Thursday, January 13, 2011

Books in our Brain Wrinkles

We all have them. They attached themselves to our curious minds and tucked into brain winkles with their slippers and PJs on. For young readers today, maybe they’re wearing Snuggies.

Think back to your childhood, to that moment you marveled, you wondered, your tear ducts opened, or you held your breathe in suspense. We all have that one book that did it for us, that one book that made us view the force of words in an entirely new way.

For me, in 4th grade, Where the Red Fern Grows was the first book to make me cry. I honestly thought something was wrong with me. I was reading in bed, comfortable and warm. I could hear my family talking downstairs. My world was just fine, but I was bawling over my homework reading. This couldn’t be normal.

In 6th grade, Lois Lowry’s The Giver agitated my vision of the world. I closed that book curious, wanting to know more, wanting to figure out all of the ‘what if’s, wanting to know what was possible… Lois Lowry made me want to be a writer.

All grown up now, I suppose, I look at myself as a writer. How much did these books affect what I write today? If not in style, how did they affect my purpose? Can books read in adulthood shake you to the core like they could when you were a child?

I’d like to create a list of great titles here. Please help my cause. These are the books that made you want to write, that showed you the power of literature. These are the books that we should share with our children and the ones we should explore further ourselves.

I’ll add two more to my list:

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

How about you?


  1. Great post, Kris. For me, it was probably Of Mice and Men, which I read in high school. It pulled me in, chipped away at my cold teenaged heart with each chapter, and then broke it soundly at the end. I cried like a baby. I've re-read it at least a half-dozen times since, and I see or learn something new every time.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. What a great post (and I'm a first time visitor to your blog!).

    Books that hit me hard and hit me early in life include:

    A Wrinkle in Time: Madeleine L'Engle. SWOON. I loved this book in elementary school. I think it was the first time I was totally transported into this other world that was truly otherworldly.

    Little Women: Louisa May Alcott. First book that made me cry. Poor, poor Beth.

    The Stand: Stephen King. And so began my love affair with Mr. King, who I still consider to this day one of the most interesting writers. To be clear, I don't like all of this stories, but what I do like I LOVE. He was the first writer who got me interested in all the stuff that you read that isn't dialogue. Before him I remember reading and thinking, 'good grief, we need an entire paragraph about the view from the window?'. He is a master at setting the scene. While I think everything I've read has contributed in some part to wanting to write, his books probably were the turning point for me in actually realizing that's what I wanted to do.

    Thanks for inspiring my trip down memory lane!

  3. where the red fern grows was one of those i read again and again. until i watched the movie-- that one ruined the book for me.

    dandelion wine by ray bradbury is a favorite for sure.
    i actually read the sound and the fury so many times (all required) that i grew to enjoy it. of course i had a serious guide to read along with it.

    how green was my valley is a great one too. i love pat conroy's lords of discipline. and i was always partial to a separate piece.

    and props to the person who said stephen king. i always feel bad when i say he's one of my favorite authors because i think people look down on him for his popularity and prolificness. but he is truly a great writer. when you read his stuff it is evident that he's not just churning stuff out.