Everyone has read one: a life-changing book.
A book so profound, so full of information, so touching to you at a particular moment in time that it has altered your life for the better forever. A book that gave you hope when you had none, or gave words to feelings you couldn’t express, or made you realize there was a whole unexplored side to you. A Book of Revelations, as it were.
Do You Read Me? would love to hear about the books that made a fundamental difference to you. You can send in a short text, or else make a short film, much like the ones on whyilovethisbook.com, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In return, we will give you a book voucher for your efforts.
To start you off, the blogmistresses will tell you all about their Books of Revelations:
Hayley: Loving What Is: The Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
Lots of books have influenced me. Eric Carle and L.M. Montgomery made me love books. Margaret Atwood made me love really good books.
I’m not the sort of person who consults a self-help book at every turn in my life. I’ve read a few, selectively, when I needed them. I stumbled across Byron Katie by accident at a time when all my assumptions and beliefs were being turned upside down and it felt marvelously serendipitous. I saw a video of Byron working through her four questions with an audience member at one of her appearances and was struck by how warm and genuine she was – not at all what I would have expected from a celebrated self-help guru. I liked her. I was in awe of how she used such simple questions to turn destructive thought patterns around. The audience member was amazed at how easy it was to think in a different way. Watching her realize that, right there in front of me, so was I.
This book challenged and changed almost every idea I’d had about myself and how I should be in the world. It was powerful enough to allow me to ditch most of the strange beliefs that I had accrued in the religious sect and damaged family I was raised in. It gave me a huge amount of peace. I’ve been a happier, freer, more confident, less chaotic person since. This really was my book of revelations.
Sophie: The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar
For me, it wasn’t even the entire book. The introduction was enough. I was taking a Literary Criticism course at college, where the professor was one of those men that grew dust and I was the only girl in the entire class. We had to read Roland Barthes, and more of his ilk. And then we had to read the introduction to The Madwoman in the Attic, which the professor shrugged off as being grossly outdated, but as it had made a stir way back when… It transformed me.
Their assertion that women in classical literature had always been presented as either a saint or a whore was so TRUE! Think of The Odyssey – who sits at home for twenty years, beating off the suitors, and who is a goddess’s toyboy for ten years? Exactly. And where were all the female writers between Homer and Jane Austen? Hiding behind male aliases, in some cases, but generally just written out of the history books, by men. It made my blood boil when I realized that men had all these heroes to follow, and women had no better female character to look up to than a very dead Juliet or a woman with snakes for hair.
Gilbert and Gubar dissect some classic works of literature by women in the nineteenth century in the rest of the book, showing how they attempted to create a new voice out of the very male literary structures of the times. How grateful am I that these past 200+ years women have taken up the pen and written, and written, and keep writing still! And that men have answered the call and write about realistic women! I can show my daughter some great books with great female heroines (The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, for a recent example), and also great female villains (His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman), as well as all those brave men that are still around, so she can learn what to do, or what not to do, and choose her own heroes to follow when she inevitably faces difficulties in her own life.
The Madwoman in the Attic has helped me see the fine line between growing up with the classics and being dominated by them, and that carving your own path – creating your own classic – is always possible and must be attempted, even if you don’t live to see the fruits of your labor – your children, and their children, will. It has also shown me that reading is a powerful and highly subtle force in shaping anyone’s opinions, and you must ask questions at all times in order to not fall for the general hype (follow the hype, by all means, as long as you’ve looked around and seen nothing better!).