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Thursday, February 21, 2008
Books that Changed My Life (#1)
In an effort to start a new series that will help me to keep posting on an almost daily basis, I thought I would introduce you to the books that affected me deeply.

I've always been a reader. Both of my parents have always been readers. While my friends were put in front of a television to be entertained, I was taken to the library and the bookstore. Reading has always been a comforting thing. It's always been a safe place. After my mom died, I spent a lot of time locked in my room reading and writing, trying to figure out how this powerful, traumatic event would factor into who I was going to become. When I was a kid, the characters that I read about became role models and heroes. The Lioness Quartet, a four book series by Tamora Pierce, introduced me to the character that proved to be my hero for most of my childhood.

I have always been crazy about all things medieval. In the summer my mom would take me to the library and I would head straight to the history portion of the kid's section. Every week I would pull every medieval history book they had, and beg the librarians to let me check out more than number allowed. Invariably, my mom would end up checking out the other books I couldn't. I remember around the end of 5th grade, when she pointed out that I could look at the adult's history section and check out those books as well. I must have wandered the stacks for a good hour, and finally settled on some incredibly pedantic about medieval warfare. While all of the other southern belles that I knew wanted to be a princess I knew I wanted to be the knight. So when I tell you that one Friday night at my family's bookstore excursion I found the first in a series about a girl disguising her identity and becoming a knight, you'll understand that I thought I had found the Holy Grail of young adult books.

Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant are books that chronicle the story of Alanna of Trebond.

From the author's website:
    This story, all four books, is about the making of a hero. It's also about a very stubborn girl. Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight of the realm of Tortall, in a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors. Rather than give up her dream, she and her brother--who wants to be a mage, not a knight--switch places. She becomes Alan; Thom becomes a student wizard in the school where she would have learned to be a lady. The quartet is about her struggle to achieve her goals and to master weapons, combat, polite behavior, her magic, her temper, and even her own heart. It is about friendships--with the heir to the throne, the King of Thieves, a wise and kindly knight--and her long struggle against a powerful enemy mage. She sees battle as a squire and as a knight, lives among desert people and tries to rescue an independent princess. Singled out by a goddess, accompanied by a semi-divine cat with firm opinions, somehow she survives her many adventures to become a most unlikely legend.
What the description doesn't tell you is that even though she holds a legendary place in the books, she's created with flaws. She has a horrible temper, is afraid of falling in love, and sometimes alienates her friends because of her lack of social skills. Above all, she creates her own path for her life.

Mostly, these books taught me about hard work and perseverance. Alanna's not a naturally talented swordsman. She gets up before dawn and practices, practices during every free minute she has, and practices late at night. Through years of work she becomes one of the best swordsmen around.

Embarrassingly enough, whenever I'm about to wimp out in favor of sleep or momentary comforts, all I have to do is think about the books and generally the thought of my childhood hero is enough to pull me out of bed and start to work.

"Ah," Gary said dreamily. "'Free time.' I've heard about that. Don't fool yourself, Fire-Top. What with extra hours of lessons for punishments, and the work you get every day, free time is an illusion. It's what you get when you die and the gods reward you for a life spent working from dawn until midnight. We all face up to it sooner or later."

These books are old friends. Safe. And even though I'm 24, I still go back to them whenever I'm stressed or overwhelmed, depressed or lonely. These books represent who I really wanted to be when I was 9/10, and to a certain extent who I am now.

Wishing you memories of childhood books.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,



posted by Mac Tíre at 2:11 PM ¤ Permalink ¤