The Things Books Have Changed For Us

A few weeks ago I was recording a podcast episode, and the conversation veered into the field of literary hills to die on. As I tried to come up with a take that was at the same time slightly controversial, but that I truly believed in, Twilight came to mind. 

Back in 2008, when the first Twilight movie was released, I was still a casual reader. I was always reading something, but without internet access at home, I was enjoying books pretty much on my own, with no social media influencing my reading habits or purchases. Just a girl who liked to read for fun.

When a friend invited me to go to the cinema to watch a new movie about vampires, I gladly went along. I had no idea then, that once I left that theatre, the Twilight Saga would become something to obsess about.

As soon as the lights went on, I faced my friend in complete silence, wide-eyed: the movie had blown me away completely, and I was ecstatic to find out it was based on a book series.

I loved books more than movies, and now I didn’t have to wait for the second installment, I could just pick up the second book in the series and find out what would happen next (of course I started with the first book, I’m not a barbarian).

One thing that definitely still makes me think about Twilight, are dream catchers. Now, I know every Twilight fan – including me, I’m afraid – was buying fake dream catchers after watching the scene where Jacob offers one to Bella.

Nowadays, I see the Twilight saga in a different light; I haven’t read the books in ages, and I don’t think it’s exactly an issue to enjoy problematic things, as long as you are aware of the harm they are causing and you don’t support them. I cannot unsee the cultural appropriation and toxic relationships in the series, but I continue to think of Twilight when I see dream catchers.

A few days ago, as I was reminded of Twilight by dream catchers once again, I considered the effect books have on the ways we see the world, and I realised that there are quite a few books that have changed my relationship with things: the way I see those things and how I always think about the book when I stumble upon them.

I’ve asked a few Book Riot contributors to share with our readers the books they have read and which things those books have changed for them. You can read that below.

And if you’re wondering what my literary hill to die on is, that’s easy: while I think the Twilight books leave a lot to desire, I still consider the first Twilight movie to be da bomb.

You can donate to the Quileute tribe here, to help support a Native nation impacted by the Twilight series.

A black cover, you can see a deer's profile and in between the antlers the words the only good Indians written in white. At the bottom, also in white, the author's name.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones: Deer

I read this book last year, but I still think about it at least once a week. It’s absolutely amazing. What I think impressed me the most was that it leads you on; it starts kinda slow and harmless, and suddenly you’re in the middle of a full-on gory scene that just comes out of nowhere. After that, things just get better – well, worse for the characters, better for the reader.

I was never a horror reader, but this book changed the game for me, and I will definitely reread it. It has also, however, changed the way I think and see deer forever. Sweet loving Bambi? Not for this girl, it ain’t.

cover of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Peach Cobbler

Although this is a short story collection, there are a few threads across certain narratives, and the peach cobbler definitely takes centre stage in some places.

And no, it is in no way similar to another peach that you probably relate to a certain book, but it’s so important to the story that I cannot hear about peach cobblers without immediately thinking about this book.

Some extra points for this book because, in all honesty, I don’t even know what a peach cobbler is.

cover of the book White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson: Bed Bugs

Until I’ve read this book I didn’t know bed bugs were something to worry about. Actually, as I never stumbled upon bed bugs (I thought at first that they were fleas, but it turns out they’re a lot worse than fleas), I did not know to fear them.

The main character in this book deals – and rightly so – with bed bug trauma, so now anytime someone mentions having to deal with bed bugs, my first reaction is “Yikes, don’t read White Smoke“, which is totally unfair, because the book is absolutely great.

cover of Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman: Peaches

I’ve pretty much announced this one above, but I couldn’t leave it out of this list.

In all honesty, I find the peach scene in Call Me By Your Name rather unnecessary, and yet, it somehow absolutely defines the whole book.

If you can get to the end of this book and then see or hear the mention of peaches and not immediately imagine that scene in your head, well, I guess you’re luckier than me.

cover image of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Mushrooms

If you have read Mexican Gothic, I bet you were waiting for this one.

Although the book hasn’t changed the way I consume mushrooms – sure as hell I’m still eating them – it does turn my stomach when I think about the book, and I’ve heard from other Mexican Gothic readers that this is also the case for them.

So if you are planning on reading Mexican Gothic and you really like mushrooms…do it all the same, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. Caution advised.

Carina Pereira

cover of Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson: Buzzing Noises/Freezers

This book is so very disturbing and so very good simultaneously.

By the end, one of the characters is haunted by the buzzing sound of a deep freezer. When it’s revealed why, it is devastating.

I don’t want to spoil it, but I can’t hear a buzzing sound without thinking of that book.

Mikkaka Overstreet

cover of Nuts by Alice Clayton

Nuts by Alice Clayton: well, Nuts

Almost every single day I walk past my kitchen cabinet and grab a handful of nuts in the afternoon, and my brain automatically takes the picture of the nuts in my hand and says “Wait, we got a photo filed away to remind you about.” And it’s the cover of this book, the innuendo, and that bod.

Yes, there’s a scene in the book that my brain should probably be remembering to associate with nuts, but that cover apparently made a really good impression, so all nuts are now associated with his nuts.

You’re welcome.

Jamie Canavés

cover of Hearts On Hold by Charish Reid

Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid and The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot: Peaches

I really can’t stand some of the classics that we still have to study, and Eliot ranks top among those authors. That said, there was a particular scene in Hearts On Hold paired with the “Do I dare to eat a peach?” line that…*fans self*

Not only do I have a new appreciation for the poem, albeit a small one, but peaches…I will never look at peaches the same way ever again.

P.N. Hinton

cover of Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian

Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian: Red Vines

I know, I know. More Cat Person discourse?!

I had never heard of Red Vines (the candy Robert buys in the movie theater where Margot works) before reading “Cat Person.” They were obviously some type of candy, but I stopped reading to look them up because the name sounded so unappetizing and odd.

Maybe it’s partly a regional preference. I’ve only ever seen Twizzlers here in New England.

When anyone mentions Red Vines or even other similar brands, I think of the uncomfortable, controversial short story. Sorry!

Grace Lapointe

cover image of Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Black Friday

It only takes one zombie Black Friday short story to forever change the way you see the U.S.’s most popular shopping day.

I already wasn’t a big fan, but after Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah brought the danger and chaos of Black Friday to life, you will never again catch me at a doorbuster sale.

cover of Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett: Taxidermy

Before reading Kristen Arnett’s debut novel, I thought taxidermy was a weird and kind of gross practice for people who want to show off their hunting trophies. But after reading Mostly Dead Things, taxidermy became so much more: a way of processing grief, of struggling with change, of trying to hold a living thing in your memory even if your memory can never really do it justice.

It’s still kind of gross, though.

Susie Dumond

So, what do you forever connect with a book?


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