I was asked to do a Top Ten list of books in my life. So here it is. These aren’t necessarily my Top Ten “Favourite” books, but rather the books that come to mind when I consider which ones have had the most influence on my life.
- We’ll start with the Dick and Jane series of primers because they taught me to read. They also taught me that there was an entire world out there that was much different than mine, one with dads who wore suits and went to work and moms who owned vacuum cleaners. For a rustic farm girl, these were amazing revelations and sparked my love of reading.
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll—because my dad read it to me more than once, as I cuddled on his lap in the rocking chair. Even after I knew how to read it myself, he read it to me. Alice and her white rabbit taught me that books were a way to share interests and experiences with those you love.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was the first full-length novel I was introduced to. My grade 3 teacher read it to our class after lunch over the span of many weeks. So enthralled was I with the story that when I had to stay home with the chicken pox, my older sister brought me a copy from the library so I could keep pace with the class. Although I was an exceptionally strong reader, it was tough going for me. Thankfully, my mom offered to read it to me a bit at a time. The Secret Garden instilled in me a desire to increase my vocabulary so no books would ever be beyond my reach.
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery– the Canadian classic introduced me to book series and the ability of words to transport me across time and geography. Through Anne’s stories I learned that books can keep people from feeling alone with their problems. I realized children everywhere felt the same as I did about many things.
- The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder is another great series that transported me across time and into the life and heart and mind of a child like me. I learned from Laura that life is an amazing adventure and that problems are challenges meant to be accepted and overcome.
- Lightfoot the Deer by Thornton W. Burgess was my initial brush with the concept that the world and its people exist outside myself. By immersing me in the lives of forest creatures, this story made me realize how differently the world appears to others. It also taught me I have an ability to empathize with and understand others’ perceptions of reality.
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – I learned that stories could convey intense emotions and grappled with the fact that not all stories end happily.
- Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin– One of the first ‘true’ books I read, outside of text books. While reading this book about prejudice in the America south, I grasp the concept of the pen being powerful and the importance of the literary arts in creating a just and safe society.
- A Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule – instilled in me the love of crime stories and taught me the real story is not about the crime or the criminal but about the lives of victims, investigators and the men and women working the justice system.
- The Holy Bible – introduced me to the concept that literature can bind communities together and also tear them apart. That is of course, aside from all the exciting, unbelievable, historic and prescient stories in the Bible about people and evil and goodness.