Books That Changed My Life

 

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 :

 

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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 

 

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I know what you’re thinking. Twilight? Really, Michelle? TWILIGHT?!

 

Yes. 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:

 

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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?

 

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11 Responses to Books That Changed My Life

  1. Haha Twihard :P As much as I loathe to admit it, I devoured all four Twilight books in about a week. Meyer certainly did something right :)

    The book that made me want to try my hand at writing was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. After reading that at 11, I wrote my very first novel. Hideous fan fiction but that’s where it started.

    Then I forgot all about writing as a career until I read Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite when I was 19. I even know the precise sentence that caused the hair on my arms to rise and made me realise that my passion lay in the power of words, that I was born to write :)

    Great post! Thank you!

    • Michelle Krys says:

      Glad you liked it, Suzanne! And thanks for sharing. I love hearing what inspired other people to write :)

  2. Shawn Keenan says:

    I noticed this post on twitter and had to check it out. Michelle, you are so brave! What other authors are admitting to being influenced to write by the TWILIGHT series? I’ve cautiously mentioned it in interviews as a passing reference and only when I thought people might not notice. But, yes, there is something addictive in those books, or certainly the first one. No, it’s not deep, thought-provoking literature, but it does make you feel something and it keeps you turning the page, and that’s the inspiration I get out of that series of books as well. And Stephenie Meyer’s humble story of getting published didn’t hurt as inspiration either. I also loved GONE WITH THE WIND. I suddenly feel like I need to mention, yes, I am a dude. That’s another story that just demanded you FEEL for Scarlett. Not that you love her, not that you agree with everything she did, but you empathize. I’ve only recently read a Nancy Drew book, to my daughter, and that book is also special to me now for the company I shared it with. Great inspirations, Michelle. Here’s hoping your works will be referenced in other authors’ lists someday.

    • Michelle Krys says:

      Oh, I get a lot of hate for my love of Twilight but I’m unashamed :) You’re totally right about it inspiring you to feel something–I haven’t come across another book that’s had quite the same effect. Thanks for commenting, Shawn! And wouldn’t I be so lucky if I inspired someone else to write.

  3. Ruth says:

    Hey! That crappy novel you put in the trunk really needs to be on MY list! If you hadn’t written that then I wouldn’t be your CP and WHAT WORLD IS THAT I ASK YOU??! (note: my own crappy trunk novel was only slightly shy of being Twilight fanfic itself. Double yay for Twilight? I think so.)

    • Michelle Krys says:

      You think FA was crappy but it’s still one my favorite things you wrote. SO THERE. Maybe our first novels don’t suck nearly as much as we’d like to think they do :)

  4. Alex says:

    Ah Twilight, I picked it up on a whim in Duluth at Barnes and Noble, before Team Edward and Team Jacob even existed. I fell in love!

    I won’t lie, I’m the biggest WWII fanatic, ever! So I need to branch out of my comfort zone … I still believe you can read Anne Frank more than once, and always learn something new or interpret her a bit differently as you grow.

    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas haunts me. The little boy, Bruno made my heart ache and kept my mind restless. Such a fantastic read.

    Of course, my favourite book of all time is JPod. I’m a big geek, and this book hit every chord with me. Bonus! It’s by a Canadian Author (which always gives me a pang of pride).

    I enjoyed reading this post Michelle! I have Gone with the Wind sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, perhaps this weekend :)

    • Michelle Krys says:

      If you like WW2 books you should read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein–you’d love it. I recently read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and loved it too. Haunting is the perfect word to describe it. I’ve not heard of JPod but I just looked it up and it seems fantastic! Adding it to my TBR pile.

      And yes, you should definitely read Gone with the Wind this weekend. YOU WON’T REGRET IT!

  5. Paulina says:

    Great post!
    I really enjoyed the Twilight series as well (note: I read them before they were “cool” -mmkay).
    I will also forever hate you for trashing your very first “terrible” novel. If you ever decide to write an adult book, I want you to revisit this trashed-plot of yours.

    *angry face*

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