Has a book ever inspired you to take action? I’m not talking about ‘self-help’ or ‘how-to’ books, which are meant to spur readers into action. I’m talking about feeling the strong desire to do something as an inadvertent byproduct of reading. Well, that’s happened to me not once, but twice (!) as a result of reading two books by memoirist [extraordinaire] Julie Klam.
Last year, I picked up You Had Me At Woof- How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness shortly after I lost my beloved dog Mason in a car accident. We had adopted Mason from a shelter, and although my husband and I fell totally in love with this quirky little fellow, more objective observers might say that Mason suffered from a ‘deplorable excess of personality.’ Others might say he was just plain nutty. Anyway, being a ‘mom’ to that incredibly high maintenance mutt was a joy and a huge learning experience for me in many profound ways. After losing him, I was hesitant about reading dog-centric books (can you believe how many dog-centric books there are, by the way?). But the title of Julie Klam’s book struck a nerve, and the blurbs on the back promised that she was pretty funny. Also, the cover was irresistible, so I gave it a go.
In “Woof” (as I like to call it), Klam describes how becoming a first-time dog owner when she was a single, struggling writer living in New York helped her ‘grow up’ a little, and learn some of life’s most important lessons. She eventually became heavily involved with a dog rescue organization- fostering and rehabilitating pups, all while juggling the other demands of her life. I don’t know if it was her humor, her frankness, or just the fact she was able to accomplish amazing feats of writing and dog rescue while living in a tiny NYC apartment—but her stories resonated with me. When I was done reading, I felt compelled to put in some volunteer time at a local animal shelter—as a tribute to Mason. “Woof” also planted the tiny seed in my head and (still broken) heart that there was probably another dog out there needing a home—sooner rather than later. We have since adopted Owen, another (slightly less) crazy mutt, who is the new love of our lives.
I’m currently in the middle of reading Julie Klam’s latest book, Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without. Here she shares her distinctive insights into friendships—making and keeping them throughout life’s changing circumstances. Like Julie Klam, I deeply value my friendships, and in fact, consider them to be one of my very best features! Just reading about the efforts she makes to keep track of (or get back in touch with) friends has rejuvenated my own ‘friendkeeping’ efforts. I’ve made at least two long-overdue phone calls since I started reading this book.
Based on how she describes herself in her books, I get the impression that Ms. Klam would be surprised to know that she’s had an inspiring effect on me. She seems like the unassuming type, and there is definitely no “you ought to be doing this too” message in her books. Of course, maybe this is part of her brilliance as a writer—she tricked me into thinking I would be merely entertained by her self-deprecating humor, and her vividly remembered exploits as a writer/New Yorker/wife-daughter-sister-mother/dog-rescuer/friendkeeper etc. Instead, in telling her own stories, she made it seem possible and very necessary for me to take certain actions– to follow through on some things that mean a lot to me. Keeping my treasured friendships healthy and making an abandoned dog’s life better fall into that category.
Have you ever been surprised by the effect a book had on you? Or been spurred into action after reading a book? Share your experience—I’d really like to know!