I was invited to do this on Facebook, of course, but seeing as I’ve failed to blog for *mumble3ishweeksmumble* I’m answering the meme here.
In no particular order (except for “YES! I should mention that book!”), herewith 10 books that have stayed with me.
1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I read this in college, and it is a book that can break you down and (eventually) build you up again. Beautifully written.
2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
One of my childhood-ish books and one that I reread regularly (especially if I’ve had a run of bad books and need to cleanse my booky palate). I didn’t pick up on it then, but McKinley was writing the Strong Female Character before there was widespread notice of “Yanno, women in fantasy/sff often don’t do much, and maybe we should fix that.”
3. The Baby Unicorn by Jean Marzollo
I admit I had to look up the author’s name on Amazon. This is definitely a childhood book. I don’t remember how old I was when I was finally able to read this on my own. I do remember the following: **spoiler alert** Dragons, in this book, were evil, and to protect the baby unicorn from the dragons, the baby unicorn’s mother turned into a doorless house and kept the baby unicorn locked inside. I worried about what happened to the mother when the baby unicorn, chafing at being stuck inside wanting to go find its missing father, crashed through the house-mother (mother-house?) horn-first. Would she ever transform back? Would she be healed if she did, or have a baby-unicorn-shaped hole in her stomach?* (The book came out in ’87, so I can’t say if Marzollo had been watching a little too much Alien when he wrote this.)
Weirdness aside, I think my love of the fantasy genre is pretty much traced back to this book.
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Awesome use and re-imagining of myth. I reread the book recently and thought that the main character, Shadow, didn’t have much in the way of character agency, but you know what? A lot of the heroes in myths didn’t, when you think about it. They were the playthings of fate and the gods. If I were still in college I might write a paper on that. But yay! I don’t have to.
5. On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve read other books by King, but this is the one I reread most. Fabulous blend of memoir and writing tips/inspiration.
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I never saw the movie; the book relies the use of literary language too much for me to think the movie could ever do it justice. Another heartbreaking and heart-building book.
7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
OK, so technically I should’ve picked one book. But I can’t. It’s the whole narrative arc of HP that has stuck with me, and you have to admire a series that has inspired a whole generation of children to read.
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Look, I’m not one of those Darcy swooners, but I love the dialogue. And it’s impressive that Austen’s books in general and P&P in particular have inspired a whole genre. I don’t mean just Regency romance; I mean the genre of books that are about Jane Austen fans. Bridget Jones’s Diary being one of the most prominent (though yes, Bridget is more familiar with the BBC Colin Firth miniseries than the book), but also The Jane Austen Book Club and Austenland (which I have to admit I know of only due to the movie).
9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I did see the movie, and it most definitely does not do the book justice. It’s another one where the prose is so much a part of the book the experience can’t be replicated on the screen.
10. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Sooo much good stuff in here. Eggers balances humor with the eponymous heartbreaking bits. Dave’s love for his younger brother, Toph, comes through despite (or because of?) the standard big brother/young 20’s jerkiness. The structure of it and randomness of it (“Here is a drawing of a stapler”) shouldn’t work, but they do. (Side note, however: I read Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity! and it put me off of his fiction. Did not enjoy. But the memoir/creative nonfiction? Love.)
*I think I had this reaction many times, despite the fact that after the baby unicorn breaks out of her house-mother, on the very next page the mother is magically (yes, literally magically) safely back in her unicorn form.