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Books That Shaped Our Identity

Illustration by Zoë Dutton.

(Molly Pearce) Reminiscing on early childhood, I distinctly remember the sound of the CD player, on its last legs, playing the audiobook recording of The Hobbit every night for 2 or 3 years. By age 8 I could recite the entire novel pretty much by heart. When I think of books that have formed my identity, it’s The Hobbit that sticks out, but it certainly isn’t the only one. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wind in the Willows impacted me immensely as well. Thinking about it, it seems my love for adventure stems from those books and that old CD player.

(Phoebe McGowan) It’s not a book, but the YouTube page of Button Poetry - especially the poets Melissa Lozada - Oliva and Olivia Gatwood, were really impactful on me when I was a teenager. I know that spoken word gets a lot of shit, but that didn’t stop me from binge watching those videos for aaages when I was meant to be doing homework. They helped introduce me to ideas of structural inequality by relating personal experiences to larger problems, and taught me that an emotional reaction to political injustice should be valued as much as a well reasoned one. I also started writing way more after getting into them! 

(Iz Gius) When I was a kid, I read voraciously - I think it was more the act of reading itself than any specific book that shaped my identity. I used to go onto the Apple bookstore and download all of the books in their free section. Literally all of the free books that were available - I remember at one point there was no more left for me to read. They were badly edited — sometimes I’d go through and correct the typos — and generally pretty awful, all about the Zombie apocalypse or fairy worlds or unrequited magical romance. But I loved them, couldn’t get through them fast enough. Some other favorites were Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl and Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I liked spunky, nonconformist female characters, what can I say?

(Eilish Newmark) The stories in Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series still pop into my head years after reading them and when I want a nostalgia hit I can always count on the characters of the enchanted forest to provide – I guess that means they have shaped my identity in some way or other. Blyton has been criticised for, amongst many things, the simplicity of her writing, but I think that it’s the unassuming charm and simple caricature of Moon-Face, Silky and The Saucepan Man that brought the world to life for me. The worlds at the top of the faraway tree are constantly changing, for good and for bad, but there was always an adventure and laughs to be had and I think that’s not a bad thing to learn as a 10-year-old on the brink of teenage angst!

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