…when you might find yourself wanting to give gifts. And what better gift, really, can there be than a book? Okay, a new sportscar comes to mind, but most of us cannot afford to give new sportscars for Christmas. (Note: If anyone reading this feels like giving me a new sportscar for Christmas / Kwanzaa / Hanukkah / Festivus / Solstice, I really like the Chevrolet Camaro convertible coupe.)
But like sportscars, books can take their readers not only down different roads, but to different eras. Different lives. Different worlds. Books can change lives. Books can change the world.
Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series, had a fervent fan in the person of my nephew, Chase. Chase had cystic fibrosis, and 2 Christmases ago, it looked like he wasn’t going to make it to see the New Year. Brandon Mull, whose last Fablehaven book had not yet come out, sent Chase a huge basket full of books, audio books, tee shirts. Better yet, he called Chase and told him how the series ended. Fortunately, Chase hung in for a while longer, and he and his mother were Mull’s guests at the release party for the last Fablehaven book. That Christmas did end up being Chase’s last Christmas, and I thank Brandon Mull for what he did to make it such a tremendously happy and special time for Chase. The Fablehaven books are magical, and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. The fact that Mull was so kind to my beloved nephew just adds to their enchantment for me.
When I was in my early teens, I discovered a book in my mother’s shelves: Up the Down Staircase. I read it voraciously, over and over and over again. I was enchanted by the heroine, who was a Chaucerian scholar. I think it was then that my deep love for Chaucer began. Then during my senior year in high school, I was in an AP English class. Our teacher, when she got to the Chaucer unit, wisely chose to have us read The Miller’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales. Let’s just say that I have ALWAYS been a 14-year-old boy at heart, so the denoument was exactly to my satisfaction. I’ve since read Chaucer’s entire works, and continue to love it as much as I anticipated when I first read about a young teacher who loved to teach and who loved Chaucer. Several years ago, I wrote Bel Kaufman to express my gratitude for starting me on a path that forever changed my life. She wrote back, which made me as happy as a clam.
I don’t remember how old I was when I read Jane Eyre for the first time, but I was immediately enchanted with the story. As a shy child, I strongly identified with Jane’s feeling like a misfit amongst her father’s wife and children. As an avid reader, I strongly identified with her love of books. As an incurable romantic, I melted as she fell in love with Rochester and boldly declared her worthiness. The insane wife in the attic, Jane’s icy cold missionary cousin, and his warm and loving sisters–wow! What a book!
These are just a few of the books that changed my life. What about you, dear reader? What books have touched yours in such a way that you were never again the same person?