The Top Ten Books That Influenced Me Most
My good friend John G. tagged me in Facebook post challenging me to share the ten books that have influenced me most. I’ve listed mine not in my traditional “Top 10” format, but in the order in which I read them. The list is a mixture of children’s and adult fiction, and some non-fiction, too. Please share this post, add your own favorites in the comments section, and check out my links to all these inspiring, life-enriching works.
I remember far less about this book and its sequels than I do about the film with Judy Garland–but I do remember that my parents read them to me, and that I probably owe L. Frank Baum and my parents a great deal for that.
This the first book that had a powerful emotional impact on me. I mean, it really @#$%ed me up. I’ve reread it as an adult, and it has lost none of its power. This book is probably the reason I enjoy sad music like The Cure and Lotte Kestner and films by Paul Thomas Anderson and Charlie Kaufman. When I found out I was to be published by the same house as Katherine Paterson, I got choked up.
This is a book about nothing and everything. I love Salinger’s narrative voice, I love his slang, his weird diction, and his existential longing. I love the teardrop on the checkerboard. This is the book that made me realize that reading can change a person from inside, and I wanted to be on the other side of that magic.
I read this at eleven or twelve, far too young, but it wasn’t just a scary book to me. It was about real people living through real horrors–and though I was probably too young to understand his themes of redemption, sacrifice, and innocence lost in an intellectual way, I think Stephen King still went to work on my mind. I’ve written about this book in more detail here.
The first non-fiction title on this list, APHOTUS is an eye-opening, mind-bending piece of work. Yoda once said “you must unlearn what you have learned,” and this book is a great example. I listened to the unabridged audio version, and you can get an abridged version read by Matt Damon (his character mentions this book in Good Will Hunting.) History was my worst subject in school; perhaps if I’d known that so much of was fiction, I might have been more intrigued. This book is a challenge, but it’s so worth it.
It is, of course, impossible to pick just one of the Harry Potter books for this list, but I couldn’t very well spend seven of the ten slots on them. OOTP is my favorite probably because I related to Harry’s anger in this book, and to his astonishment and lack of understanding for it. I loved how unfair everything in this book was, how impossible the odds were, and how the Order kept on fighting anyway.
This book changed my life. Pressfield personifies the enemy of creativity as a force called Resistance, and then he teaches you how to recognize and combat it. I have bought multiple copies of this book for many people in my life, and will continue to treasure my first edition hardcover. If you create, read this book.
This is the novel that got me writing serious commercial YA fiction. Suzanne Collins inspired me by proving that a children’s book can be entertaining and exciting while still making a statement about our world and challenging the reader’s assumptions. She captured the spirit of dystopian fiction in a YA framework without watering it down or selling it out.
This is a business book, not a creative book. It’s about how to turn your love for widgets into a widget-making business–but importantly, it’s about WHETHER you ought to. You may love quilting–but do you love picking out sewing equipment, paying bills, and placing online ads? This book helped me understand the difference between being an artist and being a commercial artist, and helped me powerfully choose my path. It also helped me recognize the importance of habits, patterns, and systems within my creative world.
Few books have touched me so deeply in the last ten years. (I should mention The Art of Racing in the Rain, but I only have ten spots.) John Green explores the existential crisis that is adolescence without condescending to adolescents. He writes about being human, about how we all wish to escape death by leaving an immortal legacy.