Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books make a Difference

I do not remember a time when I was not addicted to books and reading. Like most Indians of my generation and social strata, I was brought up on a staple of Enid Blyton, and the Five Find Outers were more real to me than many of my real life friends were. Then came the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys phase, which was soon replaced by the Issac Asimov phase.
I was lucky in that I never had anyone guiding my reading, and parents who were more than happy to subsidise my reading addiction, so I read pretty much what I wanted to read, and had a great time doing so. Which makes it very difficult for me to pin-point the books that really changed my life.

My sense of ethics and honour was moulded by my parents and maternal grandparents, and reinforced by Enid Blyton and individual teachers in school. Who was responsible for what, I really cannot tell- all I can say is that between them, they created a person I am happy to call my best friend.

It was only when I went to high school and college that I started consciously taking direction from books. There were three that really shaped my thinking -

Space by James Michener, for making me realise that a life well lived is one where at every point in time you feel things cannot get better - I am living such a life!
Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, for constantly reminding me never to let go my childlike sense of wonder, and for taking pleasure in the really small things
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, for teaching me not to be judgemental and for trying to see things from the viewpoint of the other person

I was lucky I could fuel my addiction to books. My children are lucky that they have parents and grandparents who give them books. But everyone is not as lucky. There are so many kids in world who have never owned a book, and are not likely to own one either. Can anything be worse?

BlogHer and BookRenter have joined forces, and from May 3-28, are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.

For every person who leaves a comment here answering the question, What book has had the greatest impact on your life?, they will donate one book to a child in need. If you blog about the contest and link to the site, an additional book would be donated.

I know we are near the end of the contest, but I know how much each of you owns to books, and how you would all like to make a difference in the life of a child. Please do.

20 comments:

Vicki said...

Hello Rayna,
I'm so late getting here to thank you for being one of my new followers. My life is a bit un organized right now but I'll be back to doing more stories soon. And to take time to read your posts and learn more about you. You're my first from India! So I'll be interested to see all you share.
Thanks again and I'll see you again soon...

Karen Walker said...

Hi Rayna,
If I had to pick one book that influenced me early on, it would have to be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to be Jo.
Karen

Jaydee Morgan said...

I wish I could remember the name but it was a collection of chidren's stories. One story in particular called The Purple Orchid was the story that I would best describe as a lightbulb going off. I was in the sixth grade and fell in love with the entire story and knew instantly that I wanted to write and create stories just like it.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

I think it a great idea to donate a book for every comment, Books are very important to life, as a child apart from music I always seemed to have my head stuck in a book.

Have a good day.
Yvonne,

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Natasha, I'm doing my best but Blogher is doing their best to be obstructive. Jeesh! I guess I'm already a member but it won't give me a password - whine whine. I'll keep trying.
Books that have changed my life:
1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Girl of the Limberlost
3. Little Women
4. Trixie Belden (my first mysteries!)
5. Shambhala, Path of the Warrior

Hannah Stoneham said...

Hi Rayna - What a wonderful cause. It is hard to narrow down to a single book but given the childhood theme here, I will plump for Anne of Green Gables which was the first book I really truly loved.
I am looking forward to hearing more about this scheme.
Thanks for sharing and happy reading
Hannah

Susan Fields said...

Beautiful post, Rayna! You've done a wonderful job spreading the word and letting more people know about this awesome opportunity. :)

Not Hannah said...

Reposting this, my love. Excellent. I, too, am so shaped by my book friends, from Anne of Green Gables to Harimad-sol, so this just CALLS to me.

Michele Emrath said...

Thank you for letting me know about this great chance to help kids read! How do I pick just one? I can't, but I will for the purpose of this comment.

My father gave me his copy of Hawaii by James Michener when I was a young reader. I had read many books before that--Gone With the Wind, Anne of Green Gables, Wuthering Heights. But my father giving that book to me and the adult world it opened to me told me it was okay to get lost in a book. It was ok to form ideas from those beautiful words and images.

I still have that book and will pass it on to one of my children someday. It's not a first edition or even a big hard copy. It's just important to me.

Michele
Southern City Mysteries

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's great idea.
And it's wonderful that you passed your love of books to your boys.

Clarissa Draper said...

What novel has changed my life? I would say it has to be Pride and Prejudice. Why? My sister is an avid reader, she's always telling me to read this or that and when I was younger (and not much of a reader) I ignored her. Then one day she read P&P. She begged me to read it, she said I would love it. I told her I wasn't interested in reading war novels. She assured me it had nothing to do with war so I picked it up and started reading it. At first, I couldn't make heads or tail of it because of the language but I gave it a chance and soon, it became one of my favorites. Not only that, I couldn't get enough of books. I got a library card shortly after and read all the Agatha Christie novels in order of publication. I haven't stopped yet. I have to thank my sister because if she didn't push me to reading, perhaps today I wouldn't be writing.

CD

Mason Canyon said...

A very worthy cause. Thanks for sharing the link and your love of books with your children.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I found that site last week. Every child should have a book!

Watery Tart said...

The EARLY books that affected me, because they touched my emotions, even as they introduced worlds so different than mine were,

Where the Red Fern Grows
Diary of Anne Frank

Later, I became a reader for the love of the STORY with The Shining...

I will include this in tomorrow's blog, as it is a GREAT topic.

dipali said...

Posted! Brought back so many memories!

Deb and Barbara said...

Found this through Watery Tart -- and not Blogher interestingly! Great, great cause.

I read voraciously, but the book I remember reading in my early teens that actually made me pick up a pen and write my own 60pp "novel"(hand-written, then manual type-writer) at 13 was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Barbara

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Vicki - tell me about disorganised lives!!!!

@ Karen - that was another of those wonderful books I read when I was young, and forgot abotu after that. Thanks for reminding me of it.

@ Jaydee - that must have been some book. Wow!!!

@ Yvonne - happy is the child who discovers books.


@ Jan - not read # 2 and 5 - maybe I should

@ Hannah - I discovered Ann very very late (in my mid-thirties), but it must have been a great book to read when younger.

@ Susan - it is a great cause, isn't it?

@ Heather - I so know what you mean. When I saw this, I had to post immediately, even if it meant missing my regular train, and having a horrible commute home

@ Michele - I never thought of it that way. Am going to spend the next few years thinking of the first adult book I gift each of my kids.

@ Alex - how could I not at least try.

@ Clarissa - I am glad your sister persisted. I think we should do a contest on "who got you readign and how?"

@ Mason - and think of the kids getting new books because of this

@ Diane - every child deserves a book, doesn't he/ she?

@ Tami - not twins. I loved Ann Frank, but haven't read any of the others

@ dipali - and your post brought back so many memories

@ Deb and Barbara - that book sounds interesting.

Laura Canon said...

I confess a James Michener addiction too. I'll never forget the teacher who ripped Hawaii out of my hands as I was reading it in algebra class.
My childhood favorite for many years was an anthology by Louis Untermeyer (Am. poet) called The World's Greatest Stories. It was mostly legends drawn from classical Greek and Roman sources. Croesus, the Gordian Knot, Horatius at the bridge, etc.

Carolyn Rector said...

Like you, I cannot remember when I wasn't addicted to reading. A next door neighbor gave me books from her own childhood, and I can remember reading Alice in Wonderland one summer, the cover got wet , and I was nine. For my 12th birthday, my mom gave me the Modern Library poems of Henry Longfellow. Mom always knew me best, she supported my love of reading. Giving books to children is the best thing. I love your blog and the story of "the Mixer"

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Laura- thanks for stopping by. More books to be added to my "To Read" list. And Hawaii was a fine book, wasn't it?

@ Carolyn - thanks for stopping by. Funny how memories such as those linger through the decades, isn't it?

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