I read a lot of books. Some of them I forget about almost straight away, but others stick with me long after I’ve turned the last page. There are only a handful, however, that have a lasting effect on me and hold a special place in my heart.
Some books feel as if they’ve been written just for you, like my favourite children’s book, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. As soon as I started reading it I knew that I would love it, and the more I read it, the more I felt like Cornelia had written it just for me. She felt exactly the same about books and stories as I did and it was like she had put the thoughts and feelings inside my head down on paper. I can’t tell you what I was doing or where I was at the time I first read it because I was completely caught up in the story and didn’t want it to end. My favourite adult book, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, also had this effect on me. I’m going to meet him at the Auckland Writer’s Festival in a couple of weeks and I think I’ll probably die of excitement just listening to him talk.
Some books unsettle you and creep in to your head so that you can’t stop thinking about them. Alex Shearer’s The Speed of the Dark was one of those books for me. I can’t remember much about the story (I will have to reread this again soon) but the sense of mystery and feeling of unease I got while reading has stuck with me for many years.
Some books just wrench your heart out, by putting you in to the head of a character that faces some horrific situations. I’ve just finished reading Morris Gleitzman’s books about Felix, Once, Then, Now and After. These were books that I had been meaning to read for a while but hadn’t got around to reading. Last year one of my best friends, who is a school librarian, told me I had to read Once. I did and I’m incredibly grateful to her for making me do so, as this book (and it’s sequels) had a huge impact on me. Morris Gleitzman is a very talented storyteller, who can write incredibly funny stories as well as incredibly sad and moving stories. Morris’ stories of Felix’s fight for survival in Poland during World War II are heartbreaking and I know that I will always carry these stories in my head and my heart. Once, Then, Now and After are stories that everyone should read. I’ll be meeting Morris Gleitzman at the Reading Matters Conference in Melbourne next month and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be telling him how much I love these books.
What books hold a special place in your heart?
5 thoughts on “What books hold a special place in your heart?”
Here’s some info that may interest librarians and children’s literature fans – in Storylines’ 2011 Yearbook there’s a Childhood Favourites Booklist contributed by some of the people associated with Storylines. There are some well known names there – and some book titles that may jog people’s memories.
You know Zac, when I read Once I went out and dug spuds in the garden but i was getting really worked up as I was so worried for Felix. He had become so real I was just hoping he would be all right. Powerful set of books
I can’t wait to meet Morris Gletizman at “Reading Matters”! Those ‘Felix’ books are very special, I’ve recommended them to all the teachers in my family and they always report back how much the kids enjoyed and were deeply affected by them.
So glad you were willing to read those books Zac! They moved me tremendously. We are going to be collectively pathetic in the presence of the mighty Morris Gleitzman, you know! How many more ‘sleeps’ til we go?
Other pivotal books for me were Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (younger daughter is currently reading it), The rising of the lark by Ann Moray, House of stairs by William Sleator, Dance on my grave by Aidan Chambers, The Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin, and The tree that couldn’t fly (picture book I used to sleep with under my pillow every night – indescribably sad to me in my young state!) to name a few. Showing my age here! I think a lot about pivotal books are the ones that arrive in your life at exactly the right time – they may not be perfect specimens of literature (although they often are to resonate so soundly) but they are perfect at the time.
“Some books just wrench your heart out, by putting you in to the head of a character that faces some horrific situations.” – There have been many fictional books that have done this and stuck with me. Recently, however, I came across a non-fiction memoir about a brave and amazing woman, Jhumki Basu, who faced challenge after challenge and still kept going. This book will stick with me and Jhumki’s mission will forever inspire me. The book is entitled “Mission to Teach” (http://missiontoteach.org/) by author Dipak Basu (Jhumki’s father). It is a story of facing great obstacles—the brutal murder of her dearest mentor and the onset of breast cancer at the very young age of twenty-four. Mission to Teach shows us how, despite a seven-year battle with a killer disease and an untimely death, a fearless young woman’s path-breaking work endures through the movement she started. Jhumki worked with troubled, impoverished students with violent backgrounds and little hope for a bright future. She developed a revolutionary teaching idea – including students in curriculum development
She wanted to ensure that students were engaged, listened to, and empowered. High school completion rates in the undeserved institutions she touched, and those touched by teachers who have followed her model, have risen from 30% to over 90%. Kids, whom Jhumki and her followers worked for, were candidates for a lifetime of drugs and crime. They are today college graduates and on their way to careers of their dreams. This book is inspirational and beautifully written. I know that this book will make a difference in many peoples lives and I hope you will give it a read 🙂