I’ve heard that people instinctively feel happiest during their birthday month. So maybe it’s because my birthday is tomorrow, but I’ve always loved the first few weeks of July, when the Summer is still new and the days still really long. There’s so much possibility! So much adventure to be had!
In honor of my 34th birthday, and the endless possibilities ahead, I’d like to recommend some of my favourite books of the past 34 years. 🙂 These are the ones that have inspired me, widened my worldview, transported me into some other realm for a few days, or left me emotionally changed.
Here you go, (in chronological order)!
Birth – 8:
The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack: The picture book I remember most distinctly. Little Ping the duckling, leaving his family and swimming out into the unknown ocean, was at once unsettling and extremely exciting. Of course he finds his way back home to his mommy duck. I think I liked this combination of adventure and homecoming, and it probably shaped my life trajectory in ways I can’t even fully comprehend.
9 – 12:
L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books and the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Heart Lovelace featured strong, writerly young women who succeed in life because of their brains, not their beauty. This resonated with me in my formative years.
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell: I remember reading this book while on family vacation on the Washington Coast and being fascinated by the story of a young girl and her little brother who are stranded all by themselves on an Aleutian Island. I had a little brother too! I was so impressed by the girl’s strength and fortitude, and so distraught be her predicament. It was a completely immersive reading experience.
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle: Whoa. This is the book that inspired my love of speculative fiction and its power to force us to think beyond the realms of our ordinary existence. It’s a pretty existential book for young readers, and also highly entertaining.
13 – 18:
This period of time in my life is oddly blank, as far as books go. What did I read as a teen? The only thing I can really remember is being obsessed with Anne Rice’s Vampire novels, which were not especially life changing, so I’m just going to move on…
19 – 29:
A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen: This book got me through some turbulent university times. Thanks for the gift, Mom!
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham: I still think of this book as one of the most perfectly written books I have ever read. I read it in an afternoon, and it was so short, but so affecting.
Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro: There is no author out there whose books have been so heart-wrenching for me. Both of these novels beautifully and powerfully illustrate the depths of human experience.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy: Another sad book that offers up a lot of perspective. I cried uncontrollably for about an hour after I finished it. I love sad books!
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller: This post-apocalyptic novel inspired me to take some major life-changing risks I otherwise wouldn’t have. In a good way.
Just Kids, by Patti Smith: A memoir that illustrates the many ways we are able to love another person.
The introduction to Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, because it reminds me of my Dad and makes me feel extremely lucky to have been born.
What are the books that have shaped you?