When Reading Changed My Life

author 100 x 100What day, you ask. V-day? Anniversary? Birth of children? The day I sold my first story?

Way back in eighth grade, my English teacher had given us the assignment to read a book and present an oral review.

At those words, my insides had twisted into a hard knot. I was terribly shy and hated speaking in front of a large group. (Fortunately, I grew out of this.) And it had to be a book of an adult level. That stumped me because I hadn’t a clue about leaping to adult level.

I was fortunate to get the Scholastic newsletter. I’d poured over its pages, looking for an affordable and likeable book. I’d settled on one about a family with twelve kids, set in a time before me–Cheaper by the Dozen. The book was a fast read and I was enthralled with the family antics. So happily, I’d prepared my report and managed to squeak through my presentation.

To my horror, the teacher reprimanded me in front of the class: “You are capable of reading a higher level book than that.”

Floored, I’d sunk into my chair and prayed someone would throw dirt over me. When recovered, I asked my classmate, who’d received praise for her book, what was the name of the one she’d discussed? What she told me changed my reading for life.

Rebecca. Aah, you say. That one, the one by Daphne du Maurier. Yep. rebecca

Here’s the clincher: I’d never heard of it. But what I decided was if my friend could read it, so could I.

I don’t remember much about what I’d thought when reading Rebecca for the first time. What I do remember is how it impacted me. And if this book was this cool, others were too, and I wanted to read them all. That’s when everything changed. I discovered Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Emilie Loring, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney.

At Half Price Books, I picked up a tome about mystery authors with the premise being if you liked one particular author, you might want to try this one. That worked for me. Through the various recommendations I found Dick Francis. I thought who is this guy and why would he be recommended a couple of times? So I read his short bio and decided to give him a try. I went to my nearest Half Price store and bought several. I devoured them like chocolate. And bought more.

When I told my hubby about my fascination with these books, he asked me “why?” That’s when I finally admitted, “I wish I could write like him.” It took me a lot of years to try. And now, look at what I’ve done. Squee.

So even though I thought unmentionable things about my eighth grade English teacher at that time, she did me a very big favor. Rebecca.

Is there one particular book which changed your life? I bet there is. Let’s chat about it.


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23 thoughts on “When Reading Changed My Life

  1. Pamela Stone says:

    Hi, Vicki, I can certainly sympathize with your high school shyness and experience. I must confess though, back in school I read the books you mentioned and enjoyed them. However, they didn’t change my life. I even wnjoyed the escape of sweet romances at my grandmother’s house in the summers. But it wasn’t until I picked up an ‘adult’ romance that my life began to change. The first was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Oh my. Later I discovered Nora and her books, especially Seascape and the other books in her Chessapeak series. Her writing leaves me feeling like I actually know and love her characters. Oh, if I could write stories like that. I try. Does that count?

    Pamela Stone

    Liked by 2 people

    • vicki says:

      I’d been very careful in my reading up until then. I didn’t want to read something I wouldn’t like. I liked falling in love with each and every book. It’s interesting now that we have middle grade and young adult books. In my youth, there was only kids and adult. So like I said, at the time, I was nervous, but took the leap and kept on leaping. I read Shanna, too. Hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey changed my life. I devoured it and couldn’t to read all her books, then Jude Deveraux’s books. Romance had come into my life and I loved it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • vicki says:

      Hi, Melissa! I love romance too. And read Johanna and Jude’s books. Did you read Knight in Shining Armor? One of two books I read, closed the cover, and sat down and reread instantly. Hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Jacquie Biggar says:

    Great post, Vicki! I love how Scholastic has brought affordable reading to generations of children, my grandson devours Wimpy Kids 🙂
    I have never read Rebecca (need to change that) but like Pamela above, Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Flame and the Flower and The Wolf and the Dove introduced me to romance and fueled my passion for the genre.
    I don’t think my eighth grade teacher would’ve approved my choice however!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. charlotteoshay says:

    Where to begin? Your mention of Emilie Loring sparked deep memories. Georgette Heyer. All manner of detective books. Great books friends that Took me away from my every day life and sparked a love of reading and writing in me that has never
    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. vicki says:

    Hi, Jacquie! I think romances were different then too. Maybe not. I’d have to ask someone a lot older. LOL. My mom introduced me to Emilie Loring romances the next year. Love, love, love them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. S.A.Taylor says:

    After high school, I finally started reading books for enjoyment, not for assignments. The first book that engulfed me with sights, sounds, smells was Body Farm, by Patricia Cornwell, Once I turned the last page, I made a goal to one day write a story that affected the reader in the same way. I’m still working on this, but I continue to learn with each story, each revision.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. vicki says:

    Hi, Steph! Wasn’t it great to get past those assignments and find books to enjoy? My mom took us to the library every summer to load up (I can share about this someday!). In college, when I had an English lit class, I’d read the entire assigned book before the discussion began for fun. LOL. It was also interesting how many were repeaters–The Great Gatsby (2x); All the King’s Men (3x).

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Patricia Yager Delagrange says:

    Sometime after college I began reading for fun. I was so sick of only reading serious tomes that it was literally like giving myself a gift. And OMG I forgot about Phyllis Whitney! I used to read her all the time and I don’t know what happened but I stopped. You reminded me of her and now I must go find something of hers to read. I love reading Joy Fielding, if only because I wish I could write like her. She’s amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • vicki says:

      Hi, Patti! I know the resale shop I frequent has Phyllis Whitney’s books. I read all of hers, too. Isn’t it great fun when we find someone whose work we admire and wish to write? Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeannie Hall says:

    Fantastic post, Vicki! REBECCA is a very powerful story. My choice is JANE EYRE. I’d read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, which is phenomenal, but JANE is the one that changed my life. I discovered stories could be deliciously dark and gothic but still have tons of romance and a happy ending. It impacts my writing to this day! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  10. vicki says:

    Wow, Jeannie!! you picked a winner!! I read Jane long ago and did a paper on the settings in the Bronte books, matching them to real places. Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sharon Wray says:

    For me it was Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. It literally changed my life. Then I read Pride of the Peacock and fell in love with Victoria Holt. My love for gothics went on and on from there! Great post, Vicki. I loved Rebecca too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • vicki says:

      Hi, Sharon! I love Mary Stewart and my favorite is Madam, Will you Talk? And Airs Above the Ground. She was a great writer and I believe hers could be considered romantic suspense by today’s standards. I always thought Madam should be a movie. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

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