So, there’s this thing going around facebook where people post ten books that impacted them to such a degree that it shaped who they are today. I’ve been tagged, so here’s my list.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I don’t know how anyone could possibly read this and remain unchanged. It was eloquent and achingly beautiful, yet so very simple. Harper Lee only wrote one book and my God is it amazing. Haven’t read it? You really, really should. Go HERE to get a copy.
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
SE Hinton wrote The Outsiders because she was so dismayed by the selection of contemporary novels about teens. Then, after The Outsiders, she went on to write a whole slew of other books that were all loosely threaded together. That Was Then, This is Now, Tex, Rumblefish…I felt like I lived everyone of those books as I read them and my heart ached right along with the characters. Check them out HERE.
Oh! Pioneers by Willa Cather
Willa Cather grew up in Nebraska, but lived the majority of her life in New York City. She wrote other books that received lackluster response from critics and readers. When she decided to return to her roots with her writing, thus producing Oh! Pioneers and Antonia, she found her true voice. Both books show strong female protagonist in a world that history teaches was a man’s world. She challenges that assumption, showing the strength and courage of women in a harsh, unforgiving world. Incidentally, Oh! Pioneers is free on amazon.com right now. Pick up a copy HERE.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This book made me cry and cry and cry. It’s about a boy and his two dogs and the adventures they share. And it’s, of course, so much more than that. It’s about a poor family who are trying to carve out a living. It’s about a boy who works hard and fights even harder for what he loves and knows is right. And it’s about a loyalty that most people will never understand.
And, I have a certain amount of pride because Wilson Rawls retired in Idaho, not too far from where I grew up. I wanted to go visit him when I learned that. My mom said he didn’t want to be bothered. I didn’t believe her then and I’m not sure I believe her now.
Oh, and I totally cried while writing this because my memories of the book are that vivid and real. Get a copy HERE.
Candide by Voltaire
Voltaire was a seventeenth century French philosopher. He wrote the story of Candide, a man who experienced all the extremes of life, from great poverty to overwhelming riches, but the true meaning of life eluded him. This is a tiny book, not long at all. But the language is rich and the subject matter will challenge you to think. It’s also free on amazon.com right now. Seriously, get a copy. And read it. Do that HERE.
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Catcher in the Rye is a book that people either love or hate. I love it. I don’t always understand it, but I love it. That’s kind of the relationship I have with most of the people I love, too. Holden Caufield, the main character, goes quite made one weekend and this book chronicles his experience. It’s masterfully written, and if you haven’t read it, you should. Pick up a copy HERE.
The Iron Heel by Jack London
Until recently, this book was banned in the US. It’s not the best book about a political uprising, but it definitely stirs the emotions. I’ve read a lot of books in this vein (eg 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley), but this one has always stuck with me. It has a raw passion that is hallmark to London’s writing. Plus, I really like the thrill of reading things that frightens the government so badly they had to ban the book in order to feel safe. And it’s free at amazon.com right now. Check it out HERE.
Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite
I could just as easily have picked Wormwood or Lost Souls instead of Drawing Blood because the thing that makes this book stand out for me is the imagery. Poppy Z. Brite is the first author to make me understand the concept of setting as a character. Her writing is so lush and beautiful, yet barren and horrifying all at the same time. Also, I found Poppy at the same time I lost faith in Anne Rice. Her writing was a balm on an open wound. Pick up a copy HERE. You owe it to yourself.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I read Grapes of Wrath at a time when I was really struggling with the world and my place in it. Everything seemed so very hard, harder than it needed to be, it seemed. This book gave me perspective. My life is full of abundance. I have so much more than I could ever really need and I was being selfish and small minded to think otherwise. Also, this book touched me on a personal history level because my grandparents lived through the dust bowl. They packed up their seven children, my mother included, and made the trip west from Oklahoma. They settled in Idaho instead of California, but the parallels were still there. It made me even more grateful for the sacrifices that generation of people made for their families (and for their country). Check out the book HERE.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
This was the first book I read that really, truly challenged me. I’m convinced that if my mom actually knew what I was reading, she wouldn’t have let me read it. For the first time, I was introduced to some really deep scientific ideas (stuff I still don’t understand, frankly) in such a way that it felt like religion. After I read this first L’Engle book, I devoted all my time and energy in to finding and reading every other book she’d written. Yes, you really should read it. Get a copy HERE.
The Turner Diaries by Andrew McDonald and Dr. William Pierce
If you haven’t read this book, I don’t actually recommend it. I haven’t provided any links because it’ll just make you angry. At least it did me. Still, it changed the way I think about and view a lot of things, so it’s worth mentioning here. The Turner Diaries is a post-revolution diary told from the point of view of a man named Turner. This book outlines, in great detail, several acts of domestic terrorism (eg the first bombings of the twin towers and the Oklahoma City bombings), painting them as patriotic acts in an effort to reclaim the country. It’s a handbook of sorts for fringe groups bent on the violent take over of our government and a ‘cleansing’ of all the undeserving people who are subverting the righteousness of God’s chosen people (people of color and gay folk). If the Turner Diaries came to fruition, my wife and I, along with our oldest daughter, would be strung up from a lamppost for being gay. My two nieces and nephew, and youngest daughter would share a similar fate for being Latino. My son is the only one who is white enough and straight enough to make it in their new world order. Like I said, this book made me incredibly angry. It took me weeks to read it and it’s pretty short. I don’t want you to read it. But there are people out there who hold this as gospel. And yeah, that scares the shit out of me.