Friday, May 15, 2009

Books that Changed your Lives

I've read numerous books that have changed my life in some way, shape, or form. The most obvious is Stephen King's The Dark Tower, which made me contemplate the world we live in from directions I never would have otherwise, but there are many, many others.

I've listed my favorite books before, but I got thinking on my way home from work that there are a lot of books that didn't make the "favorite book" cut that have still greatly impacted me. In some cases, I don't even understand why.

I have a fondness for Jonathan Kellerman's murder mysteries. My personal favorite, Self-Defense, is about a young lady named Lucy haunted by a nightmare. What made this book special to me is that Lucy is the daughter of a one-hit wonder writer of the proverbial Great American Novel (think Salinger).

Speaking of Salinger, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield is perhaps the most honestly portrayed fictional character I've ever encountered. His obsessions, his obstinacy, his insanity ... it makes me feel better about what's going on in my own mind every time I read it.

When I was a kid, my neighbors left a box of books that didn't sell at a yard sale out in front of their houses with a "free" sign. I brought many of those books home, of course. One was a book called Angel by Samantha Harte (I think ... I'm not sure where my copy of the book is now). It was about a young girl traveling west with her family who ends up resorting to prostitution in the American frontier following a variety of family calamities. Very important lessons in that book, strange as it may sound. It was bawdy and crass in parts, but it was a very moral book at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Finally, I have to mention The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Yeah, they're kid books (there are five of them). However, the imperfections of the characters made me love them, made the standard hero's quest tale truly unique (and I still haven't forgiven Pythagorus for not allowing me to name Belle "Eilonwy").

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of others, but I want to know what y'all have to say. What are books that have changed your lives? They don't have to be considered fine literature (I mean, Kellerman can tell a good story, but he's probably not going down in history as the next Poe or anything ... and need I reiterate, Angel by Samantha Harte?), but I'm just curious to see what people have to say.

And, of course, I'm always looking for books to add to my reading list ; )