For a while the question of “What books have stayed with you?” was floating around on Facebook. Many of my both reader and writer friends indulged and it was fascinating to see what books from both childhood and adulthood resonated with them. We all have those books we read that stick with us. They aren’t necessarily our favorites; some of them we may not even like, but there was something in them, some truth that the author was saying that captured us, marked us, and left us subtly different than before. The books we write say much about authors. I would argue the books we read say much much more.
And so, in no particular order, I give you my list:
1. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
I raged against the inequity the raw emotional stupidity of the boys and the helpless feeling of watching the characters I connected with (Piggy and Simon), succumb to the madness and violence. Even as an adult, thinking about the book makes me angry.
2. Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys
Who doesn’t love a good mystery with tenacious teens? 🙂 I started as a very little girl with Scooby-Doo, moved to Nancy Drew as I grew older, and today have graduated to Veronica Mars. It’s a clear line, I swear.
3. The White Dragon – Anne McCaffrey
The first fantasy book that I read as a child. I LOVED it and dreamed of one day having my own Ruth to ride.
4. Candle in the Window – Christina Dodd
A capable, but not super-powered blind protagonist! On my list for the obvious reason AND it’s a great read too!
5. A Rose in Winter – Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Classic beauty-and-the-beast style romance. One of my first historical romances. I’ve been an avid reader of them ever since.
6. The Greek Myths – Robert Graves
I was far far far too young when I read this. I adored the stories but didn’t quite understand everything that was going on. If you ever meet me at a convention, ask me to tell you about “ravished.”
7. Tales from Shakespeare – Charles and Mary Lamb
My first introduction to Shakespeare ever. I fell in love with their book of retelling of the stories for children. When the time came and I actually was reading Shakespeare in class, it made it easier for me to really get into the plays. Charles and Mary Lamb “cast themselves as messengers, almost evangelists, for the bard; they were translating the national genius for a new audience and bringing his message to a new generation.” In 1806. The fact that it had such an impact on me says much about how well they did their job.
8. Uncanny X-Men during the Chris Claremont & John Byrne era (Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past)
My first comic book and I stumbled into probably one of the greatest story arcs ever! Small wonder that I have been a fan ever since.
9. Mules and Men – Zora Neale Hurston
I think like many young folks, we meet Zora Neale Hurston in class. I couldn’t get enough. 🙂
10. Hoodoo–Conjuration–Witchcraft–Rootwork. 5 vols. – Harry Middleton Hyatt
Believe it or not, I found these volumes by accident! I had just finished a course on folklore and been reading a lot by Hurston and other similar writers/collectors. I was in that section of the University library and found these massive tomes. Upon opening them, I found a treasure of oral narrative.
11. Belonging to Taylor – Kay Robbins (who writes as Kay Hooper)
I’ve read a lot of romance novels. They’re like potato chips for me. Light, entertaining, fun, and I can’t have just one. This is the first one that I ever read that made me laugh out loud. It was wacky and zany and I fell in love with the characters. The highest praise I can give this is that one day, I hope they make a movie from this book.
12. Nursery Rhymes and Tales, Their Origin and History- by Henry Bett
I don’t remember reading Dr. Seuss as a kid, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. What I remember, is nursery rhymes. Lots of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I still know the original melodies to many of them.
13. Arab Folktales – Inea Bushnaq
My very first introduction to printed Arab folktales. The cadence and rhythm of the narration is well captured in the book. I’ve lost 3 copies from loaning it to people.
14. A Darkness at Sethanon – Raymond E. Feist
My first epic fantasy as an “adult.” This is Book 3 in the Riftwar Saga. I picked it up at an airport because of the cover. The first time I tried to read it, I was too young and didn’t understand fully what was going on. I went back to it later and was enraptured with the battles and warriors, with the magic and with the politics. Later on, I acquired Book 2 (Silverthorn) and Book 1 ( Magician) – in that order. 🙂
15. Birds of Prey – Gail Simone’s initial run
This is the first comic book series that I HAD TO OWN. A trio of superheroes led by a woman in a wheelchair. They love each other, eat good Chinese food, and battle their inner demons as well as the bad guys. I have hunted down every last issue.
When putting together this list, I found that there were almost as many short stories that stuck with me. I remember unique details from them or they moved me emotionally. Some are from childhood and some are more recent. BUT, I had to share. AND, more importantly, all of these are available for free so there is no excuse. Take a look at them yourself:
- Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
- The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County – Mark Twain
- Spar – Kij Johnson
- Incident at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
- Single White Farmhouse – Heather Shaw
- Cask of Amontillado – Edgar Allen Poe
- The Monkey’s Paw – W.W. Jacobs
- Pip and the Fairies – Theodora Goss
Photo by Mauro Moroni