So I got tagged on Facebook to very quickly write a list of the 15 authors who have influenced me and will always stick with me. I sat for a moment and then spit out the following names. My friends who participated also had many of these names on their list. My husband recognized less than half and had only read two – both for school. And that, my friends, is why we have a book problem. Anyway, I thought that since I love these authors so much, I should at least try to explain why or how they made the list.
1. Neil Gaiman
Sandman. ‘Nuff said. Well, not quite. You see, I actually am permanently scarred from reading American Gods. It was an overcast morning in July and I was reading the last 100 pages by the in-laws pool. By the time I reached the end, the clouds had cleared and I was par-boiled – so wrapped up in Shadow that I never noticed sunlight. I burned so badly that a decade later, I still have the scars. Now that’s a good book.
2. Terry Pratchett
I found him through Gaiman as they had co-written Good Omens. Then I slowly and methodically started working my way through the Discworld series. When I finished one book, I went right out and bought the next one. Ah, disposable income and free time. How I miss thee. If I could live in the mythical city of my choosing, it would be Ankh-Morpork. (Hogsmeade is more of a village.)
3. Madeline L'Engle
I have read and reread A Wrinkle in Time so often that I have no idea if it is good or bad. “It was a dark and stormy night,” is not usually an auspicious way to start a story, but I didn’t know any better. To me, it was magical. And dark. And stormy.
4. Judy Blume
I dare you to find a girl who did not sneak a copy of Forever out of the school library during junior high just to read the sexy bits. Masturbation, sex, God, menstruation, it was all fair game. How much I understood at the time of reading is questionable. I was a voracious reader with no oversight so I probably read all of her books years too early to really comprehend them, but when the light finally went on, I had Judy to guide me.
5. Phillipa Gregory
Everything I know about the Tudor reign I learned from historical fiction. The food is always cold, God’s laws are constantly mentioned by never headed, and being queen was never, ever easy. The clothes may have been gorgeous, but were they worth the burnings and beheadings? Probably not.
6. Sharon Shinn
Her books are a total guilty pleasure. I saw the cover of Angelica in a book store over a decade ago and had to have it. I have since devoured all of the Samaria books, the Twelve Houses, all her YA, and the standalone books. I wouldn’t put any of them up for a book club, and since they are essentially fantasy Harlequins, I am not exactly proud of my love for them, but I love them all the same.
7. Stephen King
When I was far too young, my parents let me read ‘Salems Lot. I spent years afraid to look out my bedroom window at night. Then I read IT. I remember very clearly sitting in my bedroom and wanting to go downstairs, but being too afraid to step into the dark hallway to turn on the stairway light. I could hear my parents downstairs, hear the sounds on the TV, but nothing would get me to take those four steps from my door to the light switch. I lost my taste for King somewhere around Gerald’s Game but after an inspired live reading from The Body at Radio City Music Hall, I came to love the author (if not the fiction) again.
8. John Irving
If you have not read A Prayer for Owen Meaney then do so (even A Widow for One Year would be my preferred pick over Garp. The first time I heard Owen speak (via John Irving, again at Radio City), a shiver went through my entire body. His character is so clear, so well-written, so true that his VOICE while an essential part of the story, just becomes another part of the page. Until you hear it IN PERSON. Most of his books haven’t aged well, but Owen, well, Owen will never age.
9. Pat Conroy
I don’t know why The Prince of Tides moved me so much. Honestly. It is overly sentimental, overwrought, and over-written. But for whatever reason, it sang to me. I haven’t even gotten four pages into South of Broad without having to take a bath to get rid of all those fragrant words. Obviously, my Conroy phase has passed, but it was good while it lasted.
10. Robert Frost
My first and last go-to poet. I can still recite Nothing Gold Can Stay in its entirety. Who hasn’t used lines from The Road Not Taken or Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening? My tastes in poetry may be pedestrian, but it’s not my fault. Blame S.E. Hinton.
11. William Shakespeare
He’s the Bard. If you have only ever read his plays, but never seen them performed, that is the same as only reading sheet music without ever having heard it played. Millions of students have been tortured with terrible BBC productions and monotone in-class readings. Rent Baz Lurhman’s Romeo + Juliet, any of the Branaugh productions, or, at the very least, Hamlet with Mel Gibson, to get a much better sense of how a good story is meant to be told.
12. Anne Rice
Another author who soured on me as I grew older: any of her books written before 1990 are far, far superior to anything written after. It almost seemed as if she became less of the actual author and more of the fan-fic writer of her own works. In 1993 I threw one of her books against a wall and haven’t picked one up again since. However, I do think Interview with a Vampire remains a worthwhile addition to vampire lore.
13. J.K. Rowling
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. In my home, two copies of every new book were bought at midnight so that my husband and I didn’t have to share. I will never, ever let my child see a Harry Potter movie until long after she has devoured every book. The details are just so rich, the characters so well-rounded, the story so intricate, that I refuse to let Warner Bros. fill in any of the blanks for her. Oh, and J.K. Rowling has killer taste in footwear.
14. Robert Heinlein
He rounds out the trio of authors who I would not, could not read again, but whose books I loved during my adolescence. His treatment of women is derisive at best, and adornment at its worst. If I remember correctly, he mostly liked them naked and willing, though they were usually at least marginally intelligent. Stranger in a Strange Land is odd as hell and seemed mostly to say that easy sex is the key to an easy life. It was the 60s, what can you do?
15. J. D. Salinger
Can a body catch a body coming through the rye? If you didn’t read this book as a teenager, I doubt it can ever have the same impact. Luckily, I read it in Mrs. Tink’s class my junior year. Holden definitely falls into the category of names that have too much literary importance to bestow upon a child, yet dumb celebrities keep doing it anyway. It would be a good name for a dog though.