I couldn't think of ten books that influenced me, so I was relieved to be the only person left on the internet who hadn't been tagged by their friends to do this meme, but then I got asked on Facebook. I came up with a list but I wanted to talk about them each a little, and that's easier to do here than there.Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This book made me want to be an imaginative child. I thought myself nothing like the talkative, tangential Anne Shirley, but I aspired to be.
Then once I remember being in the car, going somewhere with my family, and seeing an old bus out the window as we passed it. "It looks like a tree," I said, pointing it out, "because it's brown on the bottom half and green on the top."
"Only you would think of these things, Holly," my mom said, and I thought my heart would burst with delight and pride. Especially because I hadn't even been trying
to be particularly whimsical just then.
Of course only in retrospect do I realize I had, and have, no trouble being the imaginative chatterbox that Anne was.Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Basically this one just means "I grew up on a farm." I was fascinated by a world so different, and yet recognizably similar. I mention the first book in the series here not just because it's first but because it was most like my own life, in the Upper Midwest with family all around to visit, before her life became houses built by her dad.Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I didn't realize it at the time, but this book got me started on science fiction. And of course I loved the movie. But this book I read to pieces; I remember falling asleep over it when I was babysitting, sneaking a look at it in my seventh-grade Life Science class when the boys sitting behind me where debating Star Trek vs. Star Wars (a debate which then as now held no interest for me)...it just seemed to be everywhere with me for a while.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Taught by the legendary Mr. Nordlie
, the English teacher everyone either loved or hated. He read this to us, a bit each day in class. He made us put all our pencils and books and everything under the desks, so we wouldn't be distracted while we listened, and I certainly wasn't. He showed us the movie after he'd read it, saying he does a better voice for Lenny than the movie, and he was right. We read another book by Steinbeck in sophomore English, The Pearl
, and the two of those left me absolutely enamored with Steinbeck. I read everything of his I could get my hands on after that.Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
This is when I thought
I started reading science fiction, a few years after I had, so it's important for that. Also this and To Sail Beyond the Sunset
(where we find out Lazarus Long's mom is from the same town as my mom!), with a little help from LiveJournal, introduced me to the concept of polyamory, which has proven to be rather essential to my life ever since.Contact by Carl Sagan
This book revived my childish desire to be an astronomer. It also cemented my conviction (though I'd have never articulated it this way at the time) that the gulf between science and the humanities is an illusion: here is a proper scientist talking proper science but also writing in a beautiful style that really stayed with me (and introduced me to some lovely poems he used as epigrams, particularly "Brotherhood" by Octavio Paz
). This also got me thinking a lot about what it was like to be a woman with "male" interests, even though it's written by a man of course.Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
The first Pratchett book I read, on a whim, lent to my best friend by her brother. I can't remember if she read it but I did and adored it. And the idea that the stories we tell have such power would resonate for me many years into the future in ways I couldn't have expected then.
Unfortunately he lent us another Pratchett I couldn't get into at all -- it was an early Rincewind one, and I didn't get enough of the jokes to even understand that they were supposed to be jokes -- so I thought Pratchett was a dud for a few years until I met Andrew, who got me to read Thief of Time
, which I loved particularly because by that time I thought it was awfully Discordian, because I'd read...The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
Andrew introduced me to this, of course. It was via a couple of Discordian mailing-list friends of his that we found each other on LJ, perhaps a fitting start for a relationship that's infused with so much chaos and inexplicability. I liked the idea that things might matter as much as it feels like they do sometimes, that humor was a valid way to investigate and evaluate the universe (it's only been a few weeks since I told someone "it's not true unless it makes you laugh, and you don't believe it until it makes you cry", which is not as true as it is clever but it is still something I keep finding useful).Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
I don't even remember how I ended up with the audiobook of this. I remember the book itself had been recommended to me long before by Andrew's uncle. It sounded crazy: who'd want to read a whole book about such a thing? How could there be enough to say? But it's utterly fascinating, especially because the audiobook is read by someone with a good voice for it, who I like listening to. This one book kicked off a trend of me reading non-fiction almost exclusively and of my increasing love for and dependence on audiobooks. It's one I still have on my computer, and which I'll play a bit of, especially if I'm migrainey or stressed or otherwise in need of soothing.The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross
This too was an early audiobook I acquired (probably from eMusic? Ah, those were the days...) and which is a great marriage of book and reader. It taught me an absolute ton about twentieth-century music, and is another one that I keep going back to because I find it so comforting. I've been playing early chapters to help me sleep lately.