The Books That Built Me

I was wandering through Barnes and Noble not long ago, and it got me thinking about all the books that I’ve loved over the years and, more importantly, all the books that have made a significant impact on me as a person. There is no doubt that stories have been intrinsic to mankind since language was invented, and it’s fun to reflect on those that brought us to this particular point in our lives. So, I thought I’d share with all of you what books have left a mark on me.

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The Long Walk
Let me make it clear, I’ve never actually read this book. Not yet anyway (it’s definitely on my TBR list though). In third (maybe fifth?) grade my class was presented with three different reading options. We all got to submit our preference for what book we wanted to read, but ultimately our teacher got to decide. The books were all of different levels of abilities–one easy, one average, one hard. The Long Walk was the hard book. Because I’d loved books from the very earliest age, and because the story seemed the most interesting to me, I said my preference was The Long Walk. My teacher instead assigned me to read the average book. I don’t even remember what it was (nor do I remember what the easy book was). I was so sad, so upset. I didn’t realize at that age that I could probably go up and talk to the teacher and tell her how much I wanted to read The Long Walk, so I didn’t say anything and instead went on with my assignment. But I’ve wanted to read The Long Walk ever since. Her assigning me a “lower grade” book than my preference translated in my brain to me not being a good enough reader in her mind to read my book of choice. I took this information and started reading harder books though. I did complete the assignment, though I don’t recall anything about the book I read or the grade I got on it. The Long Walk is what prompted this reflection as I saw it in B&N the other day (though I didn’t buy it because limited funds. I had only gone there to write and for the ability to use physical books as research as I often like to do).

Dark Guardian
I bought this book when I was in my early twenties (maybe 21?) and tried to start reading it, but found myself not really grokking the concept of Carpathians at first. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in a good brain space when I first started it or what, but it wound up laying on the back floor of my car for the longest time–long enough that when I returned to it the pages had yellowed a bit. What made me return to it was the fact that I had picked up another book by Christine Feehan (not sure which in her Carpathian series), read it in a day and fell in love with it. Remembering Dark Guardian (but not even positive that it was by Feehan) I dug it out of my car and also devoured it. I then devoured the rest of the series that was out at the time. I think I had caught up to speed, new every Carpathian she had created up to that point, and memorized each of their abilities and the thing they have to say when the males claim their mates the first time. I. Was. Hooked. (I also devoured Feehan’s other series though not with the same fervor.) Eventually, I grew tired of the Carpathian series because they all became very formulaic–guy is on brink of death, meets his lifemate and she resists him, they discover there is some vampire somewhere that they need to destroy and have to do it together, she gives in, they destroy the vampire and live happily ever after. That’s how all of the Carpathian series books go. (I also grew tired of the girl being a slave to his whims–sexual or otherwise.) But the books had left their mark on me. I loved Feehan’s stories so much during the time that I was devouring them that they inspired me to write! I’ve loved stories since I was a kid and would routinely ask my grandma, mom, and dad to read me books. But it wasn’t until my teens that I’d started attempting to write many stories. I did them just sparingly here and there, mostly in my journals and never showed them to anyone. But it was while reading Feehan’s books that I had the life altering (and very delayed) realization that people make money writing books–that I could someday to that for a living if I worked hard enough at it. And so I started writing…kind of crazily. Nothing was very good, nor did I really complete any of the longer things I tried to write, but it didn’t matter. I got good practice in sentence structure, in finding writing everyday, of carrying a notebook with me everywhere, of the importance of having the right notebook for me (I’m very particular about notebooks). This is where my affair with writing truly began.

Edgar Allen Poe
This is a little out of order now, but I had a book of Poe’s poems that I carried with me everywhere as a teen. I kept them in my Mudd purse and never left the house without either. This is what got me in the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere. When I first found Paganism the very first thing I started doing was writing poems. I had never written poetry before that save for my Junior High’s Lit Mag which everyone was required to submit a few poems for. One of mine (about a cat, no less) got published in that, but other than that I was never much of a poet before being Pagan. I’m not sure what about Paganism made me suddenly turn into one, but I did. I found myself writing poems all the time. I remember one day hanging out with my mom and grandma out my grandma’s condo on a beautiful day and suddenly needing to run inside, grab my brown leather journal that I wrote all my poems in, and jot something down before it left my brain. No idea what it was, but the need to write it was overwhelming. It was after this dire need to write poetry hit me that I got the Poe book, and from there I went on to write even more poetry and that was largely because of Poe. I remember when I was a Senior in High School I told one of my good friends that I wanted to be a poet when I grew up.

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The Artist’s Way
This is a book that I’ve only recently begun reading, but it’s already kind of revolutionizing my writing practice. I had been an avid journaler all my life, but had gotten much out of the habit in favor of focusing strictly on writing books and stories–not personal thoughts and feelings. However it began to show in my life that I was doing this. I became more irritable, snappy, less compassionate, and less in touch with myself and what I really want out of life. The Artist’s Way had the instruction of doing Morning Pages–3 pages that you write first thing every morning. Before I began reading this book, I came across an article in Spirituality & Health that talked about a similar concept. It was as if the Universe itself was telling me to get back to journaling. I don’t often write my journal pages first thing in the morning though I’m trying to make that the case. Right now it winds up being late morning or early afternoon after I’ve had coffee. But they’ve already had a benefit to me and I’ve only been doing them about 3 days. Writing down my frustrations allows me to get them out of my mind, move beyond them, and let myself focus on other more important things in my life (while later addressing those frustrations in a more productive way). With any luck I’ll be able to continue this trend. I’m going to do my very best to make this a Can’t Miss thing everyday as it’s really done wonders for me. I’m remembering the things that are most important to me, why they are important, how to get what I want, etc. I really can’t say enough good things about Morning Pages. I just read about the Artist’s Date and perhaps I’ll attempt to integrate that into my weekly schedule. It shouldn’t be too hard. I’m only on page 21 and already this book is changing me and my writing for the better. No wonder it comes so highly recommended. You can bet that I now highly recommend–even after only reading 21 pages!

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