The tweet that started it allPeople complain that we don’t read as enthusiastically as we used to, but I say how can that be? Back when Oprah had her book club, getting a coveted spot on it was a guaranteed ticket to the bestseller list; book clubs in general are the preferred get-together for the too-old-for-happy-hour crowd. The latest proof that we still love a good read came from Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief (later the movie Adaptation), who created a trending topic that took Twitter by storm last week.
Twitter trending topics are usually about Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. This one was about ... books. Specifically, #booksthatchangedmyworld.
Orlean was idly biding her time at a writer’s colony, spending a few minutes on Twitter before bed, when she posted the above tweet. A few minutes later, she created the hashtag #booksthatchangedmyworld, and her followers (she has 58,762) began answering with their own choices. The conversation was lively, and long after Orlean herself logged off, others were posting their own choices (including me), and by morning it had become a top trending topic. “It’s marvelous to be reminded,” Orlean said on the New Yorker website, “that it is still all about stories, and about feeling that something you read changed the way you look at life.”
The range of books varied wildly -- proof that Twitter is an incredibly democratic medium. Many people responded with The Bible. And while there were English-major favorites like The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner, and one of my faves), and literally thousands of entries citing A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving, and also a heartbreaking, profound read), there were also plenty who cited Twilight (ugh), prompting grumpy replies.
Me, I loved seeing books all over Twitter, but agreed with this person, who wanted to know why these books held such meaning. Of course, with only 140 characters, how much can you really explain?
The bottom line is this: Publishing is not dead. The way we read may be changing, but so what? Books are moving to digital forms, and social media like Twitter and Goodreads.com is keeping us communicating about our favorites.
I’d say the book that changed me the most was Beloved, by Toni Morrison. The story itself broke my heart; the way it was told, each character in a unique voice, astonished me. I actually stopped writing fiction for a few years after reading it -- only starting again when I was ready to take it seriously.
How about you? What book(s) changed your world? Tell us in the comments!
Image via Susan Orlean/Twitter