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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Name Three Books

Listening to talk radio, they were discussing a debate question: what three books have most impacted your life. The question had been posed to a politician, who was stymied for an immediate answer (politicians have to have the correct answer to suit their base). The talk program discussed it as they explored how difficult that question really was. Who could answer it in a few seconds. On the other hand, the books that have influenced our lives do mean something.

One of the hosts said he felt that the book titles for him would be different at different points of time. Another said he felt saying the Bible was a cop out even for a Christian. Sure it might have influenced your life, but it's the easy answer.  A person might say it's the Bible but has it impacted your political views or is it those who tell you what it says who did that? How about if you believe the Gospels and yet ignore Christ's words about caring for the poor or not judging others. Does it really impact your life philosophy or is it just a get out of jail free card?

This led me to thinking about what three books could I say had impacted my life the most. Of course there are the ones I read as a child but I figured to start with young adulthood. I took more than a few seconds to really think about it.

I came up easily with The Virginian by Owen Wister. I consider that book definitive for the western and something to describe the western ethic. I loved the honeymoon scene more than any romantic scene I've ever read-- and it had no sex. It had plenty of tenderness and meaning. I liked how it showed the need of the community to bring law and order to a land. I liked how it showed there is cost to what we do. I loved the humor and scenes of the people gathering together in ways I remember hearing my father describe as he recalled being a child growing up in South Dakota. It was written during the time it depicted and to me it had truths that still apply today.

There are lots of authors who have influenced my life by writing books about nature, farming and their lives. Pilgrim on Tinker Creek is certainly one by Annie Dillard. But in the same vein were books like Wapiti Wilderness by Margaret Murie and her life married to the naturalist Olaus Murie. She took her children into the wilds of the Tetons and spent summers there. She wrote about it beautifully. Gladys Taber wrote the Stillmeadow books and they, like many others set in the rural lifestyle, certainly impacted my life and still do today.

Then there are the books by John Steinbeck, pick any of them but especially Grapes of Wrath. I think today it impacts my political view that sometimes the government is needed and people can be pushed beyond their limits by circumstances. Being poor doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Once again, there was a cost to trying to help others. The book is about society shunting some people aside and others taking responsibility to make a difference.
"Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there." --- Grapes of Wrath
There are a many other authors who have probably impacted my life philosophy along with the life I lead-- writers of fiction and non-fiction. Today though, the life I lead, those three are still in my life philosophy-- they have lasted.

So just for the fun of it, think about what three books might you say impacted your life and still do today? If you are so inclined, how about sharing them. They don't have to be famous authors or books that are noted for being classics. That's not what it's about. It's what touched you and maybe even changed the direction of your life?



Tabor said...

Limited to three? Diary of Anne Frank and Gone with the Wind when I was a young girl were certainly books I loved. I also remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird twice. In my late twenties I loved books about people who left their world and explored new lives such as those written by Isik Dinesen aka Karen Blixen. Now I am drawn to biographies and historical fiction.

Rain Trueax said...

It was limited to that in the debate in Colorado where this originated. It's not easy to come up with even just 10 because there are so many that I am sure have influenced me in different ways. I added more than three given the memoir type and May Sarton would be there also if I had kept going. I loved her journal type books as much as her poetry. But the big thing about influence is what do we see in our lives that changed or was enhanced because of the book.

Celia said...

Just three books is hard. Three from my 13 and under years that have stuck with me are "Wild Geese Calling," "Mrs. Mike," and the "Egg and I." All women starting off into a new life with their husband. I think they spoke to me as our family moved frequently in my early years often into the woods with our research biologist father. Mom was a city girl, a shy only child who was hard pressed to make a new home repeatedly in what was for her a foreign environment. Those books are certainly about resilience in women. Not a surprise they were handed to us by our mother.

la peregrina said...

My three are book I read either when I was a child or a teenager.

1. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which made understand why we need Food and Drug regulations to protect us from unscrupulous business practices. He also showed me why my mother was pro-union.

2. To Kill A Mocking Bird, which showed me the kind of man and father my own father could have been but wasn't.

3. The Patchwork Girl of OZ, who I identified with at age 10 because she also was trying to understand a world that sometimes didn't make sense to her.

Rain Trueax said...

What is neat about this idea of identifying three books is it can then remind others of books they might read

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Great idea, Rain.....The first book that comes to mind that truly changed my life was "The Autobiography Of Malcom X"....I read it in the mid 1960's, and a light bulb went on in a very big way. It was moving and enlightening and after reading this book, I could never look at so very many things in the same way. It opened my eyes and my heart in a huge huge way.

Another very important book, for me, was by the actress Hildegard Neff. "The Gift Horse"...many things she wrote about women, resonated with me and there are things she said that I have never forgotten to this day.

There are many more books---too many to mention, but, the one that I read when I was around 11 years old..."Gone With The Wind" affected me in a big way. This huge novel written by a woman----covering a part of the history of our country that always fascinated me---though of course it was Margaret Mitchell's view of that period as a southern woman.....And I had seen the film when it came out in 1939.....The first film I had ever seen that was so long it had an intermission.....That film holds up as a true masterpiece of Film-making, to this day---it was so beautifully rendered on every level. But the book was an inspiration to me because it had been written by a woman. At 11 years old it gave me a great sense of what women were capable of doing as writers. I still have the copy I read back then, sitting in one of my small bookshelves in my bedroom.

Rain Trueax said...

This reminds me of how The Feminine Mystique by Friedan impacted my life. I got it out of the library and read it when pregnant with my first child. The ideas within stayed with me especially that for each of us our last child should be our creative work. She wasn't a radical feminist but a thinker of how women make their lives quality. Not long after that Dr. Spock also was a big influence for a few years ;). Some books are like that in that they are for a certain period and others plant ideas that don't leave.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

I'll try..... only three.....

Little Women in my youth, for the joy I had in rereading it with friends, and the truths it told about love and family and doing for others.

Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, the first mystery I ever read, which opened the door to my very favorite genre. I remember the thrill of discovery, the nuance, and my shock when the title was changed to Then There Were None. It was a window into the business of publishing, and something my late teen self had never considered.

In adulthood, the poems of Billy Collins, especially The Apple that Astonished Paris. The first poet I read "on my own", who spoke to me of fragility and resilience and the mundane.

Now, back to reading the book that's influencing me most at this moment, Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings.

Wally said...

These three books have changed the direction of my thinking and the way that I navigate through life: 1984 by George Orwell, The Wisdom of Insecurity, by Alan Watts, and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.