For me, holidays, at their core, are about gratitude.
And so today, I am grateful for these 10 books that influenced my life and my writing.
1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
One of the first books I remember my Grandma reading aloud to me in her smoker’s voice. Listening to her read is one of my favorite childhood memories. She gave me an Oxford English Press version of the book when I was 6 years old. I still have it to this day.
2. Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy by George Selden
I was so enamored of the sarcastic, but affectionate Harry Cat, that I remembering telling my mother I wanted to marry him. His adventures, along with Tucker Mouse, sparked my imagination. In fact, one of the first stories I ever wrote as a child, was of a cat detective (though mine went by the not-so-original moniker of Fluffy).
3. Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders
A Canadian book first published in 1893. Although this book is for children, it does not shy away from exploring themes of life, death, and animal cruelty. This is one of the first books I read where the main character dies. I was devastated and yet, I gained an understanding of how good storytelling can impact its readers. The same copy my Grandma gave me, sits on my shelf today.
4. What do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
My sisters and I spent hours pouring over the illustrations, for they told just as much of the story (if not more), than the words. The section titled: A Voyage on a Ship was especially captivating.
5. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
The book that began it all.
This was the first Nancy Drew book I read. And sure, Nancy could do it all, and seemed to know it all, but she ignited within me a life-long love of detective and mystery fiction. I read the entire series, along with the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, the Famous Five, etc.
Which led to …
6. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
It was hard to pick which Christie novel had the most impact, as she was certainly a Grand Master of Story-telling. But ultimately this was a terrifying and brilliant whodunnit — with a twist that was more than revolutionary at the time of publication.
7. Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
In reading Chaucer I discovered I had a strange affinity for the tongue of Medieval English. Chaucer is a bawdy and pointed story-teller and I was fortunate enough to have a high school teacher who brought to class all the naughty bits our text had censored from its pages. Chaucer was expert at constructing character, and to this day I still remember, and strive to replicate, his character descriptions.
8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is my favorite book of the last few years. It shook me on a profoundly spiritual level. Martel is a truly spell-binding writer and story-teller.
9. Macbeth & Hamlet by Shakespeare
It was through these two plays that I fell in love with Shakespeare. Yes, he is a master at crafting pathos, dramatic beats, and characters that are both empathetic and frustrating. However, his language! There is nothing like hearing his words spoken live to truly understand what an incredible talent this man had with words.
10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The intense passion between Jane and Rochester is spell-binding. The mystery of Thornfield Hall is devastating. The tone is all at once romantic, unsettling, and melancholy. It is the book that led me to pursue a degree in English Literature and to read both her sisters (Agnes & Anne), as well as others early novelists, Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, Hugh Walpole and the like.
And always the bonus!
11. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There were too many stories to pick one in particular (although The Adventure of the Speckled Band might be it). Not only did these tales continue to enhance my love of the early novel and detective fiction, but using the trope of telling the story through Watson’s eyes, intrigued and inspired me to experiment with the concept of voice in my own writing.
Please share the books that inspire and ignite you!