Books. A seemingly simplistic word, that so many in our generations have come to overlook as archaic. Even my best friend, a man I consider a brother to me in soul, admits that he will probably never touch a book in recreation.
“Why read a book, when I can watch the movie if it is good enough to be made into one?”
He has said this to me on more than one occasion. And unfortunately this has creepingly become the accepted norm for books. But to me, this tiny little word means so much more. When I was younger books served as portals to other worlds that took me away from the bullying and teasing of other children as well as from the abuse of my own step-father. At the time, I saw them as a means of escape. Now, in retrospect, I can see them as so much more. They were an escape, to be sure, but now I see them as the entrances to something much grander. They inspired my mind and heart. They taught me that even the little guy like I used to be, could have more, could be more. They showed that there wasn’t always desperation and anguish, and they showed that even those tales could have happy endings.
I watched as children with nothing worth fighting for could become men and women that proved to the world that greatness comes in many forms. I watched as the mightiest heroes fell to evil only to become the greatest champions of the very causes they had so adamantly fought against. I’ve read and observed more tales and souls than I can recount.
But I remember my favorites. I remember the ones that inspired me the greatest. These are the tales that have inspired me to embrace my love for books and have given me the courage to forge my own tales, in life and on paper. Now I would like to share with you the list of books that paved the way for my love for writing. Enjoy.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen
This is the first book I ever remember reading. I remember sitting on my bed, as my mom held me and read this book to me, sometimes over and over. Then I grew up, and the book became lost to me along with the memory. Then, five years ago, I was working at Borders (resquiesce en pace) and I was putting a new batch of children’s books away, when I came across a board book edition of it. As soon as it slid out of the box I was unloading, into my hands, and I found myself staring at the cover into the jubilant faces of the young boy and his bear companion, I found a part of myself that I had lost. I found the young boy that I had been, hidden under a layer of years and a thicker layer of tortured memories from my time as a teen. That book now sits on my own son’s bookshelf and the spirit of that boy lives on in his eyes and forever in my heart.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
This is undeniably the beginning of my love for fantasy of all shapes and sorts. The tale that Le Guin wrote evoked so many emotions in me. It was the first book I remember reading where the protagonist leaves his family behind in order to seek his path in life. I’ve read that book no less than ten times now, but I remember every step and mistake that young Sparrowhawk made along the way, and I remember the fear he felt as he faced his mistakes and sought out his destiny. Given the rather diminuitive size of the book, Le Guin taught me that not all great stories need to be big, and that the value and depth of words is infinitely more important than the amount of them.
The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks
I’ve read this entire series up through the Heritage of Shannara Trilogy. Twice. Brooks taught me how rich and deep fantasy could be, without overloading you with clichés of wizards, heroes and villains. He wrote a series that, at its core was always about the magic of one world, but he showed this magic in powerful ways without having to show you over and over again. Each of his characters had their own depth and dynamic that allowed you to remember and differentiate each of them. Each had their own voice and personality. He also taught me the value of making a series that linked together, book by book. To this day, I remember each of the characters and the way each of them fought through their struggles in order to protect the varied lands and races of his series.
I could continue on about the hundreds of other books I’ve read, and about what each of them taught me, but the ones in this list, those are mine. Those are the keys to the soul of my writing, and why I must continue to write, even when I get frustrated with it and want to just give up. Those books, and the inspiration of their memories, are why I write. They inspire me to write something as half as good, all with the hope that I write something that makes at least one person feel the same way these books made and make me feel.
So. What about you? If you love writing as much as I, if you love books as much me, I implore you to tell me what books make you tick. I have many years left on this planet, and I can think of no better companions than books and lovers of books, so recommend me your favorite tales.