There’s a fun meme going around facebook. Name 10 books that have impacted you in some way. I compiled my list, but I wasn’t able to resist going into detail over why these books were so important to me and what I took away from them. I decided to share the reasoning for my books here.
The meme: List 10 books that have affected you in some way. They don’t need to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature.
1. Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie. I was 13 when I read this for the first time. It was not my first Agatha Christie. I’d read Death Comes at the End, which is unusually set in Ancient Egypt and very different from Christie’s usual style as an eleven-year-old and been absolutely terrified by it. Murder at the Vicarage, however, absolutely charmed me and I spent the next two years reading every Christie book I could get my hands on. To this day, I prefer Miss Marple to Poirot.
2. The Changeover, Margaret Mahy. I first remember reading this as a nine-year-old in Singapore. I was stunned to realize that New Zealand could be written about! I identified with Laura and her woolly hair immediately, though I assumed that the story took place in Auckland. When my librarian BFF (who actually met Mahy) told me it was set in my hometown, it blew my mind! I have lost count of how many times I have read this book. Of all the books on this list, I think The Changeover has influenced my writing the most.
3. The Dark is Rising Sequence, Susan Cooper. I picked up Over Sea Under Stone in a second bookstore, and re-read that religiously for years before realizing it was part of a series. I loved Cooper’s weaving of high fantasy and Arthurian legend into the everyday of 70s Britain. Cooper and Mahy both convinced me that magic could be part of everyday life.
4. Mossflower, Brian Jacques. This is not the first of the Redwall books, but it was the first I read. Martin quickly became my hero and I bored my family by talking about this series endlessly. Mariel of Redwall was another favourite — strong heroine? Yes please! Not only did I write to Brian Jacques, but I started writing my own novel set in the Redwall universe — my very first fanfic, though at the time, I didn’t have internet access or even know what fanfic was. However, Martin the Warrior was also the book that made me dissatisfied with how romance and love were depicted in the stories I was reading.
5. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. Jane’s raw need to be acknowledged and loved was powerful enough that it took me past archaic vocabulary and large paragraphs of doom, and swept me up in the story. From high school through to University, I read Jane Eyre at least once a year, usually around exam time where I really needed a mental hug and the reassurance that everything was going to work out. Weirdly, years later when I read Villette, a partially auto-biographical story of a woman working as a language teacher in a foreign country, I felt as if I could relate immediately to the narrator’s experiences as a foreign language teacher in Japan. What Bronte portrayed as a nervous collapse, reads to me like a combination of culture shock and PMS.
6. Persuasion, Jane Austen. My absolute favourite fairy-tale. It would follow my reading of Jane Eyre during annual end of year exams.
7. The Hound of the Baskervilles. I love all the Sherlock Holmes stories, but the Hound of the Baskervilles has a special place for me, mostly because it is a book I can share with my Stepdad. He introduced me to many influential books — The Hobbit, To Kill a Mockingbird, The War of the Worlds — but I discovered the Hound of the Baskervilles on my own, and was pleasantly delighted to discover that he shared my love for the story. Obligatory expression of love for Sherlock Holmes goes here.
8. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte. I hated this book the first time I read it, but we had to study it in highschool and that changed my feelings on it. I discovered that I still hated it, but that I could appreciate it as a work of art. While I never enjoyed reading it, studying it was another story entirely. I could talk to you for days about Wuthering Heights and still have more to say about it and I think that experience and realisation is what decided me to study literature at University and was probably one of the big reasons I ended up focusing on Victorian literature.
9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. In contrast to the majority of books on this list, I’ve only read this book once, about 7 years ago, but the impact it made has remained. Not only is this a good book, but it does something very important, just by giving voice to people who are different.
10. Elfquest, Wendy and Richard Pini. Elfquest taught me a lot of things, but the most important thing it taught me was that love comes in all forms. There was soul-bonding that worked, soul-bonding that didn’t. Relationships based on friendship, young crushes, casual sex between consenting adults, open-relationships, closed-relationships, relationships that ended and gave way to new relationships. I taught myself to draw by copying Wendy Pini’s artwork, and reading about her sources made me curious about Japanese manga and animation and we all know how that ended up.