Here are some books I have enjoyed, along with a brief accounting of how or why they had such an impact on me.
Where The Red Fern Grows:
Mrs. Ina Norton, my fourth grade teacher made it an annual event to read this book to her class. Ina to this day stands as one of my most beloved role models, she was my guardian saint during that wonderful, but thorn strewn year in my life. I recently reconnected with her and together we reminisced about our brief, but significant school year together. Suffering from short term memory loss, she won't remember our delightful conversation, but I will, and some day we'll meet again in another life and we'll have plenty to talk about.
I bought a red bone hound pup a few years back, named her Sadie. Together we lived the adventure described in this book first hand, tromping through rivers, chest high grass, swamps, tangles climbing hundred foot trees, while hunting raccoons. I owned other hounds as well, but Sadie was my first, and she was magnificent. I envision the pages of several books to come will be filled with the fantastic adventures she provide me with.
The Black Stallion: (Series)
I read the entire series as a young teen, my first exposure coming when for Christmas, as was her annual custom, Aunt Polly sent a hard bound copy for us to read. Later I read the rest of them, enjoying every word, as I dreamed of someday owning my own black horse. As I write this, I am looking out my back window, where Frisco, my big black Morgan is grazing in the pasture.
I know Mark Twain intended this book to be a masterful work satire, but as a boy, listening to Mrs. Oxley read it in Third Grade, it was just a terrific story. I'll never get the image of Indian Joe out of my mind for as long as I live, nor will I forget the several months of my life that followed, as I seemed to find my own version of Indian Joe in some sinister goings on that involved my father and some local hooligans that robbed his office. For months, after I found one of their buried caches of stolen articles, I wondered if they would somehow find out and come after me. They didn't, thank goodness, and the green metal ammunition box is probably still buried beneath the old potato cellar where I left it. I gave the money back to my dad and ate the two snicker bars, but there was also a knife, some large calibre bullets, along with several articles of jewelry that I left in that box, and couldn't have been a more fantastic treasure to bury.
Just a terrific story for a country grown kid like me. I was in seventh grade when I first read this and I completely related, having lost my own fantastic dog a couple of years earlier.
Because of a condition with my right eye, reading became difficult for me as I finished elementary school and began Jr. High. Fortunately, I discovered Louis L'Amour's action packed romantic westerns to read. Exciting, descriptive, and just short enough to not be too intimidating, these pocket reads kept me reading through the several interim years between youthful innocence and the awakening that would eventually occur, providing me with the direction and motivation to rise to greater heights in literature.
I've never lost my love for the western genre, Indian Lore, gunman, romance and the battle between good and bad. Most of my pencil pieces are depictions of that period as I imagined it.
Near the end of my junior year in AP English at Richfield High, Mrs. Potter introduced me to this book. Les Miserables was by far the largest book I had attempted to read up until that point, but because of her immense respect for its literary value, I was determined to see it through to the end and was well rewarded for my efforts. Even now, I look upon this book as one of my all time favorites.
Dances With Wolves:
I typically don't read a book if I've already seen the movie, even if most times the book tells the story far better, but I was so inspired by the majesty of the movie in this case, that I went right out and bought the book and didn't rest until I closed the back cover. With the subject matter being right down my favorite alley, I became lost in the narrative, reveling in the connection I felt with the main character, and the respectful way his Sioux friends were represented. Terrific book, and though it is nearly perfectly mirrored by the movie, a few interesting twists that add much significance to the story, can only be found in the book.
Though over the years I have enjoyed reading a variety of books, few have offered an experience strong enough to capture my deeper consciousness. This book, however, has it all. Written by first time Author Kathryn Stockett, emits an intoxicating vibe, that while cleverly entertaining, delivers a human punch that inspires expanded thought and conscientious consideration of real issues. To gain full appreciation of this book, try reading it aloud. In hearing the deep southern vernacular of the separate narratives in your own voice, each character comes vividly to life and in their own way will have your heart wrapped up in their separate plights before you realize what is happening. Be careful though, there are some expletive land mines that will sneak up unexpectedly, making it unsuitable for innocent ears.