This month’s #SixteensBlogAbout theme over at The Sweet Sixteens is “favorite books and authors”, so I decided to make this a little series celebrating some of the books and authors that have had the most impact on me as a person and as a writer.
First up, the book that made me a librarian, a booktalker, a book evangelist: Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Now, I had always loved to read. I was lucky to grow up in the kind of family where the joy of reading was understood, where a dictionary sat on a shelf in the kitchen in case a vocabulary question came up during dinner. Where crossword puzzles were a group activity. Where no one thought it was odd that you would bring a book with you to your aunt’s house on Thanksgiving and then disappear into an upstairs bedroom and read for a while when the conversation got too loud. And I read constantly as a kid, often rereading books that I only kind of liked, just to have something to read.
And then, my eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Whatley, handed me Watership Down by Richard Adams. (It was in the midst of a fantasy and science fiction unit that pretty much blew my mind open wide and informed my reading – and writing – tastes from that time on. Thank you, Mrs. Whatley.) Watership Down was the first richly detailed fantasy world that I absolutely lost myself in – it’s about rabbits! And they have their own language! And culture! And folklore!
It was the first book that I became a pusher for, telling anyone who would listen about how wonderful it was.
I remember the sense of power it gave me when my father borrowed my copy and read it too. Not power over, but power to. Power to influence another person, to share something that meant so much to me, to enrich someone else’s life a little by introducing that person to something amazing. It was that same impulse that led me to librarian career ten years later.
Books like this one are so special to me that I agonize over the right time to share them with my son. Do I read it aloud with him, or let him dive into the magic alone? And should I wait until he’s the same age I was when I read it? What if I give it to him too early, and he hates it because he’s not ready for it?
Maybe it shouldn’t matter so much. He’ll either like it or not. But your first book love is the most tender. (So if you have read Watership Down and didn’t care for it, don’t tell me, okay? I’d rather stay ignorant and still be friends with you. And if you haven’t read it yet, just…do.)
For me, Watership Down is the kind of story that will always be a part of me. Even now when I come home in the evening and find rabbits in my front yard, I still ask them if they are having a nice silflay.