To the Books that Shaped Me

By- Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontorealuty

My yearning to be a writer stems from my love of storytelling and the stack of books I used to carry around with me that was always far too big for lil me to even carry down the stairs.  

Here’s the thing though – before I could even read I would sit on the couch with that stack of books and make up a story within the book because I didn’t know what the sentences actually said.

Lately I’ve been thinking back to that memory a lot, trying to remember how passionate younger me was to tell a story. How it all started with a stack of books. 

There have been so many authors and books since then that have further shaped me into the writer I am today. 

So, yes …it’s time to take a trip down memory lane:

Perks of Being a Wallflower

I remember when I first got my hands on this book in middle school. I was what one would classify as an avid reader when I was younger. That definitely faded once I got into my teenage years (except I always read every book my teachers assigned..I still don’t know how people got away with not doing that…). However, I remember not being able to put this book down. The way it is written through letters and how relatable (at least to me, Charlie seemed to be). Filled with quotes that I adore to this day like, “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.” This is the book that made me fall back in love with reading all over again – this is the kind of book that reminded me why I had always dreamed of being a writer.

Virginia Woolf

In my undergrad years I went to Millersville University and majored in English Lit. The most memorable and enjoyable professor I had was Dr. Steven Max Miller (who unfortunately recently passed away before I could ever tell him this). I loved taking his classes because he was an interesting man who knew his sh*t. Why was he so different? I’ve had many (not all) English teachers and professors in the past that have acted “above it all” or never really encouraged me to be a writer or reader. Dr. Steven Miller was different – he introduced me to the great works of Virginia Woolf. One of the first of her works that we read was The Waves and I fell in love. After that semester I felt the need to learn more about Virginia Woolf and read everything she ever wrote. A personal favorite of mine is A Room of One’s Own and of course, The Waves

JD Salinger

No…this isn’t JD Salinger…this is me dressed up as Holden Caulfield for Halloween

Yes, I’ll admit I have a thing for JD Salinger and own almost every piece of literature he has ever written. I’ve once even dressed up as Holden Caulfield for a Halloween party (pictured above). The first time I read Catcher in the Rye I couldn’t get through the first page, it bored me to death. Then, I revisited the book (a more angsty time in my life..because yes Holden is angsty that’s why I adored him) and I fell in love with every word. It was around the time that I came out of the closet, so I somehow was seeing myself through the lens of Holden. The years following I filled my bookshelves with more literature by Salinger and adored his creation of the Glass family. I romanticized JD Salinger and his words – longing to one day write words as relatable to readers as he had written. Knowing what I know now, yes I recognize Salinger wasn’t the greatest human and Holden is misogynistic and problematic. My favorite conversation I’ve ever had was with a former student I used to coach as I was warming her up for a field hockey game and how she called me out on my love for Catcher in the Rye and JD Salinger. She cringed for me, but I can’t help it – I still have to admit his works have influenced me as both a reader and writer. 

Rubyfruit Jungle

I devoured this book the first time I read it and I’ve read it multiple times since then. There are parts of this book that felt relatable, but the true glittery lining for me when reading Rubyfruit Jungle was it was the first book I remember with LGBTQIA+ main characters in it. After having just come out recently, this book was validating. 

Bossypants

There are two celebrities that I I absolutely adore – the first is Christine Baranski and the second is Tina f**king Fey. When she was on SNL (AHEM the first woman to be THE headwriter) – I sometimes only watched just to see her on Weekend Update (because she was rarely in skits – all of her work was mostly behind the scenes as a writer.) Then she left and started 30 Rock, which I didn’t get into until the second or third season (which then I became obsessed with and still today quote that show like some people will know what I mean when I say BLERGH!) Anyway, when she came out with this book I read it in on the couch in just three hours – I never got up to eat or go to the bathroom. I was that entranced and I remember laughing out loud page after page – and I can count on one hand the amount of times a book has made me do that (Cry? Yes…but laugh? RARELY). If you’ve never read her book, I recommend it. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her twice and I can only one day hope I can thank her again someday for inspiring me to pursue my dreams of being a writer …and that she won’t remember me as the frazzled waitress that left her own tables to go into another restaurant to get a family photo with Tina Fey (see below). 

Chuck Klosterman

This is one of the MANY Chuck Klosterman books I own..this just so happens to be the first one I read

There was a time when my dream was to be a rock journalist and reading Chuck Klosterman books fueled that desire. I was hooked on almost every word he used to write, and still own all of his books. I’m not his usual fan-base, I recognize his books can be seen as a bit “bro-ish”. However, I still think it’s important to highlight the impact his books had on me wanting to be a writer. If it wasn’t for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs I may have given up on my dreams (as silly as that sentence sounds). 

David Levithan

One of my favorites…I recommend more in the paragraph below

If you’ve never read anything by David Levithan, please go buy one of his books or check out a title of his at your local library. Here are some that I recommend: Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, The Realm of Possibility, and The Lover’s Dictionary. My first librarian job was when I stumbled upon David Levithan books. It was that same feeling warm and fuzzy feeling I remembered getting when I first read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Except the difference was, I could relate to the main characters directly because they too identified within the LGBTQIA+ community. Discovering David Levithan was refueling my fire of falling in love with wanting to write my first book, and wishing I had his books to read as a teen instead of only having access to books with straight characters. 

Sara Farizan

At the time I first read Sara Farizan I hadn’t read any recently published books that had Queer women as the main focus. So, discovering both Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel and If You Could Be Mine rocked me with all the gay feelings. Please if you’ve never read these books, I highly recommend checking one or both of them out. I should note I discovered her books before there were so many new LGBTQIA+ titles coming out every month or so (which is a beautiful thing!) It just feels important to note this, because for me discovering these books felt like a special moment for me as a reader, writer, and Queer. 

Adam Silvera

Adam is a writer that I imagine throws his entire being and emotion into his words – you can feel that when you read his work. History is All You Left Me was the first book I read of his, and it was perfect timing because my first breakup since coming out had just happened. When you finish his stories you really do wish you were best friends with him at the end. That kind of impact is what I wish I will one day accomplish as a writer, and that alone should encourage you to read some of Adam’s work. 

There are other book titles and authors that I could highlight that have influenced me over the years – but who would want to read a post THAT long?…

1 thought on “To the Books that Shaped Me

  1. Rebecca Farnum

    1. You are the cutest Holden Caulfield ever!!!
    2. It always makes me happy that you also have a deep appreciation of Christine Baranski.
    3. WHAT?!? A picture with Tina f**king Fey!?!? Incredible!
    4. “but who would want to read a post THAT long?…” —- ME!
    5. I love your book lists, and music lists, and questions, and art, and reflections! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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