Books can change lives. I’ve known this for a long time; my own life has been changed more than once by a book.
The first one was Fahrenheit 451, the book that made me fall in love with science fiction, with bleak dystopian futures and the unique hope that pervades them, and more importantly, with writing. This was the book that made me want to be a writer. I’d been writing as long as I can remember; I think I typed my first stories on an old green manual typewriter, though I don’t know what brand it was or if my grandparents even have it still. But this book made me, for the first time, want to do more than just write poems and short stories as a hobby. I wanted to be a writer.
The second was The Chronicles of Narnia. I think this was the first series I read and truly wished it was real. I know it was the first series I remember thinking that one day I’d read them to my kids as bedtime stories. I still don’t have any children, but I’ve read that series so many times I’ve lost count.
Most recently was Harry Potter. I have never wanted a fictional world to be real as much as I want the world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts and Diagon Alley to be real. I was lucky enough to get to travel to London a couple of years ago, and while there we took the WB Studio Tour. Of course I’ve also been to the Wizarding World in Orlando, though I haven’t gotten a chance to go back since it was expanded. It’s on the list, though. Harry Potter changed my perspective on so many things, not least of which was myself. It’s something that can be difficult to explain, especially to non-readers, but if you’ve experienced this, I think you’ll know just what I mean. Earlier this summer, I went back and re-read the entire Harry Potter series (I haven’t read Cursed Child yet, though I do own it), and it was amazing to see how differently it affected me than it did when I first read it as a child. There were so many new things to discover about it, so much more I brought to it and it brought to me, and I think this reading was the one that made me realize how critical this series was to me as a reader, but more importantly as a person. This series gives me hope, and I read through it this time knowing that it would not only not be the last time I read it, but thinking that perhaps one day I might even be teaching on it. If you haven’t read the series, I won’t shame you for staying off the bandwagon. I do that a lot, myself. But I will say I think it is simply crucial reading for anyone, but it’s just as crucial to remember this: Harry Potter stays with you in a way that most books don’t; it has something for you at any and every stage of your life; and if you’ve ever looked for hope in the dark, not many books will help you light the way quite like these.
The days can seem extraordinarily dark sometimes, especially now. But there is always hope, even if only a very little bit. And sometimes we just have to be that hope. These are just a few of the many, many books that have stuck with me through the years, but I’m sure there are plenty I could add to this list. And I’m sure that in the years to come, I’ll read more books like these. But I also know that I will always come back to these books when I need a little help keeping on the light.
What books have changed your life in some way? Are there books you know you’ll always come back to? What childhood books have you passed on to or shared with your children?