Sep
03
2014

My Top 10 Most Influential Books

I was recently tagged in a meme on Facebook to list the top ten books that have influenced me. Most of them are on my top ten favorites list as well, but the intention of the meme was to list the books that have stayed with you and affected you the most, even if you really hated the book. I could be accused of not being amazingly adventurous in my reading, but I just tend to avoid the books I know I won’t enjoy and over the years I think I’ve become a good judge of that. My other consideration was that I must have read the book long enough ago to objectively say it’s had an impact on me (which happens to be about 10-25 years). Anyway, in no particular order:

  • Titus Groan/Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  • Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales/Prose Poems
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • The Sandman: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman
  • Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren

Books like The Hobbit and Redwall are practically embedded in my DNA considering how many times I read them growing up, and had them read to me, and in the case of The Hobbit how many times I listened to the Nicol Williamson abridged audiobook and watched the 1978 animated version directed by Ralph Bakshi. The Brothers Lionheart (along with Mio, My Son, also by Astrid Lindgren) held a particular sort of magic for me; seemed so strangely-wonderfully truthful, and so much more even than the Narnia books. I remember being aware of the paradox/dichotomy of a truthful fantasy even in middle school, if not in an intellectual sense. All of these books are very dear to me and of course I recommend them without reservation.

…well, I will say you’re never too old for any of these books (not even In The Night Kitchen or Moomin). But you might not appreciate Against Nature until college, and then maybe only if you’re into 19th century French literature, or Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde called that book his bedside bible, which aroused my interest. I found somewhere online that exclaimed in bold, italicized red letters: DO NOT READ AGAINST NATURE UNTIL YOU ARE AT LEAST 60!!! Which inevitably just piqued my interest (still took me five or six tries to get started). Likewise Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan & Gormenghast (not to mention the third and final book Titus Alone) aren’t really geared to a younger audience, but high school is probably the perfect age to read them. The florid language and (debatably) excessive description give the impression of a dense and intimidating read, but at heart it’s a coming-of-age story… although it would have been a life history covered in seven books had Mervyn Peake not died when he did. The characters are some of the most colorful and interesting you will ever meet. If the books look too intimidating, I grant you permission to seek out the BBC mini-series – it’s got an all-star cast and should whet your appetite for the books. If you can slog through Game of Thrones, you should be able to get through these! I seriously think Mervyn Peake should be taught in high school.

I have a couple more Top 10 lists all ready to go… and maybe with those I won’t write a dissertation as to why I chose them. I do tend to get carried away sometimes.

Stay tuned.

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