I used to subscribe to O! Magazine, Oprah's publication which is a fantastic magazine, (although it always bothered me that she was featured prominently on the cover, month after month. Even if you have a magazine named after you, it seems a tad narcissistic, even for Oprah... )
Anyway, she had this feature every month when she had a celebrity or author or special friend of hers share about five books that made a difference to them. I used to love this short feature, because it was fun to think of what books have made a difference to me. That's such a different question than, "What is your favorite book?" It also seems to change with every book I read, because my latest read is usually my favorite since it is the freshest. Still, I think it's important to consider the question. What books have made a difference to you?
So here are mine:
Good Poems - Garrison Keillor
I know, blah blah blah. I've talked about this book on my blog so many times I should be ashamed. Except for, I'm not. Because I've read the poems in it so many times I should really buy a new copy out of fairness to contributors. It's the best introduction to poetry out there. It has soul and humor and it's not intimidating and unapproachable like some poetry can be. It's a necessity on every book shelf.
On Writing - Stephen King
This book has made me a better writer, period. I've read several books on writing, and most I enjoyed more than this. (Ann Patchett's This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird come to mind) but I learned the most in this one. It's the only Stephen King book I've read, and it is phenomenal.
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
This book is untapped creativity. One of the most creative books I've ever read, with imagery so rich that I continue to think about details from it almost five years after I read it. I think about it whenever I feel like there is nothing creative left, that all of it has been taken somehow. It is original and fresh.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
My senior year of high school I had this AP English Lit teacher named Mrs. Woolsey who changed my life in a hundred ways, but one was with this book. She told our class one Monday morning that she finished a book over the weekend. Someone asked, "What is it about?"
I remember her getting solemn, still. She replied, "I don't know how to describe it. But I do know, that it is about love."
She was right. If the world were to end (which, spoiler, it does in this book), and I had to rebuild from scratch, I would use this as an example of what love means, what it is. I went to Target after she told us about it (yes this was pre-Amazon,) that afternoon, and read it. It may have been a little advance for me, probably too dark for that time in my life, but I understood it in the same way she did, that it was about love.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
I read this once. In seventh grade, over the course of almost the entire year. We had a free-read period every Friday in English, and my teacher had a copy. I started it as a way to impress my peers - most of them reading Harry Potter and some clinging onto R.L. Stein with a fierce devotion to their past. (I should give them more credit. More likely they were reading similar books, but I felt important reading this one.)
It spanned the course of my year. 40 minutes of reading once a week, and at the end of each class period I was disappointed, having to wait an entire week to re-enter Francie's world. I've considered re-reading it since, of course, but I'm not sure I could recreate that experience and I'm afraid of disappointing myself. This book made a difference to me, because it taught me that dreamers have always been out there, that I'm not alone in the universe, that hard things make us better people.
I want to hear your lists, if you feel comfortable sharing them. Maybe I'll even create a new series on my blog - Oprah style.
*Let me conclude by noting that I no longer subscribe to the magazine, because it wasn't worth the money after Lisa Kogan left her long-standing spot as a columnist and Oprah posed alongside her younger self (yes not just one but two Oprah's) on a cover. Evidence below: