Author Shiloh Walker asked me some interesting questions the other day (and my answers will be appearing on her blog tomorrow.) Among them was one I didn't want to answer because I thought it couldn't be answered: What's the one book you think everybody, writer or not, should read?
Like saying you want world peace at a beauty pageant, the Holy Bible seems to be the default answer. But the Bible and I have our issues, and I feel it's simply not appropriate for everyone. So back to the drawing board. Shakespeare was next on my list, but he wrote plays, not books, and he can be difficult to understand. I came close to saying Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer because I do think that illustrates the human character from soup to nuts, plus it's funny -- but also, not an easy read.
I finally turned around the question and thought what is it that I wish everyone would get from reading one book? And then I knew.
I read this book when I was quite young, probably too young to be exposed to the content, which is brutal. It's not a pleasant read, especially for writers. Even after you learn that the author actually lived it, you don't want to believe it. Thinking about it afterward made me cry a couple times and I even had some nightmares about it.
So why would I want everyone to read a horrible book like that? Honestly, it made me grateful. Grateful for everything I had: the tiny room I shared with two sisters, the squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunchbag, the hand-me-down clothes that were too big or too small, the cheap shoes that pinched my toes, even the dismal prospects waiting in my future. I didn't believe that I had anything of value in my life until I read this book, and then for the first time clearly saw and understood exactly how fortunate I was. That the few things I had, the things that had never before been good enough, were blessings that could so easily be taken away from me, along with my family, my home, and even my future.
In answering Shiloh's question I also realized I've never given anyone a copy of this book, which I intend to remedy right now. In comments to this post, name a book that changed how you think about yourself or anything (or if you've not yet read that one book, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Thursday, June 23, 2011. I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner a copy of the book that I think everyone should read, and I will also grant the winner a BookWish*. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.
*A BookWish is any book of your choice available to order from an online bookseller, up to a maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. (I'll throw in whatever shipping is involved.)
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