I’ve read approximately a zillion books in my life, many of which I called 5-star books. I enjoyed them immensely at the time, but a week or month later I forgot all about them or could only vaguely remember why I loved them in the first place. There are just a handful of books that left such a lasting impression on me that I know I’ll remember them for the rest of my days, or until dementia sets in.
The Nancy Drew Files by Carolyn Keene :
My earliest memories of reading go back to Nancy Drew. I have a sister who’s six years older than me, and like many siblings with a big age gap, the dynamic was that I wanted to be just like her, she wanted me to go away and quit copying her, and I persisted in copying her anyway. Part of this meant “borrowing” all of her books. I devoured every single Nancy Drew book that happened to find its way into my bedroom by accident. It’s hard to say how much my love for these books had to do with actually loving the books versus loving them because my sister did, but I still credit this series (and my older sister!) with starting my love of reading.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I know what you’re thinking. Twilight? Really, Michelle? TWILIGHT?!
There was a period in my life while I was attending University that I was so hyper-focused on drinking and partying studying hard for my future career as a nurse that I forgot all about what a great pastime reading was. I was shopping at the mall one afternoon for a bar outfit nice new set of scrubs when I noticed yet another huge display of That Book With The Hands And The Apple. I finally picked up a copy on a whim, just a few hours before a movie date. I leafed through it on my way to the parking lot and was quickly sucked in. Fast forward a few hours later, and I really didn’t feel like going on that movie date. All I wanted was to find out what happened next for Edward and Bella. Twilight was total book crack. (For the record I did go on that date and that guy is now my husband.)
I devoured the book the next day, and then immediately set out to buy the next three in the series. I was so excited I remember telling the cashier that I loved Twilight so much I read it at stoplights. She gave me a slow blink and passed me my change.
After I’d finished Breaking Dawn, I experienced my first, and worst, book hangover. I went back to the store in search of a something that I could get as excited about as Twilight.
I searched the adult section.
See, I didn’t even know YA was a thing. Twilight had been smacking me in the face in every book store I happened by, so it didn’t even occur to me that it was meant for teenagers, and it certainly didn’t occur to me to go looking for comp titles in the children’s section (which is where the teen section is kept in the ONE bookstore in my city).
I don’t remember the exact moment I discovered YA, but it happened sometime in my search for the next Twilight. I was initially hesitant to read books for teenagers—I mean, I was an adult, albeit an immature one, and dammit, I was going to read an adult book! The whole shopping-in-the-children’s-section thing wasn’t that appealing either. But I got over myself and gave YA books a try, and I’ve been completely hooked ever since. I can credit Twilight for reminding me of my love of reading, which in turn reminded me that going to the bar wasn’t the only available option in entertainment, which planted the seed for my love of writing YA. I pretty much owe my career to Stephenie Meyer, which is one of the reasons why I’ll proudly defend Twilight to the hordes of haters. (Fun fact: I even considered putting Stephenie Meyer in the acknowledgements for HEXED but decided that would be the height of lameness.)
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell:
I don’t generally enjoy historicals, let alone over 1000-page historicals, but my twin sister practically forced me to read this book. (Fun fact: She loved the book so much she named her first daughter Scarlett!)
I started reading Gone with the Wind when I was 9 months pregnant with my first (and only!) child and was less than halfway through it when I went into labor. I had been completely in love the book, but after my son was born, I was too exhausted and busy with new mommy duties that it sat collecting dust on my nightstand. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suffering from a bit of mild post partum blues.
Life had changed in such a huge way, and I felt like I had lost myself a little bit. I was thrilled to be a mom, but it seemed like that’s all I was. I picked up the book again one day between marathon baby-feeding sessions and was quickly sucked back into Scarlett’s world. I couldn’t get enough. Every chance I got I read a few more pages, and by the time I finished I wasn’t quite so down anymore. In fact, I’d venture to say I was . . . up. Enjoying something that had nothing to do with motherhood made me realize that there was still a place for me in my own life, and that it was okay and natural and rejuvenating to take time for myself. When my son was four months old I decided to take that passion for reading and try my hand at something new, something I’d always wanted to try—writing. Eight months later and I had a crappy novel to put in my trunk and a career as a writer in my future.
Well, there you have it, folks—the books that changed my life. What are the books that changed your life?