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  • Kelsey Pedersen

Revisiting the Books That Shaped Me

Updated: Apr 7

Recently, I went home to visit my parents for a week—to enjoy a very mellow Spring Break—and while there, I took on the task of reorganizing my old bookshelf. A massive dark-stained structure, this thing was filled with mementos and memories of my childhood, and seemed to house more board games, puzzles, and crafts than it did actual books. But it only looked that way, the books stacked side by side and on top of each other, each one containing hours of enjoyment in a fraction of the space of Mousetrap or Monopoly.

 

My aim was to clear out the books that could be donated, and then rearrange the ones I wanted to hold onto. I found the obvious early childhood picture books, from the likes of Dr. Suess and Eric Carle. For some reason, and I truly don’t know why, there were two identical copies of Goodnight Moon, kept on separate shelves. A few of my older brother’s books were in the mix, sharing facts about dinosaurs and airplanes and world history. I uncovered the collection of Roald Dahl’s stories my mom used to read to me at bedtime. To this day, I still have a vivid image in my mind of us tucked under the covers reading his version of Cinderella together: “She ran out in her underwear, / and lost one slipper on the stair.”

 

My dad’s paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings were in the mix, up on the highest shelf. They were small and thick, their pages yellowed, their print tiny. They were his copies from when he read them in college, and he passed them on to me when I was in middle school. It was the easiest thing to fall in love with Middle Earth. In the same vein, the first book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series was there as well, sitting alongside my small collection of Jane Austen novels.

 

Some of my favorite discoveries were books I read in middle and high school; novels about growing up and being different. A few of my old favorites include The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Secret Life of Bees. I recall the experience of reading each one, of finding something in those pages that reflected back at me.

 

Before I was any kind of writer I was a reader. I think this is true for just about everyone. Before you became someone who creates, you were someone who consumed. This is still true of me today. When I am not writing, I am reading. I am a person taking in the world around me, digesting everything and incorporating the parts that fit me, like a kid browsing through bookstore shelves and taking home a stack of whatever called out loudest.

 

Despite how I got sidetracked, I did manage to clean up the old bookshelf a bit. I pulled over a dozen books off the shelves to donate, and picked out a few more to bring back with me, not to give away, but to reread! It has been a minute since I read Austen, and it's been a few years since I last revisited The Hobbit.

 

I debated with myself whether or not to donate those old favorites from high school. On the one hand, my sentimentality demands that I keep them. I loved them for a reason, and who's to say I won’t someday want to revisit them like I have others? But on the other hand, I loved them for a reason, and it's safe to say someone else might love them, too.

 

I strongly encourage you, if you’ve got a hoard of books stashed away somewhere—and let’s be honest, if you’re a writer, you probably do—go through them and give some of those books a chance to be loved by someone else. Pass them off to a friend, share them with family, or donate them! Look up book drives in your area, or find out if your local library or bookstore will take them. My books will be going to Singularity Press’ book sale, which will be held from April 2nd–4th in the lobby of 260 Victoria St in Glassboro, NJ.

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