Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The seven books that made me who I am today...

Or, more to the point: The seven books which most influenced my love of reading and ultimately, writing...

I've been bequeathed the Sweet Blog Award (already posted on my side bar), this time by Jenna Cooper of Finding the Write Way. Thanks Jenna! Make sure to check out her blog. She's new and on the rise!

The rules state I list seven things about me and find 15 people to give said blog award to. And as I'm prone to do, I'm rebelling. ;) Instead of boring stuff about me, I'm listing the seven books which played the biggest roles in my passion for reading and writing, and why.

So off we go: The seven most influential books of my life thus far...

1. The Bible. Okay, stay in your seats. Nobody panic. I'm not going to preach to you. But have you ever really sat down and read it? Here's a tip: turn to Psalms. Read any of them. Poetry: uplifting, passionate, meaningful, romantic, and melancholy. Then there are the stories in the Old Testament: Daniel in the Lion's Den, Noah's Ark, Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt, etc... C'mon peeps! This is drama at it's best! Suspense, tension, dysfunctional families, romance, spurned lovers, murder, mayhem and death. It's all there. Honest to goodness, want to know where I first developed my love of story telling? In Sunday School class with those little worksheets that used pictures and text to highlight a different bible story each week.

2. The Cat in the Hat. Who wasn't influenced by Dr. Suess at some point as a child? I remember sitting on the couch just looking at the pictures. Suddenly, I was somewhere else. Transported in time and space to hang out with a funky cat and his candy-striped hat. I got to make a HUGE mess of someone else's house, and didn't even have to help clean up. YAY! Then, once my mommy sat down and actually read the words to me, my ears tickled with rhyme and rhythm.

3. The Wind and the Willows. My first grade English teacher introduced me and my entire class to this tale, a few pages each day. I couldn't wait for that small window after lunch when she would read. The pleasures of country life and the dependability of good friends. This book greatly influenced my appreciation for individual characterization and scene setting/building. The Devil-may-care Mole, impetuous Mr. Toad, shy Badger, and discerning Rat, all going on picnics, joy rides in old-timey automobiles, and hanging around in row boats. These animals ... they knew how to party. And in the process, they taught me some valuable life lessons. Subtlety at its finest.

4. Charlotte's Web. I think I first read this in third or fourth grade. I cried. HARD. It was the first book to touch me viscerally. I loved Charlotte. She epitomized beauty, but on a level I wasn't familiar with. Spiders had always been scary and ugly to me. But Charlotte, she was beautiful inside. She cared about Wilbur when no one else did. And she threw herself into making his life better, in spite of how weary or busy she was. E.B. White gave me my first experience with a selfless character. And when Charlotte died, my love for the bittersweet ending was born.

5. Goblin Market. Please, don't disqualify me on a technicality! I know it's only a poem. But I would be remiss if I failed to mention Christina Rossetti's influence on my writing. She ignited my passion for imagery and sensory through the power of her beautiful and seductive prose.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird. One word for what Ms. Lee taught me with this timeless and poignant tale: VOICE.

7. Stephen King's On Writing. Granted, I read this book after the writing bug bit me. But even from a reader's standpoint, it's engrossing, intriguing, and encouraging. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from him (paraphrased, of course): You're a writer, not a liar. As long as something is true to your character, it will be true to your reader. Always seek the truth in your writing, and your readers will follow you anywhere. I think he's proven that with his incredible career, so I'm taking his word.

And there you have my seven books.

As for who I'm passing this on to, I'm leaving it open.

Think of it as a meme ... if any of you haven't received this particular blog award and would like to follow the original rules or my new ones, snag that puppy up, post it on your sidebar, and give us all some insights into what makes you tick. Just make sure you let me know in the comments so I can come by and read your post. I love learning new things about my fellow writers!

Thanks for dropping by! Since today is my official day to blog, I'll be hitting your blogs shortly. Can't wait to see what's new with you. :)


  1. Great list! I've only read two, the Bible and TKAM, but I love them both! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great list you have there! Most of them I have to say influence me as well! :)

  3. Love it, Anita! And I hear you on the Bible. You don't have to be a Christian or religious to be able to appreciate a good piece of literature (misogynistic, though it might be).

    My favorite Dr. Seuss book was "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" :)

    Also, great tip from the King!

    Love ya, lady :)

  4. I loved reading your reasons for your choices. Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss definitely made me see the fun you can have with words (okay and illustrations) but having 'Goblin Market' read out loud by a pretty young english teacher made me see that words could be beautiful and sensual too. And now I really want to reread The Wind in the Willows and read Charlotte's Web.
    - Sophia.

  5. Wow! We share four of the seven! What a great list. And the Bible is a great one. I just read a book on Monsters in Religion. There is a lot about the Book of Job. Enough to give you the shivers. LOL! Hope you are having a good day. Check out my summer reading widget! HeHe!

  6. All great choices, Anita! I agree with on Psalms--they are beautiful and uplifting.

    I love how you always come up with different twists to rules (rebel indeed!). Dr. Seuss--oh man, I remember going to my aunt's house where she had a whole bookshelf of Dr. Seuss' books, and instead of socializing with the cousins, I'd stay in that room reading. My aunt always thought i was a bit eccentric. Lol!

    Thanks for sharing these! :)

  7. I love your list. Green Eggs and Ham was my favorite of all of Dr. Seuss' books, and your reactions to Charlotte's Web were also mine exactly. I cried so hard when Charlotte died.

    I've heard so many good things about On Writing... I really should read it lol. It can only benefit me, after all =P

  8. You just can't go wrong with Dr. Seuss and I loved 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    It was one of the few required English class readings that I actually enjoyed.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. The Wind and the Willows!!! OMG I forgot about how much I loved that book growing up! Loving the list Anita :) I ordered On Writing last night after sampling the first few pages on Amazon. Can't wait to read it! Happy Wednesday my dear!

  10. Hi Jessie! TKAM really taught me a lot about how voice could carry a book. And yep, can't go wrong w/the Bible! ;)

    THanks for stopping in, Amy! Hard to believe kid books could stick w/you all the way through the adult years, but they do!

    Hello my dear Marewolf! I think everyone has a fave Dr. Suess book. I now my kids do. They both loved Hop on Pop. :) Love ya, too, and thanks for dropping by.

    Hey there Sophia. Ahh. Roald Dahl. LOVED him. And yep, I think Goblin Market might've been the first poem I ever read that actually seduced me. Hee

    Marigold~ How cool! Although I'm not surprised we share some of the same stepping stones to our writing, since we seem to be drawn to the same kinds of stories. :)

    Hello Sparkly Cherie! Oh, I love Psalms. It's basically just a long, beautiful sonnet. Heehee. I am a rebel rouser. But it's more fun that way! And I don't think you're eccentric at all ... unless that means you're super talented and really cool.

    Hi Lovely Lori! Oh, it just broke my heart that Charlotte died. But then when three of her hatchlings stayed with Wilbur, they turned to tears of happiness. :) And yes, you MUST read King's book. It's life changing for a writer. At least it was for me.

    Sophi, my nicey pants friend! Isn't it wonderful when a required read actually turns out to be something amazing? Thanks for stopping by. :)

    Hi Kerri! I loved the Wind in the Willows. I was so enamored of the book cover and just the title itself captivated me because it was lyrical and beautiful. And their friendships were so REAL to me. Great stories. Yay on ordering Stephen King's book! You will LOVE it, and will never look at writing the same again. You'll have to let me know what you think when you read it.

  11. Who would have guessed we'd have a few of the same books on our fav's list?!

    NOTHING'S FAIR IN THE FIFTH GRADE is still an all time winner.

  12. Howdy Bethany my blogging sistah! You know, I've actually never read the one you listed. Hmm. It sounds incredible, though. If you liked it, it must be witty and charming!

  13. Loved your list; thank you for sharing! You might be interested in this link from Scholastic, where people post the books that influence them the most, much as you have. To Kill a Mockingbird is the #1 title, and Dr. Seuss made the top 10 list as well!

  14. This is a great list. My family has a tradition of reading to each other, and on one recent holiday, my dad read Wind in the Willows to us (we're all grown now and some of us have kids of our own). Anyway, I love that book just as much now as I did when I was a kid. Maybe more.

  15. I love the Psalms! Very uplifting. Helped me during many a hard time in my life. Also -- Charlotte's Web. Loved that book as a kid! And Cat in the Hat! I'm ashamed to admit I've never read To Kill a Mocking Bird...

  16. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of three book I reread nearly every other year or so. The other two? Huck Finn and The Risk Pool by Richard Russo. The first two are for obvious reasons, and the alst one has a personal meaning for me.

  17. Great list - I love it. Hmm... I'd have to think long and hard, but I know one book would be Z for Zachariah by Scott O'Dell. I didn't realize how much it had influenced my own writing until a follower emailed me the other day and mentioned it. Great book!

  18. Hey Jenny Pony! Thanks for the awesome linkage. I will hop over there tomorrow and check it out. :) So good to see you!

    Hi Sarah! What a lovely tradition. Wow. WE should start doing that. And I agree; the children's books that touched us just never get dated. You know?

    Great to see you Ashley! And yes, I LOVE the Psalms. You must read TKAM. It's amazing. Not only for her incredible southern voice throughout, but for the message of tolerance and forgiveness. Beautiful story.

    Hi Travis! LOVE Huck Finn. Have to admit I've never read The Risk POol, but you have me intrigued now. Thanks for sharing!

    Hey there Mindy! Pretty spectacular agent guest you have on your blog today. Hee. So, I've never read the book you listed. But don't you love getting compared to a wonderful author? No greater compliment. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Great idea, Anita.

    I MADE my thirteen-year-old son read To Kill A Mockingbird last year. He didn't really want to, but he ended up loving it. We had some great discussions about it.

    C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are my heroes. You can't beat the Bible for inspiration.

    I still find Dr. Suess inspiring ;)

  20. Hello Anita!
    I think I finally got things worked out with blogger--apparently she was having a rough day yesterday ;o)

    I just finished Stephen King's "On Writing" and LOVED it!! It was very entertaining, yet inspirational and educational. Oh, and I love Dr. Seuss! I remember learning to read with Dr. Seuss ;o) My all time favorite is "The Places You'll Go." Again, very inspirational (for adults too!). I also read "There's a Wocket in my Pocket" to my son while I was pregnant with him (gotta start them early!) :o)

  21. Hey there, Dawne. :) Good for you, instilling the love of literature in your kiddos at a young age. You'll never regret that. OOH, I <3 Tolkien and Lewis, too. In fact, they would've been on my list if it had been longer than seven.

    Hello Angela! Glad you could stop in. :) Yes, blogger has been quite fickle lately. VERy Annoying. Heh. Good girl, reading to your baby so early. I've heard that's supposed to be really good for them. And about Stephen King's book, I know, right??? Best writing book ever.

  22. That's a great list, Anita :) Espcially the Bible and Charlotte's Web.

  23. Hi Caitlin! Thanks. I enjoyed putting it together. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your faves, too. :)

  24. Love this post! I cry every time I even THINK about Charlotte's Web, and To Kill a Mockingbird left a HUGE impression on me as well. On Writing changed the way I write, and who hasn't been influenced by the genius of Dr. Suess? For me, it was The Lorax... I read that book to all my summer camp kids every single year! :)

  25. One or two of those must be on mine, too! Love this post so hard just for the way it kind of... encapsulates the Becoming a Writer thing for you personally, too.

    And yes, on the Bible. I'm, like, a flaming atheist, and I agree with you completely.

  26. Hi Lisa Ann! I know; wasn't E.B. White brilliant? Taking a bug that we kill without thought almost on a daily level and turning it into a "someone" who we loved and respected? That's the magic of characterization done right. And I don't think I ever read The Lorax. I'll have to look it up. :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  27. Hey Katey! Thanks! It's a cool trip down memory lane to remember what stories/books really touched you, you know? :)

  28. Love this list! It's like a writing/reading journey. I don't know that I could narrow it down to seven...maybe seventy?

  29. I really love this entire selection. The bible is a big one that I think is often overlooked or is not talked about as often in terms of influence. Its language is downright breathtaking. It's dark, dramatic, lovely, and everything in between. Thanks for sharing this list! It's always fun to reflect on those works that have influenced you over the years.