspired me to try creative writing and not worry about whether I was qualified enough or even any good at it.

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