Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The 4 Books that Influenced Me Most

I have read a lot of books over the years.  Most aspiring authors ought to be able to claim the same.  I have lots of favorites, written in many genres and styles.  Some stories have stuck with me since I was a kid, while others have faded into the forgotten corners of time.  I thought it would be fun to reflect on the 4 that have influenced me the most--specifically as a writer.  These are the stories that I not only consider some of the greatest out there, but are also the ones I look up to and hope to emulate in my own writing.  In no particular order, they are as follows:

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan.  This book played a huge role in my life because it got me hooked on fantasy.  Besides a handful of child books I can't even remember titles for, I'd only read one fantasy author before opening the pages on Jordan's masterpiece.  I'd seen kids in school reading The Wheel of Time series--I was the one poking fun at them for reading something so geeky (back then I figured fantasy was for the real losers--science fiction was the cool genre).  It wasn't until after high school that I swallowed my pride and picked Eye up.  I read the entire series in six months.  (There were ten books at the time.)  That was nearly eleven years ago.  I've been primarily a fantasy reader--and, incidentally, a fantasy writer--ever since.  I owe a lot to Robert Jordan and his epic story.

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, was the first science fiction I can remember reading.  My aunt recommended it to me after we watched Starship Troopers.  (I was in sixth or seventh grade--it was so cool that she rented an R rated movie for me to watch!)  Card was my gateway-drug into speculative fiction, and Ender's Game remains one of my favorites to this day.  Card created the perfect world for a twelve year old boy to get lost in.  This is a book everyone should read.  If I owe my love for fantasy to Robert Jordan, I owe my love of reading to Orson Scott Card.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.  Hollywood did poor service to this classic a few years back.  If you're reading this and agree with me that Cristo is brilliant, but have failed to actually read the book--basing your opinion off of that crapy movie--I weep for you.  Seriously, read this novel.  It isn't just a great story.  It's essential reading for anyone desiring an education in literature.  The tale of Edmond Dantes is relevant, heart-breaking, and beautiful.  It is, in my humble opinion, as close to perfect as any work of art can be.  And it taught me that tragedy in fiction is powerful.  I think this is where my love of dark stories began, for Dantes's journey is as dark as they come.  It also has hope at the end of the tunnel--something that I believe all the best fiction offers.

Frank Herbert is the J.R.R. Tolkien of science fiction.  At least I and many others consider him so.  He didn't invent the wheel, but he turned the farmer's cart into a freaking Rolls Royce.  I was already a fan of science fiction when I first picked up Dune in jr. high, but I've never read an author since who has topped him for sheer mastery of the genre.  Dune showed me that a good story is more than just one thing.  It is character, plot, setting, delivery, and ideas.  Dune showed me that fiction can be big--that it can do more than simply entertain.  It has taught me to not give up (Frank Herbert was rejected many, many times before Dune was finally published), and that thought should go into my writing.  If I can write anywhere near the level of Herbert... Okay, scratch that.  It's fun to dream, though, right?

That's it.  It was going to be five books, but I had a hard time deciding on the last.  (I was leaning toward Shogun, but I was afraid I'd leave some other book out that had a bigger impact on me.)  I have to add that I was influenced to write this post by Justin, over at Staffer's book review.  Thanks, Justin!

What books have influenced you?



  1. Well, after reading your list of influencing books, I'm a little embarrassed by mine. Yours are so much smarter sounding. haha.

    I actually have been meaning to read Ender's Game forever, but haven't gotten to it yet. I've heard great things about it. You also have me sold on trying the Count of Monte Cristo. I actually love that movie, but have never picked up the book. I'll have to check it out.

    The books that influenced me are an odd list. His Dark Materials were amazing. Smart, with mind-blowing concepts and characters I loved. I mean, his daemons were brilliant--like souls we can see. Phillip Pullman is an atheist and his ideas of God and Heaven/Hell, while highly offensive to some, are really thought-provoking. I loved the fact that he made the Church the antagonists, because the Magistrate of his books is SO true to history. Also, the characters. Lyra. Will. Iorek Byrkinson--the bear whose soul is his armor. I mean...where does he come up with this stuff? Plus, Phillip Pullman wrote amazing steampunk before it was cool. haha. Ever since I read His Dark Materials, I've been obsessed with parallel worlds. Every story I've written has featured another world to some degree.

    The Twilight Series also had a huge impact on me. haha. I told you my answers weren't as smart as yours, but hear me out. I'd been toying with the idea of trying to write a book, but some part of my brain was convinced I'd never be able to do it. I'd write for twenty-minutes here or there, but I had NO motivation or real inspiration. I was pretty much doing it because I knew I had some raw writing talent and, since that's literally the only talent I've ever had, I figured I should do something with it.

    Then I read the Twilight books. And it was like a light turning on. I just realized that all Stephanie Meyer did was take two people that had a lot of obstacles to being together and made them fall in love. And I went, "Wow. I could definitely do that." Six years and three manuscripts later and I'm figuring out that it's not as easy as it sounds, but I'm loving the journey. It's changed my life.

    So, that's it for me. Great post! :) Sorry for making me comment so long!

  2. I've always wanted to read The Count of Monte Cristo, but just never gotten to it. I could tell the film botched it when the story started getting too flashy (Hollywood). But enough of the original concept survived to make me want to read it.

  3. The books that have influenced me are as follows:
    1. The Indian Captive, read it in grade school.
    2. Guess how much I love you.
    3. Ten ways to be popular in school.
    4. The best ways to annoy your older brother.

    These books have made me who I am today.

  4. Tamara, anything that influences you to want to write is good. Doesn't matter if it's Stephanie Meyer, or Leo Tolstoy.

    Tony, I can't believe you've never read Monte Cristo. You are dead to me.

    Courtney, leave it to you to poke fun.

  5. Which aunt rented a rated R movie for you? Ender's game is on my wish list on my kindle. Hope to get around to reading it soon