The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet To Come swirled about the classroom as the genius of Dickens wrought its magic. Sure, the students understood allusions to Scrooge, but I was surprised by their corporate ignorance of the plot line (and, consequently, the message) of A Christmas Carol. After using a combo of rich oral reading (of course I “do” the voices) and sheer force of cheerful will, I was bound and determined to foster some sort of appreciation for this timeless story.
This story is ingrained, etched upon my heart as indelibly as the spirits of Scout Finch, Huckleberry Finn, and the Ingalls family. It was eye-opening to watch my students respond to the power of Fezziwig and the pathos of Want and Need clinging to the ghostly robe of their benefactor. They gasped when Scrooge’s early words came back to haunt him, and wondered aloud as lots were cast for a dead man’s bed curtains. I’d like to say I had them…teachable moments stacked clear to Christmas…but it was Dickens who held them in thrall, his fireside read-aloud reaching across centuries.
As capricious as teens can be, sometimes they ask questions with enough poignancy that I can almost see their intellect expanding. Sometimes, they ask questions that teach the teacher a little something. One student in particular was going on about the transformative nature (his phrase…insert teacher back handsprings here!) of A Christmas Carol when he asked me the title of the most influential book I’ve read. I asked for some time to contemplate his question, explaining that our characters are not just multi-faceted but our mindsets transform as a function of life stage and maturity as well. By the next class, I was ready to go.
Today, Gentle Reader, I’d like to share the 5 most influential books I’ve read. These are the ones that led to transformation, for better or worse. Please note that although The Holy Bible was my gut reaction by nature, nurture, and virtue of growing up in the Bible Belt, I chose to omit it from this list. This is not an ordinal list, and may hold surprises.
- A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving This is the one that set the bar for storytelling, made me want to be a writer, and showed me just how inadequate my own scratchings can be.
- French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Giuliano If nothing else, this book started my love affair with leeks. No kidding, they are divine! My youngest caught me reading this awhile back and said, “Face it, Mom.” I thought, “Here it comes.” Sure enough, her hand went on her hip as she tossed her head. “You’ll never be French.”
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley This book taught me how to read…really read.
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey My record with Financial Peace University is 01-02 and a forfeit, but I either bless or curse Ol’ Dave with every major purchase. If I could keep my debt snowball from melting from the heat off those card readers, I might be alright.
- The First Days of School by Harry Wong/ A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne Okay, that’s two books, but these two are the ones I credit with teaching me how to teach. That first one by Ron Clark comes in pretty handy, too. His name was mud in our house while our first two were little!
So, now I put the question to you: What book(s) do you consider influential?