Sorry, I couldn’t come up with “50 GREAT READS TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.”
Instead, here is the first book which changed my life forever. There have been others, of course, but you never forget the first time.
The book which had the most change on my life was The Bridge to Terabithia.
Picture this — I am a young, nerdy 5th grader walking into a class full of rowdy kids. (Yes, even at age 11, I thought they were rowdy). They stampeded through the hallways. I sat and read.
Our teacher tasked us with a wonderful book about woods and magical creatures. I soaked in the world. I traveled with the two main characters (no, I don’t remember their names, and I’m not going to google them to sound smarter).
This book pulled me in. I can’t remember an earlier experience which so engaged my heart, soul, and mind.
I didn’t just read the book, I was IN the book.
I read ahead of the chapters for the day. This was not a new thing. I remember flipping over the pages happily, wondering what mischief would happen next.
Here’s what happened next:
The girl died.
She crushed her head on a stupid rock, and she died. A needless, pointless, useless tragedy. Later, the boy character ate pancakes or something.
I couldn’t understand — how could she have died? Kids my age don’t die, even in books. They are invincible. If she died, would I die? Would everyone in my classroom die?
I finished the book in a daze. I walked across the room, trying to get to the bathroom.
The teacher grabbed my arm before I could make it out the door.
“Todd, are you okay?”
I wrenched my eyes shut and nodded my head, trying to prevent the inevitable. Then, I dropped my head to my chin and released the raw emotion which had been clawing its way out of my ribs and up my throat for the last hour. There, in front of all my friends and classmates, I squalled like a baby.
A book made me feel this way.
On that day, I learned words have the ability to change the way you think. I learned stories are more powerful, sometimes, than actual experiences. I learned reading ahead is not always the best idea.
Most importantly, I learned art can make you feel. It can make you think. It can create an emotion — not the fleeting emotion of a thought, but one deep enough and strong enough to change a life forever. One so powerful you tell strangers on the Internet about it 16 years later.
Words matter. Stories matter.
And they always will.