Saturday, March 20, 2010

Through Me

When KD Lang sang her amazing version of Hallelujah at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, one of the comments I heard was, "I felt like she was not only singing to me, she was singing through me. She filled me up to overflowing." Wow. What a compliment!

As a writer, I'd like to do that one day. Write so someone feels like I've written to them, through them. Filled them up to overflowing.

Again, wow.

I think some books have done that for me. In all different genres, at all different points in my life. The Hobbit was life-changing for me. It was the first fantasy I'd read. It opened up... well, everything. About the same time I discovered Star Trek reruns on TV. Between the two, entire worlds (literally!) opened up. My imagination opened with them.

As a teen, I remember reading Fahrenheit 451 in high school. Another wow for me. Book burning, wall sized interactive TV sets, loss of imagination and intelligence.

Then I read Flowers for Algernon - which I always call Charly. My heart broke. The author's control over the language amazed me. Charly's growth and deterioration throughout the book shattered me. How could they? How could he bear it?

Shakespeare. Even though I found Hamlet a wimpy dolt, the power of his 'To be or not to be' soliloquy riveted me. The deep thoughts. The beautiful cadence of the words to express such sadness, such worry. Then the power of one over the mob in Julius Caesar. The agony of Othello. The trickery of Iago.

Anne McCaffrey & her world of Pern and her ship who sings. Nora Roberts/JD Robb and the incredibly human characters she creates - full of such passion and depth. Suzanne Brockmann and her wonderfully diverse band of troubleshooters - where love, loyalty & justice are the most powerful weapons against hate.

Finally the power of few words fills me. At least when those words carry weight.

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. - Gandhi

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. - Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Imagination is more powerful than knowledge. - Albert Einstein

  • It's kind of fun to do the impossible. - Walt Disney

So, what books fill you up? What authors write not only to you, but through you?

80 comments:

  1. It's always amazing to me when I get completely lost in a book or song or show. I'm awed by the talent it takes to transport someone so fully that they don't want the journey to end.

    Watership Down was one of those books. Sugarland and early John Mayer and Sarah McLaughlan do that for me.

    Great post!

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  2. Mary - thanks :)

    Sarah McLaughlan's voice is so haunting. She can definitely reach those levels for me.

    You're so right - the talent is awe-inspiring. Thankfully we can re-read and re-play so the journey can continue!

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  3. I had totally forgotten Flowers for Algernon. I loved that book! How could I forget it? I think I'll find it and re-read it.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  4. Helen - It's one of "those" books, isn't it? It packs a wallop - for me anyway. I haven't read it in years, but the emotions remain very vivid.

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  5. What fills me up? A new one for me is going to the simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera - I always feel full to the brim with every emotion going. I ALWAYS cry and if it is really good, I usually laugh too. When I think of a book that filled me up lately, I think of Donna Morrissey's most recent book - What They Wanted. It was so amazingly brave and beautiful. Music wise I'm loving Meagan Smith and always always - Leonard Cohen. And nature - it fills me up, surprises me, delights me, scares me and sends me to my knees in awe!

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  6. Jan - so many good choices! I've got the kids in my class hooked on Phantom of the Opera :) They love certain parts and clamour for it when we're doing art or writing tests!

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  7. This is a question that requires more time to answer than I have today. So I will just share the first two books that I thought of: Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir "Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America" - seriously, I felt like she had written that book just for me - and "Lisey's Story" by Stephen King - I've yet to read a more beautiful popular novel.

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  8. The first thing that comes to mind for me is literary fiction. Books like "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver and "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd have really stayed with me. Not to say that commercial fiction doesn't have that affect, but lit fic tends to be more emotional for me.

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  9. You totally caught my attention with K.D. Lang, who is one of my favorite singers--her voice is so beautiful.

    I would like to be a writer like you describe. In writing my blog pieces I am always so thrilled when I get a comment that I have really spoken to someone or moved them in some way. It's what I often aim to achieve to do and I someone says that I succeeded then I feel like I've done a good job.

    Off hand, I can't think of any particular writer beyond who you've mention so far, but I know there have been things that I have read that have seemed directed to me and it is inspiring when I read these things.
    Lee

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  10. E - those are 2 books I haven't read yet. After reading the Shining in high school and not sleeping for weeks, I tend to avoid King :)

    It's wonderful when you find a book written just for you.

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  11. Shelley - I don't read a lot of literary fiction anymore. I read a lot more when I was younger and had more time to sit. I need more than my 20 minute snatches of time for lit fic! Maybe once the kids are older :)

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  12. Lee - I think it's a human need to reach out and touch others, to help. It's a wonderful feeling to know you've succeeded, that you've made a difference.

    KD has such a pure, resonant voice. She is truly has the gift of joy :)

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  13. I've been a human bobble-head here, reading this post and agreeing with every book, singer, group and quote mentioned by you and your commenters. For some reason, smells fill me up. Actual smells like lilacs in springtime, cinnamon in winter, chlorine in summer, smoke from woodburning stoves in fall, all deeply affect me. So, in books when an author uses smells in their descriptions, nothing transports me into the scene quicker and impacts my emotions faster.

    Great post!!

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  14. Nicole - we'll bobble head together - it's fun!!

    I never thought of scents - vanilla, cinnamon, baby powder... :)

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  15. I watched kd lang sing 'Hallelujah' from here in London and it brought tears to my eyes.

    You just made me remember how much I used to love that character who sings in Ann McCaffrey's (sorry for the spelling!) novels. I loved her! I also really enjoyed the Monica Hughes books, although no-one ever seems to have heard of them before.


    I would love to give readers that 'feeling'.

    Great post!

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  16. I loved The Grapes of Wrath in highschool and have read it every five years or so since then...and each time, it seems like a different book.

    I also remember Flowers for Algeron. We read it in 8th grade. Even all these years later, I remember it.

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  17. Talli - I thought KD was incredible. Absolutely pure voice. I'm glad you enjoyed it too :)

    I like Monica Hughes stuff too. I've read her Invitation to the Game to my classes several times over the year. There's another one (Aquarians??) that I really enjoyed as well.

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  18. Mary - I did read Grapes, but it just didn't hit with me. Don't know why. I'll have to go back and reread- it's been a looooong time.

    Flowers for Algernon is one I've only re-read a few times - it's so hard knowing the end. But the emotions it evoked will never leave me. Powerful stuff.

    Thanks for dropping by. :)

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  19. Enjoyed the post. That one I'll have to think on for awhile. It's been a long day and my mind won't stay focused. LOL

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  20. As you know, I'm a huge J.R.R.Tolkien, fan. I also love J.K.Rowling and all the Harry Potter books. Both writers created worlds in which I can simply dive into. My special place. Isolated from the rest of the world.

    They did there job well. Very very well.

    Good post Jemi. As always :)

    PS. Love the quotes. Especially Martin Luther King Jr.

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  21. Mason - thanks :)

    Gotta love days like that. I've had a few myself! Enjoy some downtime and maybe a glass of wine :)

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  22. Wendy - Rowling's another one. She's created such a real world. It's easy to become lost there.

    I'm a bit of a quote-a-holic :) I have one on the school announcements everyday (based on our character education theme of the month) and I have them posted around my classroom too. :)

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  23. Preston and Childs - they just pull you into the story so well.

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  24. I hadn't heard these names - after a few minutes on Google, they're definitely on my TBR pile! Sound like awesome books :)

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  25. Anne McCaffrey's Pern books! Those inspired me to become an author.
    On the non-fiction side, Gary Chapman is awesome.

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  26. Read the Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton... I beg you!

    It is the book, I wish I had written!

    Wonderful, wonderful book

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  27. Diane - I love Pern. The first one I read was Menolly - DragonSong (I think). I absolutely fell in love. :)

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  28. Jarmara - I don't know that one, but I've put it in my TBR file. It's getting to be a long list, but I put a star beside that one :)

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  29. A great thinking post, Jemi

    First book that shocked me was The Pig Man by Paul Zindel.
    My parents had me hooked on classics: Austin, Brontë sisters,Duma's Count and Musketeers. School gave us To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Pig Man.
    My experiences had been very English, up to that point.

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  30. Elaine - thanks :)

    I loved Pig Man! Such a bizarre situation/book - I'd forgotten it.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is most definitely another one on my list. So many layers, so many messages. Atticus is such an amazing character. Great story.

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  31. I liked Cannery Row and Cities of the Plain which is up there as one of the saddest books ever. I cried over Flowers for Algeron and Watership Down did for me what you said The Hobbit did for you. Atonement is another one. But I truly hated the ending and felt tricked. I don't like trickery. At least with Cities one knew what was coming. I mean....they never even got to, ah, do it. That really got to me.

    I can't believe I missed kd lang.

    Thanks.

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  32. Yvonne - I don't deal well with sad books. I sob. Uncontrollably. My kids laugh hysterically. It's not a pretty scene. :)

    I don't like trick endings either. And the characters have to get a chance to ... do it!! Otherwise it's such a let down! :)

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  33. After thinking for a while I think it's mainly the Bible that fills me.
    My hope is that my writing makes people feel something.

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  34. Michelle - I bet that's the choice for a lot of people!

    I'm sure your writing will touch a lot of people - you have a lovely way with images. :)

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  35. This is so hard, Jemi! I love The Hobbit, but to escape into. Two books that fill me are A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. It's not just that they incorporate important themes, but they're also examples of wonderful story telling. If there's a finer historical novel than Sacred Hunger, I haven't yet met it.

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  36. I read Flowers for Algernon in high school. I might have cried. :)

    And I loooooooove Star Trek. The Next Generation is the best!

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  37. VR - I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I'll put those ones on my list. Story telling trumps a lot!

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  38. Stephanie - I know I cried! *sigh* I'm such a sap!!

    TNG is my favourite series of all the Star Treks! Love it. That's one kind of fan fiction I wouldn't mind writing :)

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  39. Amazing how much books can effect us. I felt that way as an eight year old about the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women series.

    So many books from then on transported me, filled me up and helped me grow my own character.

    And I love that picture of Walt and Mickey. Sometimes I feel like characters are looking over my shoulders too.

    You have an award on my blog. :)

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  40. Thanks for the award Jackee - I actually just came from visiting there - what a nice surprise!! :)

    Anne & Little Women are 2 more of my absolute favourites. I read everything written by both authors. I have a nice matched set of hard covered Little Women, Men & Jo's Boys.

    I love Mickey :)

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  41. One of the most beautiful performances of Hallelujah I've ever heard. kd has quite the voice.

    I always loved "The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe" series by CS Lewis. I also LOVE "This Perfect Day" by Ira Levin. So many books I could name but those are several for me.

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  42. Lisa - KD can sing!!

    Lewis' stuff never did it for me - alhtough so many people love it I wonder if I should try it again. I have the entire set in my classroom, but I haven't read it since I was a kid. Maybe over the summer... :)

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  43. I read Flowers for Algernon a few years ago. Couldn't stop thinking about it.

    One writer who never fails to move me is Gavin Maxwell. He never wrote any fiction, and he mostly wrote about wild places and wild animals. Human relationships didn't come easily to him, but his writing is full of such humanity and love, I want to wrap myself up in it.

    Another writer who I love for his deep humanity is Oscar Wilde. And two I don't like - because they lack this human quality - are Martin Amis and Frederick Raphael.

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  44. Roz - Algernon is such a powerful story. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

    I'll have to check out Maxwell - sounds like stuff I might enjoy. Thanks :)

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  45. Beautiful post!
    I loved the Pern books as a child, and I never wanted to leave that world. Same with Magician, and many more I can't think of right now. Shakespeare and Emily Dickenson...and I love music. Kate-Miller Heidke's "Last Day on Earth" and Linkin Park's "New Divide" are the ones currently filling me up and fuelling my work.

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  46. Fabulous post. I love that song, such beautiful lyrics.

    Hmm, I'm not sure I can pinpoint one writer that has written through me... you have a great list there ;o)

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  47. Lorel - yay - another Pern fan!

    I loved Dickenson's poetry as well. So different from everyone else - so powerful.

    Thanks :)

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  48. Erica - thanks :)

    There are more, but the authors on this list had a major impact on me.

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  49. What a beautiful analogy. I would love to someday be able to write through somebody, to fill their heart with my words. Amy Tan is an author who constantly moves me, as is Ian McEwan. Anita Shreve is another favorite of mine. I've never read "Flowers For Algernon" and want to add it to my list!

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  50. I enjoyed this post. I also thought KD did a great job. You should get her CD - Hymns of the 49th Parallel, it is great.

    I loved Camilla Gibbs, Sweetness in the Belly. I know there are more, but I can't think of them right now!

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  51. Julie - thanks :) Amy Tan is another amazing writer! Great choice!!

    You'll enjoy Flowers for Algernon - it's an amazing book.

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  52. Carolyn - I'll have to buy that - her voice entrhalls me.

    I don't know Camilla Gibbs - I'll have to check her out!

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  53. BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy fills me up. His words are like poetry to me. And he paints such an amazing portrait of the south. I can't ever get enough.

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  54. LiLa - I'll definitely have to try that one. Sounds fabulous! :)

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  55. Hi! I just found your blog. Awesome post! As a kid I read The Diary of Anne Frank hundreds of times and I always cried when it ended. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. She makes normal situations magical and magical elements normal. It’s inspiring to say the least.

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  56. Great post! CHARLOTTE'S WEB, DAVID COPPERFIELD, Romeo and Juliet, Meg Cabot books, the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis--so many books, plays, and writers to love, and they touch us in so many ways.

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  57. Hi Alyson - thanks for dropping by!! Hope you come by again :)

    Anne Frank's diary is such a powerful books! Every year in my classroom I discuss her - I have several copies of her diary & books about her in the room. The kids love her story.

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  58. Thanks Dawn :)

    You're so right - so many incredible writers. Charlotte's Web has touched so many kids!

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  59. I love watching movies with my kids. Shrek, Aliens in the Attci, Princess and the Frog for example. The Incredibles is great. These are the movies I enjoy most.

    Stephen Tremp

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  60. boy, you hit it on the nose.I know I want to change the way people think/feel because of what I've written. I want my characters to come to life in their minds.

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  61. Stephen - there are so many good movies for kids. Toy Story was one of my faves when my kids were little :)

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  62. Tamara - wouldn't that be great? It would be awesome to have that kind of impact. One of these days... :)

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  63. Thanks for sharing this. Book have done the same for me. Here are a few:

    To Kill a Mockingbird had a powerful impact on me when I was a teenager.

    Accidental Tourist helped me when I was around nineteen and trying to figure out what made a successful relationship.

    The Harry Potter series made me finally start writing because I wanted to write about and to children and teenagers.

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  64. This is such a great post, Jemi - a good reminder of the power of words to fill us with emotions. I think every book I've read that I've fallen in love with, I did because of the power of the words to fill me with emotion. I find that quotes speak to me in this way too.

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  65. Theresa - such good choices! To Kill a Mockingbird is such a deceptively powerful book. Love it!

    And Harry Potter is so much fun. I love the series :)

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  66. Belle - so true. Emotion is always at the core of everything for me. I'm a total sap - and emotional memories stick with me for a long time. :)

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  67. What a well written, thoughtful post, Jemi.

    KD Lang sang that song with passion and her rich, smooth, pitch- perfect tone...gave me goosebumps.

    There are SO many books that haunt me long after I turn the last page.

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  68. Thanks so much, Lola!

    KD is pitch-perfect - she just amazes me.

    There really are so many well-written books out there!

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  69. Hard question! All that comes to mind is how sad I was when the Harry Potter series finally ended. It was hard to say goodbye to Harry and the gang after all we'd been through. :)

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  70. Susan - I completely agree. I became very attached to Harry & his buddies. Rowling created such a realistic setting and complex characters. Tough letting go for sure :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  71. Fave books which fill me up?

    Wuthering Heights, just about ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman, East of Eden, there are sooo many good ones!

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  72. I shall have to ditto Nichole's comment from far above. I have nodded about, agreed with or promised to read nearly every book listed previously.

    However, it is the smells that sing to me. I love spring. Nothing in the world smells quite like it. Nothing in the world is quite as peaceful. Fresh turned dirt, rain, grass, daffodils, lilacs, iris....

    Favorite, fulfilliing childhood book: Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.

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  73. Good choices, Jenny! You're right - there are so many!!

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  74. Cat - Some scents really stay with you!

    I loved Roll of Thunder... I didn't read it until I was adult - wish I'd found it sooner. :)

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  75. Kate Chopin wrote through me. When I read "Story of an Hour," I knew for the first time I wanted my writing to affect a person the way her story affected me.

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  76. ITWS - I haven't read that one yet - sounds like a new must-read for my TBR pile :) Thanks!!

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  77. YES! Flowers for Algernon! I was so touched by that book! Also Melissa Etheridge can give me a lump in my throat just listening to her. I got to see her in Toronto last year and what a presence she has!
    I have too many books to list here that moved me or spoke to me in some way. I'll pick one as an example - The Art of Racing in the Rain.
    Awesome topic - I searched out the utube video of KD's performance after I started reading here.

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  78. Love the new look Jemi- purple is my favorite!

    My favorite book as a young girl is The Secret Garden. Hands down. I can read it today like it was the first time, and fall in love after the first paragraph. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a sickly looking little girl full of discontentment!

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  79. Terry Lynn Johnson - Flowers for Algernon will never leave me - so much power.

    I love Melissa Ethbridge too - I'm jealous you got to see her live! Great voice!

    Thanks :)

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  80. Thanks Tamika - wait until you read the next post :)

    The Secret Garden is another one! So many kids have fallen under its spell over the years!

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