Books That Changed Deb Eleanor’s Life

Eleanor BrownOver on my personal blog, I’ve been working on a series of posts called “Books I Love.”  It’s a cataloguing of the books that survive all my bookshelf purges, that I return to again and again, that have impacted me in one way or another.

1. Evening Class, Maeve Binchy.  I already mentioned this when I wrote about my favorite fictional place, but it bears repeating.  This book was my companion during one of the hardest times in my life, and in many ways, I credit its hope and humor for keeping me alive.

2.  The Stand, Stephen King.  If you’re put off by King’s reputation as a horror novelist, read this one.  More than anything, it’s an amazing journey novel, and a beautiful love letter to America.

3.  The Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy.  Conroy is most famous for The Prince of Tides, which is an amazing book, but this one holds a special place in my heart. Pat Conroy pushed me, in my quarter-life crisis, into following my heart and becoming a teacher and a writer.

4.  The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton.  Written when she was 16, and worth every bit of its enduring reputation.  I could read this book again and again.  Oh, wait, I do.

5.  Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.  This is one of the very few books where I saw the movie before I read the book, and am not disappointed.  It’s complex, and frustrating, and troubling, and an absolutely glorious read.  It’s my go-to book whenever I visit Atlanta.

6.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.  God bless the teacher who introduced me to this book.  There are three scenes that never fail to make me cry: when Atticus kills the rabid dog, when Reverend Sykes says, “Jean Louise, stand up.  Your father’s passing,” and when Scout talks to Mr. Cunningham outside the jail.  My stars, what a book.

How’d I do?  Do any of the books on my list make yours, too?

22 Replies to “Books That Changed Deb Eleanor’s Life”

  1. Yes, much overlap on our lists, except I’ve never read any Conroy other than Prince of Tides, nor (shamefully) Mockingbird.

    I think it’s interesting that “changed my life” and “favorite” does not necessarily include the same titles. Sometime in my late teens or very early twenties, I forced myself to read Crime & Punishment. It was my first experience with voluntarily reading something that was not entertaining. It was a real struggle. But it was like the bit in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the boy who has turned into a dragon discovers that it’s not enough to shed a superficial layer of skin. Sometimes, getting down to big truth hurts.

    But the ideas in that book penetrated my being deeply, and are part of who I am today.


      Seriously, I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, then you get to watch the movie. Gregory Peck. <3.

      To me, "changed my life" and "favorites" do tend to overlap, at least in one direction. I have books I really enjoyed that didn't change my life, but all the ones that changed my life are also my favorites. If I didn't enjoy reading it, it's not likely to have had an impact on me.

      But I see where you're coming from in re: C&P. I'm going to have to think on this today.

    1. Ooh, I’m so glad you agree. Usually people look at me like I’m crazy if I say anything other than Prince of Tides.

      I think coming from a single-sex school and watching some of the hazing that went on there makes me particularly vulnerable to that book, but damn. It’s just GOOD.

  2. I share your love of both GONE WITH THE WIND and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I, too, saw GONE WITH THE WIND before reading it and didn’t particularly care for the movie. I almost didn’t bother reading the book, but I did and I loved it!


    1. That’s interesting. Have you re-watched the movie since you’ve read the book? I think it’s actually an excellent adaptation of a MONSTER of a book, though Scarlett is a wee bit too lovable in it.

    1. I think (for a good reader) 12 is a perfect age for Mockingbird – I think I might have been 13. But I wonder what I would have gotten out of GWTW at that age. Do you remember how you felt about it?

      1. I devoured it, Eleanor, crying a lot along the way. By that age, though, I was really into history and so the background/backdrop was familiar, rather than shocking. The Civil Was was an American War.

  3. Mockingbird of course, but I’m SO with you on The Stand!!! Read it when I was a kid, then read the expanded, unedited version. Just astounding. I adore Stephen King — I think his characters are incredibly well-rounded, flawed, and beautifully human. To me, Dean Koontz is a horror writer; Stephen King is a WRITER. Not that I don’t enjoy a good Koontz, but I’ll stand up for many of King’s books as works of literature.

    As for Gone with the Wind, I so hated the movie that I’ve never read the book.

    And Pat Conroy… I don’t know… maybe it’s because I have a strong aversion to Barbra and I couldn’t get her out of my head, but I couldn’t get into Prince of Tides (though I of course finished it), so I never read any of his other books. Maybe I should give him another try.

    1. You know, I’ve been reading the unedited version of The Stand for so long I can’t remember what wasn’t in it that King doesn’t call out in his intro. But I can’t imagine it without the Kid!

      In all your free time, it’s worth giving GWTW a chance. It’s really thought-provoking, but also a damn fine read.

      Forget Babs. Read The Lords of Discipline. You won’t regret it.

    1. Oooh, Of Mice and Men is a great one. Catcher didn’t strike me as much when I read it as an adult, but if you’d asked me this question at 16, it definitely would have been on the top of my list.

      I don’t think I’ve read any Hesse. Any recommendations?

  4. I loved Gone With the Wind! I read it while on vacation and sat at the beach for 8 hours a day. I left the beach looking like a lobster, I was so engrossed. I consider myself a HUGE Pat Conroy fan but I read a lot of his books when I was around 14. I’m ashamed to admit, I have no recollection what most of them were about. No clue what the appeal was at that age. Never read Lords of Discipline but it sounds like I must delve back into the Pat Conroy archives now that I’m older and (hehe) wiser.

    1. Melissa – that is the best GWTW ever. Scarlett would have been horrified by all the sun damage!

      It would be really interesting to hear what you feel about Conroy now. I do like re-reading books at different times in my life – you always get something new out of them.

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