Lauren Bonk is a wife, mother, sometime actress, and freelance writer. She blogs and conducts business at LaurenBonk.com.
When Kevin asked me to write about the book that has most heavily influenced me, my thoughts immediately shot to The Great Gatsby or Wuthering Heights. These two novels are simply my favorites. Of all time.
The keyword here, however, is influence. While swooning over protagonists and drowning with pleasure into pages of gorgeous words is all well and good, I'm guessing he was looking for a little more meat.
Plus, I don't think anyone really wants to read 500 words of me swooning over Jay Gatsby or Heathcliffe...I think we'd all come out of that one thinking I've got serious mental issues.
Anyway, the book. The book for me has got to be The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I read it when I was in third grade. I know that sounds ridiculous, but let me set the scene:
It's 1993. Amanda and Lindsey have gotten over a fight and are best friends again...I've got a crush on Tim (he's got an earring and a rat tail), and Disney has just released The Three Musketeers starring Chris O'Donnell about a bazillion other celebrities. BAM! my crush on Tim is shelved, and I am head-over-heels for this movie. I love the adventure, I love the clothes, I love the language, but more specifically, I loved Kiefer Sutherland.
This was when I learned that a lot of movies actually came from books. For Christmas, I got a big box of those short little paperbacks...Little Classics, maybe? I don't know, but all the classics were there, and 3M was one of them. I read it and thought, “Hey, that was pretty much the same as the movie, but there was more stuff in it...hmm...” I realized then that the pictures going on in my head were a lot better than the ones I was seeing on the screen.
My parents then informed me that the small book was actually a very shortened version of the original. Since I was completely hooked by this story, I had to get my hands on it. After school, I marched over to the library and asked for help in finding the long version. Seeing as how I was in 3rd grade, the librarian was a little skeptical. Her skepticism, however, was easily shaken off by the fact that I wasn't another kid asking her for an R.L. Stine, and she was jumping at the chance to put some real literature into a kid's hands.
I'll admit that I was pretty intimidated when I saw the book. That thing was a monster...and it only had a smattering of really old pictures in it. The little version had a picture on every other page...but darn it, I read that thing. And though I had no idea what most of the words meant, I loved it. A few chapters in, I decided to read it with a dictionary, and, obviously, that helped me out quite a bit.
Now, I had read “chapter books,” as we called them back then, but none like this. This book treated me like an adult. Now, quite obviously, I wasn't an adult (and by no means did I deserve to be treated like one)...but what I'm saying is that this book was like an honest friend. A friend who didn't talk to me about babysitters in a club or foxes dressed like Robin Hood. This friend told me an epic story that not only entertained me, but also taught me a few important life lessons.
People don't always say what they mean. Times get rough. Emotions can make us hurt and do stupid things.
These are all very important lessons... and adults don't always want to tell you about them in when you're in third grade...but they couldn't have been more relevant. Dealing with friendship in elementary is pretty much a bloody battlefield, and I needed all the help I could get.
Now, I know this post has a fairly juvenile flair to it. This isn't a book I can be intellectual about; I've just started rereading it for the first time since '93. It is, however, the piece of writing that lit the candle. I had no idea that a stack of paper, bound together, could be so powerful, until I read The Three Musketeers, and if I ever get the chance, I'm buying Mr. Dumas a fancy drink...something with an umbrella.
No, no, no, not an umbrella. Some fruit stabbed with a plastic sword...yeah. That's more like it.