I was tagged to make a list of transformative reads. (I left poetry books out of the list otherwise I would spend weeks deciding.)
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I don’t know who I would be without Pippi. The brash, tough, aggressive little girl was my hero. She’s still my hero, tbh.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pippi was transformative for kid Lindsay, and this one was transformative for teen Lindsay. Not just the narrative, which was so important for someone who grew up in a small town full of white people, but it also got me interested in “classic” books and movies. I printed a list of the “all-time best books and movies” off the newfangled internet, and I went to the library and signed things out from the list. I thought B&W movies and subtitles and old books were “lame” until I loved TKAM. It was the gateway book for me.
Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich/History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom
I read these two books when I got married, and when I was pregnant. It was so helpful for me to know the history and socio-political context of being a wife and mother in North America. These books helped me to thoughtfully reject the parts of these identities that don’t work for me, and find a healthy safe way to be a spouse and parent, Lindsay-style.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
If you haven’t read Allie Brosh’s story of depression yet, you should do it right now. It’s all online. Here’s the links, no excuses:
I learned so much about my own struggles with depression by reading hers. And then, her dog stories made me laugh so hard I cried. There’s a lot of crying when I read her stuff. Lots and lots of crying.
House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
A professor recommended this book to me when I was in university based on my interest in experimental narratives. If you flip through this book, you’ll notice that it’s not “like other books”. Words are all tossed all over the page- backwards, upside down, in strange little boxes, footnotes tell different stories than the rest of the page, you can’t tell which references are real and which are made up. But beyond the cool structure, it’s ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING. This book will convince you that you’ve gone insane. No other book has messed with my mind like this one. *cold shiver*
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Speaking of messing with my mind, I still have nightmares about this one. Regular nightmares. *shivers again*
Wolverine Omnibus (various authors/artists)
This collection of over 1000 pages of Wolverine comics got me through a really hard time in my life, and taught me a lot about the person I want to be in the midst of adversity. Wolverine is the toughest mama bear. He will do anything for the people he chooses to care about. I learned a lot about the concept of chosen family, being fiercely loyal, and fighting for what’s important.
The Truth about Stories by Thomas King
This is one of those books that everyone should read, really. Or listen to, since it was originally a lecture. Here’s the link:
It’s a masterfully weaved collection of narratives that taught me so much about Native cultures in North America. Each chapter begins and ends with similar words, but the stories and information contained within make the words ‘mean’ so differently each time. I have lived my life differently because I have heard his stories.
Foe by JM Coetzee
This book is a companion novel to Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. I read Robinson Crusoe first and hated it with the passion of 1000 burning stars. Defoe created a world where the feminine is completely non-existent, not to mention the gross racist cultural imperialism. The fact that this novel was touted as the quintessential adventure novel for boys for generations is maddening. Coetzee reimagines the Crusoe narrative through a female character, and I sympathized with her character so much. I was removing myself from a stifling misogynist religious tradition at the time, and I felt her erasure and shared her pain. The way Coetzee implicates the reader in her suffering broke me, how we are all implicated in these cultural systems that erase people and ignore human pain.
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
These comics are a feminist retelling of fairy tales. The drawings are cute and fun, and feature different stories originating from a castle inhabited by societal misfits. My favourite story is about the convent filled with bearded nuns. The stories are refreshing for people whose gender expression doesn’t mesh with the mainstream, and anyone else who has trouble ‘fitting in’. I want to live in the castle with them. They felt like ‘my people’.