A while back, in Treehouse Magazine, editor Tom Robotham recounted the ten books that changed his life, and included a small blurb for each to explain why/how. In it, he encouraged readers to send in their own lists with brief explanations. In trying to compose mine, I found myself writing way too much for what was supposed to be a “blurb.” Anyway, getting the list down to 10 was hard enough. So, I sent in just my list with a quick blurb covering them all (yes, I know, all or nothing – it’s an issue). But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m revisiting that list here. For anybody who might have seen my hastily composed list in Treehouse, it might have changed since then. Really, I could feel differently and draw up a different list next week, next month, next year. But today, this is the one I’ve settled on, and I think most of these would land on my list any given day.
I’ve been a HUGE reader my entire life, but separating favorites from the most influential was easier than I thought. These books are all books that opened my eyes to a new way of thinking/seeing/being, validated something I already felt/knew but didn’t know how to articulate, or sent my life in a new direction. I’m listing them in roughly the order in which they influenced me (in some cases, they didn’t influence me until I’d read them a second time, much later in life than the first time).
Since I wrote the first entry & it was rather lengthy, I decided perhaps I should break this up into multiple entries. I will give you my first entry here, and then the rest in future entries, as I can write them.
And with no further ado, the first book that changed my life:
1. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. On reflection, I realize that I can credit this book with a lot of things. First, it was the book that drew me to horses. Because of this book, I learned horseback riding at an early age and ended up working with horses in various capacities for years. I could ride western, English, and bareback. I did just about everything one could do with horses, including feeding, grooming, de-worming, leading trail rides, training, and rodeo riding. I taught horseback riding to beginners, trail riders (medium-advanced), and advanced students. I even considered going to a special equestrian college in Pennsylvania (before my love of theater overtook my love of things equestrian).
Second, it developed in me a love, passion, and empathy for all animals. Growing up, my mother once called me the Florence Nightingale of animals (full disclosure: she said this in exasperation, but now I take it as a compliment). In fact, I’d say now that the book engenders & promotes kindness & generosity of every sort, towards humans, animals, plants – any & everything.
Third, though I was already a reader, this book promoted my reading by having promoted my love of horses. During a few years, I practically lived at the local public library, and one day I could no longer find a horse book that I had not read. The librarian recommended Algonquin, a dog book. It was a fine book, and though I liked dogs and all, some part of me recognized that an important era in my growth & development was over.
Fourth, it made me want to write. In fact, I wrote an entire novel as a child, retrieving & hiding it under the cushion of my dad’s favorite chair when I worked on it. I was embarrassed & didn’t want anyone to know that I was writing. Turns out, this instinct was a good one, since when my dad did find out I liked writing, he never ceased to speak sarcastically of “the great American novel” I must be writing. By the way, the novel I wrote was, like the great Black Beauty, written from the point of view of an animal.