I initially conceived this as a top-ten list, but as I took an inventory of books that I read and loved that clearly became impossible. What follows are books that have either influenced me greatly, or ones that I return to over and over again. This is by no means the books I read and simply liked; rather, these are books I am tied to deeply for one reason or another. I do not know if they have affected you the same way, but I know that I am a different person for having read them. They may not even be the best representation of an author’s abilities, but these are the ones that I love.
Some are from my childhood. The Velveteen Rabbit remains the book that I loved the most as a little girl, followed by The House at Pooh Corner and The Secret Garden. The Wrinkle in Time series came to me at a very important time in my life, when like Meg, I was awkward and mistrustful of the world around me. The Count of Monte Cristo remains one of my favorite plots of all time – how to get revenge when you have been greatly wronged. I am not a fan of the writing now, but that story was one of my absolute favorites as a kid, and I have to be loyal to the plot, itself. It fired my imagination, and I loved the idea of treasure, gypsies, mystery, and revenge.
Jitterbug Perfume showed me possibility and absurdity, and led me to Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut. The Hitchhiker’s Guide was part of this time in my life, and I once got in trouble for laughing in math class, as I secretly read the paperback in my textbook.
As a woman, The Poisonwood Bible, Handmaid’s Tale, and The Red Tent helped shape me and gave me much to consider. I am so appreciative to have access to such incredible writing.
Some books are just beautiful to read: All the Light We Cannot See and Like Water for Chocolate, for example. 1000 Splendid Suns broke my heart, and made me cry, but it also opened my mind to another life and perspective.
I first picked up Leaves of Grass in high school- I opened up the page to “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” and felt like Whitman was speaking directly to me, across time and space. The Wasteland remains my favorite poem of all time, and I know that I have yet to appreciate all that Eliot packed into that piece because he wrote on so many levels.
I have returned to Stephen King’s short stories, over and over through my life – he was my mom’s favorite and his books were always laying around. His style is like an old familiar friend to me at this point, a comfort. Now, I tend to pick up Gaiman stories for pure pleasure and they are a comfort, as well – they inspire me to write, and give me a lot of joy when reading them.
Most of you know, I have a deep appreciation for Magical Realism, hence the Garcia Marquez, Borges, Allende, Murakami and Okri among others. It is the genre that resonates most with me.
Some of these are old familiars from my high school teaching days – Sherlock Holmes, Macbeth, Beowulf and the Importance of Being Earnest – books that I truly enjoyed sharing, teaching, and revisiting over the years. I love that they gave so much to my students, and they still contact me years later to let me know they saw the play or to let me know those books remain among their favorites, too. That is the best feeling as an educator – that students grew to love and appreciate the pieces of literature you introduced to them.
Let me know your thoughts on these. I would love to know if you feel the same, or if there are others that inspire you:)
- 100 Hundred years of solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy & The Hobbit, Tolkien
- The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver
- The Red Tent, Diamont
- All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr
- The Shadow of the Wind series, Zafon
- Midnight’s Children, Rushdie
- 1000 Splendid Suns & The Kite Runner, Hosseini
- A Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood
- Catcher in the Rye, Salinger
- Frankenstein, Shelley
- Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut
- The Mists of Avalon, Zimmer-Bradley
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Giamon (Also, his short stories)
- The Stand, The Shining, and The Dead Zone, King (Also, his short stories)
- The Strange Library & 1Q84, Murakami (Also, his short stories)
- Ficciones, Borges
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway
- Jitterbug Perfume, Robbins
- Leaves of Grass, Whitman
- Wasteland, Eliot
- The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams
- The Velveteen Rabbit, Williams
- House of Spirits, Allende
- Like Water for Chocolate
- Macbeth, Shakespeare
- The Odyssey, Homer
- The Age of Magic, Okri
- Moby Dick, Melville
- The Alchemist, Coehlo
- The Things They Carried, O’Brien (this is fictionalized nonfiction)
- Game of Thrones series, Martin
- Wrinkle in Time series, L’engle
- The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde
- Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle
- Murder on the Orient Express, Christie
- The Bluest Eye, Morrison
- Harry Potter Series, Rowling
- House at Pooh Corner, Milne
- To the Lighthouse, Wolfe
- The Secret Garden, Burnett.
- Beowulf, unknown
- Metamorphosis, Kafka
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee