Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Five Books That Changed My Life

As a blogger, I have read more books than I would ever like to try and calculate. Because of this, some books get forgotten or become a vague memory of enjoyment. But there are also those that will always stick out in my memory, not just because of how good they, but because of how they have affected me. Lucy of Queen of Contemporary did it. Then Gracie of Almost Amazing Grace did it. So I thought I'd join them, and talk you through five books that changed my life. Without these books, I wouldn't be who I am today, or be doing the things I do.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Yes, Twilight. It gets a whole lot of grief, but I really enjoyed this series. Not just that, but it opened my eyes to both urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and to YA.

Before Twilight, I was reading high fantasy exclusively. You wouldn't catch me reading anything else. But when I took a module in Young Adult Fictions at uni, Twilight was one of the books on our recommending reading list. I read it, and fell in love. Maybe a bit too in love, because I bought the next two books in the series, New Moon and Eclipse, and for a several months, they were the only things I read, over and over.

But then Amazon started giving me recommendations based on Twilight. I moved on to other urban fantasy authors, such as Rachel Caine, Rachel Vincent, Jeaniene Frost, Karen Chance and others. Those four are some of my favourite authors. And because I was now reading all these different kinds of books, I started blogging. The high fantasy novels I had read previously were all books belonging to my Dad, and so I would always have him to talk about books with. But suddenly, there was no-one to talk to. So I started a little LiveJournal blog just to get my thoughts out there, and discovered the blogging community, which led me to contemporary YA, and then on to other genres in YA (you can read more about how that first little blog led to me branching out my reading and eventually led to Once Upon a Bookcase in my fifth bloggerversary post.)

So really, without Twilight, I wouldn't be a book blogger. Nor would I have had the amazing opportunities that have come my way through blogging; being quoted in several books, being a panelist at the London Book Fair, being shortlisted for a UKYA Blogger Award, and my job as a children's bookseller. I wouldn't be celebrating my seventh bloggerversary in a few days time without that book. So no matter what you think of Twilight, it definitely changed my life.

The Roots of Desire by Marion Roach

The Roots of Desire by Marion Roach


I really don't like the title of this book, but it had a massive affect on how I view myself. The full title is The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair. As a redhead, I have always been intrigued about where stereotypes about redheads come from, why I get catcalls and abuse for my red hair. This book opened my eyes to so much.

Redheads were once thought to be witches. Lilith, the first wife of Adam is some religion, who became the original femme fatale and succubus, is believed to have had redhair. Jewish tax collectors were depicted in Shakespeare's plays by a man in a red wig - so the audience knew who to heckle and throw vegetables at (which is bloody awful). The Roots of Desire looks through history, art, theatre, religion, but also science, getting into the mutated gene behind red hair, MC1R, that explains why we're so few.

This book was so incredibly interesting, but also empowering. I've always liked being ginger, but reading this book made me love it. It gave me confidence and a better appreciation for my "crowning glory". This book changed the way I view myself, and improved my self-esteem. I'm actually re-reading it (slowly) at the moment for a blog post I'll be writing for Safe Space, so there should be a review on the blog in the not too distant future.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill


How many times have I raved about this book? I don't think I could count. But I don't think I have gone into how much Only Ever Yours has changed me. I now call myself a feminist because of this book.

Before Only Ever Yours, I was starting to have feminist thoughts. Nothing concrete or clear, but just an idea that something wasn't right. But I never called or thought of myself as a feminist, because all examples I had seen at that point where of women slating men in really awful ways. To me, feminist = women who hate men. And I wasn't one of them. I now know the difference, of course, but I do feel it's pretty sad that those first examples of feminists I saw were saying such awful things about men, things I didn't and do not now believe.

But once I read Only Ever Yours, it was like something finally clicked into place for me. I finally got it. I finally got what the problem was, how society treats women, how far we have to go, and how bad things could get if they stay as they are. Only Ever Yours led me to ask questions and challenge ideas I was presented with in magazines, online and on the TV. It made me want to learn more.

I'm still learning, but I am most definitely a feminist now. And I have Louise O'Neill and Only Ever Yours to thank for that.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


There are so many books that have moved me, and made me very emotional, but none of them have hit me quite like All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It was the combination of the fact that Finch - wonderful, quirky Finch - captured my heart, and that this story is based on Jennifer Niven's own experiences. For me, Finch is an unforgettable character. I don't think any character - outside the Harry Potter books - has been so fully formed in my head as Finch. It's been well over a year since I first read All the Bright Places, and I've only read it once so far, but Finch still feels so incredible real to me. Perhaps that's because he's loosely based on a real person, but maybe not. Violet I can't remember too much about, but Finch shines as brightly as any star.

I can't talk any more about how this story changed me without spoiling the story, so if you're yet to read it, don't click the button below.

All the Bright Places has got to be the most heartbreaking story I have ever read. I have grieved for Finch like I have never grieved for any other character. I was so devastated by his death, I finished the book feeling empty and numb and hopeless. Then I read the author's note and acknowledgements at the end, and discovered that Niven herself was the one who found her friend's body after he committed suicide. And it hurt. It hurt so much. Before All the Bright Places I had read a number of and a huge supporter of books about mental illness, some of which also included suicide, but it was this book that suddenly did something to me. And I can't even tell you what. I just know I was changed. I was changed by Finch, by his story, and by Niven's words. I think I said it best in the end of my review:
"Things may not have happened exactly as they did in the book, but there was a boy. And I can't stop thinking about that boy, that real Finch, and it's just so painful. Niven is an incredibly brave, brave woman for writing their story, even fictionalised. I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must have been. But this boy, whoever he was, he lives in the pages of All the Bright Places, and together, Finch and Violet will touch countless lives."

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole


Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O’Toole, is a non-fiction feminist book recommended to me by numerous people as a book to help me along my newbie feminist journey. It’s a book that talks about the role of Woman, how we act out that role and the costumes we wear as we perform our gender. Not only is Girls Will Be Girls absolutely fascinating and educational, it’s also a book that got me thinking about how I, personally, follow the script of Womanhood, and why.

And you can read more about how this book changed my life by reading my post Hair Today - And Probably For Good over on Safe Space (a new blog a contribute to!).

So these are my five! I would have mentioned Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, the book that first got me into reading, but I've talked about it a number of times before.

So what books have changed your life?

10 comments:

  1. Such an interesting post, I've been wanting to check out Only Ever Yours as I have heard many great things about it! I do agree with you on how it's quite sad that some of the feminists you see hate on men and say horrible things about them, it's another case of generalizing something. Lovely post! :)

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    1. Thank you! Oh, Only Ever Yours is absolutely incredible! I hope you love it when you read it :) Oh my god, yes! More generalisation! So not helpful.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  2. I'm right there with you on Twilight. It's the series that got me reading again after a very long hiatus, so no matter what, I'll always think of it fondly! AtBP really affected me too - because of Finch. I could see a little bit of my son in him (not the depression, but the quirkiness - even though my son is only 13) and I actually felt like this book made me understand him better. It's amazing when books can do that!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Yessss! I am always going to love Twilight for what it did for me. And I think I'll always fail to really see it's flaws - even though if I look at properly, of course it's quite flawed, but with my rose-tinted glasses, I don't notice until it's pointed out - because of how much it did for me.

      Oh, that's so sweet! I loved Finch's quirkiness, but I don't know if his quirkiness was him, or just the high of his undiagnosed bipolar, so I almost feel bad for liking him like that, as it's almost like I like him being ill? Which led to the end, so... :/

      But yes, I love it when books can open your eyes and change your thinking!

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  3. Twilight was a total life changer for me. It even led in a way to my first tattoo, which is the hands and apple from the cover. Another book that changed my life is probably Harry Potter, recently the After series by Anna Todd. Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz, and, hmm, a 5th one is harder to decide. Great post!

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    1. Thank you! I'll definitely check out the books you listed! :)

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  4. Twilight's the only one I've read of these, it is so wonderful how many people it got into reading!! Love this xx

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, Twilight led so many people into reading YA. And no matter what anyone thinks of it, we've got to be grateful for that :)

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  5. I didn't like Twilight, but in my defense I wasn't into it even before it was cool to hate on it. ;) I do recognize what it has done in terms of influencing the book market and getting people into reading though, so I don't have huge issues with it.

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    1. See, that's awesome. That you can see Twilight has done some good, even though you don't like it. I think that's great! :)

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