I got an exciting guest post from Leanne over at Bookish Revolution! Let me just give her the word!
Who Are You?: I’m Leanne, I’m relatively new to the world of book blogging. I’m an avid (but slow!) reader, and I’ll read pretty much anything except romance, which no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to get into! I also love belly dancing, running and my cat Coconut.
What is your blog about and what are your plans with it?: My blog is about books, but I’m not doing many straightforward reviews. I prefer to look at how books have shaped my view of the world, or how they’ve helped me in some way. I also like to do a light-heartes post once in a while – like pictures of my cat with books!
Why did you start blogging?: I wanted to connect with people and discuss books with them – that’s pretty much it! I also want to improve my writing style and develop my own “voice”. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I finish a blog post.
Which books changed your life? Here are 3 of mine
This week I’ve been reflecting on my reading progress for the year. Not just in terms of the number of books I’ve read, but also the quality of those I’ve read and the level of diversity I’ve managed to achieve.
I’ve read some great books this year that have all resonated with me in different ways. That said, with the possible exception of Roxane Gay’s wonderful Difficult Women, which I talked about in an earlier blog post, nothing has jumped out at me yet as a book that I’ll remember for years to come. You know the sort I mean, the book you look at sitting on your shelves and immediately start reminiscing about the time you read it and how it made you feel. It makes you want to capture that feeling again and again.
Now, I know we’re only in July, so there’s still a few more books left to read before the end of the year. I also recognise that the important books in your life tend to be few and far between, and that’s part of what makes them special – you’d probably be rather emotionally drained if every book you read left you pining so deeply for the experience of reading it again, and sometimes that’s really not what you need from a book anyway.
But it got me thinking about some of the books I’ve read that have had a big impact on me over the years, and some are probably ones you wouldn’t expect! Here are 3 books that, in very different ways, have changed my life.
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
To be honest, I can’t remember exactly when I first read Harper Lee’s classic. It wasn’t when I was at secondary school, although I certainly owned a copy at that point – I think I may have been at university before I finally managed to read it.
I could see immediately why it’s such a popular choice on the curriculum in American high schools, and I really hope it still is today. It addresses so many important themes – race relations, gender stereotypes, what it means to have courage and to follow your own moral compass. To have compassion for others who aren’t like you. Things that I think are more relevant today than they ever were.
To Kill A Mockingbird taught me that doing what you think is right isn’t always an easy option – but you should do it anyway. When I re-read this book a couple of years ago, I remember sitting on a bus and reading the end of a particular chapter – and having to close the book for a second so I could hug it. I never do that.
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight – Linda Bacon
And now for something completely different!
I first read this book about 4 years ago, after having a conversation with a work colleague on the bus home. I’d been going to Slimming World for about a year by that point, and I’d never really considered any other viewpoint than the one espoused by pretty much everybody, from doctors to friends – being fat is unhealthy, and you’re only going to be happy if you can get thin and stay thin.
Oh, how the science in this book completely changed my perspective.
I’ve never been happy with my body. I come from a family where dieting is the norm, and being fat is just not something that is acceptable. This book helped me move away from the diet mentality – and consequently away from low self-esteem. Until I read this book, I hadn’t realized how much of my self-esteem was wrapped up in trying to attain a socially-acceptable body (or how much emotional energy I was expending trying to do it). I’m not only happier because of this book, I’m healthier – I don’t obsess about eating, but I’m still able to make food and exercise choices that help me maintain my well-being and a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to the constant weight cycling and “all-or-nothing” approach to healthy eating that I had before. It also got me into reading other books about the obsession with the obesity “crisis”, as well as size-acceptance movements and intuitive eating.
I have a lot to thank Linda Bacon for – I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t ditched the diets and started living my life.
Kindred – Octavia E. Butler
This is the first book by Octavia E. Butler that I read, and I hope to add more to the list!
I enjoyed this book so much – the plot had me gripped and the nuanced relationships between the characters had me hooked. But these aren’t the reasons it’s important to me.
Kindred made me look at diversity in books in a new light. I’ve felt for a long time that it’s important to read more than just white male authors, who generally don’t experience the barriers to publishing or exposure in the book community that other writers do.
This is hard for me to admit, but reading this book made me realize that I’d been making assumptions about black writers and writing that really weren’t true. Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of a science fiction book written by a black person, never mind a black woman, and this had never occurred to me as odd. I’m cringing as I write this, because it all seems completely ridiculous to me that I could ever have thought this way.
I’d never really considered that black writers who get publicity in the UK tend to be writing about particular subjects such as slavery, or the political situation in Nigeria, themes that you’d probably expect black writers to explore. There is nothing wrong with this – I’ve read some brilliant books on these topics. But I think it does lead to black writers getting pigeonholed, because the reading public is often only showcased a particular sort of writing. I think this can often be true for writers from other backgrounds too. I’m sure it’s not an accident that science fiction is overwhelmingly white, and male. Even though Kindred is widely dubbed a classic, and isn’t a new book, I’d never heard of it. I know it deals with slavery and race relations, but I’d never seen them approached in this way.
As I said, I loved this book, but it also raised some questions about diversifying my reading that made me feel uncomfortable. I’m glad about that. It made me realise that, if I was going to make sure that diversifying my reading didn’t turn into a tokenistic gesture, I needed to make an effort to find authors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds other than those established enough to be getting a lot of publicity, or those writing in mainstream genres that tend to have big marketing budgets. It’ll need a bit more effort, but I think it’ll be worth it. There are so many books by a diverse range of writers out there that we don’t get to hear about because of the barrier such writers face, and I’d like to help remedy that if it’s possible.
So, there you have my 3 life-changing books – which books are important to you?