Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Smatt Read, one of my fellow students at Simmons College who writes whimsical, magical picture books and has a hilarious nickname. Here are the four books that changed his life!
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – I decided at a young age to choose a favorite book, that is a permanent favorite book. None of that flavor-of-the-week type stuff. And so I chose The Trumpet of the Swan. However, what makes it a book that changed my life was what happened in the ensuing years. By sticking with it, I made the all important step of wondering why I liked it, really delving into the issue. Though antiquated by today’s standards, it taught me something about being in love. It still breaks me a little to see Louis the Swan trying to impress Serena by holding his writing tablet with the words “I love you” scrawled across it.
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin – In early 2004, I was working at Barnes & Noble when a customer started sharing his relationship woes with me. He had proposed to his girlfriend and been turned down based on the issue of race (he was African-American; she was Mexican-American). As befitting a bookstore, the conversation turned to books, and the guy recommended Black Like Me. He insisted that everyone should read the book, especially non-blacks, for its penetrating look at race relations in America. I have since read the book several times and continue to be impressed by its honesty, depth, and raw portrayal of racism.
MAZE by Christopher Manson – I love mazes, and as a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. When I stumbled upon this picture book which combined the two ideas, I snatched it up and started to work on it. And work on it. And work on it. I shared this book with a friend, and together we read its pages, navigated its paths, and tried to solve its mysteries. This went on for years. When I was 30, I received an email from my puzzle-solving partner who linked me up to the book’s wiki page. In the twenty or so years since my original purchase, I began to realize I had only scratched the surface. This intriguing picture book fostered a life-long love of mazes, puzzles, and a fondness for games.
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery – I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Beyla, Guinea, West Africa when my closest Peace Corps neighbor Nils brought a box of books to me. Among a dozen or so fantasy titles, I found two copies of The Little Prince, one in French and one in English. I casually read the first chapter of the English version, just to get a taste, and soon found myself swimming in its language and ideas. What had meant to be a short literary foray turned into several hours of adventure and quiet revelations. His book gave me solace during a confusing and emotional time and made it possible for me to see a little more clearly the beauty there is in life.
Smatt is the pen name of S.Matt Read. He is a writer, inventor, baker, and adventurer. He is best known for The Texas Perimeter Hike, a self-syndicated column and year-long walkabout around the Lone Star state. His current adventure is a children’s literature and writing graduate program at Simmons College. He lives in Somerville, MA with his dog Raisin who he found while walking in Texas.
Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:
- Jenny Kaczorowski on A Little Princess, Beatrix Potter, and the two books that brought her back to YA
- Katy Upperman on A Thousand Splendid Suns, Gayle Forman, Caroline B. Cooney, and Blubber
- Krista Van Dolzer on To Kill a Mockingbird, Lois Lowry, Stargirl and the power of introverts
- Hannah Thompson on Rumble Fish, Harry Potter, Chris Crutcher, and John Green.
- Clarissa Hadge on A Wrinkle In Time, Tamora Pierce, North to Freedom, and Mi Revalueshanary Fren
- Mackenzi Lee on Laini Taylor, One Day, The Thief Lord, and a book about a man and his steam shovel