My Life as a Book

My grandfather thought he could learn everything he needed to know about England by studying Dickens.  He said everyone had a book, or a writer, that was the key to their life.”   from The House on Fortune Street, by Margot Livesey

This morning, whilst finishing my second cup of coffee, I was reading the final pages of this novel when this sentence jumped out at me. 

So, some food for your Saturday thoughts.  Is there a book or a writer you could consider “the key to your life”?


17 thoughts on “My Life as a Book

  1. I enjoy KY author Silas House. He writes from the heart and tackles subjects close to the hearts of Kentuckians.
    He currently has 3 published books: Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves and The Coal Tattoo.

  2. While I only just recently stumbled upon your blog, I have come to enjoy reading it, and I love the “Write On Wednesday” event you’ve created! So, I’ve nominated you for a blog award! 🙂

    Thanks for some great reading (and blogging!) material!


  3. A single one? Gah!!! My first thought was Fay Weldon, more her earlier works — Hearts & Lives of Men, for example — than her later, totally embittered stories. Then I thought of Alice Hoffman, whose stories, like those of Fay Weldon’s, seem like fables or fairy-tales, but whose tone is far more romantic. But I really don’t think my list would be complete without the food writer Ruth Reichl, the poet & theological writer Kathleen Norris, and the theologian & mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead.

    If I had to pick just one, I guess I’d reluctantly pick Whitehead, but I sure wouldn’t be happy about it.

    BTW, I noticed you haven’t yet answered the question, either…

  4. I have thought about this all day and I’m going to go back to the first book that came to mind: The Old Man and the Sea. I am not an old man and I don’t live anywhere near the sea, but that novella spoke to me in a way that no other has to date. Great post!

  5. Can I have two? The first book that really impacted me as a child as The Giver by Lois Lowry…as an adult, the one that has stuck with me the most and called me back over and over is John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany

  6. One book only????? Cannot do that, just cannot. At one point is was completely hooked on Anna Karenina and thought I’d be able to understand russian history, then other Russian books intruded. For a while it was about France and reading Jean Paul Sartre, etc. etc. As far as England is concerned, there are many and most recently I have tremendously enjoyed reading about a surfing culture and growing up in New Zealand through the eyes of Tim Winton and Breath….. I will have to think about this a bit more. Lovely post though

  7. There are several authors rather than books – Agatha Christie taught me how to plot academic arguments, Albert Camus made me fall in love with European intellectual literature, Proust was just an experience of the way writing can slow you down, change the patterns in your mind. And alas, Enid Blyton gave me an abiding sense that stories hold the key to our moral universe – if only the world really were that ordered.

  8. Such interesting choices! As Anno noted in her comment, I did’t “tell” what my own choice would be.

    The “key to one’s life” is a tall order. If I were to name an author whose work and life I admired and perhaps wished to emulate, it would be Madeleine L’Engle, for I loved the spiritual nature she brought to life and to her work, the gentle reverence for simplicity, but the belief in the genuine mysteries of the universe. It broke my heart to learn she had Alzheimer’s…what a horrible fate for a brilliant mind.

    As for a book -Gone With the Wind. There’s quite a bit of Scarlett in me. I can “fiddle de dee” with the best of them, but I’m quite capable of knuckling down when the going gets tough.

  9. I couldn’t even begin to answer this. I do have author names and influential books rushing at me in my mind but I can’t pick any as a key… Fun post idea – great discussion and I”m seeing titles here I’ve never seen before. love it!

  10. Of course, as soon as I’d moved away from the site I realised that there was only one possible answer to this as far as I’m concerned – Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’ series. I was brought up in one of Birmingham’s red light districts and most of my friends and their elder siblings left school as soon as they possibly could and went into whatever jobs they could find. It was the Malory Towers books that showed me that it was possible for a girl not only to stay on and get an education up to eighteen, but also to then get professional training or go to university and aspire to do something more. Because I lived much more in a world of books than the one by which I was surrounded I always took it for granted that that was what I would do as well. In a rather less than tangential way, Blyton is responsible for PHD!

  11. I’m sure there are many, but the one that pops to mind immediately is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “A Gift of the Sea.” This is one I go back to so very often — sort of a grounding piece or a touchstone.

  12. I would have to admit to many keys, not just one.

    Harry Harrison leaps to mind as he was the sci fi writer whose works were the first ones outside of the Star Wars universe that I ventured into as a young reader. His character Jim DiGriz is the namesake for my blog.

    Neil Gaiman, via his own works and through introducing other authors, has certainly been of major influence in my adult life. I can trace much of who I now am back to the discovery of the Sandman series. That exploration of mythology and folklore and forgotten comic book characters has created a foundation upon which my interests are built.

    Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Murders in the Rue Morgue, read for class in junior high, birthed a life-long (so far) love of his work and of classic literature in general.

    I could go on and on. Wonderful question!

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