Over at YALSA’s blog, The Hub they’re talking about seven books that changed their world view. Well, being a book junkie, I couldn’t help but chime in.
Here are seven books that shaped my world view, and why. (Note: In keeping with the fact that I got this idea from YALSA – Young Adult Library Services Association – these are all books that I read in high school.)
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Though the Tea-baggers have claimed this as their own, I think they are missing the point. To me Atlas Shrugged was always an anthem to personal integrity and accomplishment. It wasn’t about not paying taxes for schools, roads, libraries and other vital services that EVERYONE uses. I read Atlas Shrugged once a year in high school and college to remind myself that it is OK to excel, that it OK to strive for greatness, and that most likely no one will ever appreciate it, so I better be doing it for me. Dagny Taggart was my first true hero.
If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon – I know it’s a cheesy supermarket/tabloid book, but it was the first time I thought – wow, I can be an intelligent, sexy AND powerful woman who plays by her own rules and never gets caught! Tracy was my second hero, or perhaps she was my ideal anti-hero…
Druids by Morgan Llywelyn – This book opened my eyes to mysticism, magic and the idea that perhaps all of that was still obtainable if we could only fall in love with the Earth, and ourselves, again.
Illusions by Richard Bach – Though I loved Jonathan Livingston Seagull, it was Illusions which really spoke to me and changed the way I see the world. I read it once a year, and every time I am reminded of my own power, combined with my own smallness. I create my own reality, so if it is bad, it is only because I have chosen to make it so. And when it is good, it is because I have worked to make it so.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – My dad was heavy into American Zen Buddhism. Along with long talks about the nature of the universe, life and whatever might come after, he also shared some great books with me. I loved the tale of Siddhartha for its message that The Way is different for everyone, but that if we go out there and try a little of everything we will eventually find our Way.
Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud – Like many angst ridden teens, I spent far too man hours writing angst ridden poetry. When it started getting really dark my dad gave me Rimbaud. I’m not sure if it was meant as encouragement, or to show me just how dark life really could get in an attempt to keep me from going there. I took it as a challenge.
Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire – More dark poetry. If you need a method into darkness, these boys are there for you. If you have a bottle of something hard and smokey (whiskey), or perhaps a little green (Absinthe), all the better. I credit Charles and Arthur as being the source of most of my drug and alcohol experimentation in high school. (Not that I did any of that stuff. *wink*)
And then, when it all got too dark to see, my mother arrived with book number 8 (See, it’s not that I can’t count, it’s just that there are too many brilliant books out there to stick to someone else’s ideal list size…)
Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus – If you haven’t read this book – shame on you. In fact, if you don’t own this book, well, let’s just not go there. This is the best story about caterpillars ever written. Except, it’s not really about caterpillars at all, is it…
What books shaped you during those horrible teen years? How did you make it through the maze of teenage treachery and adult oppression? Or, if you’re one of those people for whom high school represents the best years of your life – what were you reading that kept you so damn bubbly?