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 Mariah Manley, an aspiring children’s librarian and all-around ray of sunshine through the bleak Boston winters. Here are the four books that changed her life!
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – Hiraeth, a Welsh word with no direct English translation, is a sort of nostalgia, longing, sadness, sweetness, and yearning for a home from the past. When I read this book for the first time the earnest, poetic prose left me with hiraeth for Wales—a place I had never been. So I studied Welsh, a beautiful yet dying language, and I devoured books on Wales’ turbulent but oft forgotten history. Eventually, my passion for Wales flew me across a continent and an ocean to the place itself. For two transcendental months, I saw everything Llewellyn wrote. How Green Was My Valley made me a polyglot, a historian, and a world traveler.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I read this book in high school and it is the first book I remember hating—a loathing-with-my-whole-soul kind of hating. Yet, I’m indebted to this book because it changed how I think about Literature and helped me to develop some sharp critical thinking skills. Specifically, my extreme visceral reaction to Steinbeck’s novel forced me to analyze my own opinions and called into question the validity of the Literary Canon. Karen Hess’s Out of the Dust accomplishes many of the same things as The Grapes of Wrath yet it isn’t part of the canon because it is written for middle grade children and teenagers. This didn’t (doesn’t) make any sense to me and I felt courageous disagreeing with academia, my teacher, and even some of my closest friends. Due to this experience and others that followed after, today I feel confident in myself as a reader and a critic. So here is a begrudging thanks to the worst novel ever.
Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn and Mark Buehner – After watching too many Rom Coms and reading too many fairy tales, it’s easy to slip into a girly daydream about epic love, grand adventure, and world fame. But then Fanny’s Dream enters my mind and I realize that is not what I want at all. My mom read this picture book to me when I was a little girl because it was one of her favorites—probably for the same reason I love it now. Daydreams are nice but like farm girl Fanny all I really need is a life full of hard-work, laughter, resilience, love, and someone to do my least favorite chore (vacuuming). If my fairy godmother does turn up one day I want to be able to turn her offer down because I love my life as it is. Fanny’s Dream taught me an ordinary life is a beautiful life.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer – Fanny’s Dream taught me an ordinary life is more than enough, but Hope Was Here taught me that you can always be extraordinary. This novel, as its title may suggest, is empowering—teenagers literally change their small-town world! Like Hope, recognize the thing you are good at (whether that be waitressing, writing, making speeches, listening, baking pie, or whistling) and use that talent to the best of your ability to help other people around you. Everyone is flawed and everyone carries a burden, but flawed people banding together in a single cause are capable of great things. I believe in the power of community because of Hope Was Here.
Mariah Manley is a graduate student at Simmons College studying Library Science and Children’s Literature. When she grows up she wants to be a children’s librarian and peddle Mackenzi Lee’s best-selling novels. All authors should want to be her friend. Although Mariah is a bit of a social media dunce she does occasionally put out some good, bookish stuff on mariahmanley.tumblr.com or you can talk to her on Twitter @MariahManley.
Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:
- Lisa Palin on Harry Potter, Grover, Anne, and Group 6
- Greg Batcheler on four different series from Star Trek to Frog and Toad
- Caitlin Jacobs on food, I Capture the Castle, and epic fantasy
- Smatt Read on The Little Prince, Black and White, E.B. White, and Mazes!
- 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