Thursday, June 14, 2012

Books That Changed Us

While I was reviewing a submission for Gold Man Review, I came across a comment in the piece about a book that had changed the life of the writer. I wrote down the title of the book and saved it for my future reading list. How could I not? What could be more interesting, more powerful, than a book that changed a life? I was thankful the writer chose to share the title, instead of just writing, “I read this book that changed my life …” and then carried on.  Because now, little does this writer know, that sometime in the future this book may change my life too.

On a personal, individual level, there are books that have changed the way we see ourselves, see our relationship to the world, and the paths we have chosen. Fortunately, there are several such books that have influenced who I am today, but one that most people might find surprising is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Yes, the boy wizard has had a profound impact on my life and I can even go as far as to say that if it weren’t for Harry Potter, that geeky looking kid with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, I would not be me. So maybe there is magic after all.

Here’s how it happened:

I was at Red Lobster the day my life changed. I was working as a server, it was the lunch shift, and we had a parade of kids come in. Not necessarily a big deal in and of itself, except these kids were dressed up in capes, had lightning bolts drawn on their foreheads, and it wasn’t Halloween—now that was weird. I asked a coworker, “What’s up with the lightning bolts and capes?”

“Oh, it’s because of the Harry Potter movie. It was just released.”

“Harry Potter?”

“ You never heard of it?”

I had to really think, but then I remembered a friend of mine was reading those books and I made fun of her for reading a kids book at 19 years old. “Yeah,” I said, “I’ve heard of it.”

When the movie came out on DVD, I jumped on it. I had to know what made Harry Potter so popular. After watching the movie, I had to be honest; I thought I could do better.  Matter of fact, here were my exact words: “This is it? This is what all the hype is about? I can write something better than that!”

The very next day, I came up with a title, characters, and a plot (although it wasn’t really a plot) for my fantasy novel with wizards, elves, queens, and a boy destined for greatness and went to it. I wrote the thing every semester break nonstop and eventually finished it a year and a half later. I tried submitting it to publishing houses, but since I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person that has ever heard of Legend of Magia, you all know how that went.

As it turned out, I couldn’t write something better than Harry Potter. Not only is J.K. Rowling an excellent writer and storyteller, but my first fantasy novel had more problems than I could ever list here. The novel will more than likely stay forever locked in a drawer and hidden away from public eyes, unless it’s used for educational purposes on what NOT to do.  Then it might see the light of the open drawer.

If not, that’s okay because even though the story was a flop, I kept going. I moved on to other projects, kept writing, and kept learning until I was so far in and so much in love with creating stories that I could never walk away. I could never imagine a life without writing and, in the end; I owe my entire writing career to Harry Potter. Long live the Boy Wizard!

And, now, back to the books that changed us. We all have them and what can have more of a hook than a book that changes lives. So here, I will put on my Life Changing Books list: Harry Potter (all of them).

What are your books?

Heather Cuthbertson is the Editor-in-Chief for Gold Man Review. To read more about Heather Cuthbertson go to Heather Cuthbertson's Page.