Books That Changed My Life

Just let your kids read them.

Reading Asterix changed my life. I have since then always just wanted to live in a seaside village with a fat, jolly and incompetent chief, who nobody bothers to question because he is not that important, hunt boars in the nearby forest, have feasts under starlight, and go on the occasional adventure in defiance of Caesar.

Thoroughly world-view shaping stuff.

I also had this classic picture book of Robin Hood, entitled His Life and Legend – again similar themes – live in the forest with your merry men, defy Prince John, have a friar to say Mass for you, and a Maid Marian to marry.

Along with this, I had a picture bible that I read from front to back.

For my whole childhood, the famous bible stories simmered in my consciousness: the strangely compelling stories of the Old Testament (Cain and Abel, the story of Joseph, Samson), and then the stories of Jesus – his birth, his miracles, his resurrection, the red cloak he wore, the blue sash Mary wore, the bread he ate at the Last Supper. Those images and ideas have remained part of my life ever since.

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In my later years, I would read the Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, the Odyssey and The Wind in the Willows – all books about going on journeys and coming home.

Looking back, I realise these stories did me so much good. They impressed upon me that life was an adventure, that there was some kind of fighting goodness to be a part of, and that the universe had some kind of white magic in it.

When you become a teenager in this world, and enter the world of consumerism, envy and ambition, having this backdrop is a real consolation and resource. I was lucky.

I wonder today – how many kids get to have a similar experience? Are the same stories being told? I’m not sure they are. And that’s a real pity.