Literature that transforms you
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” — John Green
Have you ever had this happen to you? You read a book, and you immediately tell all your friends and even some random strangers they must read it too.
One such book that I read is “The Book Thief” by Markus Zuzak. This book had been sitting on my shelf for about five years before my book club selected it to read. On the surface, this book sounds strange and macabre — a Nazi Germany story about a young woman, narrated from the point of view of death? No thank you! But then I started to read it, and I couldn't believe that something so magical had been sitting on my bookshelves all these years unread.
Another book that I resisted reading because of the description was “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I mean, really, the premise is that a bunch of teenagers in a post-war United States must meet annually and fight to the death to celebrate the New World Order. Sounds gross and gruesome. But then I picked up book one in the trilogy, and three days later closed the cover on the third book. Wow. Trust me, just read it.
Last week, I started another book that I immediately started recommending, even when I was only on page 20! “The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession” by Charlie Lovett drew me in from the beginning. An antiquarian bookseller, grieving over the recent death of his wife, discovers a watercolor painting of his wife … except that the painting is over 100 years old, and his wife has only been dead for nine months. What is the connection between this Victorian painting and the only obsession other than books that Peter has ever had? Thrown into the mix is the discovery of original texts that may or not verify once and for all that Shakespeare is the author of all of his plays. The story travels seamlessly back and forth through the centuries, and it was hard for me to put it down once I picked it up!
There is a danger and a vulnerability that comes with selling your friends — and random strangers — on your new favorite book. What if they don't like it? I always feel oddly judged when someone doesn't agree with my recommendations, but I try to remind myself that we all have different reading styles, and even that books draw you in differently depending on your emotional state when you begin reading it.
Several years ago, a woman came into the library with a copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She was gushing about this book she had just finished and told me that she was buying copies to give to all of her girlfriends for Christmas that year. The book was a best seller, and I had a personal recommendation, so I added my name to the holds list. And was disappointed. Luckily, the recommendation came from a stranger, so I never had to own up to her that it didn't live up to her review.
How about you? What books have transformed your life that everyone should read? Let us know at your library.
Kari May lives in Elizabeth and is the Director of the Elbert County Library District. She can be contacted through the library at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the library at www.elbertcountylibrary.org.