The Books That Shaped Me

A couple years ago, Navah and I started a little nightly routine of reading to each other in bed. We probably only read for 15-20 minutes, but it's a nice segue into the quietness of sleep. And we enjoy reading something together so we can talk about it.

Our previous books have all been joint decisions, but I came across an old copy of Christy a while back at a used book sale and brought it home with the announcement that it would be our next nighttime book. Navah was less convinced. The cover’s cheesy. The little blurb on the back is cheesy. But I pushed and pushed and promised to read it in my best Southern accent (she’s a sucker for Southerners). I knew that once we got into it, she’d be hooked.

And I was right. Those Appalachian Mountain folks pull you in.

We’re about a third of the way through, and I keep remembering my high school self – reading intently and imagining that it was me in the shirtwaist and long skirt scrapping my way through a year of teaching those bright and unruly mountain children, falling in love with the rugged mountain folk along the way. Romantic was my favorite way to be.

And the trip down memory lane has me thinking about the books I read as a child and young adult that shaped who I am today. There are three books – and really two of them are series – that jump right out at me.

Christy, the Anne of Green Gables series, and the Little House on thePrairie series.

I was a voracious reader, and I consumed those books – not just with my eyes, but with my heart and my young little soul. In their feisty heroines, I saw the kind of person that I wanted to be. Curious and kind. Adventurous and noble. Grateful for the simplest of gifts. Fallible, for sure, but with a heart of gold.

A teacher. A writer.

And I saw some of what I already was. A romantic. A lover of family, community, and nature.

I connected instantly with the stories of communities pulling together, of mistakes forgiven, of negative perceptions proven wrong. The books planted in me the belief that there is good in everyone and that a passionate young woman is the exact person to seek it out.

And they planted in me desires that I’ve never shed – to walk barefoot in fields of tall grass, to make things with my hands, to dig in the earth, to eat for dinner the fruits of your own labor, to look around me and see my own sweat in anything I can touch.

At thirty-one, I’ve become a bit more cynical and jaded. And there’s value in that – the books are fiction, after all (even Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account of her life was super romanticized). But I’m enjoying stepping back into that world – the world where good prevails, where gumption is all you need, where faith is pure and sustaining, where the beauty of wildflowers is worthy of a whole page.

I’m reconnecting with a part of myself that I treasure and that I don’t ever want to forget.

So, what books shaped you?