Books have been a significant part of my life for a very, very long time. As a kid my heroes were the people in story books and I learned my greatest life lessons from books like Arthur and the Berenstain Bears. Books are still a huge part of my life and with every book I read I learn something new about myself and the world around me. But above all there are three books that have had the greatest lasting impact on my life.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
When I was in the 5th grade (the best year of my life thus far) my teacher read Stargirl to our class. Now, every school year, I've made it a tradition to reread it just so I don't forget the important lessons it teaches.
Stargirl gave me the courage to be myself and showed me the importance of expression. Stargirl also showed me the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and sticking by those who make you happy, regardless of if they will make you popular. Every time I read it I'm brought back to those innocent days of childhood where you showed up to school with socks that didn't match and your hair completely wild and you didn't care at all what anyone thought.
This book is the reason why I am so comfortable being myself in a world that all too often finds ways to cut us down and shut off our self-expression. It is because of this book that I wear exciting outfits with wild and wacky colors and socks tucked into my jeans. It is because of this book that I joined the color guard, a sport that at my school is seen as kinda weird. It is because of this book that I’ve found true friends that love me for who I am and support me every step of the way. Essentially, every part of my life in some way or another has been touched by Stargirl.
Self-expression is something that is so, so important to me, and I think that belief finds its roots in Stargirl. I will also add the fact that in every argument essay I have to write for English class I can use Stargirl as an example. So not only is it life changing because it taught me to be me, but because its helping me get good grades too.
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
After reading this book I was so empowered and inspired I wrote a very passionate statement in my journal about grabbing life by the balls and never letting a moment slip by. This book put into clear perspective how fragile and important life is, and how every day is special and valuable. After reading this book I was determined to live every day to its fullest, and not settle for a life that was mediocre or less than the best. I believe that we only have one life to live, and after reading this book I now know the importance of being sure that you live it to its fullest.
This book’s profound impact is in its ability to light a fire beneath and make me scramble to improve my current situation and to always seize the day and live passionately for every moment of our life. No other book has been able to do that for me. With other novels, I passively plod along behind their messages, occasionally remembering them when they have a direct and obvious impact on my life. But with I am the Messenger, it’s message is present in nearly every moment of my life, which I think is pretty darn impressive.
This book led me to making a career choice that I would be happy in. The main character lives a crummy existence, and at the core of his crummy existence was his crummy job. So, on top of living life to the fullest, this book also impacted the way I view careers, and the way I view my own future career. Rather than choosing a career that was simple and easy, or one that I hated but made me money, my plans for the future include a job that will make me happy, regardless of simplicity or wages.
The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
What’s different about this book is that I hated it. I hated it so much I didn't finish it. I love Stargirl with all my heart and I thought I am the Messenger was a beautiful display of writing. But The Tropic of Cancer? One of the worst novels I have ever read. Yet here it is, number three on my list of books that changed my life.
I disliked The Tropic of Cancer not only because it was confusing and hard to read and understand but because of the way it treated women. It was a classic instance of: the only females present were used for sex and didn't have names, and if they did have names they were handily forgotten by the author who only treated them as sex objects. There was one girl, one girl that had the chance to redeem the entire novel. But the second Henry Miller wrote her off as a sexual object I closed the book forever.
So how then did it change my life? This book stirred in me a strong desire to fight for the feminist cause. Up until that moment I read it, which was around the 8th grade, I had been on the fence towards feminism, unable to see the harsh realities of living in this modern world as a woman and unable to comprehend why all feminists were just so angry. This book turned my whole world upside down. It showed, it plain yet confusing English, just why we need feminism in the world today. It changed me from a neutral party into a raging feminist who is determined to fights for her own rights and the rights of the women around her.
Even more than that, this book really bolstered my growing passion for the freedom of literature. I've always been fascinated by banned books, and since The Tropic of Cancer is the banned books to end all banned books, naturally I was drawn to it. And despite hating it and thinking it was disgusting and terrible to women and the literary world, I see its value and its importance. Reading The Tropic of Cancer led me to a very important conclusion and into support for a cause which now I would be willing to give my life for. This book, disgusting as it was, led me to the conclusion that art, no matter how terrible, insensitive or uncomfortable, should never be censored or shunned from the public eye. All books, paintings, songs and dances have a value. And despite The Tropic of Cancer being the book I like the least, it was the one that impacted me the most.
"I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it: we must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and soul. It may be that we are doomed, that there is no hope for us, any of us, but if that is so then let us set up a last agonizing, bloodcurdling howl, a screech of defiance, a war whoop! Away with lamentation! Away with elegies and dirges! Away with biographies and histories, and libraries and museums! Let the dead eat the dead. Let us living ones dance about the rim of the crater, a last expiring dance. But a dance!"
—Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer)
What are some books that changed your life? I'd love, love, love to hear some of the books that left a lasting impact on you. Thanks so much for reading, and be sure to follow us on Pinterest and Tumblr! Links to both of those, as well as all our new posts, are on the home page!
You may have noticed that the last photo is not mine. Its actually from this website http://www.doctorhugo.org/henry/books.html which is also where I got that cool quote from. The reason I don't have a picture of my own to post for the Tropic of Cancer is because I no longer own the book because I gave it away in a fiery rage about a week after I read it.
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