Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Books that Changed My Life

Rianne Hall

To me, books have always been more than words. They're adventures I could never experience on my own. They take me away from the, seemingly gargantuan, woes of making the right choices in life and place me in a world where the problems are insurmountable for everyone, except me (the main character). Sometimes, despite all odds, the books I read end up helping me with those woes without realizing it. These are only five of the books that changed my perspective of the world.

1. The Shack, by William Paul Young

I will preface the summary of this book with a statement. Yes, it is about God and Heaven and all that jazz. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, read this book. I am not a Christian myself, but this book gave me an interesting and compelling view of religion.

This book is about a man whose daughter gets kidnapped on a camping trip. She is killed by a serial killer that had been roaming the area. Police find her body in a shack in the middle of the woods, and the captor is MIA. In an emotionally overloaded state, the father decides to go spend some time in the shack where the girl was found, and there he meets the Trinity. Yes, THE Trinity. At the risk of spoiling the book, I will stop my summary there. I will say that what the father learns in this shack stays with him for the rest of his life. I mean, I know I'd really appreciate some one on one with the Big Guy.

Sounds hokey? Yes. I don't think it is important if you believe the story or not. This book re-inspires hope in humanity, and faith in a power that no one quite understands.

2. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Let's be blunt. A man named Shadow gets out of jail only to find his wife died giving road head to his best friend. With his life in pieces, a man named Mr. Wednesday (later identified as Odin, the Nordic God) hires Shadow as a lackey and drags him into a bouquet of traps, tricks, and a few treats. Throughout the book, you meet an assortment of gods and goddesses from all areas of the world. These gods and goddesses are dying because people have stopped believing/worshipping them, and they are determined to make a comeback. Or, Odin is. Mr. Wednesday weaves a web with strings so thin, no one sees it coming.

Also, this is soon to be a T.V. series.

As a Gaiman fanatic, I recommend any book he has written. American Gods holds a very special place on my bookshelf. Not only does this book give you a healthy dose of mythology (ALL kinds), but it also gives you an interesting perspective on how higher powers are really divided. Questions about love, loss, and death are brought to attention and are accentuated by the diminishing immortality of the main characters. Really, it's a piece of sheer genius. Please, go enlighten yourself.

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Just promise me you'll never watch the awful 1945
The Picture of Dorian Gray movie. Please?
An Oscar Wilde classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a wealthy young man who is the subject of a painter named Basil Hallward. Basil becomes infatuated with Dorian due to his beauty, and believes he Dorian is his muse. When a friend of Basil's, named Lord Henry Wotton, comes into the picture, he suggests to Dorian that the only things worth looking for in life are pleasure and beauty. Dorian becomes enthralled with this view of the world, and dedicates his life to these achievements. He desires to stay young forever, but soon discovers these things do not occur without a hefty price.

Honestly, Oscar Wilde's sheer wit and sarcasm are the key to this book making my list. My copy of this book is marked up with underlined quips and mind-boggling "truths". I must admit, the story itself is a bit dry. What made me fall in love with this book is Wilde's way of writing, and the way he shoves how he saw life in your face.

4. The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

Alright, now hopefully you all know this story. But just in case you don't, I'll tell it to you, with a warning that judgements will be passed.

A boy named Harry Potter lives with his terrible Aunt and Uncle in a closet under the stairs. One day, Harry gets a letter telling him that he is a wizard and has been accepted into a magic school called Hogwarts. Little does he know that in the world of magic, he is known as "the boy who lived." He survived an attack from the most powerful dark wizard in the world, and this man killed his parents. For seven beautifully compelling books, Harry struggles with growing up and defeating his greatest enemy, Lord Voldemort.

I grew up on this series. Harry Potter dared me to dream and imagine as much as I could. J.K. Rowling made this world incredibly real. She made me believe in magic, not only in wands and spells, but also in people. Without this book series in my life, I dare to say I would never have found writing as a career to pursue. Without this series, my imagination might have stayed dormant, and I would be writing a paper about machines used in agriculture (the trade my father wished me to pursue) instead of a blog about how much I love books.

5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

My summary rules for Harry Potter applies to this book also. For shame.

J.R.R. Tolkien literally creates a world, word by word, right in front of your face. A hobbit, a race of little people, named Bilbo Baggins gets shipped off on an adventure by a reckless wizard named Gandalf the Grey. Accompanied by a group of dwarves, the hobbit is to be a burglar and help the dwarves get their home mountain back from a dragon.

This book, also, allowed my imagination to expand and seep into the very core of my being. But mainly, the reason why I loved this book so much, was it made me question what makes a place a home. Is it the people that surround you? The familiar land marks and knowing all the crevices of a town? Is home something we have created to make ourselves feel like we belong somewhere? Or is it, truly, just a feeling?

Books are so much more than a way to pass the time. These five books in particular gave me a different way to learn about the world around me and a perspective on how to write. I almost promise if you give these books a try, not only will you not regret it, but you just might look up from the last page to see the world in slightly different hues.

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