The Books They Gave Me

In which we reflect on books given us by loved ones.

SIlverstein.

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As a child, it is hard to understand the rarity of a truly happy ending.  Because they are everywhere for us when we are six and seven.  We don’t have to look very far to find one.  We are, in a way, sheltered from the cold, cruel fact that happy endings are less likely than sad ones.  The thought does not compute.

When my mother gave me “The Giving Tree,” I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I loved Shel Silverstein’s poetry and knew this book would be no different.  I read the entirety in less than 20 minutes.  And I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.

“Mom, what is this?”  I asked, and she simply looked at me.  ”What is this?  Why would you let me read this?”

She didn’t understand.  She just continued looking at me.

“That boy is TERRIBLE!  The tree loved him, and he used her!  He forgot all about her and then he just USED her!”

I remember she smiled a bit, but just continued to look at me with simple curiosity.

“Well?!  That’s not fair!”

“Is it unfair?  Or is there something beautiful in a love like that?  It’s endless and unconditional.  Isn’t that beautiful?” she asked me, and I just stared at her.  Beautiful?  How could that be beautiful?  It felt nothing but lonely to me.

“That’s what happens, sweetheart.  People change and they move on.  Things change.  Life changes.  We grow up and grow old.  It’s inevitable - the passing of time.  But love is always there, surrounding you.  And that is beautiful.”

Years later, I still get sad and feel terribly lonely whenever I read this book.  But it has shaped me in a way that no other book has.  It opened my eyes, it forced me to question the “happy ending” and, more specifically, change.  And made me - just a little bit - begin to admit how beautiful that can be.

Millman.

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K was like this really hippie kind of girl that i used to hang out with, a little too tepid for my ‘wild’ attitude as a teen, so when she gave me this book to read , i was ready to pass. Although, since i thought of myself as an open minded person i began reading page after page, being drawn into its magnificent world only to find out that this book had changed my life. I had become the book and the book, had become me, if i can say so! I have lived with its dogmas since,and would recommend as one of my top reads to anyone, but the one thing i really learned from this experience, is that every single person you get to know can make a huge difference in your life, if you let them!

Where are we going, where have we been?

Spring Break. Laying low. That sort of thing. Now it’s time to revive. Send us your stories of books given and books received! Everyone wants to read them. 

Montiel.

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We grew up together; I watched you transform from a dopey kid with too long of hair into a still dopey man with short hair and confidence and a smile that could knock the air out of my lungs. You watched me, well, I took a little longer to change. I gave it to you after gym class junior year. I was sweaty and red faced and wanted the moment to be much more poetic and life changing than it was. I claimed it was my favorite book because it was dark and twisty and edgy—everything I wished I was. You were so interested in it; I like to think it was because you realized that in giving you this, I was offering you a tiny piece of my soul. I had discovered long before that moment that I would give you anything to make us more connected. I hassled you for weeks about reading it, checking to see if you’d started it and where you were now. You always gave vague, non-committal answers and eventually I stopped asking. I never got the book back though, and now four years later, I still think about it sometimes. I think you may have a much larger piece of my soul than that book. And even though you don’t know it, you can keep them both as long as you’d like.

Rivers.

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Two years ago I was nursing a broken heart after being deceived by someone I truly cared about.

My friend gave me this book and suggested I read it because she thought I needed to hear the words in the book. 

I read it in 12 hours straight the first time, and found hidden between the pages restored faith and healing. This book has made me believe in love and the power of God and quite literally changed my life.

I am currently reading this book for the 20th time, and it always manages to heal a part of me that is yearning for a gentle touch or a warm embrace…

Green; Asher & Mackler.

The Fault in Our Stars - Cover

The Future of Us - Cover


My girlfriend, M, is as much of an avid reader as I am.  However, she typically reads the newest, hottest thing when it comes to novels and whatnot.  Her mother is the Assistant Librarian at the High School that M and I went to, so that kind of helped fuel her ability to know what was new and great and what was new and crappy. I, on the other had, typically stick to history books (typically military history actually, it’s kind of my passion/ hobby) and the classic novels that everyone knows about but not many people tend to take the time to read (like Murder on the Orient Express, the Tom Clancy Series, and Gone With the Wind).

However, M said that I should read both The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, and The Story of Us, by Jay Asher.  She said that they both were books that had changed her outlook on life.  Now, being who I am, I thought that this was just another one of those teen phrases that had become emotionally numbed over time, like “I love that…”, and that she was just being a typical teenager.  Little did I know that what she had just done was suggest the books that have helped me survive this last year through the emotional roller coaster ride that is the application process and Plebe (Fourth Class Year) Year at the United States Naval Academy.

I can’t explain it, but for some reason the books that she suggested to me were unlike any other I had read before.  The text didn’t just sit there; it popped-out at me and its meanings and phrases touched my very soul.  What M had done was give me a newer, fresher outlook on life.  She suggested the books whose quotes I have used to make it through many hardships and hard work these past two years, the ones that have come to shape my work ethic and outlook on life! 

These books taught me that it doesn’t matter how many hardships come your way in life, because if you try hard enough and continue to trust in the Lord and the loved ones around you, and seek them for guidance in times of trouble, that you will be successful and feel happy in the end when it really matters.

I honestly have no idea how in the world I can ever repay M for what she has done for me.  She’s definitely put me on the right track; to be quite honest, I’d say she changed me for the better (not that I was bad to begin with; these books just gave me a new-found sense of humbleness, a necessary trait to have for us military leader types!

So M, at this time I will formally thank you for the transformation that you’ve given me!

Love,

C.