My former Twice Baked blogging buddy and current superfriend Kimra tagged me in a Facebook challenge to list the ten books that have influenced me the most. And she’s one of maybe five people in the world who could actually get me to do a FB challenge, so I started listing them in my head. Then I started writing them down, and thinking way too much about it, and looking through my bookshelves, and revisiting the blogs of my former lives for inspiration. And now, of course, I feel compelled to explain my picks in a way lengthier format than FB will allow.
I have maybe spent too much of my professional career writing listicles.
Anyway, here they are, in no particular order and with very little regard as far as genre:
1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This makes the cut not so much for content as for style. A high school English teacher pointed out that pretty much every sentence in this book is a metaphor, and I’ve wanted to write like that ever since. (I have never come close.)
2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
God, speaking of people whose style you want to steal. In high school, I read an interview with Roy in which she said that as she wrote this, she spent months perfecting a single sentence. I special-ordered it from my small town’s poorly stocked bookstore (haaaay, Book Nook) the next day.
3. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My first Murakami, and still my favorite.
4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I know this is so obvious, but that doesn’t make it less true. Sometimes you just gotta feel your crazy feelings, man.
5. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
See above. Also, Kaysen taught at BU, a fact that probably factored more into my decision to go to school there than it logically should have.
6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Some people really hate this book. Those are not my people. What is wrong with those people?
7. Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories
I am wordy. These authors aren’t.
8. People In Trouble by Sarah Schulman
You know how sometimes you encounter a work of art at precisely the moment in life when you’re best equipped to appreciate it? This is that for me. It’s out of print, which is so unfair.
9. Zine Scene by Francesca Lia Block and Hilary Carlip
Pretty sure Kimra and I were already making zines when this came out, but having Block and Carlip on board with the movement was pretty sweet. It’s impossible to overstate the influence of zine culture in general on me as a teenager trying to figure out how to write things that might actually get read someday.
10. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Books I’ve read recently are always a big influence. This is the last great one.