I may be giving the tomes too much agency. But I think most English majors have the book that made them an English major. So I think it is a logical conclusion that books made me into other things as well.
Well, here they are.
the books that made me:
- Emma-by Jane Austen: Probably no other book has edited my personality more. I saw the film adaptation in 1996 because I was five and I was very self-conscious about my name NOT being Emily. I really felt my parents had gypped me because I did not know anyone name Emma. But Gwyneth Paltrow was lovely and fabulous and had great hair and period clothing and from that moment on I was in love with Jane Austen. It also helped that Gwyneth wore a pink ball gown right out of my imagination to the Oscar’s that year. Sometimes I wonder where Emma myself really ends and where Miss Woodhouse begins. But I don’t worry about it too much because though Emma Woodhouse is manipulative, judgmental and catty, she overcomes these faults to learn to accept other people, though she never changes completely like Lizzie Bennett who has “been so blind” and alters her personality for a man.
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-E.L Konigsburg: The reason I’m minoring/majoring in Art History. If Emma Woodhouse is who I want to be now, Claudia Kincaid is the 12 year old I wanted to be when I was 8. Unfortunately, when I was 12, I was terribly rude and annoying and co-dependent on my equally annoying group of friends, while Claudia is independent and adventurous. I love the quote when she says “I guess I like complications.”
- The Eyre Affair-Jasper Fforde: This book convinced me that there were other people who had literary based humor outside of my family. It is set in an alternate universe where jumping into books is possible.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith: Francie Nolan and I could not live more separate lives. I grew up in a little bubble of suburbia and Francie grew up of the slums of Brooklyn. But I could read this a thousand times and I still cry every time. Though I grew up wanting to be Emma Woodhouse, I think I’m really much more like Francie Nolan. And I think this mother-daughter relationships is the most realistic ever written.
- Little Women-Louisa May Alcott: I haven’t read this book in years because I thought it was the greatest novel ever for the time I was 7 to about 14 and I’m so afraid I’m going to go back and reading it. I was a vegetarian for eight year because Louisa May Alcott didn’t eat meat, so that’s a pretty big influence. Plus Jo March is probably the reason I’m an English major. This book was the first “classic” I read and after it, I read a ridiculous amount of Victorian novels from both sides of the ocean. Thus I read Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Dickens a lot earlier than I would have in school. And if you don’t want to be an English major after Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then I don’t think there is much hope for you.
- Bunnicula by I don’t know who-This book did not influence me because it was so good, more because it was so bad. This was the first book I ever was supposed to read for school that I didn’t. And with that, I realized that not all teachers were good and kind and smart. Because when Mrs. Johnson chose this idiotic book, I knew she was not looking for my best interest as a 4th grade student.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez-When I picked this out I knew it would challenge me. This book is probably the most cited as the greatest book of all time, and I knew I wanted to read but it is flat out hard. But it also opened me up to the world of Magic Realism that I absolutely adore. And after I read this, Garcia’s short stories were a lot less intimidating.
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: I have a somewhat destructive relationship with Virginia Woolf. If I read her when I’m depressed, I get more depressed. But never has an author so captured what I know bipolar feels like. Except maybe the screenwriters for M*A*S*H. I love Virginia Woolf’s novels so much, but this one is my absolute favorite because I feel all the characters are just different manifestations of a single, bipolar woman. The banner on my blog is actually cropped from the Vanessa Bell (Virginia’s sister) cover of Mrs. Dalloway. And because of this book I love Bloomsbury!
- Selected Poems of W.H. Auden by W.H. Auden: The book I carry with me always. I love Auden’s poetry so much, I’m convinced he is completely underrated and in the shadow of T.S. Eliot because he is. I cry just because it is so beautiful.
- “Whoso List to Hunt”-Thomas Wyatt: But I wouldn’t have that reaction with this sonnet which we read in my AP Literature class. Before this poem, I was super intimated by poetry except for like lyric, Romantic stuff that is full of pretty simple images, like Wordsworth. This poem no one in my class could figure out, including me, but I looked at the text and looked at the words and I figured it out. And I think that feeling of figuring out what an author has down in a novel or a poem is the greatest in the world, and that’s probably why I am an English major because I am always chasing that “a-ha” feeling I get when I find something new in a book or a poem.