10 Books That Made An Impression On Me

You’ve probably seen this challenge on Facebook already – list 10 books that have made an impression on you. When one of my friends tagged me last weekend, I decided to narrow it down to ten by focusing on books that I feel have influenced me as a writer. Here’s what I came up with, listed roughly in the order in which I first read them. All images link to listings on Barnes & Noble’s website.

1. The Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These are the books that made me want to be an author. At the age of five, I started narrating my life in third person as though I were writing about it like Laura.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

Notable first and foremost because it was my first fantasy fandom. Also notable because The Last Battle is my earliest memory of encountering racism. I had nightmares about Narnians thinking I was a bad guy because I was brown like the Calormenes, not white like the Narnians. I don’t think C.S. Lewis incorporated these messages with any forethought or malice. He was a product of his culture like any other artist. Which is why I, as a writer, try to be mindful of prejudices in my culture, and to consciously consider how various tropes might affect demographics that I’m not a part of.

The first of many, many books in the series

3. The Hank the Cowdog series, by John R. Erickson

These books are the literary representation of everything I loved about Texas, the state where I was born and spent most of my early childhood. The eponymous narrator is a mutt who works as the self-proclaimed Head of Ranch Security on a Texas ranch. In hindsight, this snarky, egomanical, slightly unreliable narrator may have had an effect on my writing style.

4. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, by Judy Blume

Overall this book is kind of forgettable, but it stuck with me because, paired with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, it taught me the concept of Protagonist. Sheila Tubman was introduced in TOAFGN as a minor antagonist who existed only to irritate narrator Peter Hatcher. Then in OKASTG, Sheila became the narrator, and suddenly I saw these characters’ little world through her eyes. It looked totally different. I still didn’t know the word “protagonist” (I was in second grade, iirc), so I labeled the concept “the character you feel sorry for.”

5. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

What stuck with me about this one more than the actual story was my mom telling me she’d been in a school play based on the book, and my grandma telling me she’d enjoyed the book when she was a kid. Little Women was my first experience with generations being linked by stories.

Click for listings for The Bridge, Crown and Jewel, and The Two Collars

6. The Bracken Trilogy, by Jeri Massi

How a Christian fantasy series published by Bob Jones University Press ended up being one of the most feminist fantasy series I’ve ever read, I have no idea. It’s all about a mysterious Wise Woman bequeathing wisdom and power to three generations of future queens. It’s been years since I read it, but I’ll bet anything it passes the friggin’ Bechdel Test with flying colors. Incidentally, Jeri Massi is now an outspoken advocate against abuse and corruption in fundamentalist Christianity.

7. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I could write a whole book about how much these books mean to me. I’ll just say that they brought me back to fantasy.

Click for listings of the whole trilogy: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.

8. The Thrawn Trilogy (Star Wars extended universe), by Timothy Zahn

This was my first experience with science fiction as a literary genre as opposed to a film/TV genre. Zahn’s books were the only ones in the Star Wars extended universe that I really connected with, but they led me to Zahn’s non-Star Wars works and to classic sci fi novels like…

9. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Herbert’s skill as a world-creator and in the use of Omniscient Narrator makes this a must-read for any aspiring speculative fiction writer. I’d go so far as to say that Dune is to science fiction as Lord of the Rings is to fantasy in terms of scope and execution.

Click the image to read Agent to the Stars online for free!

10. Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

This was my introduction to online serial publication. Scalzi put it online in 1999, and it’s still available online for free. Scalzi’s characterizations and his great balance of humor and heart are as much in force here as in his later, traditionally published writings. Agent to the Stars directly influenced my decision to build a platform through serial online publishing.

2 responses to “10 Books That Made An Impression On Me”

  1. Wow, thank you for your kind praise of my books (#6 on your list). I am so thankful that I go ego surfing every Monday, for searching on my own name, while shameless, also led me to your blog and your kind review. I had never heard of the Bechdel test, so I followed the link you posted, only to learn, to my disappointment, that my books do pass the Bechdel test, but apparently the Bechdel test is unreliable in guaranteeing a good read. I can honestly say that I have never written a book in which a girl is trying to get a guy, or where getting a guy is even a minor story arc (and certainly never a major story arc) in the book. I have just released a self-published book called INSIDERS, and if you are willing to do a review of it, I will gladly send you an e-book version for free. Good luck on your writing endeavors. –Jeri

    • Thank you so much for commenting! Your Bracken trilogy was such a huge part of my tween and teen years.

      Re: the Bechdel test, believe me, writing a book that passes the test (especially in the YA genre, which practically requires romance, and fantasy, which tends to be mostly male with a few token women) is a significant accomplishment. Some people treat it like it’s the *only* indicator of whether a work is female-positive or not, which is why some critics like the one I linked to can get a little ranty about it. Like the vlog said, passing the Bechdel test doesn’t necessarily mean a work is female-positive, and failing it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Which makes books like yours, which pass the test *and* carry legitimately empowering messages for young girls, all the more outstanding.

      I’d love to review your new book! I can’t make any promises about a time frame since I tend to read slowly when I’m working on a manuscript, but if you’d like, please send it to the email address on my contact page.

      Again, thank you for your comment!

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