Most influential books

the lion & the library
A bit ago, I had a friend tag me in a Facebook thing (yeah, I can’t believe that either…) that had you list the top 10 (?) most influential books in your life. I didn’t do that list, because, what’s with lists without context? But I decided that it would be fun to create my own list and explain the impact each work has had on me. They aren’t in any order beyond how they pop into my head. Some are books, some are poems, some are short stories, and some are authors. And some are all of the above. Enjoy reading my collection! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments 🙂

The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit/The Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien – Not the Peter Jackson movies. The actual stories written by J.R.R.Tolkien. They are a beautiful story of the power of being boring and wanting nothing more out of life than to be able to stay home. And the Silmarillion has the most gorgeous description of a world’s creation out of anything that I’ve read.

Ray BradburyAll Summer in a Day is always my favorite story and has been since the first time I read it in 7th grade; I felt a little less alone for being the smart kid in class because Margot was ostracized as well. The Homecoming (made even more beautiful with art by Dave McKean) affirms the importance of going home – those spaces where everyone loves and accepts you, especially if you’re a little different from everyone else there. Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man all help shape how I interact with stories, and The Halloween Tree describes the joy and terror of my favorite holiday. Seriously, so many of the stories Bradbury wrote shaped my understanding of worlds I may never see, and fostered my love of short stories, in ways no other did. When I found out he died, I was at work and told my co-worker I would need a minute, because I cried.

White Noise by Don DeLillo – “What do you know about Dylar?” This book looks into the fear that we have regarding death and the many ways that we try to avoid it, particularly by distracting ourselves with the copies of the reality before us. It is also the origin of the name of one of my favorite bands – The Airborne Toxic Event.

The Modernist Authors – I could probably come up with an entire series of posts just on the authors/works in this category that are super influential. I have a quote by James Joyce tattooed on my side; the end of The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot is the tagline for this blog, and I read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” on a regular basis; the first chapter of my M.A. Thesis is about Marianne Moore. I love these authors and the similarity of their life experience to my early-adult life.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – Not the movie (probably the only one I don’t care for by Hayao Miyazaki), because it misses the point. The novel focuses on the power inherent in Sophie and how she can change her world simply through being wholly herself (despite her propensity to hide). The first time I read it, I immediately began re-reading it when I made it to the end.

Neil Gaiman – Anything by him. Always. Here is the tag archive. I’m a little obsessed (but in the best, most friendly possible way.) with anything the Neil Gaiman creates. Instructions is my favorite gift to people who are having significant life changes. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is perfect; The Graveyard Book explains what I am most hesitant about regarding parenthood. “Trust your heart, and trust your story.” will be added to my collection of text written on my skin at some point in the near future (maybe the tattoo after next). And then Idris. Seriously – Neil Gaiman stories reflect parts of myself that I didn’t realize I needed to see.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams – I love all 5 of these books. They are the funniest nihilistic apocalyptic stories. They have some of the best asides and one-liners, and they pervade much of the English-speaking culture in ways that aren’t always acknowledged. And when I want to laugh at absurd situations, I read the first few books, and remember that sometimes the only response that keeps people sane is laughing. Or wearing bathrobes to face whatever the universe throws at you.

Unbounded Love by Clark Pinnock and Robert Brow – This book helped me better understand and make sense of wide swaths of the Christian Bible. The Bible helped guide my actions in a broad ways, and Unbounded Love helped me to better understand how I could explain my rationale. Both are focused in a deep and broad love for all people as an extension of a deep love for and of God.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – This was the first book I ever read a second time. I loved how it explained the sorrow and pain that is an intricate part of life because it made the negative sides of life less scary. I intentionally avoided the movie, because it looked like another example of completely missing the point.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal – It was while I was reading this book that I had a flash of insight into how I could apply some of the concepts in an English classroom. That flash propelled me into the Ph.D. program I’m currently in. So in a sense, this book helped redirect the trajectory of my life, which is kind of influential….

That’s a pretty good start to this list. I’m sure I’ll end up expanding on some sections and revising others as I continue to live. This has been fun looking everything up and figuring out the best way to share my love for all of these works with all of you. I would love to hear what you all have to share in a similar vein!