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Books That Shape Us

Well, Some That Have Shaped Me at Least

Books Included

Recently, our school thought it would be a good idea to have the sixth form (years 12 and 13) prepare assemblies. We were given a topic, so we didn’t have to prepare that much.

As it was World Book Day during the week of our assembly, my form’s topic was “Books that shape us."

The idea being, that we’ve all had a book (could be a graphic novel, autobiography, manga, etc...) that has impacted us in some way.

The flaw in this topic is that, of course, not everyone has an actual book that has changed their lives or influenced them in some way, and not everyone will have one book. The one book that flipped their life around. The one book that changed how they think forever. The one book that they will tell everyone they meet about for years to come.

This is because our lives are made up of so many different experiences. They’re an accumulation of good times and bad, of inspiration and procrastination, of growth and stagnation. There are different aspects of our lives to be impacted. Your life could be made up of your faith, family, friendships, school, career choices, just to name a few.

I have so many books that I could have chosen if I went through my whole life.

In the assembly, I chose to speak about Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. This is because I only needed to fill about 30 seconds of assembly and the other books would have needed longer explanations and they’re more personal to me, but I would like to explore some now.

I started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve in the summer between primary and secondary school. It has your typical teen dystopian future setting. Humans have decided to take their cities off the earth and put them on wheels. This is described in more detail in the book. This shaped me as I planned to turn it into a film. I even went so far as to begin scripting it. This was when my brother suggested that I check if another writer was already working on it. One was. Peter Jackson, in fact, I found from one article. I stopped writing and drafted a letter to him offering my assistance. Unfortunately, his fan mail address was the only one I could find and I wasn’t hugely committed to the cause.

This was why I was quite glad when the trailer came out as I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen. Please feel free to check out the trailer, I saw it on YouTube but I’m sure there are other sites if you’d prefer. I would recommend reading the book as well as seeing the film because it is a good read and the film can never be exactly like the book, everyone imagines characters differently, and the producer/director will probably want some creative freedom. This doesn’t mean it can’t be good, it will just be different. You might love the film but hate the book. You won’t know if you don’t read it.

Although I wasn’t the one to make a Mortal Engines film adaptation (which I’m quite glad of, I have to say. I highly doubt it would be as good, I’ve come a long way since year eight, believe me), it did get me thinking about film and definitely had an impact as I’m now looking forward to a career in film production.

This leads me nicely onto Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, a book I’m more committed to making a film adaptation of.

When I first started to read Leviathan, in year nine, it didn’t grip me. I was given it as a gift (by the brother who had seen me attempt to script Mortal Engines) but I wasn’t the biggest reader and the homework had just started getting serious. I read it because I thought I should but by the end of the book, I was hooked. And livid that I only had the first of three. I needed the other two. And fast.

As I read, I made mental notes (and some actual notes) about how I would make the scenes on screen. Things I would add for the viewer, means of presenting different aspects of the story. I’m still very invested in making this film a reality, and this definitely (and more obviously) led me to a career in film production.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is the only book in the Narnia series that was not made into a film (yes, there is a theme here) and it’s the book I would have most liked to see on screen. I read this after it was read to me when I was five. C.S. Lewis writes in such a captivating and descriptive way, it really captured my imagination and, although I didn’t plan (or even think) to make it myself, I think it did indicate my love of film and contribute to my goals.

It was also helpful to me in terms of my faith as C.S. Lewis was a Christian and used it to inspire some of his writings, including the Narnia series.

How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh empowered me and encouraged me to pursue my ambition. It is a semi-autobiographical book in which Lilly Singh describes how she learnt to love herself and embrace her inner-bawse as someone who not only survives life but conquers it.

I read this last year and one chapter in particular that shaped me was “The Alphabet is a Lie.” It helped me realise that it’s ok to put all your eggs in one basket. You just need to make sure that the basket is well-made and big enough to support them. Most people were shocked to hear that I wasn’t applying to university, instead opting to apply to Vancouver Film School. Only Vancouver Film School. I was encouraged to apply to uni “just-in-case” and consider other options. However, I had decided that university wasn’t for me, I would focus my energy on applying to film school rather than dividing my attention and producing a weaker application for both. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to university, it’s a great experience for many people, just not for me. You can hedge your bets, but don’t feel you need a back-up. I didn’t.

You may have heard of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It’s the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker who helped many Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust in World War Two. She, herself was subjected to these terrors in concentration camps after capture. She tells of the reality of concentrations camps and the struggles she went through with her faith as a central theme. This was a very emotional book, reading it as I started year eight, I was unaware of much of what happened in the concentration camps. This shaped me as it made me really think about how I viewed my faith and helped me understand what many people went through during the time.

The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel seems to have quite a self-explanatory title. It was written by a lawyer seeking to find evidence against Christianity. Contrary to his objective, he became a Christian through his research. This book is his presentation of the evidence he found to support Christianity.

I read this at a similar time to The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. As a Christian myself, it was an encouraging read and shaped me as, until that point, I’d viewed my faith as more of an emotional or spiritual thing. This book really emphasised the reality of my faith and helped me to believe it more firmly and practically.