Seven Deadly Books

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?




Filed under Books, Of Course I'm a Feminist

5 responses to “Seven Deadly Books

  1. Bee

    High school … (thinking back) … I guess I was pretty well past Nancy Drew by then, although not by much. 😉

    I devoured all the historical fiction my church library had. Some of it was turtle tripe, but there were a few instances where authors had done a good job of taking a real time period with real events, and writing fictional accounts based on composites of real people of faith. One series followed a teacher who took a position in the Canadian West, and followed her through her marriage to a Mountie, their posting in the northern Canadian frontier, and years of work with the native tribes in that part of the world. Another set followed two families, one German and one Jewish, through the late 1930’s through World War II. The authors had no compunctions about killing off characters, so they were more realistic than some of the fluffy Christian fiction of decades past. I accidentally learned a heck of a lot about both time periods, which never hurts.

    I loved reading, and I often thoroughly enjoyed what I had to read for school. Hamlet. Oedipus Rex. Heart of Darkness (still a favorite, for similar reasons to those you mention). Hemingway, of course, and Jane Eyre. The darkness of some of those classic works was a much-needed balance to the sweetness and light of the lighter fiction I read.

    If I had to pick one author who shaped my teen years, though, hands down it is Robin McKinley. (The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Beauty, and when I grew up they got a little darker – Spindle’s End, Rose Daughter, Deerskin, and Sunshine, which is one of my favorite books EVER.) Her heroines were strong without being caricatures – they got dirty and sweaty and sore, and when a dragon blew fire at them, they got burned. But they were killing dragons, and most princesses weren’t. I loved the way her heroines generally wandered into their adventures by accident, and sometimes entirely against their will. They were awkward and shy and a little too smart to be really likable at age sixteen, and that resonated with me for reasons that are now painfully obvious.

    I still like her best, if I’m honest. Her heroines bleed and get very bad headaches when they do something too heroic … but they SURVIVE.

    • thinkbannedthoughts

      I do so love a good, tough, princess!!
      Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons series are GREAT for middle-grade readers!!

  2. Depressing that even you are calling them “Tea-baggers.”

    I always considered Atlas Shrugged to be a libertarian book. It goes against both the collectivist impulses of one side and the social control impulses of the other side. The tea party? It’s maybe half social control and half libertarian. I suspect the Social Control portions of the Tea Party aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about it.

    • thinkbannedthoughts

      Unfortunately for the Tea Party, and as immature as this sounds, they started it. Prior to becoming the Tea Party they called themselves tea-baggers, not realizing that they had just named themselves after a sexual act. Once they caught on, they re-branded.
      A few of us refuse to let them.
      Depressing? Not really. Childish and infantile, definitely. But it’s a great coping mechanism, and those folk scare the daylights out of me.

      • You have to be careful when talking about such a large and diverse movement by what one or two people in it may have said. It’s not some centrally planned movement where one person has complete control over what every single person in that movement calls themselves. I in fact never heard a single tea party person call themselves that and only heard it from a number of commentators on MSNBC.

        And other than the handful of social controllers in it, what scares you? Is it just that minority of social control freaks?

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