Books are imbued with an enduring kind of power. The stories they tell can stick with us for a lifetime.
With that in mind, the EFP team is celebrating October’s National Book Month with a look back at books that have made a lasting impression on us. We thought about the books we read when we were in school — the ones that opened our eyes to new perspectives, taught us valuable lessons or that captured us simply with the beauty of the writing itself.
Let some of the EFP team take you through the books meaningful to us.
Why the book is memorable: “I read the book in 10th or 11th grade. It stuck with me because I was close to the age of those that were the characters in the book. It taught me about the danger of pack mentality, and the themes that were relevant in that book resonant even today with bullying, and the notion of kindness and humanity.”
Why the book is memorable: “Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck has always stuck in my mind because of the rollercoaster of a ride that the author takes you on. I remember reading it in 9th grade in English class clinging to the relationship between the two main characters. It’s an emotional story about George and Lenny (who is mentally disabled), who are two ranch workers, moving from job to job during the great depression. George becomes Lenny’s protector on their journeys across California and run into some troubles along the way. The closeness of George and Lenny was what keeps this book in my mind.”
Why the book is memorable: “Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell is an old, favorite book I still remember well. I think I was around 10 when I read it.
“It’s the story of an Indian girl who grew up alone for 18 years on an island off the coast of California, after the inhabitants of the island were evacuated to mainland California and she and her older brother were accidentally left behind. The brother was killed by wild dogs. It’s the story of her will to survive – against nature, animals, hunger, loneliness, and whatever else she faced. I loved her courage, self-reliance, and acceptance of fate, and how it transformed what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an exciting, uplifting adventure. I lived near the coast in California at that time, and her life was very exciting to me!”
Why the book is memorable: “I am thinking it was 3rd or 4th grade during a snow-bound Michigan indoor recess that this magnificent tale of a big sister-little brother duo sparked a curious fire for adventure. Imagine living in the Met, bathing in the fountain, sleeping in the antique four poster beds and running away to NYC – magical? You bet. So much so that I would enjoy it again reading it aloud to my own kids.”
Why the book is memorable: “Of all the books I’ve read in my lifetime, the one that sticks the most with me is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. While the storyline alone is incredible, the significance of the book’s message is what usually sticks with its readers for years to come.
“I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th grade, but have read it numerous times since then. The story’s protagonist, Atticus Finch, stands up for what he believes in and shows the importance of helping those who are discriminated against. This inspirational role model of a character sets a perfect example for how young students should show each other unconditional respect at all times.”
Why the book is memorable: “As a freshman in high school in an idyllic, sheltered town in northern California, I had no real knowledge of the world, of conflict, of how terrible parts of our world’s history are. Then I read All Quiet on the Western Front in English class. It’s a brutally vivid experience of World War I from the point of view of a German young man who also has no real knowledge of what life is and what war means. He enlists in the army, and is suddenly thrust into a world of senseless violence and killing.
“Reading this taught me more about war and its horrible effect than any history book. I started to understand the reality of the huge numbers of casualties my teachers told us about. What I still remember about the book is the main character’s struggle to grasp why one group of people would ever feel justified in killing another. I struggled right along with him, and it left me with one prominent truth — we are all humans, and should be treated with the equality and respect that that’s due.”
Why the book is memorable: “The book that has stuck with me most from high school is Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I read it as a class assignment junior year, and I really appreciated the way in which Morrison utilizes rhetorical techniques to develop both an important and artistic story. I liked it so much that I revisited it for my senior year research paper, and reading it again only solidified this to me — narrative fiction can be a powerful and beautiful tool for conveying an important social message. I definitely keep a closer eye on rhetoric in what I read nowadays.”