Friday, September 05, 2014

Random Rants: Ten life-impacting books

I was tagged by a friend this week in the Facebook thing going around that asks you to name 10 books that had a big effect on you. I don’t usually participate in those sorts of things, but I thought this was an interesting question.

If you know me, you know that when you ask me about books that have affected me in some way, I can’t just give you a title. I must provide some sort of explanation. So, knowing that would go way beyond the average Facebook post, I decided to do it here instead, where I’d have all the room I need.
Of course, staying  true to my metal roots, my list goes to 11.

Feel free to add your own books in the comments, too.

1. "Green Eggs and Ham," by Dr. Seuss. I chose this one, but it could have been any of Dr. Seuss’ books. They were read to me from a young age by my mother, then I read them over and over on my own. When my son was born, I read them to him almost from birth. Without Theodor Geisel, I would not have the love of reading that I do today. He has to be No. 1.

2. "The Hobbit," by J.R.R. Tolkien. This book, picked up on a rainy day when I was in seventh grade, opened whole new worlds for me to explore and is responsible for my love of fantasy. I've read it at least a couple dozen times over the years, but I'm thinking I've had the abridged version all this time. For the life of me, I can't remember the events that Peter Jackson does. ;)

3. "Tales of Mystery and Terror," by Edgar Allan Poe. I got a three-pack of Illustrated Classics in fourth grade. I was more interested in Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick," but to this day, I have never finished that one. It was Poe that I ended up falling in love with. I was hooked from the first sentence of "The Tell-Tale Heart” and devoured everything that I could find by Poe.

4. "The October Country," by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is an unchallenged Grand Master of the genres that I love. As much respect and love as I have for classics like "Fahrenheit 451," to me, this creepy and unsettling country is where he lives and thrives.

5. "The Outsiders," by S.E. Hinton. This was probably the first novel I read that wasn't Judy Blume or a trashy TV or movie tie-in (remember when we used to have book adaptations of movies instead of the other way around). I haven't revisited it in a while, but I can still quote fondly from it. If you can forgive the bad pun, I still have golden memories.

6. "Hamlet/Macbeth/King Lear," by William Shakespeare. When I was assigned "Romeo and Juliet" in junior high, I wasn't happy about reading a romance story. I sat down reluctantly to read the assigned first act and before I knew it, I had finished the play. When book order time came around, I ordered a collection of these three plays which gave me a whole new appreciation.
When I went back to school to finish my degree in the mid-00s, a tough, but amazing professor rekindled my love of Shakespeare, who I will never call “The Bard” again thanks to Dr. Shattuck’s lectures. I killed the grading curve and earned the ire of all of the kids in the class, but it was one of the best classes I ever took.

7. “It,” by Stephen King. This has always been one of my absolute favorite books ever. As a teenager, there was so much in it that I could identify with and loads of creepiness. Reading it again recently, my middle-aged self found a whole new set of things to identify with and love about it.

8. “Sourcery,” by Terry Pratchett. This book, bought blindly at a used book store, introduced me to Sir Pterry. Nothing more needs to be said, really.

9. “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde. Being assigned this book in a college literature class was like a really big FU to all the people who looked down on me because of the kinds of fiction that I love to read and write. Here was speculative fiction written by someone well-respected and taught by academics. Of course, there was also Poe, and Shelley, and, for that matter, Shakespeare in that group, too, but for whatever reason, “Dorian Gray” showed me I could be proud of the things I loved.

10. “Heart-Shaped Box,” by Joe Hill. The most recent book to make my top 10 list. It had been years since I had written anything when this creepy little book came out, and it inspired me incredibly. It showed me a different and more personal way that I could approach writing, and when I finished with it, I really had a fire again. I also highly recommend his collection of short stories, "20th Century Ghosts," which is very Bradbury-ian.

11. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. So, my list had a noticeable lack of “classics.” This one didn’t quite make the 10 cut because of the personal impact the Joe Hill book had, so I decided this list goes to 11. It was another book that I was assigned in school and went into expecting to hate, and it ended up quite the opposite.

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