I know I just posted my huge Kindle reading list earlier this week (and believe me, that took a lot of doing considering how long it is) and right after, Marissa Meyer posted her top ten (or at least ten) books that influenced her. Pencil_gal responded here and Loki_onyx responded here to Marissa’s question: which are ten books that influenced you?
Since it has become somewhat obvious at this point that I devour books, I thought I should make my own ten influential books. I remember almost everything that I read (as crazy as that sounds) so these books are still influencing me, in that sometimes I will look at something I am writing and say, “No, that’ll just suck, it should be awesome like such and such book” when comparing it to a favorite.
So I cheated a little (a lot – only one book in this entire list is a SINGLE book – the others are all series that influenced me) but I thought it was only fair since I read most of these in one go anyway, so it’s almost as if I read them as a single book. And because I love them all like children, I will say that they are in no particular order. I have also limited these to the ones that have inspired me mostly in my childhood and teenagehood.
1) Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
The first time I read this series, I blasted through the entire thing in one summer (I was 12). I absolutely hated it but I couldn’t stop. I think it was a pride thing – I had to finish it, dammit, because I’d started it! No book left unfinished! But then I realized, after I’d finished, that I’d rather liked it. So about three years later I picked it up again, blasted through it again, and LOVED it. This series taught me that sometimes, I won’t fully understand and appreciate a book until I’m a little older and have learned some more life lessons.
2) Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Funny enough, this was a recommendation from my brother. The series had just come out (so I was 11) and he was reading it for school (the third book had come out a week before so, since my brother was reading the first one for school, I read the third one and noticed the Sirius-Black-reference-in-the-first-book right away). I fell in love with this series very hard – started writing fanfiction because of it, met almost all of my writing friends through it, decided I COULD and WANTED to be a writer because of this series, got through high school because of this, and became a better person as a result. My entire world changed after reading these books.
3) Spookesville series by Christopher Pike
I started reading this series when I was about 8 years old (damn, I started reading really early). It’s not so well known (the Goosebumps books were coming out at around the same time) but it entranced me. The first book detailed the first day Adam Freeman (the main character almost throughout the series) moves into his new town, Springsville (the kids call it Spooksville because they know the truth). There is a town witch who lives in a castle, Adam, Sally, and Watch (the three main characters) wander into a cemetery, get trapped by a man-eating tree, travel into an alternate universe where they must fight an evil witch who wants to steal the eyes of children for her dolls… I mean, how freaking cool is all of that? And that’s only the first book! Okay, I’m gushing. This was my very favorite series for years and my only regret is that I did not (yet) read JUST ONE of the books in the series.
4) Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
Funny story – earlier this week, after I read Marissa’s post, I tweeted to her that this series was one of my favorites and very influential (just finished reading A Wizard of Mars so it was fresh on my mind). When who else but Diane Duane herself @dduane tweets me? I almost had a heart attack – she asked if she should carry around “digitalis” (which I had to Wikipedia and found it is the equivalent of smelling salts, which I needed at the time) and then proceeded to have a short, nice conversation where I was allowed to gush about her books and promise all sorts of things. On a related note, expect a full review of the series at some point in the future. Anyway, so this series changed the way I saw things, and not in the normal way. After I read the first book, all of a sudden I started to notice things: the way the sun hit the trees; the way a building looked beautiful if you sit back and look at it, and admire how long it must have taken to build; the taste of a ripe peach as the juice dribbles down your chin faster than you can slurp it up. I just NOTICED the world better, because of these books.
5) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The only single book on this list, I initially read it as an extra credit for school. I thought it would be like all my other school books – skimmed/picked at by chapter/never finished and then put on a list to read years later when the rage of high school wasn’t clouding my vision. But I sat down in my living room with this book, fully intending on hating it, and then stopped reading at 4 AM completely enamored by the whole thing (I finished at 4 AM I mean). I learned so much from this book. I learned about the depth in seemingly unimportant characters, that sometimes the fairy tale happy ending just isn’t going to work and you can’t feel happy no matter how many possibilities for happiness there are along the way, and the consequences of your actions reverberating and harming even your family (when it was only ever your own fault). Loved every second of it.
6) His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Where to begin. This series is another of those changed-my-life ones. When I picked it up, I was fascinated by the alethiometer (the golden compass) on the cover and the Northern Lights. I had no idea that this book would pull the rug out from under me and suck me down into a world so completely amazing, so vivid and gripping, that I would never escape it’s grasp. Bittersweet ending here too and a romantic pairing I did not see coming (twice!) but leaving me feeling satisfied by the end. Also, the stories that spiraled out of my brain as a result were amazing and full of great details! I learned so much about the kind of story I wanted to write.
7) The Ender Saga by Orson Scott Card
I found Orson Scott Card backwards – I read his book Enchanted before his sci-fi stuff (so when I told people about this great author, all of them thought I was talking about the Ender series). Now that I’ve read both the Ender series (following Ender Wiggin) as well as the Bean series (Shadow of the Hegemon, etc. that follows the life of Bean and the events that transpired on Earth once Ender had left), I can say without hesitation that I love the Bean series best and that this is one of the most amazing series I’ve ever read. The worldbuilding is ridiculously intense, complex, realistic, and creative. I was stunned every time, not a single thing was predictable, and I greedily ate up every book I could get my claws on. My only complaint about the series is that the romance didn’t fit – or rather, I couldn’t understand/didn’t like the pairings. What that taught me was that romance IS an integral part of how I perceive a series. Yes, this series was amazing, but I was always a little disappointed that my favorite characters married people I didn’t think suited them.
8) A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L’Engle
I read this series so long ago, I don’t even remember most of it. I remember very vividly the explanation of how teleportation works (the whole concept of a wrinkle in time) and I remember loving what a strong theme family was in the books (and being surprised that I could like characters who were not orphans). I think I’ll reread the series sometime soon, I remember being so fond of it.
9) The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
I cannot tell you the endless times I read and reread and rereread this series. I think the only one that truly compares is the Harry Potter series (I read some of those books 15 times). I couldn’t get enough of Will and the Old Ones and Merry and all of the prophecies that happened. I loved everything about this series, especially the later books. My only issue was that later books were not from Will’s point of view and I wanted more of him! This series taught me that the darkness is most fascinating when time has run out, all hope is already lost, and you can no longer tell the heroes from the villains. Also the importance of letting go.
10) Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
I started panicking when I reached this point in my list: which book could I possibly put here at the end to round up this phenomenal group of reads? What could I put here that would be enough to not feel bad later when I remember another influential read? Then I remembered this series, starting with Dealing with Dragons and then I went crazy from there. It’s the story of Cimerene, an atypical princess who is tired of her duties so decides (on the advice of a talking toad) to go be a dragon’s princess. It’s kickass, clever, spunky, and was the first time I really wanted to be a book character. Not as well known as the others, it is definitely worth being the last one on my list.
Edit: of COURSE I just remembered another huge series that influenced me growing up! So if I think of any more, they’ll go here as honorable mentions: The Protector of the Small quartet, The Lioness quartet, the Wild Magic quartet, the Circle Opens quartet, and pretty much anything written by Tamora Pierce. SHE IS EPIC EVERYONE SHOULD READ HER I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT HER IN MY POST.