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Books that have impacted my life

February 14, 2018

 

Have you ever read a book that just stays with you, no matter how long ago you read it?  I've read thousands of books, and that is no exaggeration.  My love of books started when I was very young.  In fact, I once saw a picture of me with my grandmother's glasses on, book in hand (the book was upside down, which makes me wonder about myself back then), attempting to read.  I guess I was determined to read, even though I wasn't exactly sure about how to go about it at the time.  

 

I have always been curious about which books have made an impact on other's lives, no matter what the genre, no matter how old, no matter how short or long.  I have compiled a list of books that have impacted my life in one way or another, and why.  I believe that there are other people who are interested in books that have changed someone's life, and they want to discover what they are so they can read the same books and possibly have a life-changing experience.

 

1.  Duma Key by Stephen King.  I was in the U.S. Air Force a while back, and when I first went to basic training, I severely injured my ankle. I made it through basic training injured, and eventually completed my enlistment, but I spent years feeling like the accident was my fault, years of painful physical therapy and surgeries, followed by even more physical therapy for other musculoskeletal problems caused my ankle.  I felt broken and sad for so many years, and it wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand that what happened wasn't my fault, nor was it up to me to change other people's minds about what their opinions were about my injury. 

 

In the book, Edgar Freemantle is a  successful contractor who is involved in a very serious, life-threatening accident at work, and his life is completely changed afterwards.  His marriage dissolves as a result of the accident, and following the advice of his therapist, moves to the Florida Keys for a year to focus on himself and try to heal.  At first, Edgar just goes to Florida to placate his therapist, because his true goal is to commit suicide after his year is up.  However, Edgar discovers that Duma Key is a place of healing for him, which surprises him greatly.  In one part of the book, Edgar's daughter Ilse visits him and tells him that the accident wasn't his fault and he deserves to heal.  This really spoke to me because it was as if the daughter was speaking to me.  It was the first time that I realized that my accident wasn't my fault, and I deserved to get better.  I had to accept that I didn't have to value anyone's opinion about my injury, because I was the only one who knew what it felt like, and I was the one who lived with it every single day. 

 

The book follows Edgar as he lives in Duma Key and rediscovers his amazing talent in art.  The book contains supernatural elements, so just be aware of that if you read it.  I found the book to be funny, heartbreaking, creepy at times, and very engaging.  I loved all of the characters, especially Edgar and Wireman.  I felt for every single character, and wanted to protect them throughout the book.  Stephen King did a great job of making every character stand out.  I never forgot about any character, and could imagine each one in detail.  I absolutely love this book and have read it many times since I have gotten it, and highly recommend it to those who have felt like I did about my injury.

 

2.  Infected by Scott Sigler.   I have never read a book where it made me question every itch or mosquito bite I have gotten.  The book follows Perry Dawsey, a former football player who works a menial job he barely tolerates.  One day, he notices that his body has several itchy bumps on it, kind of like mosquito bites.  He shrugs it off, like any of us would, and continues about his life.  However, through other character's points of view, we learn that the bumps are not mosquito bites, they are actually points of infection via aliens, and these bumps are parasites that will continue to grow until they can control the host, and eventually hatch and kill the host. 

 

Perry is a very tough guy who endured years of serious physical abuse by his father.  He is proud of his ability to endure severe pain, so he sets out to get rid of the parasites himself without seeking help .  There is one part where he is trying to get rid of one, and every time I read it, I shut my eyes, as if I am watching the scene in real life.  Scott Sigler has a way of describing things as if you are really there, and I have never forgotten the book because of his talent.  This book has impacted my life because every single time I get a mosquito bite or an itchy bump, I start thinking about this book and wonder, what if this isn't a mosquito bite? 

 

Every time I get a mosquito bite, I am brought right back to the scene where Perry is trying desperately to remove the parasites.  You feel his absolute panic and revulsion when discovering these parasites, as well as his desperation and pain.  You are right there with him, and want him to defeat the parasites, so you endure what he endures.  This was how I dealt with the body horror that was described.  I felt that if the same thing happened to me, I'd have to try to get the parasites off of my body no matter how scared or repulsed I was, because getting them off my body as soon as possible is the best course of action in my mind.  It's like in life, where you have to deal with something that is scary, but you just deal with it because you know you have to.  I wanted to see how Perry's story ended, so I endured.  This book isn't for everyone.  It contains very graphic body horror scenes dealing with the alien parasites, but it is also very good.  I wanted the characters to win against the aliens, and no matter how flawed the characters were, I loved them anyway.  They seemed very real, and I understood their motivations, no matter if I agreed with them or not.  

 

This book is the first book in a trilogy.  The second book is Contagious, and the third book is Pandemic.  You don't have to read the other books to enjoy Infected, but they do continue the storyline if you are interested.  

 

3.  Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.  I have read this book several times and learn something new every time.  It has impacted me greatly because the ideas in it still stand true today.  How far are we willing to go to be happy?  April and Frank Wheeler are two people who are married and are absolutely miserable.  Frank is miserable because he does not have a good relationship with April, he works at a job that he detests, and he doesn't seem to have found his true purpose in life.  April is miserable because she has a tumultuous relationship with Frank, she is stuck at home doing housework, and doesn't seem to have found her purpose in life  They are miserable for similar reasons, yet do not have the tools for communication that allow them to express their feelings to each other. While Frank has accepted his plight and is comfortable with not making changes to make their lives better, April has other ideas and presents Frank with the idea that she gets a job in Paris working for the government as a secretary, while Frank quits his job and discovers what he really wants to do in life.  This suggestion immediately terrifies Frank, but he sees that the idea has invigorated April, and for the first time in a long time, he feels loved by her, so he lies to her and tells her he wants to move to Paris.  The book follows April and Frank as they discuss the idea of moving to Paris and the events that ensue.

 

As I read the book I thought, why did they get married in the first place?  They don't even seem to be friends, much less be in love with each other.  Frank is a man who seems to be comfortable with being unhappy, while April is willing to risk it all to have a chance at being happy.  How true is that today?  How many people stay at a job they hate, stay in a relationship that is broken, or live in a place they can't stand because it is easier than change?  I get it, change is scary; you don't know what the future will be like if you change something, but you can mostly likely be able to say what will happen if you don't.  I was with April in the book, I would risk it all for a chance to be happy because the alternative is too depressing to live with.  

 

I love this book because it doesn't feel old.  The conflicts and themes are still relevant today, and I get more out of it the more I read it.  I felt the elation Frank and April felt when they became excited about their lives changing; anyone who has planned out a significant change in their life and is excited about it would understand that feeling.  I was with them throughout the whole book, and I understood their feelings later in the book, when they didn't see eye to eye on certain aspects of the planned move.  If you like books which examine flawed relationships and the pressures of society to act a certain way, you'd most likely enjoy this book too.

 

4.  Penpal by Dathan Auerbach.  I discovered this book while searching for lists of creepy books to read.  The minute I started reading this book, I was drawn in.  The book follows a man who is beginning to remember that he was stalked as a young boy by an unknown person.  The story explains the boy's childhood and how he began to ask his mother questions about the things he experienced as a child.  This book terrified me in part because the woods behind the house the man lived in as a child were so similar to the woods that I grew up in and played in behind my house, that I felt like I was there during all of his experiences.  The book terrified me mostly because the stalker was so real, and the characters were so vivid.  All of what happened to the man could have happened to anyone, meaning it could have happened to me, which is very scary.  

 

This book is so well-written and it made me feel terrified, and very few books have ever done that.  The only other books that have ever truly scared me were Pet Sematary by Stephen King and The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.  Something about all of these books have creeped me out to the point where I find them difficult to reread if I am alone.  If you enjoy books where you have to pay attention to details, figure things out on your own, and find things out about the story slowly, then you would probably enjoy this book. If you like more action and to have things laid out plainly, then you probably won't, but I recommend giving it a chance because you might be drawn in like I was and end up loving it.  

 

5.  The Long Walk by Stephen King (also published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman).  I remember the shock I felt after reading this book.  I actually looked at the cover after I was done and thought, what did I just read?  Then I kind of wanted to read it again, because this book took me on a journey.  

 

The Long Walk is about a group of 100 teenage boys who are participating in a macabre event that is held once a year in May, starting in the state of Maine.  The Long Walk only allows one winner, who will get whatever prize they want, which seems to mean that they will get whatever they want for the rest of their life.  The contest requires that all the walkers maintain a speed of four miles an hour, and if they slow down for at least 30 seconds, they receive a warning.  After three warnings, they are shot and killed.  The walkers walk along designated roads, and are given food at regular intervals during the day, and water whenever needed. 

 

The book follows Ray Garraty as he develops friendships and we share in his experience during the walk.  It was interesting to me that there was no end to the long walk; walkers were told that the walk ended when there was only one person left.  When I was younger, I don't think I really believed, as the walkers didn't really believe, in the beginning of the book that anyone would actually be killed.  As an adult, I truly feel the horror of the parents in the beginning of the long walk when knowing that they most likely will never see their children again and knowing in their hearts that their children have a death wish.  I truly feel for these children in that they didn't really know what they were getting into, and felt angry at the people who developed this macabre walk were preying on children who would enter into an event that would almost surely kill them.  Adolescents are much more likely to engage in risky, life-threatening behavior, so they are the ones who are the most likely to sign up for something like this; their brains aren't developed enough to know the true risks they are taking.  

 

This book has impacted me because I can see how my views have changed throughout the years from adolescence to adulthood.  Whereas before I could only see the book from the teenagers point of view, I can now see both the teenagers and the parent's points of view.  I have not gone on a walk that has exhausted me and not thought of that book.  There is something so horrifying about thinking you are going on an exciting journey, only to realize you are trapped and only death lies ahead.  This book is like nothing else I've ever read; I guarantee if you read it, you will never take a walk again without thinking of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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