I keep seeing people receive the ‘Booker Award’, which means they get to talk about books that have influenced them, nominate people to do the same and then they get to display the award logo. I don’t normally wish for awards, as my lack of self-worth likes to tell me I don’t deserve them, but well, I always wanted that one. Then I realised I don’t need an excuse to write about my favourites, I can just do it, so here it is: novels that have impacted or taught me something.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This is by far the favourite novel on my bookshelf. From the first sentence I was hooked without knowing exactly why. It’s just good. It’s like a lullaby, but an exciting lullaby. I can’t explain – after that last attempt I’m not going to try again. I pay tribute to Neil Gaiman for being the first man to arouse my interest in fantasy – fantasy where anything can happen, and it’s believable.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
Ah, such an immense, vast novel. This spans years, and so many dramas, lives and dreams that you actually do become immersed in another world. They often say that about novels, but this is the first novel where I have become completely engrossed, such is the complexity of the novel’s world.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
This is another book that draws you in so subtly, you can’t pinpoint why. I didn’t know anything about this book before I read it, and only heard afterwards that it’s regarded as the author’s greatest work, which in turn has annoyed a lot of readers who argue that her other works are better. Odd debates about which is best aside, this is a fantastic, hot blooded read. You’ll understand what I mean about hot blooded when you read it. I’ve (still) never read anything like it.
The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Aw, I couldn’t very well have a post about books which have impacted me without putting down this cheesy thriller that I read at the age of 10. Oh, Point Horror, where would our adolescent horror thrills have come from without you? Goose-bumps ain’t got nothing on some of these Point Horror Classics. This book has been my favourite story for so long, even with my acknowledgement that I should have grown out of it and it’s not particularly well written. Well, whatever guys, there’s a killer loose on the island and a vulnerable young woman falling in love so meh!
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
This novella astounded me. It was perfect. I enjoyed it so much more because there was no explanation for the characters predicament – it just happens, and you’re thrust into the middle of the problem and that’s that. This is perhaps where the perfection comes from for me: it’s the only story I’ve ever read (so far) that can dump the reader in the middle of a situation that’s completely ridiculous and impossible and you don’t even mind, you just accept it and follow the character with concern and hope, other stories seem to always need to provide explanations to have a sense of realism.
Collected Short Stories by Roald Dahl
Oh, Roald. This author is the master of not only the twist, but also taking everyday and sometimes, mundane people, and giving them these absurd and thrilling situations to work through. He takes the normal and turns it into a story. His ability to infuse fantasy, or magical, elements into everyday tales is incredible. The short stories I’m referring to are all written for adults – when I discovered he’d written for grown ups and not just children, I was excited to be able to take him with me into adulthood.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
One of the classic, notorious novels favoured by teenagers trying to look cool all over the western world. Well, I read this when I was a teenager out of curiosity and knew nobody else who’d even heard of it, so I suppose I became that pretentious teenager for a while. It’s such a… I want to say ‘boring’ but don’t misunderstand, it’s a captivating version of a mundane couple of days, that you’re not sure if you like, but you can’t stop reading.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I remember reading this in one sitting one summer afternoon, and loving it. Of course I loved Heathcliffe, I was seventeen! I realised characters don’t have to perfect. I wanted so badly for Cathy and Heathcliffe to admit and work on their flaws, but alas, some stories teach you that what you want to happen often won’t – Pillars of the Earth was also a great teacher in this lesson.
The Five Great Warriors by Matthew Reily
These books are the only adventure novels I’ve read, and I loved them despite the overusing of exclamation marks, cliffhangers and narrow saves. The reason this is up here is because these books made me realise that in the fiction world, you can do anything.
Watermelon by Marian Keyes
This is one of the first books to make me laugh out loud. I don’t care that her main audience are 40+ year old women, I loved it. This book made me understand that you don’t have to be embarrassed to admit you like a book written for a demographic that isn’t your own, and you can definitely list these books as favourites even if they’re not the literary masterpieces professors put on pedestals. I honestly do not mean to sound offensive, Marian – you’re great! So was this book! I just know the reaction I’ve had to admitting I’ve read your books – a look as if I’m silly, and a slight scoff at not choosing the likes of Dickens or someone fancy instead.
There you go, a sample of my favourites, and all of which have impacted me in some recognizable way. I believe every book we read has an impact on us, some are just greater than others. What books have impacted you?