I firmly believe that my life would look very different today had I never read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. Harper Lee is responsible for why I studied literature in college, why I adore reading, and why I became a writer. This book is extremely special to me because it was one of the first books I read that made me feel something.
Technically, the first book that evoked emotion out of me was Of Mice and Men. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom reading the last chapter, tears streaming down my face, thinking, “where did this come from?”. It was the first time I felt a deep appreciation for literature. A spark was ignited. Since then, I have tried to live my life with the same empathy – I read the entire book carefully and explore what the author is saying before I decide whether or not I like the story. I believe you can still appreciate good literature even if you don’t necessarily like the plot. This was the case with me and Of Mice and Men. My emotional reaction was the hook. I wanted to experience that again, but this time, I hoped, it was a story I would like.
As a kid, I always enjoyed reading – The Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, the American Girl Doll books, and the Full House book series were my go-to’s. I loved going to the library the day before a big snow storm. The next day, I’d be curled up on the couch plowing through my stack of books as the snow fell and the fire crackled. Up until high school, books had only been for mere enjoyment – stories that entertained me but never made me think.
After Of Mice and Men, I liked the thinking that went along with this new kind of reading. I liked dissecting the story to find meaning and learning how to close read. I wanted more.
The next book we were assigned was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My life changed. Not only did I have an emotional reaction, I realized that I wanted to spend my life reading, writing about books, and learning. I immediately knew what I would study in college. My learning came full circle when I took a Literature and the Law seminar during my senior year of college; guess what we studied?
To Kill a Mockingbird was a pivotal moment in my life. It’s the kind of memory where you look back and realize that there is clear line of what life was like before and what it’s been like after. Since then, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read it. Yet every time is like the first; I have the same emotional reaction.
For Christmas, my parents gave me tickets to see To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. To say it blew me away is an understatement. Even the stage version made me feel like the first time I read it. The show was incredibly moving and beautiful. Everyone in the audience was completely tuned in to what was happening on stage. I had tears in my eyes by the end. The experience of seeing my beloved story portrayed on stage was this book lover’s dream come true. Reading will always be much more than a hobby to me because of this book; it’s my lifestyle – one that I adore with my whole heart.
So what do you pair with such a remarkable experience? Anything you want! I kept it simple and paired my experience with a beer – a Blue Moon at my favorite pre-show bar, The Mean Fiddler. Nothing like a good ole beer with an old favorite!
What book(s) changed your life?
*I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts and images are my own.*