Recently the Marketing Manager here at Stela Unlimited, Serena, asked me: “Can you name one book that had an impact on you?”
A flood of book titles and covers filled my mind. “Wow,” I said, “Um, so many…”
“Only one,” she said, a mischievous smile playing on her lips.
I sifted through the remembered books before me. Would I say the works of Dr. Seuss and how as a kid I wanted to live in one of his marvelously bizarre houses?
Or Tarzan of the Apes, the first “grown up” book I actually finished at the tender age of twelve, and how I ran around half-naked in the forest afterwards pretending to be a wild man?
Perhaps Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest and how it opened my eyes to alternatives to traditional relationships?
Maybe my deep unabiding love for Lord of the Rings and how I devoured it over and over again every autumn for over a decade?
Or maybe Kingdom Come, stunningly illustrated by Alex Ross, with that tear-brimming scene with Superman and Captain Marvel?
Then again, there’s that other Superman graphic novel, All-Star Superman, with Grant Morrison’s delightfully poetic, almost giddy, exploration of the wondrous Superman mythos?
Are you my Mother? Alison Bechdel’s multi-layered self examination of the turbulent relationship with her mother, her queerness, and an examination of psychology. Would I mention that one?
All of these flashed for a moment in my mind’s eye, then I replied:
“Harry Potter.” (Okay, I know technically it’s seven books, but go with me here.)
“Oh,” she gasped, “I love Harry Potter. Why’d you pick that one?”
“Because,” I said, “It surprised me. I had been resistant to it, everyone was reading it and I’m suspicious of popular things. I figured it was just an over-hyped kid’s book that when compared to other works of fantasy, like Lord of the Rings or Narnia, would be found lacking.
“But then after watching the first movie with my kids, and with the encouragement of my then wife, I picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (sorry, Americans, it will always be Philosopher’s Stone to me) and I was hooked. I devoured the four books that were out by then and eagerly awaited each new volume.
“J.K. Rowling impressed me with how well she plotted and how that plot and her flawed heroes pulled me in and kept me interested for years. And how profoundly sad I felt when I read the last page of The Deathly Hallows.
“And that is why I choose Harry Potter.”
So, now I ask you, Dear Readers, what books have made an impact on your life, and why? I look forward to reading your responses.