I wish I’d started this one earlier so I would have had a better chance to think about it! I’m sure I’m going to be forgetting all sorts. But here are the most notable ones that stand out for me:
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This has to come first, because it’s the first full-length book I read by myself at age 7. It was so hard, and I wanted to give up on it many times, but I couldn’t because it was required for my “gifted” program. God knows why they decided I was gifted when I couldn’t even make it through a kid’s book, but adults are inscrutable. At any rate, it was the beginning of a beautiful life-long friendship with hundreds of amazing books.
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – This one fits on two counts, because it introduced me to both reading books about the holocaust, and reading books formatted as journals. Both of which were obsessions for me for YEARS.
- The Trixie Belden Series by Julie Campbell – these books were my introduction to mystery books. Quickly followed, of course, by Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
- Emily Dickinson – I have had a few poetry phases – mainly more untraditional like Ginsberg and Jim Carrol and Saul Williams – but they never would have happened without Emily Dickinson’s “I Am Nobody” getting me interested.
- R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike – These were the books that made me even consider horror books. I’m a marshmallow, and I cannot handle horror. These were just scary enough that I could take it at that age and if it hadn’t been for these, I never would have ventured into Stephen King territory!
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This book was pretty dark. Which is probably why I liked it. But it got me used to the rhythm of the language from that time period, and led to Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Dickens and all of the Austens.
- J.R.R. Tolkien – Any fantasy book I have ever read is directly because of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
- Travels by Michael Crichton – A high school ex recommended this book to me, and while I didn’t really expect to like it, it blew my mind. It’s a selection of non-fiction stories based on Crichton’s travels – you know, swimming with sharks, interacting with gorillas and communing with the occasional cactus. It’s probably the first book I read that was loosely a travel memoir, and it started me down the path to Bill Bryson, who is one of my all time faves. It also boasts one of my favourite first lines of any book in the history of the world ever: “It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw.” Tell me you’re not intrigued. (Also, Julianne, you might like this book!)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – The gateway to magical realism. I had this whole phase of it – everything from Laura Esquivel to Isabel Allende to Oscar Hijuelos to Julia Alvarez. I think I loved how the extraordinary mixed into daily life in these worlds – and how colourful the images in my head as I was reading were.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I was never one who had much interest in dystpian or post-apocalyptic fiction before reading these books. Too depressing. But this book made me less intimidated, and also showed me that there can be beauty, strength and hope in these stories. I’d say that, while it wasn’t my favourite series ever, this series did lead me to similar stories that I never would have tried otherwise. Most notably the Razorland series by Ann Aguirre, which is totally kickass.
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I’d read some YA before reading these books. You know, The Hunger Games, the Twilight books. Nothing that made me feel like it was a genre I really needed to explore much further. But I read these two books back to back, and have been obsessed ever since. There are so many excellent books I would have missed out on if I hadn’t read these two by fluke. Talk about lucky!
Now, I know this isn’t on the list, but as I was thinking about the books that had a huge impact on me, it occurred to me that as much as there were amazing books that opened up entire worlds to me, there were some that firmly closed doors, never to be opened again. Most notably Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy. While I’m glad I read some of these (I did NOT finish War & Peace – life’s just too fucking short and the book is too fucking long), they really didn’t make me want to ever experience anything similar ever again.
I might come up with some more to add later, but for now that’s it! What about you guys? See anything on my list you’ve read?
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