The Books That Changed Our Lives – GIVEAWAYS!!!

Firstly, I’d like to thank my friends and fellow bloggers for contributing such fantastic blog posts for the blog series this week.  I’m so lucky to have had such talent on the blog this week!  I hope that this week’s posts have inspired some of you out there to pick up the books we spoke about. 

Secondly, I hope that some of you have been inspired to start a dialogue about books with those around you.  It’s so interesting (at least in my opinion) to find out how eclectic people’s book choices can be.  I think the group of us that wrote this week have proven that!!

To recap the giveaways that are being offered see below.  To enter, click on the link and leave a comment on that post!  Good luck to all who enter!!  Entries will be accepted through March 30th at midnight.  US and Canadian residents only please.

1 copy of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

1 copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry

1 copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson MD

1 copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

1 copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

1 copy of Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

I just wanted to express, again, my sincere gratitude for those of you who joined us this week.  Another blog series is in the works for next month, so, keep checking back for details!

In the meantime…

…Happy Reading!!

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Jess’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Guest posting today is Jessica Bade of The New 20-Something.  Thanks for joining us!!

What constitutes a favorite book? I’ve been thinking about this question ever since Kim came to me with the challenge of writing this post. It has been such a challenge because it is extremely difficult for me to pick out a favorite book just as it is to pick out a favorite song, movie or food. Just as I always do when charged with a challenge that seems too big for me to grasp, I break it down to the root question; what constitutes a favorite book?

By this point, you are probably thinking that I am a little flaky and indecisive. How can she not even narrow it down to two or three choices? Well, frankly, choosing two or three would be like picking out just two or three of my all-time best friends. Don’t worry; I narrowed down the process a little by thinking about what makes a book one of my favorites…in bullet point list form!!!

  • It is a book that I wish I had written myself, but know that I could have never even thought to write because I had never looked at the world in that way before I experienced it through this book.
  • I want to read it over and over again…and I do…and every time it is a little bit different.
  • I think about this book constantly. While I am reading it, I am finding myself ducking into closets at work just to read a chapter. When I am not reading it I am thinking about the characters and thinking about what they should do and what is going to happen.
  • When I have finished reading this book, I want to be a better person. I want to laugh more, I want to hug my parents, I want to go on a trip to Europe, I want to start a revolution, and I want to realize my hopes and dreams. After reading a great book, it feels like you just got back from a great vacation because, in the end, a good book takes you out of your living room (or utility closet) and transports you someplace else.
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Some of my favorite authors have managed to do some or all of these things for me extremely well. Chuck Klosterman brings me inside his rental car as he drives across country in search of truth about himself and the world around him in “Killing Yourself to Live.” Mitch Album brought me into the home of a dying Morrie in “Tuesdays With Morrie “ to listen in on a lifetime of advice from a man who has lived a lifetime. I connected with women a world away in Khalid’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and realized my inner feminist and patriot. Chuck Palahniuk introduced me to countless flawed characters, who despite their flaws are searching for something essential that is missing in their lives, whether it be beauty, love, companionship, or a good swift kick in the teeth. Most notably Chuck and I have explored the power of beauty with the Queen Supreme Princes Brandy Alexander in “Invisible Monster.”   I’ve sat in traffic just to feel a part of society with Victor Mancini in “Choke,” and listened in as a former cult member crashed an airplane in “Survivor.” Not to mention the time I took a peek into the opulent roaring 20’s and experienced the poison that can be vanity in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.

Just as every person I have ever met in my life has played some (even a minimal part) in who I am and what I hold dear to my heart, every book has done the same. I could never say that just one person changed my life and helped me to get where I am. I could never say that just one book has changed my life for the better or the worse. It is a combination of all of the lessons each book teaches me that adds a little piece to the puzzle that is who I am.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman.  Leave a comment below of your favorite journey a book has taken you on.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Laurel Ann’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Guest posting for us today is Laurel Ann Nattress from Austenprose.  Thank you for joining us!!

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 Many have been pressed into reading Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most popular work in their early teens. I was not one of them. It was not introduced to me in my High School literature class, nor did any of my courses in Landscape Design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have it listed in the syllabus. I give my mother Carolyn full credit for introducing it to me at a very young age through the 1940 MGM movie adaptation starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. The movie inspired me to investigate the original novel in a family edition of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen that graced our library, but I was far to young to comprehend the language and the droll humor and did not venture past the first few chapters. It would take another adaptation in 1980 before this Anglophile would become a Janeite. I can easily blame Jane’s beautiful language, or Mr. Darcy’s nobel mien, or Elizabeth Bennet’s conceited independence, but what really change the way I would look at fiction ever again was Austen’s incredible story.

The Masterpiece Theatre production of Pride and Prejudice starring David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie ran close to five hours and included much of Jane Austen’s original language. Swept away to Regency England, I was not only enchanted by ball rooms, bonnets and breeches, but by the wacky Bennets.I knew within the first fifteen minutes of the broadcast that Elizabeth Bennet and her nightmare family were now my new addiction. Poor Lizzy Bennet. I could totally relate. Her mother was a chattering busybody and her father totally disinterested. Sisters Lydia, a dangerous flirt, Kitty, vacuous twit, Mary, a pedantic prig, and Jane, a bit too nice for her own good. I had been raised in a family of three girls with no male heir. Our family apples did not fall far from the Bennet tree. I of course was the spunky, courageous and impertinent Elizabeth Bennet. Happy thought indeed! Since “a ladies imagination is very rapid” I had to read the original novel. I was not disappointed. Pride and Prejudice has remained my perennial favorite ever since.

Beside the Bennet/Nattress household similarities, why did I like the story ofPride and Prejudice so? Firstly it made me laugh, and “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.” Secondly it allowed me to escape into a world of genteel civility where society valued grace, manners and good breeding. Thirdly, and most importantly, the heroine Elizabeth Bennet was a woman of words and action. She was strong, spirited and determined: offering opinions decidedly and scampering about the countryside gleefully. No one could pop her balloon and if they tried,she could throw a withering remarks deflating smug Caroline Bingley or arrogant Fitzwilliam Darcy in a flash. What woman in her right mind would not want to have her confidence, her energy and her sharp wit? I did!Who would not want to reread this novel every year of their life? Who indeed?

It would be many years, and all of Jane Austen’s novels later, before I would discover the Internet and hook up with fellow Janeites at the Republic of Pemberley, and still more until I was inspired to create my own Austen-inspired blog, can now blame Jane and her witty, romantic novel for igniting my pride, prejudice and passion for her works. I enjoy blogging about Jane immeasurably and I credit Pride and Prejudice every day for introducing me to a magical world that I am compelled to return to by reading the many sequels that are now available.I never imagined that a new career would spring from this obsession. My own book, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, makes its appearance this Fall. “I am the happiest creature in the world.” gushed Elizabeth Bennet to her aunt Gardiner on her engagement to Mr. Darcy, and I could not agree more.

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of and the forthcoming short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It to be released by Ballantine Books on 11 October, 2011. Classically trained as a landscape designer at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, she has also worked in marketing for a Grand Opera company and at present delights in introducing neophytes to the charms of Miss Austen’s prose as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives near Seattle, Washington where it rains a lot.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Leave a comment below if you’ve ever had a book lead you down a certain career path.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Adam’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

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The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is a very simple concept for a book.  So simple some may not even clarify it as a book. Written more like a series of short stories, rather than one long novel; Randy Pausch tells a story that is humorous, serious, adventurous, heartbreaking, and in my eyes life-changing.

Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Melon, who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He was given three to six months of good health and ultimately passed away from the disease. The term “Last Lecture” comes from a common practice where college professors give a lecture before they retire discussing what they had learned in their tenure as a professor, what they hope their legacy will be, and how they would like to be remembered.

I read Last Lecture at a time in my life when I needed some good advice and a new outlook on life. I had lost my mom several months prior to lung cancer, I was struggling through an unsuccessful run at student teaching, and I just had weight-loss surgery. I was really struggling internally and just needed some inspiration. I needed a little boost in my spirit. That is exactly what this book provided for me. As sad as the story is, it’s also inspiring. This guy knew he wasn’t going to live long enough to see any of his children graduate elementary school and he was still able to be positive, yet realistic. He didn’t talk of miracles or how he regretted this and that about his life, but about how he lived his life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When thinking about how this book changed me, I also thought of a movie that Kim had given to me to watch. The movie was an Italian film called Il postino or “the postman.” In the movie, a postman becomes friends with a poet who is living in his small town in Italy. During one of their visits, the poet says to the postman, “”Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.” I really liked the quote when I saw the movie, but it never really hit me until I was thinking about this book.  I am not claiming ownership of this book, but I feel like this book has a special place in my heart because I read it when I needed it most. I felt if this man who had three young children, a wife, and ultimately a death sentence (his words, not mine), could have an outlook this positive then I should have one as well. 

We as humans in life go through many rough patches.  To be broken down by every rough patch is exhausting and in the end you have to pick your battles wisely.  When you feel like you’re going to get knocked down, try to be strong and prevent getting yourself down. This book makes the reader think about their own legacy and how they would want to be remembered at the end of their life.  It’s main gift though, is to teach you to look at your life as a gift, and make it the most positive experience you can with the amount of time given to you on this earth.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  Leave a comment below of a time when a book has given you the strength to get through a rough period.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books that Changed Our Lives – Greg’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Guest posting today is Greg Cikatz.  Thank you for joining us!!

I wouldn’t call myself the biggest fan of reading, but every once in a while I come across a book or two that I have difficulties putting down.  Some of these books challenge me to think a little outside of my norm, some shed new light on topics of interest to me, and others change my entire course of living.  When my father introduced me to the book Who Moved My Cheese?, I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life and he thought it might help me gain some insight and perspective as to what I wanted out of life.  Looking at this book wouldn’t give many people the feeling of being a life-changing book.  In its paperback form it is 90-something pages and looks and feels like a children’s book.  However it was the exact opposite of everything I had thought it would be.

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The basic premise of the story revolves around two sets of characters; 2 mice (Sniff and Scurry) and 2 little humans (Hem and Haw) and their individual struggles of living in a maze trying to survive.  All four characters start at the same point in the maze, a place where there is an abundance of cheese; however, noticing the supply is slowing dwindling, the two mice take the proactive approach and set off to explore the rest of the maze leaving the two humans behind.  After some time in the same place, the two humans run out of food and begin blaming each other. After great discussion, argument, and debate, Haw decides to take it upon himself to not go hungry anymore and set off to explore the rest of the maze hoping to find a new source of food, leaving a very stubborn Hem behind. Along his journey, Haw begins to learn specific ideas which form the backbone to the moral of the story.

So how did a simple book about mice change my life?  While reading, I saw myself during different points in my life, as each of the characters.  There were times over the years when I struggled to grasp certain truths, other times when I thought I knew it all and felt as though I was ahead, and points when I felt like I was just running through an endless maze looking for that next source of figurative cheese.  The book put into perspective, in very simple and easy to understand metaphors, exactly what characters you should think like, what characters you should learn from, and what traits you should possess if you to set yourself up for success.  Cheese has eight very simple principles, all of which center around the idea of adapting to change and overcoming obstacles, and it was those ideas that set off the light bulb which changed how I view problems and life in general. 

Since reading that book, I have put into practice each of those ideas and my life has become increasingly better; I have come to terms with certain struggles, set and accomplished new goals I never thought would be possible, and found great ways of understanding and keeping up with the changes around me, both in my personal and professional life.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.  Leave a comment below of a book that has helped you overcome an obstacle or given you advice to face a certain challenge in your life.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Todd’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Hi everyone!  I’ve been tasked by Kim, as you already may know, to choose a book or books that have changed my life.  This of course is no small task.  To review my quarter century of a life and reflect on all the books I’ve read is a large enough task, and picking from that a few outstanding books that have shaped my life is even harder.  However, I feel as if I have done just that.  I have identified two books which I feel changed the course of my life as I know it.  These books are The Giver and Watership Down.

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Interestingly enough, I only read one of these books through school.  One would think that because these books were so important and life changing, they surely would have been covered in the curriculum of my roughly 12 years of pre-college schooling.  However, Watership Down was not.  Watership Down was recommended to me by my mother, as she read the book in her youth and really enjoyed it.  The copy I inherited was well-worn and seemed to me to be a true “book”.  It had a yellowish tinge to the pages, and smelled musty and aged.  Perhaps that in and of itself was responsible for some of the allure of the book, yet I tend to think that it was the story that captivated me.  Written by British author Richard Adams, the book tells the story of a group of rabbits that leave their home (referred to as their “warren”) after one of the rabbits has a premonition that their group will be killed en masse if they do not escape.  The book continues to tell the story of this small group of rabbits, as they travel the countryside and try to create a new home.   They encounter numerous difficulties and problems along the way, but they persevere in the face of this adversary.  I think one of the main themes of this novel that really resonated with me was the idea of independence.  The main character, Hazel, is ostracized by his original warren due to the lack of clarity in his premonition, and he is ridiculed.  However, the fact that he ignores this and decides to set out on his own to save himself and others is very noble and self-sacrificing.  Hazel taught me that viewing myself in the greater context of those around me and thinking of myself as a player in the greater good of my friends and family helped to shape my actions and see how they affected these people.  I learned not only to be independent, but to be respectful to the thoughts and feelings of those around me.

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The second novel that changed my life was The Giver.  This may seem more familiar with those of you reading, as it is often included in curriculums as a book that teaches about self-awareness and the dangers of a society based on close minded thinking.  This book introduced me to the dangers of influence, as many of the adults in the novel are taught how to believe and think from a young age, creating a society perfectly built on the morals and ideas of its founders.  This idea is even taken to the extreme physically: the world is actually flat and colorless, and the adults are given medication to keep them from having sexual desires and depress their individual feelings.  One man, the Giver, is left to hold all the “true” emotions left in the world: pain, suffering, elation, joy, contempt, depression, etc.  Although not always called upon, he is the authority when community decisions must be made, as he contains the experience, literally, that is needed to make some decisions.  This book shows how modeling one’s thoughts and actions based on too much outside influence and ignoring the true passions and feelings of one’s own heart can have catastrophic results.  I feel that as we enter a new political era in this country where people are constantly bombarded with influence and opinion from so-called “experts” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is easy to forget how to feel sometimes.  We are often so critical of what others think and what others think of us, that we often mimic others in order to feel accepted.  Yes, it is hard to stand out from the crowd, but The Giver shows us that doing just that allows us to gain a whole new perspective and live our lives to the fullest.

So, those are the two books that had a definite impact on my life.  It was hard to narrow my choices down, but I believe that it’s fitting that these novels have similar themes.  I like to think of them as the themes of my life, as they helped to shape me and make me into the person I am today.  It is because of these books that I began to view my life in a different life, and perhaps subconsciously directed me to the career or activities that I do today.  I think that reading was a vital part of my upbringing, and I’m excited to see which books do the same to me as I continue to grow in my literary future.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry.  Leave a comment below of a book that has helped shape you in who you are today!  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Kim’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Many of my friends know that I love having deep discussions, especially about books, films, and life.  I recently challenged some of my friends and fellow bloggers to try to come up with a book(s) that has in some way impacted their life.  It could be a book that helped you through a rough period in life, made you want to choose a certain job path, or just made you want to try something new.  I soon started thinking about what book I would write about and came to the realization that there isn’t just one book that has shaped me into the person I am today.  There are three points in my life where books have helped push me forward and I’ve chosen to write about those points.

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As a child I was super hyperactive, hence my diagnosis with ADHD.  I was always running around and could never focus on one thing to do.  As a result my mom signed me up for a lot of activities to keep me busy.  One of my favorite activities was going to the library with my sister for story-time or arts and crafts hour.  Wanting to mimic everything my sister did, I soon found myself sitting down for hours on end reading the same books she read. I would steal her Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, and Boxcar Children books all the time.  It was when I stole her Little  House on the Prairie series that I really understood the power of books.  Never before had I read a book that I quite literally refused to put down until I finished.  I had no idea that books could be so enthralling and captivating.  Once I had read through the entire Little House series my sister told me there was a series about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandmother, mother, and even her daughter!!  That news had me greedily forcing my mother to take me to the library and the bookstore to keep getting me more books.  Thankfully my mom had NO issues having a child who wanted to read and willingly took me for books every time I asked!  The Little House series was honestly the first books I read for pleasure and I credit the series for the love I currently have of novels, most specifically memoir novels.  It was through reading these books that I learned to control my hyperactivness and learn to focus on one thing at a time.  Without reading these books I’m not sure what kind of focus I’d have as an adult today.

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As I got into my later years of elementary school and early years of high school I stopped reading for pleasure.  I was forced to read tons of books in high school and was so busy with extracurricular activities that I just didn’t find it fun anymore.  My senior year in high school, my english course started reading Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  WOW.  For the first time in a long time I was hungrily reading a book.  Angela’s Ashes was everything you could ask for in a book: emotional, gripping, honest, heartbreaking, inspiring, scintillating, and so much more.  It opened the path right back up for me and I started reading again voraciously.  At 17 I started being able to read as well as learn from what I was reading.  Angela’s Ashes taught me that no matter what life throws at you, with hard work and dedication you can overcome it.  Pride and Prejudice taught me not to be so hasty in judging a person’s character.  It is only through true knowledge of a person that you can really learn what is on the inside.  Things Fall Apart taught me that not all change is bad, but forcing change for the sake of change is not beneficial for anyone.   The Harry Potter series taught me about true friendship and overcoming all obstacles with faith and confidence in yourself.  (It also opened my eyes to this magical word that I couldn’t get enough of).

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As my college years came, the amount of work that was given to us was substantial.  Being a media production major took up most of my free time as I spent it either filming or editing my projects.  As my senior year came and went and my professional life began, I found the time to read again.  Home one night and bored out of my mind I decided to watch the first Twilight film.  (You can all start laughing now) I loved it and wanted to get my hands on the first volume ASAP.  I read the entire Twilight series in 3 days.  I was hooked.  Hooked this time to vampire novels.  I read the Twilight series, the Sookie Stackhouse series, and the Vampire Diaries series all in a short period of time.  Through my vampire craze I found a book called Mr. Darcy, Vaympire by Amanda Grange and that just opened me up to the Jane Austen fan fiction world.  It is through reading all these books again that I found a passion for book reviewing, which has led to my blog!

The three books above have been my gateway books into the world of reading.  I’ve been to Ireland, Washington, regency England, the court of Henry VIII, concentration camps during the Holocaust, a state road during the apocalypse, Hogwarts, and so many other places through the wonderful worlds that have been created by Frank McCourt, Jane Austen, Stephenie Meyers, Homer, Neil Gaiman and so many others.  Reading allows us to take journeys to anywhere we want to go and to do anything we want to do without ever leaving the comfort of our favorite reading spot.

I’d love to know what books have helped shape your lives so leave a comment below!

GIVEAWAY- I’m going to be giving away a copy of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Leave a comment telling me if you’ve ever had a gateway book or had a book completely change your life.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Week Long Event!!

Tomorrow begins Reflections of a Book Addicts week-long blog series “The Books That Changed Our Lives.”  I’ve asked some friends and fellow bloggers to participate in a tribute to the books that have helped shape us into the people we are today.

Our schedule looks like this:

Monday March 7th – Me!
Tuesday March 8th – Todd Ryder – Guest Blogger for Reflections of a Book Addict
Wednesday March 9th – Greg Cikatz
Thursday March 10th – Adam Gorsline – Guest Blogger for Reflections of a Book Addict
Friday March 11th – Laurel Ann Nattress – Editor/Moderator of Austenprose
Saturday March 12th – Jessica Bade – Editor/Moderator of The New 20-Something

Sunday will culminate the week-long event with a giveaway of the books that are discussed throughout the week!!  Make sure you check in all week to find out the books that were chosen!

Happy Reading!