The Books That Changed My Life

It’s World Book Night and my fantastic publishing team has put together this beautiful video celebrating the power and beauty of reading.You can see it here:

The other day I was asked about the book that changed my life. I’ve written before about the impact of To Kill A Mockingbird when I was twelve years old. It helped me define my relationship to the Black community in  my small Southern town, and it inspired me to want to be a writer. But there were other books, too, that shaped me. From an early age, I loved biographies. The first one I remember reading was the story of Benjamin Franklin when I was in third grade. I loved reading about Colonial America. Maybe that sealed my fate to become a writer of historical novels.

Everyone in the tiny rural community where I grew up was poor. I didn’t know anyone who had been to college and didn’t dream that one day I would earn not only a BS degree but a masters and a Ph.D. We had an old TV set that worked off and on, so most of what I knew about the wider world came from the old movie star magazines a neighbor gave us. I looked at all the photos of glamorous people and felt disconnected from them. They were not like anyone I knew. Then I discovered the books of Lois Lenski. Those were stories about girls like me. Girls who lived in rural America, who picked cotton and  wore flip flops and whose families struggled to make ends meet. Those girls I understood. My favorites were Strawberry Girl, Judy’s Journey, about a sharecropper’s family, Cotton in My Sack, about cotton farming in Arkansas, and Houseboat Girl, set on the Mississippi River. The girls in those stories showed me that though times were hard, families and courage and determination could carry the day.

As a young teen, I fell in love with Anne Emery’s sweet and innocent romances in books like The Popular Crowd, Sweet Sixteen, Going Steady, and Senior Year.  By today’s standards I’m sure they would seem sappy and goody two shoes, but during my impressionable years those books taught me how to behave around boys. How to respect myself. What a gentleman looked like. And they made me want to write books for other girls. Which I did. My books for teens and pre teens include Semiprecious, Picture Perfect, and Defying the Diva. Thank you, Anne Emery. Thank you, Lois Lenski. And thank you, Harper Lee.

Your turn: What books shaped your life?

2 thoughts on “The Books That Changed My Life

  1. Cheryl Hart

    Oh my…I LOVE To Kill A Mockingbird! My favorite book of all time. 🙂

    I enjoyed reading most anything when I was a kid. I especially loved Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Little House books as a teen.

    1. dorothy Post author

      Cheryl, thanks for sharing! I loved Nancy Drew, too. I always wanted a convertible like hers. 🙂 I didn’t read many of the Trixie Belden books, but I fell in love with Cherry Ames, Student Nurse.

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