Books that stop you in your tracks...

If you are a reader, you know the ones: the moment you see something in print (or screen) that someone actually published and that you have been waiting to hear all your life. You didn't know other people could feel like you do, think like you do, want like you do.

A pile of books, one titled "Strong and Free", another titled "In tune with the infinite"
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

And then there it is: another person across distance, or perhaps also time, that has smiled reassuringly and become your friend for life. They understand; you are not alone.

It is not only those who are the same in obvious ways that make us feel this way, sometimes it is simply the parallel experiences of oppression or unlikely connections, sometimes simply the fact that no one understands them. Don't we all root for the underdog? The kid with no friends? The girl who is too different to be accepted in one or a myriad of ways? But among the million stories in the world, some just resonate. These are not my favourite books in the whole world--although they are some of those--but ones I remember years later as having changed my life.

So here are five books that made me stop in my tracks.

Burnt Toast B&B, by Heidi Belleau (Gr, AmUK, AmUS) looks like a boy meets boy, one or both of them are idiots but they sort things out romantic comedy. It's much more than that, as Heidi is a specialist in queer fiction and doesn't waste the chance to explore what masculinity means, or gayness with her FtM love interest, who, quite frankly, steals the show from the tough gay-but-A-MAN main character.

On The Edge Of Gone, by Corinne Duvyis is an own!voices story with an autistic protagonist who is facing the end of the world. She has one chance to survive and that's getting herself and her family on a ship... It just felt SO TRUE, a lot of her needs and quirks resonated with my own experience and her sister's kindness and consideration (totally mutual) was also fantastic.

Hallucinating Foucault, by Patricia Duncker is the story of an English PHD literature student whose girlfriend one day tells him the writer he's obsessed with (you gotta be truly obsessed to write a thesis on someone) is actually alive in a French madhouse. He ends up visiting Paul there and falling in love with the man behind the words... It's a complicated crazy story and not a romance but ugh, it hits me in all the feels, I have read it a bunch of times.

A Fistful of Sky, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a marvelous modern fairytale about a family of witches who each develop a gift when they reach teenagehood... Except for the main character, Gypsum, who is normal... Until one day she gets the sickness that announces the change, about a decade too late and it turns out her power is that of curses. It sounds like a children's book plot and there are all the cool magical details you'd expect but it's also the story of a young woman growing into herself as well as her power, recognizing that as much as she loves her family, she's been stifled by them (particularly her mother) and finding self-love as well as romance.

Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown is going to change your life. You might want to read Dare to Lead first to get a grasp of vulnerability but this one is probably okay on its own. Brene uses her own life as well as her research with thousands of volunteers to figure out what it takes to live an authentic happy life and it's one OH MY GOD YES moment after another.

What are the books that changed your life?

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