Books and the Lasting Impression they Leave - 1010 Park Place
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Books and the Lasting Impression they Leave

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My mother taught me how to read. Home schooled until my teens, our kitchen was my classroom and my back-to-school photographs show a lone child sitting at her desk, sporting a wide grin.

Those were wonderful years. I had a strict timetable of lessons, but the freedom to work that little bit harder in exchange for an early minute, or more. Perfect for a horse-mad child who wanted to spend every possible moment with her pony.

When I wasn’t riding, I was reading. I would lose myself in a story. I loved books and exploring foreign places. Books were where I found some of my best friends. I went back to the 1800s, walked the streets of London and, in my mind, I offered comfort to poor Black Beauty. I joined Anne in all sorts of mischief at Green Gables, and I solved ‘mysteries’ alongside Trixie Belden and her loyal sidekick, Honey.

Reading kept my loneliness at bay, at least up to a point.

I still love to read, and at the end of last summer, I attended a book festival in London. I went specifically for the keynote event called, “The Books That Built Me”. At the time I didn’t think too much about the title. I was interested in a particular speaker. In the end, it was the concept of The Books That Built Me which really caught my imagination.

The idea is that behind every writer there is a long list of beloved stories that have shaped their life, from childhood favorites to grown-up classics. The event was an exploration with a writer, discussing the books that had influenced and inspired her life and work from her earliest memory, up until that day, and what had been going on in her life at the time that may have made that book resonate so deeply.

I was so taken with this idea that I took some time to consider the books I’ve not only loved, but to think about how the stories had actually shaped me and whether or not any had impacted me specifically because of what I was experiencing at the time. Looking back, I can see a long line of books that made me the woman I am now.

A year on and I still regularly ask friends and people I meet whether they’ve ever read a book that’s made a lasting impression on them, and what relation that might have to what was happening in their life at that point. The result has been animated conversations over coffee and passionate discussions at dinner parties. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to has enjoyed looking at books in an entirely new light as plots and personal stories become intertwined.

We all love a good story, to momentarily forget the world and disappear into another one through the pages of a book. What have you read that’s actually become woven into your own history, because it’s shaped the woman you are today?


13 Comments

  • Linda Kinsman September 9, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I’ll have to give this more thought- but off the top of my head I’d say Anne of Green Gables was a favorite of mine as well as were Nancy Drew books. I used to get caught up in my Mom’s readers digest abridged books, especially the mysteries.

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 7:22 am

      Oh, yes! Linda, I loved Nancy Drew too. Thanks for reminding me about those books, they were great. We had Reader’s Digest at home, I’m not even sure it exists anymore? I recall reading about a young woman who moved to London….seems like it gave me ideas! Thanks for your input. Esther xx

  • Rena September 9, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    U think the one that may have had the most affect back then was To Kill A Mockingbird, but there were also the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that had a lot to do with who I am and even who I want to become.

  • Rena September 9, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I think the books that sticks out in my mind are To Kill A Mockingbird, The Book Whisperer and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Hi Rena, thanks for commenting. To Kill A Mockingbird is such an incredible read. But you know, apart from Little House on the Prairie (another favourite growing up) I didn’t realise until you referred to her books in the plural that Laura Ingalls had written so many! I feel like this is something I should not have overlooked. As for The Book Whisper, I’d never heard of that one but it looks like something to keep in mind for any young family members, of friends who may want to encourage their kids to read. I really want to encourage my young nieces to be readers! Esther xx

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal September 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I love this post! Your childhood sounds idilic on so many levels. My mother always said, “If you love to read you will always have company.” And she was so right. I agree with you that those of us who love to read are shaped by stories, my hunch is some are in ways we may never really know. Each book read has had a way of being added to the mortar that makes up the foundation of our living. As a very little girl my mother read The Book House stories to me…the images captured in them alone have stayed with me. As a young child books like Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and James and the Giant Peach are memorable. As I grew stories like Harriet the Spy and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret blur with stories I have lost track of. Then of course To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher and the Rye, Of Mice and Men….so many more. I fear I could go on and on…and…what a lovely thread to follow, thanks for this, I have no doubt that your words will leave me pondering for a while!

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Thanks so much Elin, I’m glad you liked it! The concept had me deep in thought for days after I went to the event and I did eventually write down my ‘life to date’ reading list because I wanted to keep a record of the books that had really resonated. Wow, you have shared some really great books here, thank you so much. Some I have read, but quite a few I haven’t. I’ve written them all down though as I love the idea of creating a big list of people’s suggestions and then I can refer to it when I’m looking for a book for a child, a friend or for myself. You’ve also reminded me that I’ve never read Of Mice and Men, a classic, surely? Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and to contribute your books! Esther xx

  • Marnie Clark September 9, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Ahhh…I was SUCH a reader when I was young! Seems I always had a book in my hand. Even at the breakfast table I would read the back of the cereal box while eating.

    I love this concept! At first read I am struggling to come up with the ‘books that built me’ but what a fun journaling topic for my morning!

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Marnie, my husband it still like that! If it’s readable, he’ll be looking at it.

      I’m so glad you like this concept, it really captured my imagination and I think journalling about your list is a wonderful idea! No doubt once you start writing about this, more and more books will come to you. I find it amazing how we can’t recall things but when we start writing them down, it’s like opening the floodgates and the memories start to surface one after the other. Thanks for commenting! Esther xx

  • Jane Gramlich September 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    When I was 14, as soon as summer vacation began, my mother handed me “Gone with the Wind.” I read it in 3 days, and never looked back. I am enthralled with historical fiction. Many of my favorites came directly from my mother’s bookshelf.

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Jane, I adore Gone with the Wind! It was my first ‘grown up’ book and I also have such fond memories of watching the movie with my mother and grandmother. I love that many of your favourite reads came directly from your mother’s bookshelf, that makes the experience of reading even more special, in a way. Reading is such a gift! Thanks for adding that brilliant book to the list. Esther xx

  • Elaine @ OMG Lifestyle Blog September 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Loved your post Esther. It made me think back to my childhood and one of my favorite books was the Boxcar Children. They were orphaned siblings and they made their home in a boxcar. I lived a blessed life and it was my first introduction to see others that were suffering. I remember feeling so bad for these children that had no parents.

    • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 8:02 am

      Hi Elaine, thanks so much! And thanks for your contribution, I’ve never heard of The Boxcar Children so I looked it up, it does sound sad! What a great way to introduce a child to a different perspective on life though. I was talking about books we read as a child with a friend recently and she said, “Oh, they’re so old fashioned” but does it really matter? The point of a story is to take you on a journey, so her kids will be getting some of the children’s titles people have shared – including yours – this Christmas! Esther xx

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