Today I’m taking a break from all the book news and announcements to do something a little fun, that I stole the idea from the booktube tag of the same name, but I’m putting a little twist on it…the 10 Most Influential Books (to me) as a writer!
I’m going to list these in no particular order because I think ordering them from least to most influential would simply be impossible, and I’ll try to give a quick snippet explaining what it is about these books which has stuck with me as a writer or influence a specific area of my writing.
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- I read this book in the course of late 2011 and through the first half of 2012, the second half of it read concurrently with my first draft of The Duality Paradigm and I think the reason this book resonates for me is that I see my own writing style or voice in Larsson’s. There’s a certain spareness of world building while at the same time a very specific attention to detail (exp the characters clothes, what they eat, the furniture in their flats etc) that I think I tend to do in my writing as well.
- Monster by A Lee Martinez – This book showed me that you could have urban fantasy without wasting a ton of time on exposition. And you didn’t have to write in first person. yay!
- Dracula by Bram Stoker – the language is beautiful and this remains one of the scarier things I’ve read and I think it shows that it’s more terrifying to leave things to your reader’s imaginations, to leave things poorly explained and unknown.
- Sherlock Holmes by ACD – I’ve read a large portion of the short stories and novellas by ACD, not all, but almost all. This book challenges POV and protagonist. I think there’s an interesting question of the unreliable narrator in Sherlock Holmes which is rarely explored. But these are Watson’s diaries, journals, short stories, written and narrated by him about our ostensible protagonist. When I’m brainstorming a new story I always have a good long sit and think about who my protagonist and POV characters are before I begin.
- Dune by Frank Herbert – there’s a denseness in the language of Dune that I worry permeates my own writing because as a young kid, Dune was the most amazing, best well written piece of literature I’d ever read. Dune Messiah is one of my favorite books of all time.
- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Alternative Universes exist outside fanfiction theyre just hard to find! I love AUs in fanfic but it seemed like something that only existed in the fannish bubble before I stumbled across The Eyre Affair. This book is a DELIGHT and way under appreciated imho. It also taught me a lot about genre bending/crossing, which is part of the reason it’s a difficult book to pitch to other people. When you write a book for commercial publication it’s important to hone in early on to what about the book will resonate with a reason and entice them to read your book. EG figure out this sentence “if you like _____, you’ll like my book because of _______.”
- Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – this is a book from my childhood that has always stuck with me. The poltergeist scene was the scariest thing I had read up to that time as a kid. the entire concept of timeless characters and quests has stuck with me. I’m a sucker for this sort of book (I was obsessed with Narnia as well). Actually idk if this book influences me, I assume it does because there are portions of it that remain vividly burned in my mind.
- Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – this book is one of the best examples of an introvert written in literature imho. Don’t give me any of this Bella Swan introvert crap or how YA authors seem to love pigeon-holing introverts. Mr Darcy is where it’s at and not because he’s the greatest hearthrob in western english literature but because he is the epitome of “shown not told introvert” and i love it.
- Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques – this was the first Redwall novel I read as a kid and it haunts me to this day. I think in my heart I don’t believe in happily ever afters because of this book. Love does not save the day. Love often gets killed and theres nothing you can do about it. And even when that happens, maybe youre never totally a whole person but you can still go on to do great things.
- The Horse & His Boy by CS Lewis – this was the first Narnia book I read (i know!) and I do still love many of the Narnia books, including this one. But the thing this book reminds me, because I keep it in my head often when I write, and I’ve been thinking of it recently as I worked on The Kingdom of Pacchia (weird connection maybe if you don’t live in my head), but pervasive unconscience racism is very prevalent still and I think it’s helped by a childhood of reading books like this, which were chalk full of straight up muslim villainizing. There’s a certain “darker = evilier” in several of the Narnia books which if you’ve grown up reading things like this (because CS Lewis isn’t the only author who does this obvs) then you may start doing it yourself unconsciously (I’m speaking as a white writer) in your own writing and that’s NEVER something I want to do. I constantly challenge myself to really think about how I’m portraying other people, even if theyre in a fantasy setting, because nothing is innocuous. This is another reason I cannot forgive Tolkien for his treatment (generally) of the dwarves in his books (it’s pretty damn racist, let me count the ways). I never want to do something in my book for no other reason than because ‘that’s how it’s done.’ I want to be better than unconscious stereotyping privileged western white writer.
What are the 10 most influential books to you? I’d love to hear in the comments or on twitter!