There has been a chain-request going around the internet for months now asking people to list ten books that have stayed with them in some way. They do not have to be great works of literature to be on the list, just books that have affected them in some way.
While I wait for more feedback on A Contract in Azure and Indigo, I thought that this might be an interesting thing to post here to show some of the influences that craft who I am as a writer. By no means is this a thorough list; it was simply the first ten books that came to my mind. Some very influential books to me, like Tolkien’s and H.G. Wells’ works, didn’t come to mind when I made it.
With that in mind, here they are in a random order. You can click on the pictures for Amazon links.
I found a well-worn copy of this book in a large bag of paperbacks awaiting recycling in the mid-1990’s when I was quite poor and lonely. I could not put this book down! I read it in about a day, slipping into the world in upheaval depicted with all its grit and problems amid a total breakdown of technology and society. It was a welcome release from the stagnant world I lived in at the time, and it gave me hope that even in the worst situations, people can adapt and life can go on.
I’ve had a passing acquaintance with the works of H. P. Lovecraft since my early teens, mostly through derivatives of his creations or those that were inspired by him. However, I hadn’t actually sat down and read any of the man’s work until two years ago when I got tired of knowing about his work but not having read any of it. So I acquired a six hundred page collection of his stories and read the entire thing over the course of a gloomy fall and winter, in my car, every weekday on my lunch at work. Reading At the Mountains of Madness will always stick in my mind, sitting and reading of Lovecraft’s arcane horrors in the Antarctic while I was surrounded by the stark white and cold of winter.
Throughout junior high, these books were to me like the Harry Potter books would be to a later generation; I just could not read them fast enough! They were novelizations of an animated TV series with a complicated path to syndication in the United States, and oddly enough, I never got to see the TV series on-air! They were a gateway for me to many things: To anime (called “Japanimation” back then), to how a sweeping novel series could be presented, and to a wide range of science fiction to follow. I still think that they taught me a lot about how the fundamentals of written dialogue should be done, and l fall back to it today as a model. They also inspired my first attempt at storytelling, a science fiction epic about an alien invasion of Earth featuring giant robots, of course!
I read this because it was assigned to me as a freshman English assignment in high school. Actually, I choose the assignment; as a class we could individually pick to read either The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Native Son, and I was the only one to pick the later and stick with it beyond the first chapter. I read it all the way to the end, and it was a dark and heavy book unlike anything that I had read before it. Its stark portrait of race and fear, crime and desperation, made a big impression on me. Combined with reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus later that same year (man, that book should be on this list too!), it really challenged the prejudices handed to me by my family and environment growing up. It got me looking down a different path, and today I think I’m a better man for it.
I absolutely love Treasure Island, its one of the first novels I really remember reading. I found a beaten old hardcover of it with aged pages the color tea when I was in sixth grade. It probably dates back to the 1920s. Handling and reading it as kid was like having a bit of treasure all to myself as I read it over the course of a few cold November days. I still have the copy after 30 years, and I still dream of pirates and adventure.
Dark and yet still hopeful, this book was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman’s wonderful storytelling and his ability to weave a fantasy. It’s a coming of age story that beautifully uses archetypes and myths cast into a modern light. I read it at a time when I was serious doubting my own “magic” and was reaching a transition in my young adult life. Reading of this hero’s journey and his choices resonated with me, and they still do. Timothy Hunter is my favorite boy wizard, more so than another that came a decade later and seems inspired by Tim in a lot of ways…
Gritty, dark, bleak and ultimately very human, reading this at the end of my freshman year of high school going into the summer was a good pairing to an angsty phase of my teens. Its cynicism and views on patriotism were not lost on me as the Gulf War began a few months later and reverberated throughout my sophomore year of school and beyond.
This book was just such a dammed good read that I can’t forget it! Don’t bother with the movie version (it’s nothing like the book at all), this book has aspects of a political thriller, action and of course survival horror all rolled into one. It’s very well paced with a wonderful narrative voice binding it all together. Also, it features a hard won but less bleak ending than you might expect.
My mother bought me an omnibus paperback of classic Conan the Barbarian stories when I was sick during a cold and rainy early spring. It introduced me to the classic works of Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp while I immersed myself into the lost glories that were The Hyborian Age. Those stories opened my eyes to a wide range of fantasy subjects and had a huge effect on me as I started to craft my own tales in the years to follow. Red Nails is an absolute classic Conan story from the pulp era and one of my favorites, both then and now.
I like a number of classic books and Charles Dickens was the masterful storyteller behind a number of them. A Christmas Carol has been a holiday favorite of mine since I was a young child, and watching the 1970 musical version staring Albert Finney is an annual tradition in my house. I first read the book and discovered its charm nearing the Christmas holiday of my first year of high school. My English teacher assigned it to the class to read and even read-aloud in turns, which became a hilarious exercise that I can’t forget. Reading the whole written work etched the story deeper into my heart. I like to read it again every few years to re-acquaint myself with this story of redemption and love the message it embodies: that it is never too late to become a better person. That it is never too late to start really living.
Well, those are my ten books. I hope you enjoyed them! What would your ten books be? Leave a comment and let me know!