Books of Influence: Getting Schooled

This is the first of a series of blog posts inspired by a Facebook meme to list ten books that influenced me. Since no one on Facebook wants to read the stories behind why those ten books influenced me, I decided to use a medium which encourages long-winded reflection. The first book I I put on the list was The Hobbit, and I can’t think of that book without thinking of The Lord of the Rings. Instructions be damned, the number one slot is filled by more than one book.

My 6th grade English class was probably not typical. The assignments included reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reading those books marked the beginning of my love of fantasy. Elves, dwarves, dragons. I couldn’t get enough of them, and I confess to reading some poorly written knockoffs, especially during my teenage years. I read The Hobbit several times when I was young. Rereading The Lord of the Rings would not occur until I was an adult, probably because the writing style is a bit more sophisticated.

If I just contemplate who I currently am, I can’t imagine not being interested in the genre of Fantasy. I’ve read so many books and stories that it has become part of who I am. Retracing the steps that led me to this point reveals a fork in the road. If I hadn’t excelled in school and been in the advanced class my hobbies might have ended up entirely different. Perhaps I would not have read anything that sparked my interest and reading would have taken a back seat to some other activity entirely.

We all like to think of ourselves as independently choosing how to spend our free time. The music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the books we read by choice are not foisted upon us. Yet no man is an island. We think of parents, friends, and teachers as having influence, but rarely do we contemplate how different we would be without the subtle social programming of society. Each individual makes his choice, not alone, but with the ghosts of all those who have touched his life.

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