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.
- 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.