I wasn’t always a reader. In fact, as a child there were so many more things I would have preferred to do then sit down and read a book.
My sister, and my mum were both so concerned about this. And so, one of my most vivid bookish memories is my sister, nine years older than me reading a book by my bedside while I was suffering from some sort of sickness. Knowing me, it was probably pneumonia. That book? The Magicians Nephew. Definitely one of the books that changed me.
So without further adieu, my list. (In no particular order to be honest, how can I put one beloved work of fiction above another?)
5. The Magicians Nephew by C.S Lewis
The second last book published in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew is the first chronologically and the first book I read (or was read to me). At the peak of my sickness, my sister sat down next to my bed, and began verbally weaving a tale so magical that I wouldn’t be able to recall if the memory was real in later years. Or at least not until, in my haste to read more Lewis, I happened to pick up this very book.
This book was the gateway to fantasy for me, and it was so very wonderfully detailed that I would practically clutch it to myself as I savoured every single word on the page. It changed the thought I had in mind, that books had to be boring, and were all based in reality.
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie theatre, I had only two things on my mind. Paul Newman and a ride home…
That is the beginning line of the book, and believe me, even from memory I could’ve gone further than that.
If C.S Lewis taught me that no book had to be boring, then S.E. Hinton taught me that books could tear you apart inside if you had a shred of empathy inside of you. She taught me about friendship, loyalty, intelligence and love and I will never stop being grateful for that.
In a way, S.E. Hinton taught me how to speak. I was filled with false bravado in school, arrogance and what my teachers saw as laziness. What it really was, was a terrifyingly sad inability to open my mouth, and voice my opinions, or read aloud. Simply because I couldn’t. Not without stammering. Not without tripping over words.
And this book? Which I read alone, and then read aloud to my mother, the lump in my throat thick as I tried to describe what happened to Johnny’s in the author’s words, helped me realize that I didn’t have to be scared. If I could read this novel, which made me so emotional, and left such an impression, to my mother why couldn’t I read to a class full of people?
“Things are rough all over.”
3. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
I was 7 years old when Rwanda’s genocide occurred. I remember whispers, shock, and astonishment from my family but not understand what was going on. I was 7, what did I know about world events?
When I read this book, I found myself flooded with anger, shock and astonishment. This wasn’t ancient history, this wasn’t something so far gone that we could all pretend that it happened to people who weren’t better than us, that we would never allow something like this to happen.
It happened in my life time, it happened to people who were my age at the time. There was no real help, no real aid until it was too late. This book, as visceral as it was shook something inside of me. The foundation built by what I thought the world was, and began to realize what exactly the world could be again if we aren’t careful.
“Denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good.”
2. The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
There was a time when I hated not only children’s literature, and that time was when I was a child. At the age of 10 or 11 or so everyone was reading this book series, called Harry Potter. I didn’t want to read it, I was reading far more important things (and probably not understanding them)!
How wrong I was. I didn’t read them then, in fact I didn’t read them until I was 13, two or maybe three years later. These books changed me by reminding me that sometimes life can just be fun, that sometimes being a member of a fandom can be a wonderful experience. That it was not okay to be a book snob, but perfectly okay to not like something that isn’t your taste.
They helped me escape horrible events that tended to happen in the spring and summer. Harry, Hermione, Ron, all the characters grew with me, and their trials helped me overcome my own.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
1. Band-Aid for a Broken Leg by Damien Brown
I’m white, I’m 26 years old. I live in Canada, a country where much of my medical issues are taken care of by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. I can often be selfish, vapid and shallow, believe me. I’m not proud of it, but it is what I am and in some ways I guess we all can be that way.
While I know, of course, that there are countries in the world who are not as lucky when it comes to health care, and the idea of vaccination and not becoming susceptible to what are now known as small illnesses this book really opened my eyes. It was helped by the fact that it was written by someone, whose very eyes were opening as well as he experienced what it is to be a Doctor Without Borders.
This book was amazing. It makes you reconsider you priorities, and realize that we really are vulnerable, but that there are people out there who need so much more, such simple things, over us needing the next great gadget.
This book simply just inspired me and made me realize that not all grass is greener on the other side, and that it’s about time I paid attention to something other than myself.
And there you have it, five books that have changed me. Mostly for the better.