As I may have mentioned, an amazing English teacher introduced me to Pride and Prejudice when I was in grade 9. However, it took me until grade 10 to actually get around to reading it. Then, once I finally did, it took me an absurdly long time to read (four whole months), as I had to get used to the language and social conventions.
Thankfully, I found The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (annotated by David M. Shapard). I can’t recommend this book enough for people reading Jane for the first time. He’s also annotated a few of her other books, I own them and I’m sure they’re also annotated amazingly, but have yet to read the annotations — for me, one annotated copy was enough to get me used to the language and historical context &c. They’re very heavily annotated, so if you understand what’s going on without the annotations, it tends to hold you back and makes reading the book take twice as long.
Anyways, Pride and Prejudice. This book changed my life so much and in so many ways. The problem is, the changes were so gradual and over such a long period of time, that “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun” to fall in love with this book. (Of course, this quote from Mr. Darcy, and he was referring to Elizabeth…)
This book changed everything for me. I seriously do not know where I’d be without it. It was the first “real” book I’d ever read, before I even knew that the proper word to use would be literature. Before this book, I didn’t know what reading was. Oh, I read, I read a lot, I loved to read. But nonsense, I read nonsense.
I remember in grade 9 we filled out an “about me” sheet on the first day of school, telling our teachers a little about ourselves. One of the questions was “What’s your favourite book?” Hmm, I thought, I don’t know, how can I pick just one favourite book? Nothing I’ve read really stands out… I can’t even remember half the books I’ve read. I think I ended up writing something along the lines of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (by Ann Brashares) and The Clique (by Lisi Harrison).
Then I read P&P and it became my most favouritest book in the whole entirety of the world. Then I went and read the rest of Jane’s works. And my teacher recommended a million and one other books for me to read. So I find myself back with the same problem. Except now the problem is, all the books I read are so amazing — can’t they all be my favourite?
This is the book that whetted my appetite for literature. This is the book lead to more recommendations from this teacher. That led me to enter a Jane Austen inspired writing contest, from which I discovered that I love to write. Thanks to this book, I take all three grade 12 English courses offered at my school (English, Literature and Creative Writing) this year, instead of three sciences. I credit my decision to major in English (when I get to University) to this book (and my teacher who recommended it). While I may be getting a little carried away here, the truth is, I really can’t know what direction my life might have taken, if I hadn’t read this book; I’m sure it would have gone very differently though, and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am now. Which is a pretty crazy impact for a single book.
You can check out the list of my other favourite books here.
So, have any books changed your life lately?