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There’s a “game” (I suppose that’s what they call it) showing up on Facebook status posts. It asks readers: “list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way…the ones that have touched you.” This raises some interesting questions for me. Assuming the list would comprise ten book titles, I’m not sure I could create such a list.
Certainly there are books that have “touched” me or influenced me in some way. There are books that have influenced the way I approach life and books that have influenced my writing. My problem is coming up with titles. There are a few titles I remember: The Water Babies by the Reverend Charles Kingsley, The Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam, Leonard Cohen’s Spice Box of Earth, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Jurgen by James Branch Cabell, and others. However, I can’t name most of the books that have really touched me or the ones which had the most impact on me.
I don’t think I’m a “standard” reader. I tend to be very visual. If I’m really drawn into the book, I stop seeing the words and see only the panorama of characters and scenes as they pass before me. Afterward, what I remember is usually not the words but these visuals. Years later, I can remember the most vivid details of the story. The title of the book and the name of the author are lost to me forever.
Sometimes I’ll read a book but never see the motion picture. Sometimes I’ll see the movie but never read the book. It’s all the same to me. Years later, I’ll remember how I love the story but have no idea whether I had read it or watched it on the big screen.
The difficulty comes when I decide to revisit a certain book. Though I can vividly recall certain scenes in the story, remember the characters clearly, see the settings in detail, without the title and preferably also the author’s name, It’s impossible to locate the book in a public library, bookstore, or even the Internet.
There are other confusions as well. For instance. I’m certain I had read The Secret Garden. I remember the story in quite some detail, and I quite love the central character, a young lady. A few years ago, The Secret Garden was published again and a movie was made as well. I took a look. I have never read this book. The story is in some ways similar, but it’s clearly not the story I recall reading. How can I ever locate the book I had read? While I had remembered the title, it appears I had remembered incorrectly.
It’s these visually recalled tales that would fill most of my list of books which have touched me, so deeply that I remember them fifty or more years later. No, I’m not sure how I could ever make up such a list.
I read in a very holistic way, seeing everything in that world,hearing everything, feeling everything. I may start with some words, but I move quickly to watching the story on a big screen then pass through that screen to become part of the story myself. This style of reading has numerous impacts, some but not all positive, on my writing and my life.
How do you read? How do you enter that magical world created by the author of a book? Think about it. How would you describe your reading experience? How do you feel reading affects your life beyond the world in the book? What impact has this reading style had on you? How do you feel it influences the way you write, the sort of topics you choose, the stories you tell? It’s something worth thinking about.