how have books played a role in your stories?

The picture above is from my 2015 year long project: 52 portraits. This photo documents the many lives I have lived within books as well as my bedtime ritual of reading before sleep. Reading has been an important part of my life ever since I learned to read. I was the kid who biked to the library and checked out the maximum number of books allowed each week.

I was a very introverted child, so books were always my sanctuary. In them, I could be free. I could have the adventures and interactions that weren’t part of my real life. I could escape the limitations of my own body and be anyone I wanted. I loved adventure books most of all.

My favourite thing to do when reading a story was to replace the protagonist’s name with mine. I always made the principal character me. I would go through whole series this way.

When I discovered the Hardy Boys, I devoured each of those adventures. I was Frank and Joe was my boyfriend in the stories. I would continue the narrative in my mind, even after the story was done. I would replay some of my favourite parts, always with myself added in, over and over.

After the Hardy Boys, I picked a book that had a really interesting cover (by the way, I always judge a book by its cover). It was The Hobbit. That book opened up my eyes to an incredible new world. I was 13 when I read Lord of the Rings. From that point on, the longer and the more complex the story, the happier I was.

A year later, I read my first Stephen King novel, at summer camp. Skeleton Crew was my entry point into his work and he is my favourite author still. I fell completely into each one his books, hanging out with the Loser’s Club, going to prom with Carrie, being moved by The Body. The I read The Gunslinger and that was it. My

Then I read The Gunslinger and that was it. My favourite most beloved story ever. right there. But, at the time, there were only four books in the series (in all there are eight and the story ties into all his other stories)! I remember being so scared that Stephen King might die and leave the series unfinished when he had his accident in 1999.

I was (am) so in love with Roland. This time I added myself in but did not take the place of the protagonist. I read anything and everything remotely related to this series, I bought the graphic novels. This story brings about so much that I love: roses, tarot, witches, friends, betrayal, epic quests, good and evil. It is a story I re-read every 5 years or so.

In grade 12, we read Animal farm, Brave New World and 1984. I will forever be grateful to that teacher for the gift of those books. They broadened my mind. If I have a favourite genre, it’s fantasy, thriller, vampire novels. Stories about nineteenth century London. Stories about women who overcome challenges. Stories that are long and engrossing. Stories filled with people whose disappearance you mourn when you have finished the novel. In this photo are a few of the novels whose protagonists are just that…longtime friends.

I love how these books come to me. I either happen upon them in a bookstore, or I discover an author and go through all of his/her oeuvre. Now, for the very first time, I’m part of a book club and it’s been a challenge. Though it has forced me to step out of my type of book, I find it challenging to do so. Because I am afraid I won’t have enough time to read all that I want to read before it’s too late. After all, I still have so many lives to live, as well as going back to old fictional friends.

Thank you for letting me fan girl about the power of books. I have shared the mini above in the gallery in the classroom. Please write the title of your favourite book in the comments, I’m always looking for recommendations!

Join us today for the read storytelling workshop

  1. Shannon Yates 6 months ago

    Vanessa, thank you for sharing your ‘story’ about the place of reading in your life then and now. Your description of often taking the role of the protagonist in a book made me pause and wonder if this was true for me too. I do think when there is only one protagonist I have a tendency to gravitate towards ‘being that person in the story.
    One book that I come back to over and over is titled ‘Meeting the Shadow, The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature’ edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams. I am drawn to non-fiction much of the time — travel, history, culture and selective psychology. I also wander around in the genres of drama, satire, and some mystery.

  2. Melissa LaFavers 6 months ago

    I’ve read a lot of books, and it’s hard to choose one favorite. My husband wrote a novel (self-published) that I love called the Carpenter’s Mark, and I also really love Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which changed me as a writer.

    I enjoyed reading about your love of books. Thank you for sharing your story!

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