Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Bookprint

In the course of preparing for my upcoming book fair, I came across Scholastic's You Are What You Read site today. One of the things you can do on this site is share your bookprint, the five books that most influenced you. I always have a problem with these kinds of lists. Just the other day, a student asked me to name my favorite book of all time, and I really couldn't answer the question quickly or easily. I have read and loved so many books, and I have difficulty articulating how the books that I've loved have influenced me.

But I do like the idea of identifying my bookprint, so I'm going to try to pick the 5 books that influenced me the most. Here is my initial list, in no particular order.
  1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - I feel like I learned much American history from this book, history that I was never taught in school. This book changed my way of thinking about mainstream perceptions and depictions of people who live outside the mainstream. (Does that even make sense?)
  2. Beloved by Toni Morrison - I have read this book so many times, first as a reader then as a grad student and then as a teacher. I love the use of language and the way Morrison starts in the middle and fills in the blanks as the story progresses.
  3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Another book that I've read multiple times. This is my all-time favorite dystopia. I love how Atwood depicts the possible outcomes of extreme religious right ideals. Every time I read a YA dystopia, I see the influence of The Handmaid's Tale in it, even if the book has nothing to do with religion or abortion.
  4. Superior Women by Alice Adams - I keep telling myself that I should reread this book to see if it's as great as I remember it. I think this was probably the first novel that I read that I would classify as feminist. As I recall, the women in this book, one of them in particular (can't remember which one right now), were determined to be more than just wives and mothers.
  5. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor - I've read this book two or three times. I love Naylor's story of these women who are from different generations and different socioeconomic status but who all have to deal with not just racial prejudice but also gender bias and bias among themselves.
For now, I'm going to let this list simmer. Because even as I was making the list, I was thinking of other books that I might include. Notice there are no children's books on the list. I can't really remember ever not being a reader, but I never had a favorite kids book, a book that I read multiple times like I see so many kids doing.

What is your bookprint? Can you name the five books that influenced you the most?


Johnna said...

Wow, Kim - only five? I don't know if I can narrow it down so far, but I'll give it a try!

1. The Bobbsey Twins at Home, 1954 Whitman edition (glossy cover with pastel illustration, black and white pen drawings inside). My father read this to me nearly every night. As an only child, I loved the idea of a big family with two sets of twins! Plus, when he would stop at just one chapter, I was determined to learn to read for myself so the storytelling wouldn't have to stop!

2. Jane Eyre. My first encounter was through a Classics Illustrated comic book when I was in elementary school. I suppose I identified with Jane right away because of the picture of her tucked behind the curtains of the Reed's house, reading a book she wasn't allowed to read. I had quite a collection of CI; they provided an excellent introduction to classic literature and made reading the "real" books later so much more interesting and understandable.

3. Stories from Shakespeare, the Complete Plays of William Shakespeare, retold by Marchette Chute. An amazing collection, retold with just enough of the original verse to piqué a child's interest. The stories are not "dumbed down" or "sanitized", as they might be today (think Huckleberry Finn). I first read these stories in 3rd and 4th grade, and by fifth grade, I plunged headlong into the original Julius Caesar, a 19th century copy with EXCELLENT footnotes that had belonged to my great-grandfather.

4. Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) and Anna and the King of Siam ( Margaret Landon). Great movies, great historical fiction. Yes, I know there really was an Anna Leonowens in King Mongkut's court, but Landon left out the really disturbing and often gory parts of Anna's "An English Governess at the Siamese Court". The movie took even more liberties. GWTW, on the other hand, was painstakingly researched (and, in my own reading of Civil War diaries, memoirs, etc, I've found Mitchell generously availed herself of other's, ahem, "inspiration") and quite true to the setting. Both books drove me to learn more about the context and history of the cultures they represented.

5. The Berenstien Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstein. My "go to" book for my first born's story time. When he was 2 1/2, he had it pretty well memorized!

preschool said...

"Atlas Shrugged" Ayn Rand
"We the Living" Ayn Rand
are the only two that come to mind, mainly because I read them in the 10th and 11th grades, while studying world history, communism vs americanism.
Others since school that have had an impact are
"Housekeeping" Marilynne Robinson
"The Clock Winder" Anne Tyler
"Golden Compass" Philip Pullman

I just finished reading the new book "Because of Mr. Terupt" by Rob Buyea, teacher and first time author. This really had an impact on me, when working with middle school age students in our library, I am looking at the "trouble-makers" in a different light.