Plinky 11 — Name a book that changed your life

Is it possible to fall in love with the characters in a book? The book itself?

I remember the day I met The Outsiders. It was check-out day in the school library day, sixth grade, and I needed a book. Mrs. Sprouse, our librarian, had combed the shelves for another horse novel, but there wasn’t one left I hadn’t read. I spotted a hardback with a white cover lying on its side on a shelf it didn’t belong on. I’m not sure why I was drawn to it. Maybe it chose me.


As soon I read the first page, I was mesmerized. It has shaped me as a teacher, as a writer, and as a human being.

Here’s my list of 11 Ways:

1. The main character Ponyboy Curtis spoke to me. He shared his thoughts and feelings with me. I knew where he was coming from. I knew what it was like to live on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. He was a good student—so was I. He saw the good in people—so did I. He was a dreamer who liked watching sunsets—so did I. I learned how to get “into” my reading as I made this connection.

2. Maybe Ponyboy became an extension of myself. I learned to see the good in me.

3. This book made me feel as no other book had ever done. My emotions ran the gamut. Ponyboy appealed to my rational side. He was a thinker, but his older brother Darry was a doer, who was too busy raising his younger brothers after their parents died than to sit and appreciate the beauty of sunsets the way Ponyboy did. Darry used to bake chocolate cakes for his brothers and keep them in the refrigerator. (To this day, that’s my favorite desert—and on those rare occasions when I treat myself to chocolate cake, I have to keep it in the refrigerator. )

4. I guess Darry reminded me of my father, always doing the responsible thing. I learned to appreciate the sacrifices my parents made for me.

5. I love people. I love all types of people. I love taking care of people. When I take care of people, I have purpose. The other characters made me long to take care of them. My heart ached for them:

  • Dallas (the thug who provoked the police with an unloaded gun and made them shoot him because he couldn’t carry the hurt he felt after Johnny died)
  • Johnny (the underdog, abused by his parents and tormented by the Socs, who risks his life to save the children and who encourages Ponyboy to “stay gold”)
  • M&M (the innocent little boy who later overdoses on LSD in a drug house and is never again the same)

6. As much as I identified with Ponyboy, it was Sodapop who tugged at my heart. Unlike Ponyboy, Sodapop dropped out of high school. There was no one to encourage him, no one to one to tell him to follow his passions.

I wanted to be the one.

He made me want to be an encourager. He did what he had to do to help support his family. He was good at working on cars, so he took a job at the gas station. Sodapop was always happy, always thinking of others. I think that’s why I fell in love with his character.

7. Throughout The Outsiders, Sodapop is the character who gets “drunk on just plain living”  and “understands everybody.” He wears his hair long, possesses dark brown eyes that are “dancing, recklessly laughing, and “can make you grin no matter what.” He is the peacemaker, the one who holds everything together in the family. Who wouldn’t be drawn to Sodapop? He helps all of us see the good.

8. Hmmm. Is it possible to take a character from your childhood with you to adulthood? I think the spirit of Sodapop shows up in some of my characters.

9. The Outsiders changed my life. Back then when I was in sixth grade, I didn’t understand how. I certainly didn’t understand why. But it made me want to read.

10. The Outsiders also made me to write, to “write real,” the way S.E. Hinton did. (She was only 16 when she wrote The Outsiders.)

11. Most importanly, once I finished the book, I refused to return it to the library, and I slept with it under my pillow each night. I carried it with me everywhere I went. It touched my heart so profoundly that I didn’t want to let it go.

I still don’t.

What book changed your life?

35 thoughts on “Plinky 11 — Name a book that changed your life

  1. Tee- see, I knew we had a connection… I can’t even count how many times I read that book. I had the posters of the Outsiders plastered all over my walls (there were about 500 in all). Of course Ponyboy was my favorite…
    Although I loved this book, I can’t pinpoint just one that influenced me. Each one has made an impact on my life and who I am. But probably the most profound author I have read was Og Mandino. Incredible author and extremely motivational.

  2. I read it so many times I couldn’t count. You know what’s sad? I’m going to go read it again. I need to “feel” those feelings again as I write. (It’s hard to convey feeling through words.)

    I’m not familiar with Og Mandino, but I cheated and did a quick Google search. Very interesting. I always like it when a friend leads me to another book that has the potential to inspire. Thank you!

  3. The Truth About Forever–Sarah Dessen.

    I am not sure if it changed my life, but I relate most with this book. The main character’s father dies, and it’s a summer after it happened. Macy is the 4.0 student who thrives on organization and structure. Throughout the summer, she opens up to a different group of people that were completely opposite of her. Finally, she eases up and starts peeling back all those layers to find herself. So, trying to be perfect? Understand. Building walls around my heart? Totally understand. The theme is learning to deconstructing those walls, and the fact that it’s alright not to be perfect. I have not come to a full understanding with that portion. However, this is still one of my most read, favorite books I have ever read.

  4. Wow. This sounds like a great book. I definitely can relate to building walls. I’m reading a book by Kaye Dacus right now–yes you can read it when I’m finished (ha), but maybe you can loan me that once I catch up from catching up due to our snow days.

    Thanks. I always, always, always appreciate your help.

  5. I think the book “The Giver” was a major influence in my life and still is a great influence. I think if we do not embrace the differences in people, we will be lulled into a society where the imperfect are released….just as in this book. I think we should embrace people for themselves. I am a special education teacher. I try to focus on strengths instead of weaknesses in my students. Lois Lowery is a true gift to the literary world. “Number the Stars” is also an excellent book by the same author. By the way, if you do not know what released is… the book!

    • Belinda, Special Ed teachers are surely a wonderful gift. Those teachers were instrumental in changing my son’s life. Thank you for your patience and the gift of love you give those children.

      • I get so much in return from the kids. Many people count the days until retirement; I count how many more years I get to teach! I am glad your son had a wonderful teacher.

    • I’ve read “The Giver” half a dozen times, and agree that differences are gifts to be embraced. How boring it would be if there were no peculiarities in the world…

      • How true. It’s sad, though, that some people can’t accept differences. I don’t mean differences in theology or even political stances. I mean age or socioeconomic status. There are a million ways to exclude someone else. I think a real gift is making others feel like they have a place to belong.

  6. Wow Tee, your post really got me thinking. I think the one piece of fiction that changed my life was “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. In the first paragraph his mom gets killed by a foul ball hit by his best friend. The book has a deeper meaning that really applied to me and made me realize there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t want to be a spoiler and tell the ending in case anyone wants to read it, but I’ve been reading John Irving for years.
    Tee, thanks so much for these posts and including everyone! I can see God’s hand in so much that you do!

  7. What an opening paragraph! I believe everything happens for a reason too. I don’t always understand why until later. I will have to check out John Irving. Right now as I write this the rain is falling on the metal roof of my sunroom. It’s a good night to curl up with a book.

  8. hey, nice post. I’m not the reader you are, but I guess In the Grip of Grace. Just because it made so simple what my dad had been teaching me for years, but I would never listen. Of course, I loved The Un-quiet Earth in college. It so reminded me of my own home of Grundy. Read it and you’ll know why.

  9. Thanks Cade. I’m not the reader I should be. You’ve really got my curiosity going with The Un-quiet Earth. Fiction? Non-fiction? I’ll have to look it up.

  10. fiction, about coal miners in rural Kentucky, I think it was. I haven’t read it since college about 14 years ago. It has some moments centered around real events. And, it’s written from the points of view of many of the characters. i just remember it being good, and really getting involved in a time I didn’t like reading.

  11. Wow, Tee. how can I possibly answer that question? There are several major works that influenced my dreams, not just necessarily books. Of course, I would say the three biggest influences are The Outsiders (Why am I not surprised?) Julius Caesar (Men are masters of their fates), and Izzy Willy Nilly, which you had us read my Freshman year, involving overcoming obstacles regardless of past bad decisions……Charity is also a huge fan of The Oustiders as well ,and reminded me to tell you this as I am typing. We’re big fans, Tee. Keep writing. I need your inspiration and guidance 🙂

  12. I’m so glad you remembered Caesar and Izzy. (I like that quote too.) I had so much fun teaching the play. I guarantee my students’ interpretation of the play would have made Bill Shakespeare’s head spin. 🙂

  13. Tee- I must confess I am not much of a reader…especially when i was younger. I don’t know how I made it through school with out reading all the mandatory reading lists. Anyways, my first exposure to The Outsiders was the movie. I loved the movie and I guess in some small way it made me more aware of how surroundings influence people’s lives. And, helped me be more understanding to otehr’s whose backgrounds were different than mine. To this day, I don’t really read fiction… but one of my most favorite books I read in college is called Beautiful in God’s Eyes, by Elizabeth George. It is about being a Proverbs 31 woman. While reading that book…it was the first time I felt I was going to marry a minister. 🙂 Turned out to be true! Still go back to this book on a regular basis.

  14. Kelly, I was a good student in school, and I knew how to get the grade I wanted–not by cheating, but by retaining information long enough for the test. I loved to read–I just didn’t like to read what was on the reading lists. I found The Outsiders by accident. The book is so much better than the movie. I guess what is truly amazing is that the author was only 16 years old at the time. I haven’t read Beautiful in God’s Eyes, but it certainly seems like one I’d like to put on my list. By the way, thank you so much for taking time to read my blog. 🙂

  15. The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick forced me to consider what our world may be like one day should the written word be suddenly taken away from us. It’s a science fiction gem, in my opinion, that took me through a scary world after the Big Shake, where most people lived in self-storage units and destroyed their lives with mind-probes, which isn’t too far away from some of the kinds of things people are doing right now. Just check some of the insane hours some people spend playing video games and texting etc.
    Thankfully Philbrick uses the first person POV of an epileptic boy named Spaz and an old geezer named Ryter to bring hope to a truly wacked world. Every time I read and teach it I wanna cheer because of my overall passion for getting students BACK into reading instead of killing their brains with video games! This book also has one of the best opening lines: “If you’re reading this, it must be a thousand years from now becasue nobody reads anymore.”

  16. Interesting! I like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. He makes references to plasma TVs, iPods, and all sorts of technological we have today. Of course, he didn’t know what he was doing at the time. He wrote it in the 1950s, but when my students and I discuss it, they’re amazed at his descriptions. Everything is reduced to plain vanilla tapioca pudding so not to offend anyone. No one thinks anymore. Are we doing this to our students across the nation? They’re quite proficient at marking A, B, C, or D. Too bad there’s not time left to make them bring something new to the table–like creative thought. Oh my. Me, Ray Bradbury and another soap box. 🙂

    • Yeah… I know Bradbury well too. Teaching short stories right now, and I’m lovin’ the creativity, although it’s very hard to get 8th graders to develop their characters. They write this wonderful mystery/action story, but I have little to no reason to care about their characters or WANT them to resolve the conflict! You’re so right about the ABCD Syndrome. In fact, I just read part of a play I’m considering directing in the spring called The Test. It’s a Saturday Night Live type spoof on how we’ve really gone overboard on these standardized tests. In my opinion, if authorities want a true measure of a student’s abilities, why use one of the lowest forms of questioning, multiple choice, to do that? Since when did we decide as a nation that real learning is all about regurgitation? Can they problem solve? Think for themselves? Choose which brand is the best bargain for the money? Why do all Americans have to grow up to be doctors and lawyers and have that type of intellect? My turn for the soap box. Sorry. 🙂

      • Preach on, brother. 🙂 I would love to see this play. You should try to record it and put it online. Have you ever heard of TeacherTube?

  17. Teacher tube, huh? Just checked it out. Didn’t have a lot of time to spend there yet, but it looks like a pretty cool site. Thanks for sharing it. Recording it would be a copyright infringement unless you buy the rights to film it. Then more than likely you wouldn’t be allowed to put it online anyhow. All these rules… LOL

  18. I really don’t have a book that did that my favorite readings are from Lewis Grizzard he was a newspaper writer and a stand up comic the titles are enough to make you read like Don’t Bend Over In The Garden Granny You Know Those Tater’s Got Eyes another of my favorites was Report from Engine Compay 82 written by Dennis Smith a New York Firefighter last book i read was All By My Selves by Jeff Dunham So i like different books Thanks for Listening Good Day,

  19. So many books I have (do) loved… Changed my life though. Well, YES. That would be Stephen King’s “Desperation”. It’s been probably 20 years since I read it, and i don’t entirely remember the story line. What i DO remember was that something in the book made me feel like I needed to read the Bible. Just “put it on my heart”, if you will. I read the bible cover to cover in about 3 months time, and THAT changed my life…

    Another book, “One Hundred years of Solitude”. It was an awesome book, but it disturbed me on some level that I cannot even identify. Wish I knew someone else who has read it and could discuss… I’ve still got the book, if’n you’re looking for a good summer read (it’s 450 pages of tiny print and intricate wording that takes some getting used to).

    • Isn’t it funny how God can use mainstream fiction or music to touch people? God always has a plan. I have never read either of these books. I need to add them to my list. I’m just fearful of the tiny print. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s