What are some books that truly shaped your life in some way or another? As readers, we all have them. In my life, I’ve been heavily influenced by books, many of them being the reason behind my love of history itself, and are the reason I have found a passion for writing. In today’s post, I have compiled a list of the books that created a lifelong love for history in my soul.
Many of the books, please keep in mind, were read when I was quite younger. I wanted this post to be what influenced me early in life leading to me creating this blog, being a writer and studying for a master’s in history. My life would never be the same after reading these books. I am very interested to know if any of you have read them and to hear about the books that changed your life in some way or another.
This will be posted in a three part series. Enjoy part one!
#1 – When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
This book is number one on my list, because it is one that I will always say influenced me the most in life. There really isn’t a reason behind why it was so significant to me. Have you ever just read something that hit you so powerfully that you can never ever forget? This is it for me. To start, I think this book is where I really began to see the world for the big place it is and learn to think about things outside of myself. Perspective is everything.
It showed me there was so much more than my own personal little world. This novel taught me the empathy I lacked. To see others and consider their feelings, hurts, sadness, triumphs, joy, and strengths. Suddenly, seeing how different the world is than I originally imaged made me feel so small. This wasn’t a bad thing. The vastness intrigued me and gave me comfort.
All of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone. I hope that makes sense to you guys. My own personal struggles and trials felt so much less by comparison. There was a lot of hope in that knowledge. As I read Anna’s struggles as she traveled country to country escaping prosecution for being Jewish, something stirred in me and encouraged my own strength.
A fight rose in me.
Anna goes through so much as a young women. Readers watch her grow up in just a few short insane years. She had everything, then lost everything, and somehow finds it all again. Seeing her family on the run and triumph is quite inspiring. This novel is also the first introduction to WWII I had. Sure, they tell us about it some in school, but did I really care or listen much? I can’t say I did. This book opened my eyes to how devastating war really is and gave me more of an idea about what WWII was; more importantly, it gave me the want to learn more about WWII and history in general. It grew my curiosity enough for me to learn all I possibly could.
That is everything.
PS. I am editing to add, that I just found out there is two more books in a series with this author, I definitely want to check them out, and also, I am so excited to have learned that there is a 2019 film for this book that I cannot wait to watch soon!
Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him.
Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them?
Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind as her family embarks on a journey that extends over several years and over the borders of many countries.
#2 – Farewell To Manzanar Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
This is the first biographical memoir type novel I can recall ever reading. My first taste of reading something that was based off of someone’s true life story and what they have experienced. By the time I read this, at the end of middle school I think?
It could have been the beginning of high school, I was appalled by the Internment camps but also awed at the strength people can display.
Jeanne Wakatsuki’s experiences really are thought provoking. What her family faced when they were forced to leave everything to relocate to an internment camp is horrifying. These years were difficult and the authors tells her story in her own voice, detailing everything that happened to her.
What made her story so captivating was because she not only provides the facts, but tells her own personal thoughts and emotions as she spent time adjusting but she also paints the bigger experience.
Jeanne powerfully describes what she sees from others.
One part really stands out, was her description of her mom’s shame and embarrassment having to use the restroom in a communal room. They didn’t have private bathrooms so people had to handle their bodily functions in front of others for everyone to see.
It is heart wrenching what they experienced.
Once they were released and move to a new home in California, she paints the picture of the racism and hardship they faced trying to get back to a normal life. I think the biggest take-away of why this is had such an impact on me, was her ability to tell her own story yet capturing what was happening to others around her too.
What other internment inmates felt, thoughts, and their struggles. She is the most sympathetic of storytellers I’ve ever read.
The author uses her voice to tell her story but also the story of that moment in history as a whole. This serves to teach and understand events so that we learn from the past. The internment of Americans with Japanese descent should have never of happened and she teaches us why that is true.
During World War II a community called Manzanar was created in the high mountain desert country of California. Its purpose was to house thousands of Japanese Americans.
Among them was the Wakatsuki family, who were ordered to leave their fishing business in Long Beach and take with them only the belongings they could carry. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who was seven years old when she arrived at Manzanar in 1942, recalls life in the camp through the eyes of the child she was.
First published in 1973, this new edition of the classic memoir of a devastating Japanese American experience includes an inspiring afterword by the authors.
#3 – Time Enough For Drums
This book I definitely read in high school, and think it will always be my favorite because the character Jemima (Jem) was a sixteen year old and well, so was I. She was a character that easily resonated with my teenage self. Jem’s emotions, feelings, thoughts, and instincts matched my own.
I specifically remember finding this book on my English teacher’s shelf. She had a private library for her students, and offered of us many books to borrow. This one stuck out to me, because at this point, most of what I had been reading, were filled with characters either young or much older than I. A book with a teenage girl my exact age was too good to pass up.
From the start, I knew I was going to love this book. It is chalk full of rebellion, drama, love, and romance. What teenage girl wouldn’t love Jem’s fiery sassy nature. She was an excellent example of how women can defy the norms and push the boundaries. I absolutely fell in love with that.
What makes this book pure gold outside the amazing characters, is the world it takes you in. Rinaldi, I don’t think gets enough credit as an author of historical fiction. Readers are taken right into the revolution and what life was like in the colonies, where loyalty to your beliefs is everything.
Jem lives in a world that is divided and turned upside down through war, where neighbors spurn one another, and you can’t trust what will happen tomorrow. She feels strongly about this too, and as staunch supporter of the rebels, the young girl quickly discovers loyalty to either side can cause a lot of heartbreak. Jem somehow manages it all and keeps it together.
I loved this book because you can truly see how the trauma of war impacts her as a young woman, and readers get to see her change and grow in many amazing ways as she tries to navigate some of the most difficult years she will ever experience. There is a lot of everything in this book.
Sixteen-year-old Jem struggles to maintain the status quo at home in Trenton, New Jersey, when the family men join the war for independence.
There are signs of rebellion in the Emerson household several years before the actual American Revolution hits in 1776! Brought up in a relatively liberal household, Jemima Emerson is quite a challenge for her tutor, John Reid, who is known as a Tory with strong ties to England.
How could Jem’s parents be friends with a man who opposes American freedom? Jem longs for freedom on every level, in the home and her homeland–and John represents the forces that restrict her.
Jem and her family soon find themselves fighting for freedom in whatever ways they can in the Revolutionary War. Before long, Jem discovers that there is much more to Mr. Reid than she ever imagined.
Her feelings about him change when Jem realizes that John shares her love of freedom–and will risk his life to defend it.
Please stayed tuned for the next couple parts. I really hope you enjoyed reading about the books that have shaped my love of history and storytelling. Thank you so much! Please let me know in the comments some of the books that have had impacted you as a reader.
Honorable Mention: I am currently reading The All Souls Trilogy, the first book, titled a Discovery of Witches was really good. The main character is a witch, but also a studied historian and bookworm. I have been loving the series so far! Which is strange, because last year when I tried reading it, I lost all interest by book two, and just wasn’t feeling it. Randomly I decided to give them another shot and am so happy I did. They are worth the read!
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