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About Claudia (part six) : Ten novels that changed my life

In moving the weblog, I realized that I stalled out on the 100 things project.  Without further ado, here's ten books that changed my life.

1. Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare : This book meant so much to me. I was such a strange and unusual kid. As a young child, I had no safe place - school was a nightmare, home was worse. I could relate to Kit, who's entire life is turned upside down when her grandfather died. Ironically, the same was true for me. My entire life turned upside down when my grandfather died but that's another story. It's not an exaggeration to say that this book changed my life.

2. Dark is Rising (series) by Susan Cooper : I grew up in a household where schizophrenia was the norm. In the Dark is Rising series, Will sees evil that no one else can see. I felt very much like Will growing up. I love the mythology in these books and the luscious sense of right/wrong, dark/light and destiny.

3. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien : Oh, I know. Everyone has seen these movies now. I read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings every year from the time I was about ten years old. These books helped me survive some very dark days.

4. The Roads to Freedom by Jean Paul Sartre : When I was applying to colleges, I was completely baffled by this question - what single book affected you? How could I pick one book? I was laughing about this in the car one day with my family and my father said, "Sartre." I pressed him later and he said it was night and day - one day I was one way, the next day I was an existentialist. I think existentialism gave me a freedom and a chance to choose my own future. These are not great books - but they were great for me.

5. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin :  I was given the original three books by a housekeeping client. I didn't read them for about ten years. I'm not sure why I kept them. But when I was tossed out, I brought them with me. I like Ged's humanity, his wretched ego, and final humility. I'm particularly partial to the first three, but the others are good.

6. Mystery series - Sue Grafton's alphabet, James Lee Burke's Robicheaux, and Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn/Chee : I glump these together because I love mysteries. Great characters, interesting stories, and a long series. I'd love the Alex the Fey series to last as long as any of these series. We can only hope!

7. A Christmas Carole and Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens : I have a Dickens thing (obviously). Christmas Carole (1962 version only) is a staple of my life. I love that Ebenezer is given a chance at redemption. It's such a message of hope. I know Tale of Two Cities is an old story, but I love that one would sacrifice for a person they don't even know.  "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known." Surrounded by mentally ill selfish people, this message was so powerful. I can choose! I can life or die and it's my choice!

8. Dubliners and Ulysses by James Joyce : Oh, I don't know. I feel do stupid putting these books on the list. They changed my life when I first read them because they were so different. I loved the idea of the nearly blind Joyce worrying over every single word. Obsessed and perfectionistic, Joyce worked his butt off teaching, caring for his wife's children, and eventually, in the middle of the night writing. I admire the man, his commitment, and his capacity to risk. Did you know Joyce borrowed every penny his brother had to print the Dubliners then the printer wouldn't print the book! Too much blasphemy. He lost his brother's money and had no money. Ulysses was banned in the US for a long time. I love Portrait and Finnegan's wake ... sigh... Joyce is a great example of Churchill's "Never, never, never, never give up."

9. The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway : I hate adjectives and adverbs. Yep, it's true. I love that Gertrude Stein wouldn't allow him to use an adjective for a year. A YEAR! We could all use this training. Plus, it's a good read.

10. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy : Cliff hanger after cliff hanger after cliff hanger! This is such a fun book. If you're interested in learning about 'hooks' or 'pulling the reader through the book', this is a masterpiece.

What books changed your life?