Hello, friends! Happy belated Thanksgiving to my friends in the US and to those who don’t celebrate I wish you a happy day! Aside from Thanksgiving this week is an exciting one for me as it also happens to be my 26th birthday today! I know we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and a tumultuous US election power transition, but I feel like that’s even more reason to take moments of happiness when we can, even if it means celebrating just with my mom (who I live with) and me!
Anyhoo, I wanted to do a tiny blog celebration by doing the “Library of My Life” post-thing that I’ve seen around, which was created by one of my favorite booktubers: Tiana Tea!
This “challenge” of sorts was created by Tiana to give a bookish “spin” to Teen Vogue‘s “Playlist of My Life” YouTube segment, in which Teen Vogue lets celebrities create a playlist of songs that they feel have been important to them throughout their life. For Tiana’s version, instead of making a playlist of songs that shaped you, you’re making a mini library of books that’ve shaped you throughout your life!
I thought this was a great idea, especially as something to do for a birthday post, so here I am, accepting the challenge! So, without any further ado, let’s dive right into the fun!
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THE LIBRARY OF MY LIFE
Divergent by Veronica Roth
If you’ve been around here a while, you might know bits and pieces of why this book is so important to me, but if you want the TL;DR version: Divergent was a MAJOR factor in helping get me through when I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder/academic anxiety. Now for the longer version…Basically, Veronica Roth graduated from the first university I attended—Northwestern University—and wrote Divergent partially during her time there. During my time at Northwestern I became very ill and as a result developed severe depression and anxiety. Reading about Tris’s initiation into the Dauntless faction and how she learned to understand and face fear helped me to understand and face my own fear. In addition, certain parts of Divergent also feel…eerily close to Northwestern’s culture and my experience there. Pretty much, this book came to me at the perfect time, right when my heart and soul needed something like it to help me through one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’m doing much better now than I was then, and I know that Divergent is part of what I have to thank for that change.
Hiroshima by John Hersey
This book is a graphically explicit, journalistic account of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftereffects. It goes into excruciating detail about the history of the bombing, the medical and biological effects of the bombing, and the political ramifications of the bombing. I say this to say, right off the bat: this is not an easy book to read and if you plan on reading it, I definitely advise that you make sure you are in a good place. So, why is such a grim and tragic book significant to me? Because, as horrific as Hiroshima is, it was the first time I learned about the biological effects of nuclear physics and that created an obsession with nuclear and biological physics that I carried with me up to this very day to the point that I’m currently a physics major in college. I remember reading about the biological and medical effects of the bombing and being so fascinated by the fact that radiation caused plants to grow insanely fast, but also caused humans to be fatally ill with radiation sickness. I wanted—and still want—to know more about how radiation affects humans on an atomic level. Basically, reading Hiroshima left me with a lifetime of questions that I’m still seeking the answers to today and that’s how it’s earned its spot on this list!
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
This is on the list because it was one of the first three YA books I ever read! It’s particularly memorable as I first read this book 12 years ago, when I was 14 and to this day Cassie Clare is still publishing books in The Shadowhunter Chronicles! So I’ve been with this particular world for a looooong time! This is also one of the few books where I actually vividly remember the first time I ever laid eyes on it. Weirdly enough, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the memory, so I don’t know why or how it’s stuck with me all these years, haha! I remember I was sitting in my eighth grade homeroom and I turned around to say something to the girl behind me, but noticed a book on her desk. I picked up the book and read the back cover synopsis and found it interesting enough that I asked the girl if I could read the first few pages. She (very graciously) said I could and I remember getting so engrossed that I read for the next five minutes straight until the teacher called us to attention. I remember rushing home to tell my mom all about how I just had to get my hands on The City of Bones, so that I could finish up the rest of it. And that Easter, as a present, my mom bought me the first two books in The Mortal Instruments—which I pretty much immediately devoured. I think what stands out to me about the series is that it was the first time post Twilight that I experienced just being so obsessed with a YA series! It was so much fun to read the books as they released and to theorize on where they were going and see if I was right. So, that’s why this book holds a special place in my memory!
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
This one is quite simple to explain: I absolutely ADORED Madeline as a kid! I, myself, was a sweet, yet sassy and rambunctious little girl bursting with energy, so I always identified with book characters like Madeline and Eloise (another one of my faves). I remember my mom reading me the Madeline books over and over again and just adoring hearing about Madeline’s adventures with Miss Clavel and the girls and Pepito and Genevieve the dog! Whenever I see a copy of Madeline, I’m always filled with such fond memories of the book and my childhood, so I just had to add it to this list!
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Vanishing Girls is special to me because it’s actually the first book I ever reviewed, way back in 2015 when Hardcover Haven was just a little Tumblr blog known as The Bookkeeper’s Secrets! Can you believe it?! This is the book that would be the springboard from which I launched myself into the online book community! Funnily enough, Vanishing Girls isn’t even one of my favorite books—although I did enjoy it very much at the time. When I read it, though, I remember feeling a deep need to really dissect the novel, and thus, I wrote a review and my blog was born!
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I will always remember The House on Mango Street as one of the first books that truly made me feel seen. While Latinx heritage and culture is a big part of this book and I’m not Latina (and so I didn’t relate in that way), The House on Mango Street also focuses a lot on what it’s like to live in poverty in the US and I felt so very seen with respect to that particular aspect of the book. I’ve lived in poverty since I was eight years old and I almost never see fiction books really delve into the experience of poverty. It wasn’t until reading The House on Mango Street that I fully realized how alienated that lack of representation had made me feel. It felt so wonderful to feel so authentically acknowledged and represented so in literature for the first time in my experience and that fact made The House on Mango Street an instant addition to this list.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Of all the books on this list, The Golden Compass is probably the one I hold closest to my heart. When I was nine, my mom and I were living in a homeless shelter, and we came across the audiobooks of The Golden Compass and its sequels in the shelter’s book donation drive. Every night, we’d snuggle together in our room and listen to a new chapter of the story. The story was so mesmerizing and allowed me a bit of a fantastical reprieve from the struggle of being homeless. In fact, that particular memory means so much to me and my mom that I recently gifted her the special edition of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage so she and I could read along to the audiobook, which I purchased when it was first released! This book and series will always mean so much to me for letting me get lost in my imagination during a dark period of my life and I’ll always remember it fondly!
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
This book/series is on this list because it was the first YA book/series where I saw my Middle Eastern heritage represented. Prior to reading this book, most (if not all) of the YA books that I’d read starred a White protagonist and I had never come across a YA book—let alone a fantasy—that starred a Middle Eastern protagonist. Even though this book isn’t own voices, it’s very clear that Ahdieh is well acquainted with Middle Eastern culture and took care to try to get it right. Plus, it helps that Shahrazad has always been my favorite Middle Eastern fairy tale! I remember how excited and proud I was to finally see a protagonist who shared a part of my heritage and culture! It was lovely to see Middle Easterners represented so well and so kindly and for that plus the stellar storytelling The Wrath and the Dawn will always be a favorite of mine!
Salt in His Shoes by by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn Jordan
From the time I was born, my mom really tried to surround me with books and stories by and about BIPOC—especially Black POC—because she wanted me to see that girls like me had a place in stories. Salt in His Shoes was one of those books and was also one of my favorite books as a kid, largely because the message really became impressed upon my brain. It’s about Michael Jordan (who, as a kid, I thought was the greatest basketball player of ALL TIME) and how he loved basketball but was too short to be considered great at it as a kid. His mother put a pinch of salt in his shoes each night, telling him not to give up because the salt would work its magic and one day he’d be tall enough to play basketball with the greats. Michael practiced and practiced and his mom continued to put a pinch of salt in his shoes and slowly, Michael began to grow taller and to get better and better at basketball—just like his mom had promised he would! I remember loving the story because as a kid I loved playing basketball and was also small for my age. The story impressed upon me the importance of practice, patience, determination, and having faith in yourself. It’s definitely a book whose lessons I carry with me to this day, so, naturally, it had to be in the library of my life!
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Okay, friends, that’s a wrap on this one! You know, it’s funny…I never really stopped to consider much the hand books have had in shaping who I am until I wrote this post. Turns out books have played an even larger role in making me who I am today than I’d previously thought. I hope you enjoyed this post and that maybe it got you thinking about what books have been important to you across your life! I think that’s my cue to get off stage and grab a slice of cake but until next time, I hope you have a lovely day!
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SPILL THE BEANS, FRIENDS!
- Have books played a big role in making you who you are?
- What books would you put in the “library of your life”?
- What’s your favorite bookish memory?