10 Books That Have Stuck With Me

Since it was a meme some of my friends were doing today, and I thought well why not. This would make a darn good blog post.

  1. Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce) – I cannot begin to tell you how much this book has affected me. It was one of the first real YA books I ever read, and it was the first that had a female character confronting and triumphing over institutionalized sexism using her wits. (Well, once you get into the rest of the series.) Alanna becomes the first female knight of her country, and becomes one of the best because of her determination. She changes the world because she refuses to give up, and then later she continues to become a knight but also decides she wishes to be a wife and mother–but only is willing to marry a man who doesn’t expect her to give up everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. All of these were incredibly powerful messages, particularly coming out of the age where it was basically all Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High all the time. (This book is also why, when someone tries to tell me that representation isn’t important, that seeing women be the heroes of their own stories isn’t necessary, I I know they’re full of shit.)
  2. The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) – my mother used to read to my brother and me, and one of the books she read to us contained all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Sometimes it would be one or two a night, and the novellas were stretched over several nights. This book (and the character) was the reason I created Captain Ramos.
  3. Dragonflight (Anne McCaffrey) – This was one of the first proper grown-up science fiction novels I read, and it had a huge impact on me. Written by a woman, and with a main character who was a fierce, cranky, imperfect, and driven woman. That Lessa is the one who figures out how to save civilization made this book stand out. I loved it, and it made me want to write science fiction.
  4. Night Watch (Terry Pratchett) – This book taught me that the best comedy has pain and marrow beneath it. The next book, Thud!, made me laugh out loud, and then it made me cry three times. There’s just such an emotional core to them. It’s meant that every time I have written something even mildly silly, I first think about what’s behind the silliness so that the story has a proper skeleton. I just wish I could write like this.
  5. King Henry V (William Shakespeare) – My favorite play ever. I read it out loud to my cats regularly. Stop judging me.
  6. On Writing (Stephen King) – “Kill your darlings.” Best piece of advice ever. And like everything Stephen King has ever written, it’s very fun to read.
  7. The Black Unicorn: Poems (Audre Lorde) – Audre Lorde taught me how to love poetry, and for that I will be forever grateful. There’s just so much beauty and rage and love in what she writes that I can’t help but come back to it again and again.
  8. History of the Kings of Britain (Geoffrey of Monmouth) – I cannot begin to tell you the number of ways I love this book. Obviously it made a huge impression on me because I love telling people about it. But it’s basically a completely fictional “history” of British kings, where Monmouth makes some amazing things up out of whole cloth, like the Britons repelling a Roman invasion, and then counter invading and sacking Rome. (It’s also likely the literary origin of Merlin as a character.) It was assigned reading in my British history class, and I loved it to pieces. The professor assigned it because she wanted us to really start thinking about the biases of people who wrote primary source material. It’s a strong lesson for that.
  9. A Man With No Talents (Oyama Shiro) – This book provides a view of modern Japan that I wish more people would read. It’s also an incredibly beautifully done translation.
  10. Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri) – If Audre Lorde taught me to love poetry, Jhumpa Lahiri taught me to love literary short fiction.
  11. BONUS (if you can call it that): Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs – I randomly quote from this book. It makes me laugh uncontrollably. It’s got an entire chapter about MacArthur Park.

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