Monday, June 28, 2010

Tweets that Brightened our Day

Apparently Susan Orlean was ruminating on a book that had gotten into her head and refused to leave, tweeted about it with the simple yet profound hashtag #booksthatchangedmyworld, and opened a font into which readers everywhere could gush.

I live in Alaska. I'm four hours behind New York City and an hour behind Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. So when I woke up, hours after Ms. Orlean's tweet, I had screens and screens of amazing, interesting and revelatory tweets to read through. I loved that she did not tag this "books that changed my life" or "books that changed the world", which would likely have been a smaller, more repetitive list and possibly would have resulted in flares of self-righteous hostility. And also, titles like that would have had nothing to do with the singular effect a harmless-looking book might have on an individual.

No. #booksthatchangedmyworld was the perfect tag for, in some ways, the most personal, idiosyncratic and subjective of pastimes (or lifestayles, if you prefer).

The first book I listed was Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown. I have a hardback 1984 edition, the jacket long since lost. It is signed by Robin McKinley, but the inscription wishes the best to my older brother, and another inscription indicates that my grandmother gave it to my older brother in 1986 (sshhhhh - don't tell him). I love this book. I love Aerin, the gawky, determined heroine. I love Gonturan, her sword, and Talat, her reformed war horse. I love her adoring but puzzled father, her beautiful, selfish rival Galanna and her complicated and distant mentor (and then some) Luthe.

I gobbled up The Blue Sword, the sequel to The Hero and the Crown. It is a fine book, but did not affect me so profoundly. And I loved Sunshine, which is mostly unrelated except for the author (and which has just come out in paperback dressed in a dramatic new cover), and has affected me in other ways.

I read this book still, a couple of times a year, slipping through the simple elegance of the writing into a world of stone castles, sleeping dragons and huts full of axe handles. The Hero and the Crown did not change my life. I have not attempted to proof myself against dragon's fire or charged into battle on the broad back of a stallion. Hell, I haven't ridden a horse in years. Likely, this book hasn't changed the world either except to make it a little richer, a little more lovely. But as soon as I saw that hashtag repeating after an eclectic mix of classics and epic love stories and tales of tragedy, I knew what my first #booksthatchangedmyworld would be.

And what, gentle readers, were yours?


  1. The Hero and the Crown was one of my favorite books when I was younger. During the 3 week loan period from the library, I read it again. And again and again. Afterwards, I forgot the title and couldn't find it in the library. The feeling upon finding it again years later was wonderful.

    Definitely one of those books that changed my world.

  2. Illusions by Richard Bach.

    Literally changed my world. Or at least, my perception of the world.