Facebook memes are usually the intellectual equivalent of getting gum stuck in your pubic hair, but any meme that’s about books is probably one that’s okay by me.
So, the meme has sometimes mutated to “ten of my favorite books,” but fuck that. Favorite isn’t that meaningful of a metric. I prefer the original meme I saw going around — books that “stayed with you.” Like a haunting ghost.
1.) Swan Song, Robert McCammon
It was Boy’s Life that made me want to be a writer, and it’s Mister Slaughter that disturbs me the most, but while a lot of folks love epic fantasy, I fell in love with epic horror reading Swan Song. Actually, Swan Song was my gateway into horror — to King, Koontz, Barker, Brite, and beyond. (Also, thanks to my wonderful sister, I have a copy of the illustrated first edition.)
Forget Dexter. Go read Blackburn. How does a boy become a serial killer? It’s grim, hilarious, sad, scary, sweet, and back to grim again. It run laps around most other books and is some truly amazing writing. Denton’s a helluva prose-master, good as Lansdale.
Beloved is at first blush a horror novel. The horror of slavery. The ghost (real or imagined) of a dead child. Elegant, astounding work. (I actually got to meet the author when I was in college.)
It’s a book so big you could use it to kill a man. It’s long and rambling and strange. It also contains playful, powerful prose and moments of mundane bullshit elevated to mythic horseshit. It’s an astounding read. A hard slog, but worth it if you can manage. Finnegan’s Wake is also a book that will stay with you, provided you don’t mind trying to read a book that may or may not just be a cuckoo idea virus scrawled madly onto paper.
5.) The Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer
Talked about this one last week. Just shut up and go read it.
6.) Exquisite Corpse, Poppy Z. Brite
This book is super-gross. By which I mean — grisly, gory, sex with dead bodies. It’s also written with such beauty, and crafted with such love, that it’s an astounding achievement. A tough book. Worth every word. All of my Brite books are a gift. All her books are horror written in neon, blood, hairspray, lighter fluid, sex juice.
7.) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
It feels like we’re living in its prequel at times.
8.) Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, David Simon
If hard-ass journalism had a baby with Greek tragedy, you’d get this. This is also the book that effectively parented both the television shows Homicide and The Wire.
9.) The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Spare, tough like jerky, and a very personal look at Viet Nam and its soldiers.
10.) Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory
Is it even fair to call this a demonic possession book? I dunno. Whatever. It’s amazing. I remember reading this while on a plane (to Hawaii, I think), and it vacuumed this into my eyeballs and it buried its head under my skin like a tick.
Runners-up: Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes), Twelve-Fingered Boy (John Hornor Jacobs — actually, anything by JHJ), All the Rage (Courtney Summers), Heart-Shaped Box (Joe Hill), Dark Tower (Stephen King), Raven (Charles Grant), Sorrow Floats (Tim Sandlin), A Dirty Job (Christopher Moore), The Adventurist (Robert Young Pelton), Pecked to Death by Ducks (Tim Cahill), anything by Joe Lansdale, and probably a whole lot more I’m not remembering because dang, man, I gotta go to bed.
Give me 5 – 10 books that stayed with you.
Talk about why, if you can.
134 responses to “The Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me”
Swan Song is one of my favorite books
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein (I was 12 when I read it, someone probably should have stopped me…),
The Dune Books, Frank Herbert
The Gate to the Women’s Country, Sheri S.Tepper
It, Stephen King
The Stand, Stephen King
Very happy to see Poppy Z’s EXQUISITE CORPSE. Maybe the perfect horror novel.
I’ve got my girls, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot, who are, ya know, my girls. C. S. Lewis basically said to my own self things I’d been trying to put into words for years. And I think Wallace Stegner and Marilynn Robinson are some of the most powerful, gorgeous writers of all time. Gotta also add Stephen King and Gary Schmidt to this list. The Green Mile and The Wednesday Wars are AMAZING books.
My top 5 books that stayed with me:
Spellfire by Ed Greenwood, this was my first introduction to fantasy and to reading in general. I devoured this book immediately because it was amazing suddenly experience a new world and fun writing.
The chronicles of Drizzt, all written by R.A. Salvatore. It just happened that my first book wasn’t enough and I wanted to find more like it. I was scared in a way about wasting my money on a book that wouldn’t be just like what I read but I got Homeland and my life went from bland to suddenly full of powerful, compelling, involving stories. I was hooked.
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I read some news article about the BS Anne Rice was dealing with about Tom Cruise playing Lestat. I was sceptical too because at the time he really sucked as an actor. Someone brought the book into work and just kind left lying around. I was 30 pages in before realizing it. Masterful description, and mind you i has collected every D&D novel available and was afraid to go outside that box.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and others). I can’t remember why I picked up this work but i don’t ever regret it. I was enamoured with those mysteries and adventure that I totally grabbed whatever I could.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I was taken over by a refreshing sense of new fantasy adventure that it felt all brand new again.
Paul S. Kemp should also be here for his in depth characters.
Day of the Locust – Nathaniel West: Met the original Homer Simpson. The finest commentary on mob psychosis and celebrity worship.
Camp Concentration – Thomas “Brave Little Toaster” Disch: The government culls the syphilis virus to create super geniuses out of political dissidents in a prison camp. Sorry, I’m not a good salesman.
The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick. History is deranged by the victors.
The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosiński: This one made me openly weep. Kids are cruel, adults crueler.
Dangerous Visions – Edited by Harlan Ellison This one made me a born again SF reader.
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas: The best tale of revenge ever written.
The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury: Quaint by today’s standards, it shows humans really are a virus with shoes.
Misery – Steven King – Poppy Z Brite was right. This book will teach you everything about writing and being a writer, God help your miserable soul.
Rendezvous With Rama – Arthur C Clarke – What youth doesn’t want to visit a 20 mile long canoli shell in space?
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman: For a kids book, this was dazzlingly original. Don’t trust grownups. They lie in multi dimensions.
When I got the meme it was ten most “influential” “pieces of literature”. So:
10. Let Me Hear Your Voice. Catherine Maurice- as the mother of two sons with autism, this was the first book I bought after getting the diagnosis of my eldest son and it influenced me as a mother in everything I did after, including moving to where we got get access to the therapy she used. It also gave me some hope that all was not as horrific as I thought. This book is why my son is going into college next year. It’s a memoir and not really lit, but it belongs on my list. If you are a purist and want lit, replace with anything Flannery O’Connor.
9. Wuthering Heights. I was a kid and it was emo and dark and romantic and these characters were so flawed, all of them. They were so different from what I knew in lit to that point. Cathy reminded me of real people I knew, including me. I also still love heather as a scent and buy the yankee heather candles online.
8. The Gospels of Christ, especially Luke. I loved the disciple Peter. Loved, loved, loved him. Again, because he was so flawed. He was angry and frightened and sliced someone’s ear off and denied Christ and yet became the father of the church anyway.
7. The Real Mother Goose. I not only memorized these verses, but I began writing similar ones as soon as I heard them, before I could read or write.
6. Little House on The Prairie – the set. I don’t even think I need to explain why, do I? These were the books I learned to read for.
5. The Godfather. Mario Puzzo 2 reasons. I told my great aunt (a H.S. English lit teacher) I was reading it and she insisted I needed to read better literature for my age (14) and began sending me all these fantastic classic books and sent them for years, like Watership Down, Wuthering Heights. etc. and also because it was epic and filled with sex and violence and is a great read. It forever was the dividing line between “real literature” and “Popular fiction”.
4. Raymond Carver, anything by him but I’m going with Cathedral. esp A Small Good Thing and Feathers from that collection. When I write, I still say, “Well, it’s not Carver, but maybe next time.”
He is the best writer. Ever.
3. Young Goodman Brown. Nathaniel Hawthorne. (short story- here’s the link) http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rebeccal/lit/238f11/pdfs/YoungGoodmanBrown.pdf I read it in 7th grade.This taught me so much about how to tell a good story. It’s scary and ironic and my God, that pink ribbon (mentioned 5x) fluttering down still gives me chills when I think about it.
2. Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems + Searching for Mercy St, by her daughter Linda Gray Sexton. Prior to reading Sexton, I had only been taught formal poetry that rhymed. This book was filled with rhythmic, confessional poetry from a woman and it completely changed the way I wrote. I found my real voice after reading her.
I added “Searching for Mercy Street” here because Anne was a horrible mother and a deeply flawed human being and completely fucked up. I had put her on such a pedestal for so long that I forgot she was as a person and what her writing/insanity cost her family.
1. 1.”Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff. http://public.wsu.edu/~bryanfry/Wolff,%20Bullet%20in%20the%20Brain.pdf– It’s 4 pages long. I’ve linked the Pdf. This story blew me away. Knocked me completely out. All those phrases. Read it!
Honorable mention: Flowers In The Attic. Horrible book, but when I realized every girl in my Catholic grade school 7th-8th grade was waiting to check this out of the library because we all thought about sex, I didn’t feel quite as ashamed about the strangeness of puberty.
Oh, I love Anne Sexton. Her work, along with that of Marge Piercy and Audre Lorde, were such a revelation to me when I first read them so many years ago. Like you, most of the poetry I’d read before them was rhymed poetry, and almost all of it by men. (I think Emily Dickinson was the only exception.) Sexton’s poetry was so much more personal, and so much more about the things in my own life.
I’m just gonna give ya three of mine because I have to go to bed, too. 😉
1. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I fell in love with Encyclopedia Brown when I was a little girl so the natural progression for me was, of course, Sherlock Holmes. I will read and watch anything related to Sherlock Holmes whether Doyle wrote it or not…even young Sherlock Holmes, which was kind of terrible. There’s just something about Holmes that does it for me.
2. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It just made me go, “Hmmm.” And I haven’t stopped going, “Hmmm” since.
3. Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. 1st person DEEP POV with a drug addict main character who gets paid by the church to banish ghosts. How could something like that not stick with you?
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – for the concept of measuring goods and services by their worth to the buyer as opposed to what you can squeeze out of the buyer. Unlike today’s capitalists, I saw the main characters as hardworking, productive people who took pride in creating value recognized by what their customers were willing to pay.
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan – For an understanding of the angst women of my mother’s generation suffered and for confirmation that there were alternatives to teacher, nurse or homemaker.
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence – particularly the scene with the forget-me-nots for an antidote to the repressive attitude toward sex I experienced as a kid.
Beloved by Toni Morrison – for the ways in which the legacy of slavery destroys the phyche of those enslaved.
The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler – for a way to think about the enormous changes taking place in our entire economic/social/political structure.
The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk – for his experienced history of the Middle East. His decades of reporting have provided him with insights most of us don’t have.
Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community by Wendell Berry – for his down-to-earth view of the land and how to live on it without destroying it.
Who knew others read Poppy Z Brite? And loved Swan Song. Loved. Epics like The Stand and, well frankly, any Stephen King, most Dean Koontz, also Peter Straub, The Talisman, Ghost Story, Robert Heinlein, Handmaid’s Tale, Princess Bride by William Goldman, Laurell K Hamilton the Anita Blake stories, anything EVER by Edgar Allen Poe, agree with Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison (named my second car after him), and have to include some of the greats from YA, like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and ok, I could do this for days. Elie Weisel will make you cry for humanity. Anais Nin for erotica (screw that 50 shades shit). So many more. Writers are the bomb shizzle, the heart and core of escapism and face palm reality..
Ah yes, The Handmaid’s Tale…that might very well belong on my list as well.
This is too hard!! Too difficult to not include SO MANY!! But here is a sampling…
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje (really most of his writing including his poetry has touched me like nothing else), which when I read it as a young student was the first time I realized on a visceral level that writing could be both poetic and erotic.
Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller – his lifestyle in Big Sur was directly paralleling my own and his rambling style taught me there’s more than one way to skin a dead cat (or, in this case, to write).
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo – the jarring realization of the protagonist’s condition, the effect of the nurses actions on him, sexual and otherwise, just a mind-blowing description of what it might be like to be trapped inside your own head.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by HS Thompson – reading this was the beginning of the loss of my innocence!
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – touching, suspenseful, with an unforgettable character.
Curious George by HA Rey – probably why I have a thing for men in white hats.
oh God yes to Coming Through Slaughter.
1. I Claudius, because it’s the book I read when I have gastro http://janebryonyrawson.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/i-claudius-toilet-reading-and-where-germs-come-from/
2. Alive, the Story of the Andes Survivors – terribly written, but after you’ve read about a piece of plane protruding from someone’s stomach for the 13th time (as I did when I was 12), it tends to stick with you.
3. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, because it made me think about how to quietly be a good person
4. Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald: until I read it I didn’t realise fiction could be so much like non-fiction, or that it’s possible to be entirely lost in a book in which so little happens
5. The Shining, because I still feel sick when someone says Redrum
6. The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley: playing with words is fun!
7. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace because look why would I ever stop thinking about something which gave me so much to think about?
8. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan because it cut a hole in my guts and everything about what’s wrong between men and women spilled out
9. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler oh it turns out I do care about private detectives in fact maybe I’m a bit in love with one
10. A wrong turn at The Office of Unmade Lists, because I wrote it.
Thanks for giving us this space to list our favorites, Chuck. Though not in my list below, The Things They Carried is certainly a book that will haunt me forever. I had the privilege of seeing Tim O’Brien do a reading from the book here in Hawaii about nine years ago, and it was a gut-wrenching experience.
Anyway, the list . . .
1. Wool – Hugh Howey: The control of Howey’s writing is amazing. He manages an epic, action-driven tale, populated with a complex array of characters, within the confines of a silo. Not an easy task.
2. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck: You feel the privation of the characters acutely. You feel the hunger, the dirt in your mouth, the hope in your heart. Just an incredible journey through an incredible landscape.
3. Neuromancer – William Gibson: Like all of Gibson’s work, just so much fun. More than just a sci fi thriller, Gibson makes some very powerful and prescient statements about corporate power in a world ruled by pixels and microchips.
4. Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany: As one of the first pieces of dystopian fiction I ever read, this book made quite an impression on me. As a story, it’s epic and strange and dreamy. As a piece of writing, it’s . . . well, epic, strange, and dreamy.
5. Coal Black Horse – Robert Olmstead: Man, I love this guy’s writing. It’s so full of powerful imagery and pathos. There are maybe three books that have every made me cry, and this was one of them (All Quiet on the Western Front was another).
6. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison: In my humble opinion, the best American novel of the 20th century. Ellison’s story of racial politics, which moves from the deep South to Harlam, is gut-wrenching, hand-wringing, and heart-pounding literary artistry at its best.
7. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville: I love the imaginative and the artistic complexity of this book. This story simply blew my mind and I haven’t (with the exception of Mieville’s The Scar) been able to find a piece of urban speculative fiction that has had the same effect on me.
8. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky: You will literary feel as crazy as Raskolnikov by the end of this book. Dostoevsky’s work is so psychologically f**ked up, that you can’t help but be drawn into the world of his broken and obsessively driven characters.
9. The Summer of Night – Dan Simmons: This book is why I love writing. Think Stand by Me meets Tremors meets Poltergeist. Simmons is so versatile and such a great storyteller.
10. For Whom the Bells Tolls – Ernest Hemingway: Although my feels toward Hemingway and his writing have undergone some interesting changes over the years, I learned a lot about writing from this novel. And there are simply some scenes of bravery and cruelty in this book that will stay with me forever.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- J.K.Rowling: There is a scene where Molly Weasley has to get rid of a boggart, but every time she tries, it turns into a dead version of a family member. It’s just haunting.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah-Richard Bach: A book with it’s own spiritual philosophy. One that is worth studying.
Unwind- Neal Shusterman: Pseudo-Abortion is legal till your 18. The scariest book I have ever read; and I’ve read Carrie, and Graveyard Shift.
Brave New World- Aldous Huxley: I still maintain to this day, that chapter 3 of that book is the best written thing I have ever seen.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams: Had more influence on my sense of humor than anything else I have ever come across.
A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L’Engle: Heartwarming, transcendent, and beautiful. The Wind in the Door being a close second.
Here’s mine. Not particularly erudite or high falutin’ by it is what it is and continues to influence my writing and the way my imagination works:
1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – She’s my favourite childhood book heroine because she is so feisty, book-loving, imaginative, and a writer. These are all traits I identify with. That and the “Carrots!” moment when she told Gilbert Blythe what’s what when he teased her by pulling her pigtails.
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen – Because too many romance/love stories seem to be either tragic a la Romeo & Juliet or just “and then they had lots of hot sex and lived happily ever after.” Persuasion is a quieter, more autumnal novel looking at mistakes in judgement and the heart, second chances at love, and the consequences of not following your heart.
3. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman – Because Gaiman showed just how literate comics can be and his storylines are always an epic exercise in intertextuality, trope-turned-on-their-heads at its finest, moral drama, and utter cool.
4. Emily Dickinson’s poems – Not so much a book but the first collection of Emily Dickinson’s poems I’ve ever read including classics such as “Because I Would Not Stop For Death” has made her my all-time favourite poet. No one else even comes close.
5. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – ‘Nuff said.
6. Neuromancer by William Gibson – There is no other phrase I can use to describe the effect of this book on me than “this book turned me on and open my eyes. Wide.”.
7. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Because Marion took a used-to-death Horror motif and turned it into a philosophical examination about love, acceptance, and prejudice in society. A zombie in love? Heck, yeah!
8. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – Because the entire series (and Shadowhunter world) is an exercise in addictive writing and world-building.
9. Otherworld by Tad Williams – For me, this is the ultimate mash-up in many ways as Williams uses a virtual reality world to explore all different fantasy/folklore milieus and periods.
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – A wonderful throwback to earlier children’s stories where kids gain entry into a wholly unexpected fantasy world where children have fascinating powers. A throwback to Enid Blyton, I think.
Sandman series by Neil Gaiman is definitely, as you say, “utter cool.”
Thank you so much for Sandman. I was going to say it, but what you said just took the words right out of my mouth.
Thanks boydstun215 and Badget 🙂 I think Sandman is still the coolest thing that Gaiman has ever written 🙂
Martian Chronicles (Bradbury), Childhood’s End (Clarke), Tunnel in the Sky (Heinlein), The Sea of Cortez and To a God Unknown (Steinbeck), Rain of Gold (Villasenior), The Watchers (Koontz),
Also feel remiss for not mentioning Doris Lessing, all the Russian greats, The Bell Jar. A little book out of Britain that no one knows but is so worth the google search, Dirty Minds by Helen Zhahavi. Revenge gone seriously wild. Sorry to add on but like I said, so many many great works, how can one limit it to ten? You are much more disciplined than I.
1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks – Back when I worked at a Borders (before the demise) I pushed this on all sorts of people. It is a brilliant social, economic, political book that just so happens to use Zombies to explain all this fantastic stuff. Nuances of this zombie reality are brilliant.
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – The 80s. Loved them.
3. Post Secret books – Realization that I am not alone in my fears, worries, etc. Amazing feeling of connectivity with the world through the secrets we share.
4. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (translation by Marlaine Delargy. The idea that people have to provide something useful to society to be allowed to exist. The idea that you must have children to be contributing to the world taken to the next level.
5. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Race, pizza allergy, candy bars and finding a home.
6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Hidden library, romance, mystery, Barcelona and a sinister man intent on destroying books. To be able to immerse myself in a novel about others that love books.
7. World Without Us by Alan Weisman. What the world would be like without humans.
8. Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman. My mom introduced me to Richard Feynman and I feel head over heels. I like this connection to her through his works.
9. Jasper Fforde – I yearn for him to write the 2nd Shades of Grey book in the trilogy and his Thursday Next series are a fun romp through the book world with great jokes about cheese and more.
10. James Herriot because uses words to paint a doorway welcoming you into his life.
James Herriot’s books are a RIOT! Truly laugh-out-loud funny!
1. Island of the Blue Dolphin, by Scott O’Dell – I was a socially isolated kid (not as isolated as the protag of IotBD, obviously) and this book was the first I ever read that spoke to that isolation and loneliness.
2. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin – I loved everything about this book. The map in the front with all the little islands, the school of magic, the dragons. And Ged – I felt like Ged. Angry and abandoned and mercurial and wanting so badly to be special.
3. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein – I’m not, actually, all that fond of these books; the style in which they’re written seems distant and cold to me. But the world, my God, the world. I had no clue before I read these books that it was possible to invent a world. I began immediately inventing my own, a pursuit I still follow more than forty years later.
4. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin – This book was like nothing I had ever read before and it blew me away. The isolation of Genly Ai, the sole Human among aliens, and his grappling with the reality of their fluctuating gender, was absolutely revelatory to me as a young woman who was also struggling to come to grips with the rules of gender assigned to me, many of which seemed utterly incomprehensible. The structure of the book, intertwining the story of Ai and Estraven with Gethenian myths, was also something new to me, and it gave the present story tremendous depth. I’m convinced this book was one of my motivations for majoring in Anthropology.
5. Moonheart, by Charles de Lint – This is the first book that ever motivated me to write the author. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved Tamson House and wished I could live there. I wrote de Lint to tell him so, and to my astonishment, he wrote back. I thought authors were like gods, and my letter a sort of prayer; I never expected an actual answer to it. He was tremendously kind, recommended the music of Alan Stivell (there are several bards in the book and I’d commented on their music), and sent me a couple of privately published chapbooks, which I still have. I met him and his wife a few years later when they came to town for a convention and he was just as kind in person. He was my first author crush.
6. The Stand, by Stephen King – I’d read several Stephen King books before this one and enjoyed most of them, but this is the one that has stayed with me. King has a way with characters; I’ve never read anyone else who can bring them to life so quickly and so completely, two sentences of description and I feel I know their souls. The characters in The Stand were superb – I loved or hated all of them; there wasn’t one I was indifferent to.
7. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling – I didn’t start reading these books until shortly before the fifth one came out; I’d paged through the first one at the bookstore years earlier and thought it was too young for me. But numerous people I knew online raved about them, so I ordered them all from Amazon UK (I’d read that the language in the US editions had been Americanized, which I hate). I read all five in one weekend, became distraught when I realized it would be years before the next book came out, and discovered fanfic to fill the gaps until then. The fanfic was a revelation by itself. While much of it was poorly written, much of it was excellent, as good as anything I found in the bookstores. It rearranged my thinking about who got to call herself a writer and what publication meant.
8. The Star Thrower, by Loren Eisesley – This is a book of poems and essays by the naturalist, anthropologist, and archaeologist best known for the book The Immense Journey. The poems I tend to skip over, but the essays will rip your heart out. I didn’t realize until I read this book that science meant something, that it wasn’t just some sterile incomprehensible thing men in white lab coats did for reasons best known to themselves.
9. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, by Mary Daly – This is not a book for skimming. I stumbled across this in my college bookstore, and though I wasn’t taking the class it was for, I bought it because I liked the title’s play on the word ‘gynecology’. That play turned out to be a hallmark of Daly’s writing, bending and twisting language to make it say what was supposed to remain unspoken. I was entertained, enraged, and enthralled. This is the book that pushed me to openly claim feminism.
10. A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, et al. – This is a book of architectural patterns, ranging from the details of a single structure up to urban planning of entire cities. It is sometimes unrealistically utopian but always fascinating. It changed the way I saw architecture and structures and space.
I loved this list, Karen. Just from reading why they mattered to you. The Stand is a great book with such memorable characters and I almost included it on mine, but ran out of room.
I absolutely agree about The Stand.
I have shared my choices with my Facebook friends. I’ll remove the books that won’t mean anything to most of you (the books in Bangla, my first language) and elaborate the reasons behind my choices a little).
1. One Thousand and One Nights. (While I love the original version, I love the extended edition, with stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba and Sinbad the sailor, even more). When I was a kid, we had three editions of this book in our home, including a purged “Kids’Version”. I have obsessively read and re-read them over the last 30 years or so. This is one of the only “perfect” pieces of literature for me.
2. Complete Sherlock Holmes stories. Do I even need to elaborate why?
3. Foucault’s pendulum, by Umberto Eco. This is one of the strangest (and greatest) books I’ve ever read. One of the main characters, while fabricating / hypothesising the craziest and most elaborate conspiracy theories ever, suddenly asked the narrator “You’re not taking me seriously by any chance, are you, [narrator]? No, I can rest easy; we’re not the type to take things seriously.” This stuck me as such a *reasonable* approach to take that I always hunt for this whenever I read elaborate backstories now.
4. Physics for Entertainment by Yakov Perelman. India had a very political connection with the erstwhile USSR and we used to get a lot of Russian books translated into most Indian languages. I consciously try to devote at least 20% of my reading time to pop-sci books and it all started with this wonderfully-written, beautifully-illustrated two-volume book published just a little more than 100 years ago. (This book is available from archive.org. Try it – perhaps you’d like it as well. https://archive.org/details/physicsforentert035428mbp)
5. Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett. Again, what do you say about him that has not been said already?
6. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, by Jules Verne. Verne has always been credited as one of the fathers of SF, but he is often denied the respectability he definitely deserves. He was a great observer of mankind and a writer whose technical skills were as good as anybody in the last 150 years. 20K leagues under the sea was his masterpiece, and (if you read French or can get hold of a good translation) is one of the greatest SF novels you’ll ever read.
Foucault’s Pendulum! I love that book. I sometimes describe it as The Da Vinci Code for smart people. 🙂
Well, Joe Lansdale, yeah, of course. When I met him at conference, I politely had a very fan-girl moment of squee. He was gracious, and he has a wicked, and fast, sense of humor. Although one of his books I couldn’t finish, because it went inside the mind of a psychopath, and I didn’t want to be there.
Also, anything and everything Discworld, by Terry Pratchett. Seriously, some of the best stuff I’ve ever read. And I read a lot. Ook!
The works of Kelley Armstrong. Because hey, I’m a woman, what a surprise I’d like urban fantasy featuring some kick-ass women!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Poe and Lovecraft, who were my mainstays until my oldest step-brother put “Salem’s Lot” in my hands when I was 12.
Are You There, vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, by Chelsea Handler. Because she’s totally crass but brutally honest at the same time.
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson. Because if you’ve only read The Lottery, you haven’t read her insights on raising children. And that is just as well written, albeit much funnier.
Joe Landsdale is truly a fantastic storyteller. That’s awesome that you got to meet him.
Pratchett. Absolutely. Witches Abroad, Guards, you name it. Totally, awesome!
I put mine up on my blog last week, it’s a bit too long to stick in the comments 😛
You can find my choices here.
This is hard, but all the books on this list have excited and haunted me.
I go back further than most of you, so you may not have come across people like Dennis Wheatley or John Christopher, but they’re worth a look.
Robert Holdstock: ‘Mythago Wood’
Kurt Vonnegut: ‘Slaughterhouse Five’
Aldous Huxley: ‘Brave New World’
Arthur C Clarke: ‘Childhood’s End’
Jules Verne: ‘Journey to the Centre of The Earth’
Dennis Wheatley: ‘They found Atlantis’
John Christopher: ‘The Death of Grass’
John Wyndham: ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’
Nevil Shute: ‘On the Beach’
Kim Stanley Robinson: ‘Red Mars’
I loved ‘The Ka of Gifford Hillary’ as a kid.
I nearly put that instead, but ‘Atlantis’ scared me witless.
Some of my favourites/books that have stuck with me have already been mentioned (I think Neuromancer and Perdido Street Station might be fairly frequent mentions throughout this comment thread) but it wasn’t difficult coming up with others.
In order only of which comes into my head first:
Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson: In which I realize that William Gibson has been writing about the same world the whole time, we just caught up to him.Brilliant writing. As soon as I finished it for the first time I immediately started again.
The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence: Hint to people thinking about reading Margaret Laurence–If you start with this book you may spoil yourself for anything else she wrote. It’s a masterpiece about the life of a prairie-born Canadian novelist, and if that sounds dull, well, I’m actually sitting here tearing up a bit because I’ll never get to read it for the first time again.
Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins: I’ve enjoyed all of his stuff that I’ve read (the first six novels, I think) but this was accessible, sexy and magical.
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: Really, this and the Baroque Cycle should be one entry, as there’s a huge depth of connection between them. Reading these is a commitment. You can’t get away with a few pages on your break, it’s like a second job, a job that pays you in awesome.
Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt: Another huge book, and another that spoiled me for any other Byatt books. Beautifully literary on so many levels. I’ve never had the guts to try and read it a second time.
Factotum, by Charles Bukowski (and Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye, Pulp): I doubt he was someone I’d have wanted to spend time with, and his subject matter is often offensive, but he told a story with clear, sparse prose–there are no wasted words in a Bukowski book. When I’m actually paying attention I try and emulate that. And now I want to go read Pulp again.
The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers: I’ve never read a Tim Powers book that I didn’t like, and usually love, but this hooked me with a combination of rollicking adventure and weird magic mixed in with bits of history, that made me want to do that myself. I had the same feeling with Declare (though less rollicking), which I think is a more fully crafted book, but The Anubis Gates just punched me in the face with coolness.
Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein: Creepy on a lot of levels, but I read this as a teenager and it has a whole lot to do with why i continue to read SF/Fantasy.
Anything Charles De Lint has ever written: My tastes have morphed and I’m not as focused on his stuff as I once was but his books have a shelf and half all their own. A clerk in a funky pagan/crystal/Celtic store saw my Cernunnos tattoo years ago and recommended I read Moonheart. That opened the door to reading every urban fantasy/mythic fiction book I could get my hands on.
Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, by Minister Faust: Much like Blackbirds this struck me as sharp, hip without being dated, edgy and irreverent. Also like Blackbirds, it struck me as the kind of book I would like to write.
Glad to see Bukowski on someone’s list.
To kill a mockingbird. Harper lee. Through the eyes of a child and written by a woman I appreciated the conflicting nature of man.
The bone people keri hulme. New Zealand’s magic drifted overseas.
The diary of Anne frank. Read as a child in small town Pennsylvania under blankets with a flashlight. Who would ever forget this text?
The old man and the sea. Hemingway. Teaches the quality of succinct writing. And I love fishing.
The currency of paper. Alex kovacs. My sons debut experimental novel. How can I not love it? Frighteningly brilliant.
Small note: I believe Poppy Z Brite prefers male pronouns.
That’s right, I’d forgotten about that!
My Ten Books http://blog.neidanwriting.com/misc/ten-books/
Oh, and at the risk of seeming like a totally opportunistic, apple-polishing, butt barnacle, I really to think Chuck’s The Cormorant goes to 11 (in the Spinal Tap sense of the word). The counsellor had to use the doll so I could show him all the places that book touched me. I reviewed it here. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/971065454
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver … Made me completely rethink all that I take for granted and value.
The Art of Racing in the Rain .. Garth Stein. Such a well crafted philosophy of life and death story, told through the entertaining voice of a dog called Enzo. By the end of this book, I really missed being with the characters and was ready to read it again.
Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West .. Gregory Maguire (long before the musical) tells this re imagined story that had me convinced I was reading the True story of Dorothy’s trip to Oz. entertaining as heck and yet in telling of the lands politics and societal issues it reflected our own history
A Prayer for Owen Meaney … John Irving .. Story about the kid who is different, bullied but whose self confidence makes him the better man. Runner up from Mr. Irving … The World According To Garp .. All those wonderful misfits …
The Red Tent … Anita Diamant. Taking a small character from the bible and telling a huge story with a first hand perspective
Stephen King .. The Shining .. First book that made me terrified to turn the page … And,
Stephen King .. The Green Mile … So much emotion. Every time I thought the super emotionsl parts were over, nope, here’s another one
Dean Koontz .. Watchers … Guess I just like a well told story with a dog
What a delicious list of must-reads and re-visits we have now. Thank you for reminding me of all the others I enjoyed over the years.
James Herriot, of course. I’m also a devote Janite. Hemingway, yummy stuff and a writing teacher if there ever was one. I’m pretty sure there’s a piece of my personality with Lady Brett Ashley written on it. Jake’s final line in The Sun Also Rises: “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so?”
RE: Stephen King’s, It. I always hated clowns. After reading that book, I’m terrified of them. Line from the book that stuck with all these years “He’ll never learn to color in the lines now” I also stay away from storm drains and so should you… We all float down here
Stuck with me:
The Shining. Sweet God, the wasps, the topiary, the scene where Jack broke Danny’s arm, seen though flashback.
Pet Sematary. Read far too young (nine-ish? Maybe?)
The Stand, especially the Unedited cut. (No great loss.)
Sandman, but you have to read them all. I need to pick up the prequels.
The Haunting of Hill House.
Heart Shaped Box
The Lord of the Rings
The Screwtape Letters
Honorable mentions: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Narnia series, The Great Divorce, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, the Little House books, A Christmas Carol, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Carrie, and the list goes on….
OH! And War and Remembrance. The first time other than the Diary of Anne Frank that I ever really read anything about WWII, via a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version that lived in our bathroom when I was young. I eventually read the real thing.
And Shogun and Tai-pan. Have to add those.
Badger! I see you’re a Joe Hill fan – check out his recent Google Hangout with my nonprofit here:
GAH! Stupid YouTube posted the whole playlist instead.
Here’s the link to Joe’s Google Hangout:
Oh wow, thanks that’s awesome.
Okay, heeere we goooo…. in chronological order rather than top-ten stylee, ’cause I couldn’t decide for that:
1 – The Naughtiest Girl in the School (Enid Blyton.)
2 – Little Women (Louisa M. Allcott.)
3 – To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee.)
4 – Z For Zachariah (Robert C. O’Brien)
5 – Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)
6 – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
7 – Body of Glass (Marge Piercy)
8 – The White Raven (Diana L. Paxon)
9 – Blackbirds (Chuck Wendig)
10 – Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn)
Can I also have ‘honourable mentions’ for: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams), The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time (Mark Haddon) The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) and the entire James Herriot and Gerald Durrell series?
‘Cause when I first started this challenge I thought “Hmm, I haven’t been much of a prolific reader in my life – I’m not sure I’ll be able to come up with 10 books…” And now here I am, bemoaning all the books I’ve had to leave OUT… who knew?
Okay! The 10 Books … um… only 10? shit… um….
1. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I love this book. I own the 1978 edition which is known to be one of the most accurate publications (so I’m told)… and it took me 3 years of lunch hours while I worked full time to read the damned thing. And I’ve seen the movies that Peter Jackson did too – well worth seeing them on the big screen even if you don’t like Shelob in the 3rd one.
2. I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
What a book! I loved every single word of it… and it wasn’t until my sweet little budgie died that its meaning really hit home. I’ll explain: Little Miss Stevie had suffered a massive stroke and a week later suffered from heart failure. While she was huffing and puffing – struggling for air – and she was breathing her last breaths on this Earth in her life here, she cornered herself in her cage. For a good part of her life, she had tried to get outside where the other birdies flew; without success. So, without complain, she surrendered herself to the inside of her cage, thinking that was what I wanted her to do. But I didn’t. I got her out of her cage, took her outside and let her die where she was supposed to: out where the wild birds flew and had fun – where she had spent her life wanting to be. She let out her last breath without a cage around her, looking up at the dying embers of the December day three weeks before Christmas in 2013 here in Brisbane, Australia. She was 7 1/2 years old.
3. ‘Other Colours’ by Orhan Pumak
What a book! His words are like oxygenated colour to my imagination. Orhan speaks about his beloved Portugal and the life he lives there in such stark beauty, you’d swear you’re walking next to him and he’s taking you on an actual guided tour of his homeland.
4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway
I was supposed to read this in high school, but I didn’t. Instead, I read ‘A Patch of Blue’ by Elizabeth Kata… another brilliant classic about racism and how the blind don’t understand it and don’t seen in colour by in only who is kind.
Old Man is a brilliant book about persistence, patience and is probably the most interesting book I’ve ever read about fishing (and I think fishing is the most boring sport on planet Earth as my Dad brought me up going fishing as a child). I spent around 3 days reading a 2nd Edition of this book which as 2 artist’s works in it! Fantastic book, great illustrations and I’d read it again.
1. “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass”, Lewis Carroll – One of the first so-called classic literature books I read as a kid, one that I can still quote and one that I’m totally guilty of buying any adaptation of that I can find.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide books, Douglas Adams – I read these in middle school, when my dad decided I was allowed to borrow the books on his bookshelf. That was the first time I understood that fiction could be deadpan humor and wackiness, not just puns and poo jokes.
3. “Where the Changewinds Blow”, Jack L. Chalker – This is the first book that ever made me truly ANGRY with an author. Not the characters, because there have been plenty of those, but at the author himself for having agreed to let someone publish this stupid goddamn book with the least tasteful sex I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter and so many incredibly misogynistic plot decisions that it came very close to also being the first book that I didn’t finish reading.
4. “Lord of Light”, Roger Zelazny – While the Chronicles of Amber have had a longer-term impact on me, “Lord of Light” is the one I go back to when I want just a single book to read. The layers and density of Zelazny always amazes, and the interweaving of myth and science is fascinating.
5. “Reaper Man”, Terry Pratchett – I had read Discworld books before I read “Reaper Man”, I didn’t GET Discworld until I read “Reaper Man.” I… I don’t want to ever got back to place where I didn’t get Discworld.
6. “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon”, Spider Robinson – This book was really my intro to adult science fiction and fantasy. I’d say “and adult comedy,” but I was introduced to that on the TV long before I read that book…
7. “Good Night, Mr. Holmes”, Carole Nelson Douglas – The first non-Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes book I read, and still one of my favorites. Douglas’s Irene Adler is awesome.
8. “The Man of Bronze”, Kenneth Robeson – The first pulp book I remember reading, and a book that still heavily impacts how I view all pulp adventures.
1. IT, by Stephen King. Monsters, friendship, sewers, an amazing depiction of what it’s like to be the weird kid everyone hates, this one stuck with me.
2. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, my first introduction to the glory and wonder that is SF,
3.Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, my first introduction to the glory and the wonder that is fantasy,
4,Butcher’s Storm Front, which showed me just what amazing things UF could do.
5. Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice which showed me just what modern high fantasy was all about, b/c if those aren’t character driven like whoa.
The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Shining by Stephen King
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse
Out by Natsuo Kirino
You included many books I also loved, and some new ones for me to enjoy.
Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay.
You know that quote, “Every villain is the hero of his own story?” Tigana is that story. Yeah, the “bad” guy was bad, but Kay writes his reasons for being so with such skill I couldn’t help but feel his pain. And though the “good” guys succeeded, there were no real winners. Just my broken heart.
Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig
Smary? Maybe, but I dreamed about this book. Never done that before. Those dreams would wake me and I would have to read another chapter (or three) before attempting to get back to sleep. When I reviewed Balckbirds, I said that one didn’t read the book; it possessed you. Yeah.
Sand and Ruin and Gold, by Alexis Hall
Holy. Crap. This is the story of a boy who runs away and joins the circus. Who falls in love with a merman the circus has captured (imagine SeaWorld with merpeople instead of orcas, and you have Hall’s world). It’s a fairy tale with no happy ending. It is heart-breakingly beautiful, with glorious prose that fills you with wonder and horror in equal measures.
Everything by Neil Gaiman ever
I love Gaiman’s writing. Everything from the mad Fortunately, The Milk (bought for my daughter) to The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. But my favourite is Neverwhere. I have the book and the audio as read by Gaiman, the DVD of the BBC series and the audio of the radio play. I… might be a little obsessed by that story.
Oh, I love Tigana. I can’t read that book without sobbing inconsolably. Tomasso and Sandre. Dianora. Brandin. The riselka. “Hers was not a life meant to be made whole.” “You should have killed me by the river.” “What a harvest, Prince of Tigana.” Now I need a box of Kleenex.
Dude, I was just recommending EXQUISITE CORPSE on panels at Dragoncon two weekends back. I love that book and Poppy….or Billy. Excellent shit.
1. Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain)
Read it, loved it and am compelled to re-read it frequently. The way Twain describes places and people appeals to me. You can see a lot of the wide-eyed young reporter even as he tries to conceal it.
2. Borstal Boy (Brendan Behan)
The little I remember of my Grandfather is of him telling me about growing up in Ireland. Behan paints wonderful pictures of everyone he meets–guards, fellow prisoners, random people met in court. There’s an even-handedness, even with the guards, a feeling that he understands them as people even as he decries their methods.
3. Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
My first love as far as mysteries go. An England gone the way of the dodo, where all is predictable. I enjoy them more now for the insight into Sir Arthur’s mind–that’s a more intriguing mystery, in any case.
4. The Knitter’s Almanac (Elizabeth Zimmermann)
One of the best books on knitting, ever. Written with gentle humor and a grandmotherly way of encouraging, while at the same time, giving the reader a kick in the butt to experiment and figure out things on their own. It’s a nice balance.
5. Lords and Ladies (Terry Pratchett)
Color of Magic was good (c’mon, who doesn’t love the Luggage?), but Lords and Ladies really struck a chord. I both hope and fear to grow up to be Granny Weatherwax someday, but without any sort of pretense at magical powers.
6. Old Man’s War (John Scalzi)
Loved the premise, loved the characters. The book just found a comfy spot in my brain and it now lives there.
I’ll have to ponder the last four. These are books I reach for on bad days or days when I’m ill or long road trips. They’re familiar and comforting and, in spite of being read to death, still find new ways to delight and/or surprise me. They’re not, to me, “junk food books”: good for a fast read and cast aside.
I am so happy to see Robert McCammon on your list. I devoured his books as a teen. He was the pinnacle of great suspense and horror. Mine:
1. Pet Semetary – Stephen King. Inspired me to write. That family stayed with me, I even made a different ending in my mind. I couldn’t let them go.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee. Taught me books could be smart and emotional while featuring the most ordinary of heroes.
3. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood – A marvel. I was in awe of this book.
4. Shoot the Moon – Billie Letts. The best kind of love story is an unexpected one.
5. The List of 7 – Mark Frost. Terror of the highest caliber.
6. The Talisman – King and Straub. Took me to another world
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. I wish I’d written that book was my first thought, second, WOW. Just….wow.
8. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly. Game changer. Terrifying children’s book.
9. Witching Hour – Anne Rice. I would re-read passages. Beautiful prose.
10. Clive Barker – anything by Barker proved to me that books like that DID exist.
1. The Stand, Stephen King — This book sticks with me for a whole host of reasons: King is at his world and character building best; Randall FUCKING Flagg, one of the best literary villains in any genre; the hideously probable nature of the virus that wipes everyone out. The Stand haunts me as a writer envying what another writer created and haunts my imagination as (mystical elements aside) a horrifyingly probable vision of apocalypse.
2. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris — The book is a masterpiece of the serial killer/thriller genre. Harris’s descriptions of Lecter alone are genius in the way they ride the line between portraying a man and a mythical monster clothed as a man. “Dr. Lecter’s eyes are maroon, and they reflect the light in pinpoints of red.” MAN. MAN. DAMN.
3. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote — I don’t have illusions about what Capote did here–he embellished and probably even fabricated. But the book is high art as prose goes and when he finally gets to portraying the murders of the Clutters, it’s as terrifying as “true” crime writing ever gets. Questions of Capote’s sins against the truth aside, almost every narrative nonfiction crime account since has been a pale shadow of this book.
4. Big Sur, Jack Kerouac — Holy shit, this book. I think of it as Kerouac’s horror novel. It’s short and devastating and a really underrated but true-seeming portrayal of a man absolutely falling apart. It wrung me out when I read it 20 years ago and I’ve been afraid to go back to it, yet I never forget it.
5. Possession, A.S. Byatt — Possession is perhaps a literary romance, but it’s also a towering achievement from a writer’s point of view and one of the most profound novels I’ve read when it comes to weaving together history, relationships, love, passion and crimes of the heart in general.
6. Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin — This book is a feat of historical writing in the way it breathes life into not only Lincoln but his family, friends and cabinet members. The book brings real dimension to Lincoln in a way some of the biographies focused solely on the man don’t do (Sandburg’s books are beautifully written, for instance, but read more like hagiographies).
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling — This was the book in the Potter series that made me reluctantly admit how much I loved the whole thing. I think Rowling commits some sins as a writer that no one wanted to edit out of her work once the books took off, but Deathly Hallows really is how you tie off such a big story, and I think it’s controversial among hardcore fans, but I deeply love the epilogue–19 years later–and cried like an idiot as I read it.
8. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson — Great books about history are time travel and they are precious and few. This one is astounding in the way Larson makes you taste, smell and see the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and I also don’t think I understood what a monster serial killer H.H. Holmes was until I read this. Larson’s work in general makes me want to write popular history but also makes me scared of it, because he’s such a great researcher and an equally good writer.
9. The Mothman Prophecies, John A. Keel — I think it’s generally accepted outside message boards devoted to discussing black helicopters that Mothman Prophecies is way more fiction than truth, and if I’m being really honest, Keel could be a terrible writer at the prose level–but I’ve read this book 3 times and it never ceases to send prickles up my spine. For all its flaws, there’s something, I don’t know, original about the horrors in the book–I haven’t seen anything like it until the web cooked up Slender Man a few years ago. I like to think all these books are quality in one way or another and this may not be, but it sure as hell fits the criteria of a book that for whatever reason, sticks with me in a way I can’t really explain.
Thinking about this, I realize that I have read SO MANY books in the past 20 or so years…. SO VERY MANY.
It’ll be tough to only pick a few as standing above the rest. Hell, many of these I devoured at such speeds that I can’t even remember them except for snippets of memory that seem like half-delirious dreams.
At any rate:
1. The Tommyknockers – Stephen King
A lot of people hate this book. I read it when I was eleven years old (someone should have known better), and it’s the first King novel I ever got into my clutches. It was also the first horror story I’d ever read. The book is split into three sub-books, and Part II is an exercise in patience and not-gouging-my-eyes-out-because-BORED.
But it taught me so much. About story, about things that go bump in the night, and about why you don’t go digging in the woods, just because you stubbed your toe on what appeared to be a half-buried soda can.
2. The Dark Tower (series) – Stephen King
So, those are my two King mentions. When I finished The Dark Tower, I actually briefly wondered whether I would ever be the same again. My whole world had tipped slightly off kilter. If you’ve read it, you may be familiar with the feeling.
3. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
It has everything: Ancient Gods, power struggles, secret schemes, and wonderfully twisted symbolism. A lot of things about Shadow have stayed with me. I still periodically re-read the book.
4. On a Pale Horse – Piers Anthony
Someone who was once mortal must take on the mantle of Death and become the new reaper. It’s tragic and insightful and some of the ideas of how we handle our own mortality and our hope for an afterlife still rattles around my head from time to time.
5. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
It wasn’t assigned reading and I devoured it anyway, freshman year of high school. Probably one of the more iconic stories out there, but still one of my favorites. If only for the amazing use of language.
6. The Lord of the Flies – William Golding
This one was assigned reading. Didn’t stop me from loving it to pieces. The light it casts on human nature still haunts me from time to time.
7. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
It was the turn of the century. It started off hopeful, then became wistful and tragic. It does not end the way you expect. For weeks afterward I struggled with the message of the final few pages, and I think I still haven’t made up my mind as to how I feel.
8. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
This is the trilogy that includes the Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Religious overtones or not, this book poses some interesting (read: haunting) questions about what it means to have a soul.
9. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I bought this book at a time when I had no idea who either author was. Apart from the wonderful way it is written, this story has so much to offer: Wit, humor, a strange take on the apocalypse, a strained friendship between an angel and a demon, and a feisty hellhound named Dog. I was able to have my now-old, battered copy signed by Mr. Gaiman, and now it holds a very special place on my shelf.
10. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Weirdly enough, when I first read this book, I thought I didn’t like it very much, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
However, a few years later, I’m still thinking about Kvoth’s world, and how its magic functions, and the nature of storytelling itself.
So, those are my ten. Make of them what you will 🙂
1. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
Simply put, she was right.
2. Bless Me, Ultima – Rudolfo Anaya
Even the youngest children can struggle with their spirituality and learn how to reconcile God to their circumstances. Beautiful read if you’re going through an existential crisis. Or not.
3. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio – Terry Ryan
Everyone should have a clever, thrifty, gentle mother like that. And reading this book reminded me that I do.
4. Jacob Have I Loved – Katherine Paterson
Read it as a 12-year-old middle child. Could totally relate. Just one of those books that adolescents need to read and feel and clutch against their chests and think that they’re the only ones who understand it. 🙂
5. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Favorite writer from the romantic period. I don’t know what I liked more: the story line or the lush writing.
6. Collected Poems – W. B. Yeats
Still working through it, but my go-to’s are no longer dog-eared. The ears fell off.
Didn’t mean for my list to be a direct reply to you, Laura, but The Lord of the Flies is definitely up there, too! Required reading when I was younger, so first impression was “eh.” Reread as an adult and was terrified.
I’ve read Swan Song and The Handmaid’s Tale, both awesome books.
The Stand by Stephen King is a classic and I think one of his best.
Watchers by Dean Koontz.
The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. She was already established as a romance writer, but this series is far from romantic. The five books of the series make up one story rather than five separate books.
The Black Prince trilogy by P. J. Fox. The first two are out: The Demon of Darkling Reach and the White Queen. The first one starts like a medieval romance, but the horror elements are quickly revealed. I’m still reading the White Queen.
Penryn and the End of Day by Susan Ee. Angelfall and the World After are frightening and intriguing. I hope the third in this series will be out soon.
I’m intrigued by themes that blur the line between good and evil, predator and prey. Both Moning’s and Fox’s books do this to the point that you have trouble pin-pointing who the good-guys are or picking out the true villians.
I did something similar to this several years ago on my blog:
With this Ring, Mary Wibberly
Man, I read this book ages ago and the story still stays with me. Yeah, it’s a romance, and I don’t usually read romances, but this story was just so sweet!
The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard
Because Poe was a character in the story, and damn it, you can’t get any better than that!
The Shining, Stephen King
For all the reasons everyone else here has already given. Ditto.
Lightning, Dean Koontz
Because this was my first Koontz read, and I will always remember it.
The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
Because this book scared the devil out of me.
Ways of Leaving, Grant Jarrett
A new author, and this book will always stay with me because of his ability to put me in a character’s head.
I think I’m still in Chase’s head.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Because I love this kind of narrator. Enough said.
Bible and Book of Mormon
Joel Rosenberg’s guardians of the flame series. And not for glory.
The first 2 Dexter books.
The Dresden files
The Miriam Black books
James Gabarino’s books on risk and resiliency
Black hawk down
John Sandford prey series and his Virgil followers series
White Wolf/Onyx Path rpg books
the scar, China Mieville
the Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff
Dark Eden, Chris Beckett
the Broken empire, Mark Lawrence
Silence, Shusaku Endo
Here is my go at the 10 books that left me with something
1 – The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – Without this book, I would not be reading at all.
2 – Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
3 – An Instance of the Fingerpost – Iain Pear
4 – Harry Potter (too hard to pick just one) – JK Rowling
5 – Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
6 – Lamb – Christopher Moore
7 – Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig
8 – The City & the City – China Mieville
9 – Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
10 – The Blonde – Duane Swierczynski
There are so many books that should be included on this list, but this group is my recommendation pile to all my friends who are looking for great books to read.
“Bunnicula”, James Howe: My dad sent me this book in a ‘vampire care package’ (he was afraid I didn’t have enough vampires in my literary life) and it has stuck with me. Come on….a vampire bunny?! and veggies with the juice sucked out?! and a detective dog and literary cat?! It is a completely wonderful story! “Lost Souls” by Poppy Brite is my runner up vampire story that stuck with me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading while I was reading it so I had to go back and re-read to see if it was really that intense. (It is.)
“The Lord of the Rings”, J.R.R. Tolkien: I was in kindergarten when I first read this (okay, okay, I mostly skimmed and skipped through it that first time!) and it opened the world of epic fantasy up for me. I definitely blame this book for my enduring love of fantasy and I have re-read it more time than I can count. My runner up to this particular book is “The Name of the Wind” by Pat Rothfuss because he finally managed to write a book that reminded me of why I so fell in love with epic fantasy in the first place!!
“Lords and Ladies”, Terry Pratchett: While this is not my favorite Pratchett, it is the first one I ever read. I found this book in a grocery store and grabbed it because ‘evil elves’. After I was finished flying through the book while laughing and wincing in equal measure, I went out and started building my Pratchett library. I have never regretted it! (“Hogfather” is and probably always will be my favorite Pratchett because Death is probably his all-time best character!) Pratchett showed me that politics/societal norms and fantasy could be combined and could be funny (and thought-provoking) as hell!
“The Dark is Rising”, Susan Cooper: I found this book in the school library when I was in middle school and then had to wait a year to actually sign it out because our school librarian was a dragon and she had this book in the high-school section. (Okay, I’ll admit to it, I actualy read the book (several times) by sitting in the back of the library before I was ‘old enough’ to read it but I still wanted to sign it out!) This book (and the rest of the series) introduced me to Celtic and British mythology and the world of King Arthur and made me realize I NEEDED to read more about these topics. Plus I still love Cooper’s world and her characters and you should never, ever ask me about that damned horrible movie they insist was based on her book. Because it wasn’t. Not at all.
“Sleep 2, 3, 4”, John Neufeld & “1984”, George Orwell: My introductions and gateway books to the world of dystopian literature. I read “1984” first and it was probably the first book that I read and re-read and read again just to see what I had missed the first time through (and because it messed with my head that much!). “Sleep 2, 3, 4” I got because my high school English teacher had a box of books at the end of the year that he was giving away and I grabbed it for the cover. I read it and realized that I really did enjoy dystopian literature and immediately went out and started to find more to read. I still remember the feeling I had when the younger brother in “Sleep” did too well on the test…..
“Lamb”, Christopher Moore: Moore’s completely irreverent take on religion was eye-opening to me. Plus, I’m really not sure I ever laughed so hard!!
“I Robot”, Isaac Asimov: This book led to my lifetime love of science fiction. I was frightened of and for the robots, in equal measure, while reading the stories.
“Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, Daniel Goldhagen: This book taught me that non-fiction could be much, much more disturbing and frightening than any horror book ever written. I’d read other books about the Holocaust before this (many others) but this one, because it was about everyday people, really hit me. Hard.
“The Whole World Was Watching”, Romaine Patterson: This book proved to me that while humanity may still suck as a whole, some people really can attempt to make a difference. (This is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis.)
There are many, many other books that have stuck with me: “The Plague Dogs” by Richard Adams (I still can’t bring myself to re-read this but it sits on my shelf waiting); “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams (taught me to always know where my towel is and the meaning of life); “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr (one of my all time favorite detective stories); “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman (I have the book, the graphic novel and the BBC show — I guess that says something!); “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (actually quite a few of Jackson’s stories because they scared the hell out of me!); “SS-GB” by Len Deighton & “Fatherland” by Robert Harris (they opened the world of alternate histories up for me and I still love to visit that world!); “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in the Secret of Terror Castle” by Robert Arthur (kid detectives who were real people! unlike Nancy and those Hardy boys! I loved (still love) those three! plus the intros by Hitchcock really made my day!); “Battle Royale” by Koushun Takami (made me run out and buy more Japanese horror — and then made me realize that Japanese horror should be read in small doses…very small doses!); “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore (made me realize that graphic novels were definitely NOT for kids!); “Westmark” by Lloyd Alexander; “Under Plum Lake” by Lionel Davidson; “The Case of the Vanishing Boy” by Alexander Key; “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer; “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson; “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman; “A Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan (my favorite skeptical/critical thinking book of all time).
Okay, there are still many, many more but I’m done for now.
The confederacy of dunces …John Kennedy OToole
The little prince…Antoine de Saint-exupery
Into thin air…John Krakauer
Life of Pi..Yann Mateo
Gone Girl….Gillian Flynn
The count of Monte Cristo..Alexander Dumas
All souls….. Michael Patrick MacDonald
Small sacrifices..Ann rule
Presumed innocent…. Scott turow
In no particular order:
1 – A Wizard of Earthsea. Read it when I was a kid and only found out later it was an “important book.”
2 – The Hobbit. Read to me by my mother.
3 – Citizen of the Galaxy. Not a perfect book, but maybe the most humane Heinlein novel.
4 – Burning Chrome. I have a visceral memory of picking it up in a bookstore and having the first sentence of Johnny Mnemonic seared into my brain.
5 – The Diamond Age. Better than Snow Crash, not as well remembered for some reason.
6 – Night of the Cooters. The short story collection that introduced me to Howard Waldrop.
7 – A Civil Campaign. The tenth in the Vorkosigan series (or 12th?) and the first one I read.
8 – Fifth Business and its sequels. My introduction to Robertson Davies.
9 – Solomon Gursky Was Here. Profane Canadian history/comedy/tragedy.
10 – Perdido Street Station.