Azar Nafisi

Call for Submissions: What is the Most Influential Book of Your Childhood and Why?


Dear Readers,

As you know, no matter where we are from, we are born citizens of the Republic of Imagination (ROI), the portable world found in books and other forms of art. Unlike our  physical homes, the portable one accompanies us no matter where we go. My childhood, for instance, was defined by the stories read to me by father and later discovered at the library & bookstores. Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, stories from the great Persian epic poet, Ferdowsi, The Little Prince and Pinocchio took me to new places and taught me about curiosity & empathy, about how to change and be changed, how to connect to others & how to discover new terrains.  Even now, I turn to these & other tales as I reflect on complex questions ranging from personal dilemmas & relations to public policy, education, and foreign affairs.

With my new website, I want to create a platform for ROI citizens to share their experiences while responding to the questions: how and why are imagination and thought central to our lives today? In what practical ways do they help us understand and find answers to the current crisis both at home and abroad? To start things off, I would like to collect and share answers to the following question: as a child which book most influenced you? Was it a classic fairytale, a mystery book or perhaps a piece of non-fiction? How has that book contributed to where you are in life, where you hope to be, and your vision for America?

Submit your thoughts on the above question (250-300 words) along with a short bio in the “Contact” section under “send a message to Dr. Nafisi” and I will select content to be featured on the blog alongside my thoughts on the subject. The cutoff date for submissions is October 1.

As members of the Republic of Imagination it is questions like these that we must strive to derive meaning from together. For is not our childhood one of the most fruitful times of all for the cultivation of the imagination?

Happy Reading!


12 thoughts on “Call for Submissions: What is the Most Influential Book of Your Childhood and Why?”

  1. Mostafa Erfani says:

    There are so many influential books that I could mention here. However, I was mostly amazed by the book written by Jules Verne under the title of “Around the world in 80 days”. It was the start point for me to imagine both the bigness and the smallness of the world that I am living it. That other people, thoughts and places are reachable if we want. That there are a lot to explore and search, there are much to be curious about. It let me realize that though the world might be considered vast, however human is capable enough to discover it. This master-peace opened so many windows to me. Verne’s book made me think about science, wisdom,courage and venture, and thus their impact in the life. It made me travel, make myself familiar with cultures, countries, races, languages. It encouraged me to study politics, to follow the ways for communication and peace in the world.

  2. Adela says:

    I read everything I could get from the bookmobile. LAD A DOG is one of my favorites (alsoBLACK BEAUTY & BAMBI the novel not Disney’s).

    LAD shows the depth of human behavior and how what appears on the surface is not always the truth. I saw Lad, not only dog, but as a thinking, feeling being. I still like imagining what the animals in the back yard are thinking.

  3. Ellen Pollock says:

    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle… I found it on the library shelves when I was about 10 years old.

    This was the book that let me formulate big questions and opened my eyes to appreciate magic and mystery in the world. It also let me know it’s ok to be weird, to be different.

    This book is very precious to me.

  4. Karen Koved says:

    When I sat on my mother’s lap as a child as she read aloud to me, I thought books were magical and I wanted to learn to read because I wanted to be able to conjure that magic on my own. The most influential book for me was a collection of fairy tales by the brothers Grimm. My mother always refused to read fairy tales to my brother and me saying that they were too scary, and for that reason I was drawn to them. I was fascinated by the way that over and over again, no matter what evil the protagonist faced or what cruelty they endured, their cleverness, humility, and empathy always led them, ultimately, to a better world. Through fairy tales, I learned that the only way out of hell is through it, and that it was possible to survive.

  5. Gen goulard says:

    For me it had to be “The alchemist” ! It teaches you everything in life has a purpose! The people you meet in this journey are important. Learn from everything that happens, the good and the bad :)

  6. Jean Beaini says:

    There are so many books I loved as a child it’s difficult to choose just one. However I do remember, one day, when I was around 8 years old, I was following my mother about the house and complaining that I was bored. She took me by the hand and led me to her bookcase, which still housed many books she herself treasured as a child, and handed me the book ‘Five on Treasure Island’ by Enid Blyton. It wasn’t a book I would have chosen myself as the cover wasn’t particularly child friendly – all black and no pictures. However, after the first couple of pages I was hooked by the adventures of the 4 children and their dog on George’s Island and have been an avid reader ever since. It just goes to show that you really should ‘never judge a book by its cover’!

  7. Lynn Youell says:

    So many candidates! How to choose just one? The ‘Hardy Boys’ taught me adventure, while ‘The Boxcar Children’ added an element of survival and independence. I loved ‘Little Women’ for all of those reasons, and through it I learned about loss as well. I was fortunate to discover poetry at an early age, and I have a life long love for ‘A Children’s Garden of Verses’ since it lead me to Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath to name a few of my favorite poets. Books grow and change as we do and I make it a point to revisit them as I grow older. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ was magical as a child; when I reread it as an adult, I realized she was describing physics and microbiology concepts unknown to me as a 10 year old! Finally, the most influential of all was Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ which led to a life long desire to collect the books I love, keep them safe, and introduce them to everyone I know.

  8. jeanne' serrano says:

    Thumbelina was my favorite childhood story and remember it far better than recalling what I did yesterday (smile). I used to fantasize all the time about how marvelous it would be able to fly – not on the back of a barn swallow like in the book, mind you, but instead – riding on the back of a dragonfly! Little did I suspect though, to have to wait to get my wish until in my late 50s! While riding a bike along a path at Va Beach’s Seashore State Park (near Ft. Story) on a 6 mile long path through the woods, as soon as I put my foot on the pedal to start out on the path and mount my bike, a dragonfly buzzed my face and hovered right in front of my nose, staring at me intently; and I was almost cross-eyed in attempting to stare right back, saying “Hello, there!” I pushed forward on my bike, fully expecting it to fly away into the woods – – but it didn’t. Instead, it turned around to hover about 6 inches above my right hand (grasping the handlebar) and stayed there the whole time I rode the 6 miles leisurely through the park’s path. I kept glancing down at it, amazed that it stayed with me the whole time; occasionally, however, it would turn around and buzz my face while FLYING BACKWARDS (which I didn’t even know they could do) all while I was peddling forward – to stare into my face, then turn around again to hover 6 inches above my right hand. When I got to the end of the path and stopped the bike to turn it around to go back again, I fully assumed the dragonfly would fly off into the woods as I did so – but it didn’t ! Again, the dragonfly “assumed the position” of 6 inches above my right hand, and flew the whole way back through the woods right alongside me as I peddled back to the parking lot. At the end, as I stopped my bike and put my feet on the ground, it turned around one more time and buzzed my face, looking at me intently. I said “Thanks for sharing!” and it buzzed off into the woods. It was not until I was driving home that I realized that, while looking down at that dragonfly above my hand, I had finally gotten my childhood wish – I had indeed, flown along for 12 magical miles “on the back” of a dragonfly!

  9. When I was nine or ten, I read “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare. I still have my copy, and my daughter read it at around the same age. Written in 1958, this book may not be spot-on historically correct about the colonial days in Connecticut, but it taught me about Puritan society and how women could be so easily accused of witchcraft. There are characters in the novel that don’t seem so far-fetched even in America today.

  10. Laura Cullen says:

    My favorite childhood book was and still is Huckleberry Finn. I loved the dreamlike adventure of “escaping”. I read it at the age of ten, when I was naïve and looking for any way to escape from my own personal reality. I did not understand a lot of the meaning behind Huck and Jim’s adventures. I also loved that the edition that I read had a map of their journey. I have always loved maps, and knowing the whereabouts of the characters. Many years later, as an adult, I went back to my grade school in my old hometown and purchased that edition! It has a very prominent place in my library.

  11. Daniel Becker says:

    I was raised in a rather dysfunctional family. At times it was scary to live in my house as a small child. When I discovered the fantasy book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, much like the wardrobe in the story, I was given a portal to a different world. It wasn’t so much the escapism that the novel provided, more, it was a chance for me to organize and think about a life different from my own. I could learn moral lessons through the experiences of the books characters, whereas the adults in my life were unable or unwilling to.

  12. Perry Cocke says:

    Are you still going to post some submissions and your thoughts?

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