Monday, February 21, 2011

Life changing literature

A couple of weeks ago, one of the guys in my critique group asked us all what book changed our lives, and why. At the time, so many book titles rushed into my mind, for so many different reasons, and I couldn't answer the question. With two weeks or so to think about it, I now have an answer. So, Kurt, if you're reading this, here's your answer.

I don't have just one. I have two, and they changed my life for very different reasons. Firstly, The Outsiders. This is the only book I've ever finished then turned right back to the beginning to re-read it. It's also the book that led me to write myself, way back when I was twelve. I'd written before that, but that book set me on fire and made me determined to do it. I still have the fifteen notebooks I filled with mostly terrible stories from that time.

My copy of The Outsiders has been read to rags. The cover is long gone, and several pages are held in with tape, but even now, I take it down and re-read it every year or so. And I still love it.

The other life changing book was life changing for an entirely different reason. Volcano Adventure by Willard Price saved my life. It saved my family's lives too.

I'm a diplo-brat (kid of a diplomat) and we moved every couple of years. When I was about 10, we lived in Beijing. We traveled around China quite a bit, often to places foreigners didn't go often. This was back in the early 1980s when foreigners needed permits to go anywhere the Chinese thought you might see something unsavory. We were in some back country area, looking at farmland, and it was cold at night. The kind people whose guest house we were staying in, left a coal brazier burning for us overnight so we wouldn't get too cold.

My sister and I were sleeping in a back room, further away from the door and the fire than my parents. In the middle of the night, I heard a thud near the bathroom door, and realized my dad had fallen to the floor. I felt kind of foggy and light-headed, a little sick, but it didn't take too long before I remembered reading in Volcano Adventure about the effects of carbon monoxide, and realized we had carbon monoxide poisoning. I managed to get the door and windows open to clear the air, and when my parents revived enough, we all got outside to breathe fresh air.

If my sister and I had been in that front room, we would all probably have died in our sleep. If I hadn't read Willard Price, I wouldn't have known what to do. So I have to say that one changed my life. If I hadn't read it, I'd be dead.

So, two life changing books for me. What books have changed your life? And why?


  1. O...M...G! That is a truly amazing story, Kate! Thank you so much for sharing this :) And it totally answers my question...LOL...I'll even let you off as the rules were only one book :D

    We had a similar thing happen to us in our house. Not quite as an impressive story as yours, but a long time, my wife started complaining of headaches. The children were more lethargic than usual. I wasn't really effected, but I was out of the house more than them because I worked. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the gas fire hadn't been serviced properly and was pumping out carbon monoxide. It was so bad the carpet used to glow orange from the back boiler. The only reason we discovered this before any of us died was because we had a minor gas leak on the fire, and the gas board came round to fix it and immediately shut the thing down after discovering how dangerous it was. My youngest son suffers from chronic asthma and could have died so easily from this.

    I sued the local council who I rented the property from and got a hefty pay out :D We had a great holiday that year to make up for it :)

  2. Thanks for asking such a thought provoking question! I had to really think about it. And lucky the fire had a leak or you may all have died! We couldn't even explain to the chinese people what had happened. They thought we'd seen a rat!

  3. I didn't realise it was that thought provoking, I was just bored at the time I posted it haha!!

    Seen a rat? LOL Lets hope the next tenants that stayed at the guest house didn't die :D