The books that made me who I am

The books that made me who I am
Original photo: Viktor Hanacek from picjumbo

We are all shaped by the world around us. In positive ways, negative ways and complicated ways. When you read a lot, words on pages help shape your thinking and experiences. Sometimes you understand why. Sometimes books affect you in ways you cannot fully explain or understand.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

How, Laura wonders, could someone who was able to write a sentence like that—who was able to feel everything contained in a sentence like that—come to kill herself?

This definitely falls into the “I do not completely understand why this book gets under my skin the way it does” category, but if books lived in blood streams The Hours would be found in mine. If I’ve ever bought you a book, loaned you a book, or gushed about a book over coffee/drinks with you there is a good chance this was it. It reduced me to tears the first time I read and continues to do so with every re-read.

Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović

War is no joke, it seems. It destroys, kills, burns, separates, brings unhappiness.

I read Zlata’s Diary in primary school. A group of Bosnian refugees were staying in a nearby hospital so my teacher added this to our reading list in an effort to help us understand what they had gone through. It was my first realisation that war wasn’t always confined to the pages of history books.

365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert

This collection of short stories and poetry turned me into a reader. My Dad used to read them to and with me, as the title suggests, at bedtime. Reading has played a large part in my life ever since.

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

They can’t push women all the way back, but they can use women’s bodies to keep them under surveillance and control.

I haven’t always been pro-choice, so it would be impossible to write this list without including a book about abortion rights. I chose Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Right because it completely changed my thinking on the phrase “abortion on demand” (here I am in 2013 explaining that I dislike it) and informed me of its pro-choice roots.

The Book of Brave by Laura Jane Williams

There is no “good” and “bad”. It all just is. You just are. We all just are.

The Book of Brave is an ebook which is no longer available, but I need to include it because these essays genuinely changed my life. Laura Jane Williams’ emphasis on the importance of not beating yourself up for things you’ve done in past may sound simple, but it was exactly what I needed to hear when I first read it. You cannot change things after they have happened. You can only learn from them, but you can’t erase them.

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