15 books

Many Facebookers have been recently participating in the 15 book meme:

This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose. Only 15, please.

Angela Meyer’s put Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar at the top of hers, and Lisa Dempster has mixed things up with some YA titles as well as the usual literary suspects. I wanted to respond to Angela’s note last week, but when I started thinking about books that have and will make a lasting impression on me, I couldn’t recall fifteen. And as I glanced over other people’s lists, seeking inspiration, I was frustrated by the lack of detail. I wanted annotated bibliographies. I wanted to know if the books were ranked or whether their positions were randomly assigned. So, I thought I’d post up my own variant of the meme:

Books that have inspired and influenced me over the years*

  • Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen): What can I say? I wrote a musical based on it in high school, and own a Pride and Prejudice mug.

    Found: the Holy Grail of Penguin Classics mugs (25/6/09)

    Found: the Holy Grail of Penguin Classics mugs (25/6/09)

  • Everything I Know About Writing (John Marsden): This book was my Year Seven writing Bible. It taught me about clichés, writing journals, and the validity of eavesdropping. 
  • The Boat (Nam Le): I read The Boat when I had just started to write about my Vietnamese heritage. Le’s words, ‘Ethnic literature is hot. And important too’, made me pause and ponder over what I was doing.
  • The Shipping News (Annie Proulx): Usually I don’t buy into fragmented sentences, but Proulx sells them so well, I had to try them out for a story or two. My favourite Proulx fragment? ‘A great damp loaf of a body.’
  • American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis): I’ve never seen so many literary techniques used in one cohesive linear narrative. I still feel used whenever I think of Bret Easton Ellis’ seduction followed by violence trick.
  • Animal Farm (George Orwell): Timelessly simple. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is also touted as a ‘simple classic’, but while I liked the simplicity of Animal Farm, I hated it in Of Mice and Men. Maybe I expected complexity from human (but not animal) characters?
  • Obernewtyn (Isobelle Carmody): It was Obernewtyn, not Lord of the Rings, that got me hooked on fantasy, a genre I most faithfully stuck into until I got sick of red-haired, green-eyed witches and farm-boy royalty. Ah, if only I was young and book naive once more! (For a humourous take on fantasy stereotypes, read Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. SF Site gives it a mostly favourable review.) 
  • Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes): Elegantly executed in terms of structure, style, and concept, Flowers for Algernon feels like literary fiction with speculative elements instead of the reverse. It also made me teary. 
  • The Bloody Chamber (Angela Carter): I am interested in fairy tales, and have read a wide range of retellings. Postmodern, feminist, and adult in sensibility, The Bloody Chamber is a little different from the usual fare. A Donkeyskin retelling, Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is another title that may appeal to fans of The Bloody Chamber.
  • Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi): One of the few graphic novels that I’ve read and loved, dealing with current issues such as religious fundamentalism in Iran.
  • The Outsider (Albert Camus): A seemingly simple novel that is complex in character and philosophy.  
  • Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood): This novel does not contain any heroes, which is probably why I like it so much, and its racist undercurrent is still so very relevant today. I also like how there is a loose structure to the book, a disruption in the linearity of the narrative. 


*Note: there’s only twelve titles listed here. As I was saying above, I couldn’t think of fifteen books.

7 thoughts on “15 books

  1. A list of fifteen ‘good’ books? Let’s see, Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom!; Louise Erdrich’s Tracks; Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good (play); Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita; Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Yeats Collected Poems; Shakespeare’s King Lear; Charles de Lint’s Forests of the Heart; Ella Cara Deloria’s Waterlily; Eudora Welty’s Golden Apples; Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind; Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Hesse’s Sidharta; Mari Sandoz’s Crazy Horse, the Strange Man of the Oglalas–a biography; Genocide of the Mind, New Native American Writing–ed, MariJo Moore, Elizabeth Lynn-Cook’s Why I Can’t Read Wallace Stegner and other essays…
    I tossed in a couple ‘extra’ in case ‘plays’ and poems are not ‘acceptable’ fare.

    • Hey 47whitebuffalo, thanks for the list. Most of your faves I have yet to read, though King Lear is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Argh! There are simply too many books…

  2. Where are Angela’s and Lisa’s lists? Isobelle Carmody would definitely be on mine too. Never get sick of farm-boy romantic leads. My mum gave away my copy of that John Marsden book, which I’m livid about, because it would be such good fodder for the writing workshops my friend Maddie runs.

    • Angela and Lisa’s lists are unfortunately on Facebook, so I can’t link to them here. But I’m sure you can become friends with them (if you aren’t already); they’re very friendly. 😉

  3. Great list! I also used to LOVE the Marsden writing book. I love Marsden in general – am thrilled that I might get to meet him through the Voiceworks project I’m working on.

    Because it was requested, here is my (not-annotated, sorry!) list:

    Erlend Loe, Naive Super

    Bryce Courtney, The Power Of One

    Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

    Peter Singer, The Ethics of What We Eat

    Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

    Christos Tsiolkos, Loaded

    Jack Kerouac, On The Road

    Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    Story of O, Pauline Reage

    George Orwell, 1984

    James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

    Yann Martel, The Life of Pi

    Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

    John Marsden, Tomorrow, When the War Began

    Melina Marchetta, Looking For Alibrandi

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