Good books crawl into your heart. Great books leave a piece of themselves behind
Books are such powerful things. They can do more than just entertain. Sometimes they educate, sometimes they share someone’s experiences, and sometimes they grab you and never let go. These are the books that become part of who you are and inform your identity a little bit. I spend a lot of time wondering why certain books become that special part of someone. It’s not just a “favorite book” or even a nostalgia-laden read (although those are great too); there’s more to what forms an identity than just happy memories and good times.
I’ve always loved books, even before I could read. Books were an important part of my house growing up. Every week, my mom would take our old rusted wagon (it used to be red and it might have even said “Flyer” on the side at one point, but it was more rust than anything when it saw most of its use) and pull it several blocks away to the little neighborhood library. My siblings and I would pile as many books as we were allowed to check out into that wagon, which we would then pull home. It was a weekly routine and, looking back, it’s not at all surprising that I love books as much as I do.
I gravitated toward fairy tales and Arthurian legends, especially St. George and the Dragon and The Kitchen Knight (look up the illustrations from the Margaret Hodges books- they’re gorgeous). I really can’t tell you why stories of epic battles and dragons have always drawn my interest, they just have. Over time, fairy tales were replaced by The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, the Narnia books, The Dragonriders of Pern, and Redwall. These are all great books, but I wouldn’t say they’re books that made me who I am. That distinction goes to the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
This is the part where everyone who has ever interacted with me at all sighs and thinks, “There she goes again” and that’s absolutely justified. I talk about them a lot. But these books are such an integral part of who I am that it’s hard not to mention them on a pretty regular basis. At the time that I stumbled across them, there was a lot going on in my life that I couldn’t control, and much of it was frightening. The Dragonlance Chronicles helped. When life felt gray and I couldn’t find the motivation to move, there was Sturm who also saw life as a dark shroud at times. When I felt small, alone, and impotent, there was Tas, doing the small yet important things. When I felt at war with myself (it was only later that I would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder), there was Tanis who also fought against himself. Not only that, but the books showed that happy endings don’t always come easily. There is sacrifice. There is loss. And sometimes a “happy ending” isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
I reread The Dragonlance Chronicles at least once a year, more when things are difficult. You can imagine how many times I’ve opened the pages over the last few years. Sometimes I need that reminder that, hey, I’ve made it this far. I’m still doing the small things like Tas. I’m still sometimes fighting against myself. I still sometimes feel surrounded by darkness. But, like Laurana, another character in the series, I know I’ve grown and have hidden strength.
Good books crawl into your heart. Great books leave a piece of themselves behind. They shape you. And sometimes, they help make you.