Stories as Personal Metaphors

Sometimes a book resonates so deeply with me that it affects how I think about the rest of the world. I’m not talking about changing a political or other reasoned opinion, though that happens too; but about deeply changing the way I perceive the world outside my head.

This happens to me especially with fiction. A particular character, or a moment in a story, just sticks with me from the moment I read it. And forever after, that resonating concept is deep in the back of my mind, and it’s never really more than a thought away.

Memory, by Lois McMaster Bujold, is a good example of this. Bujold takes one of her most beloved characters, star of his series, and utterly destroys him – for reasons that are entirely his own fault. And then, shows how he comes out on the other side – battered, bruised, and with some semblance of honor. Hopefully having learned something, but not having necessarily “learned his lesson”: he’s still flawed, and still makes some of the same mistakes. He is only somewhat redeemed.

There are moments in that story that will could break your heart, that have stuck with me since the first time I read it, something like twelve years ago. And since then, when I’ve gone through dark times, or had friends or family go through them, that story has reminded me that there can be a way back from those moments. That it’s possible to learn imperfectly, and fix the things you can fix, and still survive.

There are books that lead me back from the dark times, and books that make me laugh. Books that inspire me, and books that help me focus. But I think it’s such a wonderful thing that stories can find this resonance, that they can matter; and a big part of why I read fiction is to find these stories.

Some of the books that matter to me are in my “favorites” list on Goodreads. What are the books that matter to you?

Questions, comments, interesting anecdotes? Tweet to me at @ajdecon, or send me an email at ajdecon@ajdecon.org.