The Book That Made Me is a collection of thirty-two personal stories by some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Each essay centers around the question: What books influenced you, stuck with you and/or made a difference in your life?
I found it fascinating how every author approached their essay differently. Some took it very seriously, some were hilarious, one wrote a list. For most it was more than one book or story, while for others a favourite rose above all the rest.
Some of the essays touched me deeply. This paragraph from Randa Abdel-Fattah I read over and over, ‘The books I’d read had socialised me into subconsciously discounting my story. Suddenly I realised that my own experiences just might matter.’ She was talking about her fascination, as a child, with the Sweet Valley High series and then, how after reading Looking for Alibrandi, a book that didn’t ‘fetishise a migrant upbringing’, she started to question what she was writing and why.
I also loved Will Kostakis’ essay. After reading six pages of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in Grade Six and feeling ‘quite passionate about not reading a seventh’, he decided he could do better and this started his whole writing career. Brilliant!
Then other essays I took in, but thought no more about. Someone told me that Markus Zusak‘s list made her ‘feel all of the things!’ yet it didn’t raise a blip for me. But maybe that’s because I’ m one of the only people on the planet who hasn’t read the The Outsiders by SE Hinton
But here in lies the appeal of this book, what resonates will be different for everyone and no doubt change over time. Right now the essays of Rachael Craw, Simmone Howell, Jared Thomas, Cath Crowley, Simon French, Catherine Johnson, James Roy, Jaclyn Moriarty but most of all Brigid Lowry, stood out. But who’s to say that in a few years something else will touch a cord?
This is a book you can dip into, savour, gobble and mull over. It will inspire you, challenge you and envelop you in a veil of nostalgia. It will also vastly pad out your ‘to read’ list. Mine is now bulging with these new finds and I can’t wait to see if I can experience some of the magic they bestowed on these authors.
I think I’ll start with Hatchet.
Renee Mihulka is an avid reader, an aspiring author with three manuscripts on submission, and a mum of three. You can find out more about her at www.reneemihulka.com