"Books Change Lives" at any time of life

The Books Change Lives Program is part of the Ann Arbor Book Festival. BCL encourages readers to tell us about their favorite all-time book and how it changed their lives. Rachel's favorite book is Strider by Beverly Cleary. Here's what she had to say about it: "I don't know how many times I have read Strider, but I know it better than any other book. The situations that Leigh Botts faces make me love it so much. He found his comfort in writing about his anxieties and in running with his dog. The way he wrote about running made me want to run. In high school I started. Running boosted my self-esteem, kept me focused and lively, and helped me push myself. Like Leigh Botts, running helped me deal with my social awkwardness." Do you have a favorite book that influenced your life?

Comments

Favorite all-time book? Tough call. I've read two books more than a dozen times each: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, and Richard Farina's BEEN DOWN SO LONG IT LOOKS LIKE UP TO ME. I've also taught both books at the university level and the former in high school. They're both remarkable, one a high school coming of age story (sort of), the other a wild tale of college life on the cutting edge era between the end of the heyday of the Beats and the beginning of what evolved into the hippie movement of the Sixties. The first involved youthful struggles with sex and alcohol, the latter not-quite-so-youthful experimentation with drugs and the perils of both sexual dalliance and romantic commitment.

It's probably fair to say that each represents breakthrough prose styles, though certainly Pynchon's influence on his friend Farina is in evidence. I'm not enough of a Salinger scholar to say whose style(s) influenced his first work.

Did these books change my life? Sure. They opened up new worlds every time I read them. They represent in many ways touchstones, since I see new things every time, reminding me that I'm a different person each time I read one of them or the other. How, exactly, I was changed BY reading them is hard to say at this point. I'm 55, hardly a kid, and I've read thousands of books since I first read these two old favorites. But few tales are more firmly imbedded in my mind, and so I have to choose them.