I was tagged on Facebook by a few people in response to that “10 books” meme. You know:
Rules: list 10 books that have stayed with you. Don’t take more than a few minutes; don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works, just the ones that have touched you.
Of course I had to totally overthink it, which is why I ended up with a blog post rather than a nice, simple FB comment. And it’s the end of the year, I’ve been up to my elbows in home remodeling and holiday stuff and not writing at all, so it sounds like time to pad a short topic into a full-blown post. Here goes:
I scratched my head for a few days (!!) trying to come up with books like the ones most people were listing, stuff like The Fountainhead and other Big Books that really shaped their way of thinking. But I’m a writer, which means I’m too self-centered to come up with anything other than books that shaped my writing and reading habits. So let’s start with the basics. Anne of Green Gables was the first chapter book I read, given to me by a school librarian who thought I was too old, in the fourth grade, to still be reading picture books. (Surprisingly, I was a reluctant reader as a small child.) This launched my life-long love affair with historical fiction. Ditto with Eight Cousins, which I preferred to the more popular Little Women because I was a stubborn git even at that young age.
3. The Kestrel, by Lloyd Alexander
One of the early influences on my writing style, and by “early” I mean the 7th grade. I spent the first two decades or so of my writing life trying to mimic the tone that this cover art evokes.
Okay, these seem like wildly disparate choices (just by the titles, even if you don’t know the books or authors), but they had much the same influence on me as a writer – how to use the short story to create a very powerful effect.
6. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
This gets a spot on my list not so much because the story influenced me as a reader/writer, but because I read it the year I changed my college major from music to English Lit, and for the first time in all my years as an avid reader I learned to really think about and analyze what I was reading. Oh, and biting social criticism, religious heresy, and 19th-century sex. What’s not to like?
7. A Woman of Genius, by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
Another college read, the most memorable in a collection of history and humanities material I studied. I don’t remember the details of the work as well as I remember the author’s life: a 17th-century Mexican nun who defied Catholic hierarchy and had a number of things to say about women’s rights and education.
8. The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell
This one really did change my thinking about some things, namely health and nutrition (although there have been a number of criticisms that bear keeping in mind).
Two more recent nonfiction reads, full of “ah-ha!” moments. Somehow I’ve had more of those as an adult than as the idealistic, bookish young person so typified by this meme.
If there’s anyone left on the internet who hasn’t listed their 10 books, feel free…