The Books That Stay With Us

I've been thinking lately about the books I read many years ago that I still remember.  I have been a big reader for many years, though the last few years I have certainly read more than ever before.  I wonder about those memorable books of my formative years.  Were they so powerful because of the age I was when I picked them up?  Or do they have a timeless nature that can affect people at any age?  

One of the first books I remember loving was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.  I still have the copy that my fifth grade teacher was giving away, that I positively snatched up because it spoke to me.  It spoke to my 10-year-old heart of love and sacrifice and prejudice.  Things I really knew nothing about.  Still, the characters seemed to speak to me.  To draw me into their lives and their world and their time.  Oh, how I still love that book. 

Another book, definitely more obscure, but equally beloved was one my mom brought home for me.  The Enchantress of Crumbledown by Donald R. Marshall is the story of three runaway children who find shelter in a crumbling old house.  In that house, lives a woman who is unfettered by the restraints of society.  She seems to truly live, and she teaches the children about art and poetry and imagination, all while not really seeming to teach them at all.  I just remember being drawn into the magical world the enchantress created for the children.  This was the first book to truly unleash my imagination.  I started writing silly romantic stories after that.

Next, I remember discovering Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte at thirteen in my school library and falling in love with the story of Jane and Mr. Rochester.  During those years, I was a little romantic with a flair for the dramatic.  It seemed Jane's tragic story was just perfect for me.  The mysterious and romantic air of the tale spoke directly to my heart.  Jane has stuck with me ever since.

The next year, I found Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and for the first time was introduced to a story that didn't have a mostly happy ending.  I cried when I finished and worried about what Scarlett would do and would she ever get Rhett back.  I've never forgotten that story, those characters, and I still wonder about those two.

Shortly after, I devoured The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and discovered that adventure, mixed with some tragedy and romance, could be just as fabulous as pure love story.  For many years, I have clung to this book as one of my all-time favorites.  Even after reading the unabridged version and decided that the abridged is just fine, thank you, I still consider the story one of my favorites.

In looking over these books that I adored, note that most of them are classics, one is not.  What is it, then, that makes a story stay with us?  Will we always love them?  What about books that reference pop culture, will they lose their appeal over years or decades?  What are some of your "enduring classic" books?

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