I’m sure everyone knows some version of Charles Dickens’s story, A Christmas Carol. A wealthy man, Scrooge, lives in a privileged, selfish life. On the night of Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, which help him change his mind to be a better person. It’s a timeless tale that teaches change, love, and more.
This year, I was inspired by it, and decided to visit the books of my past, present, and future to see how they changed me as a reader.
Books of Book Past
Grave Mercy. This book is one of the first books that I can pinpoint that changed my reading life so much. I first picked this book up when the book market was full of books like The House of Night series and Twilight – they were books with Mary Sue heroines who were in frankly dysfunctional relationships with men that were possessive and a bit creepy at times.
Grave Mercy was one of the first books that I read that showed me a flawed heroine that was mentally, emotionally, and physically strong in a relationship with a respectful and caring love interest. This book is probably my favorite of all time, and the very last reread I did of it, I full on cried because it meant so much to me – and it also changed so much of how I read. I will always actively seek stories with strong (in all respects) heroines and expect my love interests in stories to show as much respect that Duval does to Ismae.
Letting Go of Gravity. This book was the first book I ever saw myself in. There were a lot of books where maybe I saw something that might have reminded me of myself, but this was the first book that I truly had felt seen. Our main heroine, Parker, felt like me. I recognized some of the same traits and feelings we shared, and her anxiety reminded me so much of the anxiety that plagues me. When reading this, I felt so emotional, and I couldn’t believe how much feeling seen in a book mattered to me and finding someone that might share some of my crazy thoughts/insecurities was so amazing. The only ever book I’ve ever felt so seen in was What If It’s Us that I read this year, which had me screaming so much, since I thought Letting Go was going to be a unicorn in the world.
We’ve been pushing for years now about needing more books where everyone will feel seen – books we can see ourselves in whether it’s characters that physically look like you; think like you; have physical, mental, emotional issues like you; have had struggles like you (physical, financial, & more) etc. We need to keep pushing for books like this, because had I read this book earlier in my life, I might have felt more comfortable in my anxiety a lot earlier, knowing there was someone out there that got it. *gets off soapbox to continue with this random Christmas Carol inspired post*
Wait Till Helen Comes. I think this is the book that broke me for ghost stories. It’s been a million years since I read it – I think I was in 6th or 7th grade, and I can still remember distinct memories of it in my head. I can’t remember like anything about the book I read 3 months ago, but I am totally haunted my memories of this book still how many years later. I freaked myself out so much with this book, but it officially hooked me on the need to read anything spooky – with a distinct love of books featuring hauntings and ghosts. I suppose you can thank this book for Nightmare Before Book Princess Reviews readathon.
Books of Book Present
Adult Books. This year, I tried a few more adult fiction books than I normally do – in the past few weeks, I’ve picked up 3, which is kind of a record for me. Besides my obsession with Simone St. James books last year, I really don’t actively pick up adult books. I picked up such books as Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant; The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern; Red, White, and Royal Blue; books by Daphne du Maurier; and more.
While I did end up enjoying about half of the books, there was still about half of them that I didn’t enjoy. Some just didn’t bring that unique magic I feel when reading young adult or middle grade books. Most of them just felt so long. I might try some more this coming year – with adult horror being something I might gravitate more to – but I’ve discovered that I’m still not quite an adult fiction reader yet and that’s okay.
Books in Verse. This was the year that I shocked myself and actually enjoyed reading books in verse/poetry? WHO EVEN AM I?? Poetry has always scared me, because most of the time, I just don’t get it. Books in flowery language and magical realism always get me lost, so, well, I assumed that books in verse would do the same for me. However, I felt like I needed to start branching out into more impactful contemporary reads, and when I came across Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, I decided to pick it up. I was stunned and awed and overwhelmed. When I picked up The Poet X a few weeks later, I knew I was forever sold.
One of my most anticipated reads next year is Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo because a) it’s Elizabeth Acevedo, but also b) because it’s in verse again. If you told me this is where I would be a year ago, I would be an actual ghost because I would be dead from shock.
Books of Book Future
Less Fluff, More Impact. As I mentioned in the previous section, I started to make the unconscious decision to not read as much adorable, cheesy goodness that doesn’t really have too much of an impact and start to go more for the realistic fiction that has a strong message of sorts – whether it’s filled with diversity, focusing on mental health, or making a comment on social issues. Yes, I can totally still get down with an amazing fluffy book (10 Blind Dates was totally cute and fun and all sorts of fun), but a lot of those contemporaries just focus on the petty high school drama, and at this point in my life, I just want a bit more?
The books on my list for 2020 seem to follow this trend quite a bit. Almost all of the books are focusing on just something rather than cheese. There are still some that include this – I am Mandy after all – but I’m really going to try to vary it up.
I’m Not Sure? I tend to always be a planner – but I mean, I’m a mood reader as well. So, I’m always warring with myself. I think this year is just going to try to join in a few readathons, but also I think I should maybe let 2020 take me where it wants to take me. I didn’t think any of the books above would change me when I picked them up, but it ended up changing who I am for a reader. You never know when picking up a book will change your thoughts on something or the way you read – so I’m eager to see what the books of 2020 will bring me and who my reading self will become. Wow, this is cheesy. Am I the princess in the Hallmark Christmas movie now??
What do you think? What books have changed you as a future or do you think will change you? Let’s discuss in the comments below!