I walked out at lunch time on this scorching, humid day in New York City, and immediately felt like I was in a tropical jungle—only this was the concrete kind. As I tried to get my errands done quickly so I could scurry back to the relative coolness of my portable air conditioner (my office windows are of a vintage that makes standard units impossible to install), I found myself thinking of literary jungle settings—Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Lily King’s Euphoria, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, etc. In part, this had to do with the sliced mango stand I ran across on the corner of Broadway and 14th Street…but I digress.
Back in the office, while eating my chilled pea and mint soup, I happened upon this piece in Galleycat about Riverhead soliciting essays for a collection about “how Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous memoir [Eat Pray Love] served as inspiration for readers to go on life-changing adventures” and, having just been thinking about her recent novel, I had one of those moments where I felt the universe was trying to tell me something.
I decided that what it was telling me was not to pack up my bags and head for the Amazon (where Jane will be in a month or so, btw), but that I should do a blog post about what books have inspired us to do things. For instance, reading Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak in high school made me want to learn Russian in the worst way. And, so I took three years of this beautiful, complicated language while in college (I remember nothing, in case you’re wondering).
It’s a great exercise, in my opinion, to consider how books have influenced our actions. For those of us who are obsessed with literary works, it’s an exercise that can turn up some fascinating (and maybe disturbing) insights into our psyches. So, have books influenced actions for you? If so, what books…and what actions?