In a recent post for the Nerdy Book Club blog, Donalyn Miller wrote about revisiting our reading histories to identify the books that have been touchstones in our lives:
More than listing favorites, creating a reading autobiography encourages readers to revisit their reading experiences and identify books signifying turning points or touchstones in their reading histories. While we often live our reading lives in the present and the future—the books we are reading right now and what we plan to read next—readers benefit from traveling back through the books we have read in the past.
While I believe we find something beneficial about every book we read—knowledge, escape, entertainment, insight, and so on—some books transform us in fundamental ways.
I am the kind of person who always reads the book first. I don’t mean reading the book before seeing the movie. I mean reading the book before having the experience. Reading the book before living the life. Sometimes I think that everything I am and everything I’ve done can be directly connected to a book I’ve read.
Bread and Jam for Frances made me a foodie. There is some exquisite food writing in Russell Hoban’s descriptions of the contents of Albert’s lunchbox.
On the Banks of Plum Creek made me a South Dakotan. I longed for the prairie thirty years before I set eyes on it for the first time. I never drive across my beautiful state of South Dakota without thinking of Laura Ingalls Wilder and my childhood fantasy of going west. (On the Banks of Plum Creek actually takes place in Minnesota. I feel compelled to be accurate as an adult. But in my childhood imagination, once they left Wisconsin, it was all Dakota.)
The Day I Became an Autodidact made me a college dropout, for a couple of years anyway. I ended up taking two years off from formal education after high school, and those two years shaped my life afterwards in so many ways.
Beyond the Sky and Earth: A Journey to Bhutan made me an adventurer. I decided to leave academia and go somewhere unusual to teach. It was between Mongolia and South Dakota, and I chose South Dakota. (When you’re used to East Coast urban, South Dakota seems just about as unusual as Mongolia!)
Writing Down the Bones made me a writer. Twenty-five years after I read it for the first time, it’s still a book I return to for sustenance and inspiration.
Two Parts Textbook, One Part Love: A Recipe for Successful Teaching made me a teacher. Although in my classroom, the formula was probably one part textbook, two parts love, which strikes me as just the right balance.
In the Middle made me a workshop teacher. Inspired by Atwell, I threw out my curriculum two weeks before the first day of school and started over with reading and writing workshop.
There Is No Me Without You made me a mother. It brought me to Ethiopia and to older children.