There has been a debate in the store (and in my house) about whether a book can change your life.
TONIGHT: ATTORNEY JON FLEISCHAKER, presented by the Media Law Resources Center Institute, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and Destinations Booksellers. TOPIC: Censorship and the First Amendment. 7 p.m. at Destinations Booksellers, 604 E. Spring St., New Albany, Ind.
Some of you will know that I had been scheduled to be an in-studio guest of WFPL’s State of Affairs this past Monday. That show has been rescheduled … and I will not be on that future show.
However, I did prepare for the show and rather than “waste” that preparation, I’ll be giving you an extended, multi-day presentation of my thoughts on the show’s announced theme, “Books That Changed Our Lives.”
Though I will be hiding an Easter Egg in each of the next few posts, if you have no interest in the topic, skip these … unless you want to discover our special offer nestled comfortably somewhere within. Don’t worry. They’ve always been pretty easy to find.
To kill some of the suspense, here are the 3.5 books I had chosen to discuss on the show.
1. Andersonville,by MacKinlay Kantor
2. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren and
2B. Facing the Lions, by Tom Wicker
3. Atlas Shrugged,by Ayn Rand
I’ll discuss these over the coming days. But today, I’d like to first talk about the whole idea of whether a book can change a life.
I do know that “books” changed my life, and they continue to do so. Nothing I know of keeps a decaying brain supple like the exposure to new ideas, places, and people that books can give you. At least once a year I have to reshuffle my “list” of favorites and bests when I come across a new one. That list has grown considerably since I opened Destinations Booksellers. You can put your hands on many of them because if I love a book, I keep it on my shelves – whether its sales numbers justify it or not.
Were an intelligent alien to descend on New Albany tomorrow seeking to understand humanity, I could, from stock, provide her with a reading list to occupy her time for months and months and months.
I do come down on the side that asserts that a book can change a life. Sometimes explaining it is so simple as to be unnecessary, but most of the time it requires a story.
For those of you who visit the store with some regularity, you know I love to tell a story. Perhaps I’m mistaken that my stories are, in fact, interesting or thought-provoking, but tell them I do. I have a floor littered with ears that have been talked off to prove it.
I submit the idea, though, that the life-altering nature of books is unique to each individual. Could it be that our friends who don’t read books don’t because no book ever changed their lives? And if none did change their lives, do they see no compelling reason to read?
I’ll bet that none of those people are reading this right now, so we’ll just stick to the “remnant” who do read books … perhaps in the hope of that next life-changing one.
Interestingly, a few years ago Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen edited a collection of essays called The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them.
I present to you a list from that book:
- DOROTHY ALLISON on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- KATE ATKINSON on Robert Coover’s Pricksongs & Descants
- JAMES ATLAS on Gwendolyn Brooks’s Selected Poems
- ROBERT BALLARD on Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth
- GINA BARRECA on Jean Kerr’s The Snake Has All the Lines
- NICHOLAS A. BASBANES on the Works of Shakespeare
- GRAEME BASE on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
- JEFF BENEDICT on The Little Engine That Could
- ELIZABETH BERG on J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
Come by the store to see what Patricia Cornwell, Sebastian Junger, and Jacqueline Winspear or dozens of other top contemporary writers chose as the book that changed their lives.
Don’t worry. I don’t recognize all of those writers, much less read them. But please … use the comments section to tell me and my readers about the book(s) that changed your life.