It’s That Time of Year

…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?

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About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
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4 Responses to It’s That Time of Year

  1. kaye says:

    love your post today. I remember the story of Brandon Mull and your nephew from the news. I thought it was an awesome act of kindness as well. I loved the Fablehaven books and have read the first from his series “The Beyonders”. It was a good read as well. I agree, there are those books that touch your heart and change your life. Tolkien’s works touched me at a young age and led me down the road of fantasy–my first reading love. I felt the same way about Jane Eyre. My most recent life changing read was “Stars, Reflections on Christmas” by Chieko Okazaki. It was a book that changed my perspective about why we do the things we do at Christmas time.

    • I read a few books by Chieko Okazaki many years ago, but nothing lately. My husband met her in an elevator when we lived in SLC, and took the opportunity to tell her how much I enjoyed her teachings. She really stood out from the crowd. Thank you for visiting & commenting!

  2. Bumbles says:

    For a minute there, I thought you were going to say that Charlotte Bronte contacted you from beyond the grave in keeping with your authors reaching out to readers theme here ;0)

    I am severely impressed by Mr. Mull’s kindness to your nephew, who was the luckiest guy in the world when he knew the series ending before anyone else.

    Books that changed me as a person? There are my sentimental favorites from childhood that set me on the path to reading, of course. And those that I didn’t necessarily love but the way that they came to me was special because of the person or teacher attached to them. Then there are my favorite books that leave me in a sense of wonder and amazement every time I revisit them. I don’t know though if any of them made me become different. The one that did is one that was teeming with controversy. A Million Little Pieces just about blew me away. Because of that book I truly felt like I could identify with addiction and what the addicted feel deep inside. There are addicted people within my life and that book helped me to see where they come from. It didn’t make me sympathetic or forgiving, but it opened a window for me into their world, allowing better vision and capacity for acceptance rather than anger, pain and blame. I don’t honestly care that portions of the memoir were not credible. The man was an addict and he did recover. You can’t fake the feelings he shared about that process. The exaggerated events and sensational characters along the way spiced things up and got your attention. But the important parts for me were the dark depths deep inside his struggle to sobriety.

    • Man! That would so totally rock, if Charlotte Bronte were to reach out to me from the beyond! Universe? Are you listening?

      I’ve never read A Million Little Pieces because of the controversy. But you’ve got me thinking that perhaps I need to do so. Speaking of addiction, have you ever read Tweak (by Nic Sheff) and Beautiful Boy (by his father, David Sheff)? Those are agonizingly painful to read, but so worthwhile.

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