I was tagged on Facebook with one of those “List some information, then tag other people” memes… I don’t usually do them, mostly because I don’t see them until well after the fact. This one, though, I saw early enough to respond, even if I’m not doing it directly on Fb… you’ll see why in a moment.
The basic meme: “List 10 books that have stayed with you…just ones that touched you.”
Asking a writer to do anything involving books is…difficult. Hell, just looking at my reading list for the past decade, several of them stand out – granted, some more memorable than others, for various reasons. In several instances, the first things that struck me were several books or a series by the same author… So I’m going to cheat a bit… and provide a little explanation for each (hence, why I’m putting this here, instead of on Fb)… So, in no particular order:
Neil Gaiman: This one is likely the biggest cheat on the list. Of all his prose work, I’ve not read anything that I didn’t like. Between his novels and short story collections, there are too many to list individually. There are two novels that stand out for me, though. Neverwhere is a subtle book, in my opinion, that, even though it’s been labeled as “Magical Realism,” it smack very much of early Urban Fantasy – before it was taken over by vampires, werewolves, etc, etc. American Gods is a book about mythology that, as soon as I finished it, my first thought was, “Damn, that’s something I wish I’d been able to write.”
The Hobbit: JRR Tolkien: I have said it several times before…this was the work that started me down the path toward SF/Fantasy fandom (mostly due to the animated movie, back in the early 80s). This was the first book I ever checked out from a public library.
Charles Stross: Another cheat here, since there are two series involved, but… Glasshouse – a study in gender identity [available technology allows for any outward presentation one might desire] wrapped in a tight little thriller. The Merchant Princes (series) – world-walking and the world-building of multiple time streams. The Laundry Files (series) – UF with shades of Cthulu, what I would consider my first readings in that genre.
The Harry Potter Series: JK Rowling: The first time I read book 1, I devoured it in a day, then plowed through books 2-4 in short order. Books 5-7 were the first that I pursued pre-ordering, instead of simply waiting until they were released.
Neil Peart: Two books, loosely related by title and context, but worlds apart for content. Masked Rider – about his bike tour adventures around parts of Africa. I shouldn’t have been surprised that such tours were a travel option, but this was the first stories I’d ever read/”been told” about such an experience. Ghost Rider…was a book that gave me perspective and guided me through a journey before I found myself thrust along it.
Call the Midwife: Jennifer Worth: I’ve actually mentioned this one fairly recently. It’s been a few weeks, but those effects still pop to mind every so often.
Ready Player One: Earnest Cline: A combination of SF and pop culture references that I lived through. Like American Gods, it’s one of those, “Damn, I wish I’d written that” books.
Mary Robinette Kowal: Her Glamourist Histories (“Jane Austen with magic”), although as of this writing I’ve only finished the first three books, and am currently in the fourth. I was subjected to the reading of Pride & Prejudice for my freshman English class in high school, and loathed it (as, I suspect, most 14-year old boys might). Kowal’s series, while deliberately steeped in the Regency language and style of Austen*, blends contemporary ideas with historical events. Likely the most craft-centric entry on this list, she’s also given me pause to consider revisiting Austen.
The Dresden Files: Jim Butcher. I’ve only completed the first two books in the series, but it’s that blend of mystery/PI with a fantasy spin that smacks of the “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” It’s also a series that has directly affected a project I have in development, and forced me to reconsider and rethink most of it, so as to be “similar, yet different.”
* I have a short story written around the time I was reading Shades of Milk and Honey that became unintentionally influenced by that style. In that sense, it can be said that Mary had a more profound and lasting affect. Not a thing I will object to having happened.