The Books That Changed Our Lives…

bookstoredayA few weeks ago, we set up a photo booth as part of the first-ever Independent Bookstore Day. The idea was that customers would take a photograph holding up the “book that changed their life.”

Below is a collage of customers holding up life-changing books. Vonnegut was a popular choice. (Including my own.) Others included A Sand County AlmanacThe Elements of StyleHarry PotterWhere The Sidewalk EndsInfinite Jest, and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Soon, we’ll hang these photos in the store so customers can better see these life-changing recommendations.

Independent Bookstore Day was a success. As bookstores around the country agree about the day’s positives, we hope Independent Bookstore Day becomes an annual tradition. In thirty years, if we’re lucky to be here, we’ll compare “life changing books” throughout the decades.

If nothing else, the photo booth was a way to make people think, “What book changed my life?” For many customers, there were different books for different reasons. I remember reading Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle as a 19-year-old. It was a book that was simultaneously fun, moving, life-changing and thought-provoking.

It began my life-long love affair with the written word.

Many customers shared a similar experiences. What I learned was, as is often the case in life, timing is everything. For many, it was “the right book at the right time.” A particular age. A book read or experienced during a particular life circumstance.

Books change lives. They really do. And we Book Ninjas do not take the “life-changing power of books” lightly. When a customer comes in and says, “I’m just looking for something good, do you have any recommendations?” we take this as seriously as if someone were to come in and say, “I’m bleeding, can you stitch me up?” The right book at the right time can foster a love for reading and literature that can last a lifetime.

Though it’s hard to see from the tiny collage below, I encourage you to see the joy in many of these customers below holding up their life-changing books.

What books changed your life? Has there been one? Several? None?

As a reader and bookstore owner, the exciting thing is that this experience may not be limited to a one-time experience. A life can be changed again and again.

Like a photograph, the perfect life-changing book is not only about content, but environment, context, time of day, a particular age, and the unique circumstances in a life. The perfect book, like a photograph, can capture that precise, exact moment between the before and the after:

The moment when everything changed.


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