I Made a Book Print!

It seems that Scholastic is going to donate one book to a school for every "book print" generated on their website. My book print is the list of five books that influenced me most. I had a lot of trouble separating my favorite books from the ones most influential for me. I also had difficulty distinguishing between books that influenced me and books that I simply resonated with. I'm not sure I can really separate the two, so these five truly reflect the books that most say something about me, I think.

Here's mine:

In roughly chronological order of entry into my life (note how I subtly get around the limit to five books; also, the links are all to librarything):

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This is the first book I remember re-reading as a child. I selected it because I think it is a key example of books that are a source of the sense of wonder with imaginary worlds as well as playing games with language. I'm sure I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and The Great Brain nearly as much, but this must have been the first. I think it's a direct predecessor to me of the kind of things I liked in A Wrinkle in Time, in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and in The Hobbit.

A Separate Peace (John Knowles)

This book about friendship and envy is the earliest book I remember reading as schoolwork and finding myself unable to wait to read it at the same pace as the teacher directed. I may have done the same with Great Expectations. It's also an example of a book that I could dive into based completely on its atmosphere alone. There's another book that meant a lot to me around this time -- early high school/late junior high -- but I have no idea the title or author: it was a book about a kid who moves to a new town and interests a gang of other kids in playing with him by providing maps for imaginary driving in their broken-down car. I wish I knew what that book was.

Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler)

This book reflects both my concern that the entire world is slowly tearing itself apart and my hope that small, self-organizing communities are a real answer. I think this rounded out my understanding of community and tolerance/compassion that (surprisingly) started with Speaker for the Dead.

Slapstick (Kurt Vonnegut)

I can't really put every single Vonnegut book into a list that's supposed to be five books long. Kurt Vonnegut taught me that important things could be said with, and people could be influenced by, a mix of humor and intelligence. Vonnegut's writing is what I most want my own writing to resemble. If I could mix together Vonnegut with Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, PG Wodehouse, and Neil Gaiman, I'd have the perfect output.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (M.T. Anderson)

I so wish this book had been available when I was young. This is an amazing example of how much depth, world-building, and importance can be woven into a young adult or even middle grade novel. It had been a long time since I was overwhelmed by a book when I found this recently. Other books I wish were around or I had discovered when I was younger include The Book Thief, I Capture the Castle, and Northern Lights.


So that's my list. The only book I couldn't find a way to fit in was Diamond Age, which I love for its world building but also for how much it makes me want to make things.

What books influenced you?

1 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

Lori said...

Your list is so perfect! Great choices. I have to think about it.