Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…

5 Books That Made a Difference


I begin with a disclaimer.  This list assumes that you, dear reader, know that the Bible is at the top of this list.  It will not be discussed in this blog.  The topic of 5 books that have made a difference in my life comes from Oprah and from WordPress suggestions.  I found it an interesting exercise from the standpoint that I found definite links between the books/characters that describe my evolution to who I am.  I have received strength from these books and their characters.  Their characters created models of who I wanted to be, and the role I wanted to play in the world.  They simultaneously provided a concrete example to work toward and a community created (be that fictional or non-fictional) to support me when the “authentic me” was at odds with the those around me in the real world, and more secure in the company of the literary world.

There is a bit of Howard Roarke within me.  Thanks to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead Roarke’s creativity, conviction and passion were at the core of his life.  The word compromise was not a part of his vocabulary.  Roarke lived in a world that found compromise a much easier path.  There was a price to pay for their decisions, and one to pay for Roarke’s.  While one can be admired for their strength in conviction, there is not always a reward for the Howard Roarke’s of the world.  I have found that admiring another person’s strength of purpose, passion and conviction is not the same as having the strength to support them in their passion.

I first found the writings of Hermann Hesse and specifically, his book Siddhartha, as a college student.  As a young man, Siddhartha left his family to go out into the world to “find himself.”  Who among us has not been there?  The journey is not always a clear path, at times it becomes a “deer path” coming to a dead end rather than an opening to wisdom and life lessons.  Siddhartha became known as a “wandering ascetic.”  Siddhartha’s path brought him to his life path, to seek, and share his gathered wisdom.

Gaelic for “soul friend” anam cara and John O’Donohue introduce us to what it means to be human.  In the Celtic world we are more than flesh and bone, we are linked to both the physical and spiritual world.  O’Donohue lead me into the Celtic world on a journey toward understanding my world view and where that world view fits into the universe.  He presents a new/ancient world view which awakens the Celt within and offers an explanation for undiscovered sources of connection to the earth on the spiritual and metaphysical planes.

The iconic novel and Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960.  I was 11 years old and questioning why the athletic club linked to my father’s employer had a separate club across the street for negro employees and their families.  My oldest brother’s senior class trip involved students staying in two separate hotels in our nations capital because Negroes were not permitted in the original hotel booked.  Through the eyes of young girl named Scout we meet the principled attorney Atticus Finch who provides a model for upholding justice and human dignity.

While awaiting his departure for his homeland, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet seeks to offer not his possessions, because he has none, but his gift of wisdom.  A woman in the crowd at the dock offers questions for this mysterious prophet to answer.  He speaks to us: on Beauty, on Love, on Marriage, on Children, on Friendship, on Work and on Joy and Sorrow.  Although originally published in 1923, The Prophet became the guide for the children of the 60’s.  Gibran continues to inspire new generations and to rejuvenate baby-boomers.

The 5 books that made a difference to me are united by brilliant authors who have created timeless characters of great strength, integrity and conviction.  These characters have become the prize on which I focus my vision.  I crave books with characters, real or fiction, who inspire me to be a better me.  These are five old friends to whom I return repeatedly for guidance and inspiration.

What are you reading???


Author: Carol R Craley

I am a former Philadelphia suburbanite who moved to Maine in 2002 ~ a former art educator ~ former school administrator ~former college and graduate school instructor ~ a writer ~an artist ~ and a photographer. I am currently mom to two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Emma and Sara and a rescued kitty from Georgia ~ so that is her name. I am inspired by nature, great music, art and writing that makes me ponder the world...

6 thoughts on “5 Books That Made a Difference

  1. This is a difficult task. Not just because I do so much reading but because its hard to choose from among the books I’ve read and decide which five have meant the most to me. So many books are special to me because they mark specific points along my path.

    1 Things we Couldn’t Say– Diet Eman
    This is the author’s own story about her part in the Dutch resistance during Nazi occupation. Reading this book was revelatory to me because it reminded me what it actually SHOULD mean to be ‘Christian’– advocating for the persecuted other—rather than endless political positioning and meaningless fencebuilding.

    2. A Prayer for Owen Meany– John Irving
    I read this book for the first time on my first trip to Ireland. Since then I’ve given it away half a dozen times; I make a point of buying used copies so I can give it away. It is by far my most loved single work of fiction. It is about friendship, and sacrifice, and the messy business of destiny, it manages to be both heartbreaking and hilarious. It is reading that makes me want to write.

    3. The Fellowship of the Ring/The Two Towers/Return of the King
    All three. Every summer. I’d start in June and by the beginning of August I’d be done. I still have the feathery soft paperback copies that went from campground to cabin to summer camp. In those pages I could imagine a degree of victory, bravery, and nobility I didn’t experience at, say, school.

    4 ..and a Voice to Sing With– Joan Baez
    She’s one of my heroes. (Sometimes I think I was born just a titch too late.) She inspired me both from a musical perspective and in some of my political involvement and she’s quite a compelling writer. She’s led a fascinating life and knowing ‘the stories behind the songs’ makes me love the songs all the more.

    5. En El Tiempo de las Mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies)– Julia Alvarez
    I don’t know why this book found its way into my hand but it led to an immediate consumption of all of Julia Alvarez’ books, then an exploration of Latina writers in general, which led to Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel. I can’t put my finger on what speaks to me so deeply with these authors; there is something so intimate about the telling that by the time you are finished with them these women are your sisters.

  2. This is an interesting list. I haven’t read them all, and will put them on my to-read list.

    I would have to say Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged had a profound effect on me when I read it in college. I would also admit that, always a voracious reader, I don’t read much now that I blog. It takes me a long time to percolate, ruminate and regurgitate my pieces. I also don’t listen to music as much, because it breaks my concentration. I’m becoming horribly one-dimensional – and for what? Now I’m getting depressed.

    • I find music at my core and what actually aids my concentration ~ although always classical or instrumental (usually piano) ~ it is the words that throw me off course. That being said, we all have brains that process differently! I love to read, although I will admit to being a slow reader while I percolate, ruminate and regurgitate each page, theme and character of the book. Unfortunately, it is my blog that winds up being sacrificed! I LOVE to write, now that’s making me depressed.
      We need to accept life as it is Peg, and move on with the knowledge that we are where we are for a reason, doing what we should be doing… there is a time and reason for everything!

  3. Good picks, Carol. I’ve read most of them, but not all of them. To Kill a Mockingbird is in our sophomore curriculum, so I used to teach that book year after year to my G/T seventh graders since they followed the sophomore curriculum. The kids got so much out of it. I read The Prophet and Siddhartha many years ago, so reading them again would prove a good exercise. You always learn so much more each time you read a book over again.

    • I also find that re-reading a book years after you read it the first time seems like reading it for the first time. A different age, a gathering of different life experiences usually brings a totally different perspective to the words and ideas. If I had listed 6 books that made a difference I would have to add Walden. That is a book I have read several times, Walden Pond and the site of Thoreau’s cabin is a spot that brings me much peace. For the 100th Anniversary of the publication there was an international reading on the banks of Walden Pond… an awesome experience!

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