Had a very funny chat with my author friend and coworker, John Saye a few weeks ago.
I don’t remember how the subject came up, but I mentioned that I had watched Beverly Hills Cop, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and Ghostbusters on a loop for several years of my youth. Later, it was Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Goonies and Dirty Dancing.
His reply: “That, right there, explains you.”
I laughed at his statement, because that’s a whole lot of explaining in a handful of movie titles. He went on to tell me his theory that there are some films that we watch so many times that they become part of us. They change the grain of our souls. The films that qualify for this are the ones that you watched repeatedly in your formative years. They are the films where the dialogue pops into your head unbidden in the middle of serious business meetings. They shape the person you grow up to be.
I have to agree with John on this one. There are some bits of art and media that once we have taken them in, we never really release them from our minds. They become part of us.
I would like to introduce a corollary to his theory.
I believe that there are also books that can also become part of us. Books we read and then reread. Books we never tire of. Stories we can revisit in our minds time and again. Books we can quote, line for line in some cases.
Here, then, are the books that are part of my soul:
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
- Little House on the Prairie – the whole series (but not the television show)
- Little Women
- The Hobbit
- The Black Stallion
I also had a book of fairy tales that I read into dust. Of those, my favorite was the 12 Dancing Princesses (It occurs to me now how I enjoyed a tale where the girl made up her mind to change things and between her bit of cleverness and his, they secured their happy ending using teamwork. Not for me, passive, waiting-around princess stories…)
I’m surprised that I don’t count anything by Marguerite Henry on this list. I certainly read enough of her books. Aside from Farley’s Black Stallion series, I think the other horse-centered book I might consider adding is Patricia Calvert’s Snowbird. I remember reading this library book in 6th or 7th grade, and I remember sobbing my guts out. I hated the book. I hated the message (If you love something, set it free…). But here I am, over two decades later, still vividly recalling the book in my hands, where it was shelved at the Newton Falls library, and my deep emotional response to it. Henry and Farley only bring vague memories of pleasure reading about equines, not emotions.
I grew solidly into a bookworm by the ripe age of ten, so there are many, many books that I remember reading. I don’t think they qualify for the list only because they don’t inspire adult re-reads. They aren’t books I will always own copies of. I remember Narnia, and Jane Eyre, and Madeleine L’Engle’s entire body of work. I remember Anne McCafferey’s Pern and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea. But none of these have the lasting impact that the list above has had.
I now want to do this same exercise with other artforms. Music, paintings, photographs. I want to see the little library in my soul and hear the soundtrack, see what paintings are on the walls.
What art have you made a part of you?