One of my earliest memories is going to my local library each week for story time. I loved playing pretend based on the stories we heard, and could meander the aisles forever — honestly I still can. I still have my original library card, and it serves as a reminder for all books have done for me throughout my life. Whether it be expanding my imagination or reminding me how big the world really is, books have inspired me in a multitude of ways.
As I continue to find new books to obsess over, here are five (among the countless others) that impacted my love for literature:
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
In elementary school, my class read Because of Winn Dixie together each week when the literary specialist came to visit. I can remember the excitement of having a visitor, and the added bonus of doing reading related activities. The experience is one of my earliest memories of being fully engaged with a book. Opal’s story was integral to my understanding of empathy and forgiveness. And much like Littmus Lozenges the lesson of tasting the sweet even when things are sour or sad has stayed with me.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
I can still remember picking out this novel as a treat from the bookstore with my mom in the 5th grade. I was captivated by the descriptions of the castle and royal life. Miri’s small village reminded me of my own hometown, and made me wish that I could be swept off to a Princess Academy. It became an instant favorite of mine, and I have reread it several times. Aside from filling my head with royal fantasies, it was my first introduction to the publishing industry. Seeing the Newbery Honor seal on the cover sparked my interest into how books got made, which has turned into my career 12 years later!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This classic absolutely played a role in shaping my love for literature. As a high school sophomore I actually enjoyed writing thesis papers about this story of family, history, and social issues. It made me realize how important the study of literature really is for shaping the world. To Kill a Mockingbird definitely set me on my course of studying English and journalism in college. To this day, Atticus remains one of the most influential characters to have touched my heart, and I continuously strive to achieve Scout’s passion and nerve.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I actually didn’t pick up the story of “the boy who lived” until I was 16-years-old. As the Harry Potter fandom will tell you, the books will find you exactly when you need them. Like many teenagers, I felt lost and confused in the midst of high school drama. Escaping to Hogwarts helped me navigate my own reality. Harry continued to persevere even when the odds were stacked against him. To have that attitude imprinted on me at the crux of adolescence has made me a determined young adult. The books remain a comfort I often return to when the world gets heavy. They remind me that magic is all around me, but especially between the pages of a book.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Six months ago I picked up The Alchemist from my “to read” pile and decided that it was time to crack this one open. For years friends told me this book would change my life, and as someone who tends to fear change I sort of took to avoiding this one. However, Santiago’s journey to find his true purpose made me self reflect in ways I never thought possible. Understanding the value of setbacks and being able to recognize the omens has given me a better sense of self. While I’m not sure if I’ve yet to discover “the soul of the world,” being aware of my true goals has opened my eyes to the opportunities in front me.