Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Top 5 Most Influential Books

Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling


The Harry Potter series is the probably the most obvious series to put on this list, and at the same time to most widespread to everyone else who would make a list like this.  This doesn't make it any less important and essential to this list.  How many of us grew up with Harry Potter?  I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am that it came out when it did, because my childhood in many ways was shaped by Harry Potter.  As I came into my own, so did the characters in Harry Potter, so it honestly feels like we actually grew up together, as weird as that may sound.  And having Hermione to look up to as I grew up was really fantastic.  While for the most part being known as a bookworm didn't bother me, it wasn't particularly comfortable either.  It meant that people made judgements about who I was..simply because I actually read books.  It also meant a lot of teasing, although I'll make no claims to being bullied - almost all the teasing was well-meaning.  I think I probably would have been a little more sensitive to it if I didn't have a character like Hermione around - she was a total bookworm, and she was AWESOME.

The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman


I can't remember the first time I read this series, but I generally place finishing the third book in my middle school years, because my brain was like...whaaaaaat?!  Don't get me wrong - I absolutely adore The Golden Compass.  It sets up some truly amazing world building, and the characters are just *sighs happily*.  The Subtle Knife feels too much like a middle book for me to easily separate it from the first or third, I often muddle what happens in which book.   But the third book...the third book was a life changer for me as far as life philosophies.


I've always had issues with the Catholic church (the church I was raised in), but it wasn't until probably middle school that I really started questioning things.  As a kid I was mostly just pretty bored (as I imagine most kids are anywhere they have to sit for an hour quietly lol).  When I read the third book my world turned upside down.  God could be a phoney?  It was ok to think there was no such thing as God?  I'd always thought people just passively went to church and said they were Christians, whether they were faithful to the idea or not.  Or if not Christianity, some other religion.  That it was acceptable to think otherwise was incredible to me.  I can understand why the Church feels threatened by this series - I am kind of a perfect example of why they'd hate the series.  That being said, it's not like I suddenly became an atheist after reading this (and I'm not an atheist now).  I did a lot of questioning, and then decided I'd still try things with the Church.  I don't credit this series from taking me away from being a Catholic - I think I'd have gotten there on my own any way - but I do credit this series as the one that opened me to questioning not only religion, but a lot of basic beliefs I've held - even now.

Plus, this book features my favourite doomed couple ever.  And it was beautiful, and it broke my heart.

Song of the Lioness - Tamora Pierce


This series was the start of a life long obsession love for Tamora Pierce.  Beyond that, this series pretty much defines the way I see the whole world.  My introduction to Alanna was pretty much my introduction to how I view feminism.  Alanna is badass, strong, but she is more than all that.  She embodies all that it means to be a woman - and that includes being badass and strong, but it doesn't exclude things usually considered more feminine, like caring about how you look or being nurturing. (Not that I think those things are feminine, it's just generally viewed that way by society as far as I can tell).  And it doesn't mean having to be all those things either.  Women don't have to be super heroes.  While Kel has the patience of an angel, the same can not be said of Alanna.  All the characters here are treated like people, not a stereotype of gender identity, sexuality orientation, race, or class.  Really every single one of Tamora Pierce's books fall on this list, Song of the Lioness was just the first series I discovered by her.  This also features a heroine who has multiple sexual partners, and it's shown as a positive not shameful thing.  Which is SO, SO important to read when you are growing up! 

Deerskin - Robin McKinley


I love all of Robin McKinley's works (really guys, this can't possibly be a surprise!), but Deerskin stands out from all of her other works for a very specific reason that has little to do with the book itself and more to do with me.  This is the book that taught me how much children (and people) can self censor when reading.  This is the book that I think of any time someone wants to talk about censoring books.  The first time I read this, and maybe even the second, there's a fairly big SOMETHING that happens that just went right over my head.  I had a totally different explanation for what happened, and it's really frelling clear what happens in the book - I guess my brain just decided that nope, that's not what it wanted to interpret.  And I was definitely old enough to know what had happened, I just wasn't ready to understand it, I guess.

Spoilers. Like for real. Really, really.

This book is based off the fairy tale "Donkeyskin".  If you don't know it, it's about a father becoming obsessed with his daughter and raping her.  In the Robin McKinley book, I understood that her father was attracted to her.  But when it comes to the rape scene, I thought he ended up just beating her up, but that she escaped without being raped.  So when it comes to the scene in the forest where she miscarries, I was a bit confused why having what was apparently a super bad period warranted so much attention, but I just went with it.  I'm pretty sure I was in high school when I read this, possibly junior high school? Either way, that's old enough (definitely high school!) to know what's going, especially since the book really. isn't. vague.  I reread this in undergrad and when I got to those points I was like...what??? How on EARTH did I think that's what happened? Like I seriously can not understand how I came up with the scenario I did!  I was pretty stunned.  And that's when I began to take self-censoring as a legit 100% real thing...and started wondering what else I'd misinterpreted.

Going Bovine - Libba Bray


All the other books on this list are books I grew up with, books that I own and have reread so many times they're falling apart, so to have a book I only read a couple months ago take a spot there were many, many other books that I had expected to put here should tell you just how much impact it had on me.  It's also the only book on this list that I listened to instead of read. (I'm quickly becoming to believe that I actually absorb way more everything when I listen to books)  It has made me think really hard about what I believe life and reality to mean.'s one of two books that I just don't want to talk about, which is really strange for me. (The other is The Book Thief)  I have mentioned this so many times on the blog since I read it...but I've never really talked about it. I think it's just that my reaction to what was written was so personal, and hard to describe (much like the book itself).  So much of this book was totally revolutionary for me. And I never thought I'd be so attached to a garden gnome.


I would definitely consider both of these books worthy of huge sections of this list. Luckily I've already written pages about them :)

I've spoken on the blog before on how Madeline L'Engle opened my eyes to the way spirituality and science can meld perfectly, and how specifically her book A Ring of Endless Light has always comforted me when my life has gotten out of control and confusing.  I wouldn't consider myself religious or spiritual now, but it gives me hope that someday I might find something that works for me on that front.

I also recently talked about how Fire helped me start dealing with my anxiety and fear after I had harassment issues.


  1. Harry Potter <3 I must admit I came to the series late, both in age and half way through its publication lol but gosh I love it. Such good books. It made me regret not picking the first one up when I was still in high school like a friend suggested. My first reaction was 'but why are you reading about a boy wizard?' and then I continued on my merry way with crime and war novels lol

    Oh times, how they change.

    I've read the first novel in the His Dark Materials series but never continued. Sometimes I wonder if I should have, I can't even remember why I gave up on the series *ponders* hmmmm. Something to think about.

  2. Yeah I was definitely lucky I got to it when I did. I mean, I still would have loved it, but I doubt it would have made this list to me. (I've got plenty of books I loved that didn't really influence me particularly). It suddenly occurs to me that I'm a crime tv junkie, but I actually don't read many mystery novels. Hmm...

    I know a lot of people who have done that haha! It must just not have been exciting enough, I suppose. It was handing having all three, so there wasn't a reason for me to NOT read the books back to back!

  3. I've not read the last do but totally get how the first three would make an impact. I was just moaning about how envious I was of folks who got to grow up with HP.

  4. Yeah I imagine that it completely changes the experience. I was just thinking last night if I had kids, how I'd introduce/measure out reading HP for them. (...making your kid wait to read the last book until they were 17 sounds extremely unlikely to happen haha)

  5. Heidi was the first book to make an big impression on my character. I think I read it when I was eight. I didn't get all of the statments being made about economic divisions, education, mental health issues, and the like, at that age, but the message of kindness and love towards everyone regardless of there "position" in life left a huge imprint on me at that age. Not to mention I had a thing for goats and goat-herding in my childhood, but that's another story. Lol. L' Engle, yes, she was my soul of Middle Grade books (however, I am so old they didn't have that category when I was in elementary school). My fourth grade teacher was reading Wrinkle to the class when I moved. My new teacher was reading Little House on the Prairie, so I borrowed AWiT from the library and finished it myself. I have all the same feelings about it that you have. I had never heard of the Song of the Lioness books before starting book blogging, but they have been recommended to me by several people since. I was clueless about the His Dark Materials books, too, until the movie came out. One of my son's friends from regional theater's father was a Universalist Unitarian minister and we had a couple of wonderful dressingroom discussions about his prediction that the Narnia movies would be big hits because they would be comfortable for Christians and The Golden Compass film, no matter how well done, would tank and no sequels would be made because it would make Christians uncomfortable. He was right. My son and I adored the movie and lamented the fact that there were not going to be any sequels made. I started reading TGC right before I started a new job and I never finished. I will have to remedy that. All I will say about Harry Potter, because I could write a tome about how much JKR's books impacted my entire family as a unit (maybe it would be a good blog post), is that I sometimes wonder what raising my son without reading Potter at night, dressing up for book release parties and movie premieres, and playing all of the HP related board and card games, together as a family, would have been like. And yes, I must read Going Bovine. I am sorry about the harrassment issues. I hope that has been remedied, or left behind in the past. It is terrible how much things like that can continue to impact our lives way beyond their time periods. How you dealt would be a great blog post. If you ever need to talk, tell me and I will DM you on Twitter with my personal email address.

  6. YAY a post! This is awesome, by the way. I would have to think really hard about what books impacted my life. Actually, I can come up with a few off the top of my head, but they are embarrassing to admit to. ;)

  7. I wouldn't have a blog if it wasn't for Harry Potter. It was such a big part of my life for so long.

  8. I'm going to make a point to read Heidi when I'm going through a classics phase because I honestly never knew anything about it, and cute shepherd girl wasn't enough of a push for me haha.

    I don't know if the Song of the Lioness books will be a love situation for you (although I finally conned Stephanie into reading them and she's loved them so far). They read a little young at first, and I think it's important to read the quartets as one book instead of four if you can. (But that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the books are short and I tend to read them all in one sitting because I can hahaha). But if you're looking for diversity in fantasy, Tamora Pierce is the way to go (especially her Circle of Magic series which actually is MG fiction). I actually was never really into the Little House on the Prairie books, although I read the whole series. I remember really liking Farmer Boy, but I was much more into girls with magic/girls with swords so most historical/contemporary fiction went right by me haha.

    I had never thought of His Dark Materials that way before, but I think you're right and that definitely played a part. It wasn't the best adaption, but it was better than a lot of others I've seen, so I was still pretty surprised they didn't keep going with it.

    Oh my god that sounds so fantastic! I would have loved to do any of those things! But no midnight premieres or HP games for me. I should remedy that last one since I can.

    I've made a lot of progress since it happened - it was a year and a half ago now and I think talking about it helped a lot. It doesn't bother me for the most part anymore, although I'm still pretty wary around strangers and I don't respond to numbers I don't recognize. (Which actually sucks when you get calls from families who want you to nanny and don't leave messages haha). But I haven't had any really bad moments in probably 6 months now, so I'm feeling pretty hopeful :) I'll definitely take you up on that though - regardless it'd be good to have your e-mail address!

  9. I know right? It feels good to be writing stuff again, even if I'm not sure how consistently I'll be able to keep that up. Speaking of...I had A WHOLE POST on the ToG series that I had mostly written like a year ago that was supposed to go up Friday that I must have accidentally deleted before it posted!! I'm SO. UPSET. It's not like I have a backlog so that it doesn't really matter...I'm low on knowing what I'm going to post so I was super excited about it *grumble grumble*

    Ok, but now I want to know what they are!! Twilight? I feel like that's everyone's embarrassing one to admit to.

  10. Between the books and the movies, I'm pretty sure the series covers at least half of my life haha, so I'm with you!

  11. Oh god, no, not Twilight. Actually I read it right before the second, or maybe third book came out. It had a follow, but nothing like it does now. This was before the movies came out. I thought the first was ok. But not interesting enough to make me read the second. I didn't hate them until the movie came out and I met my arch nemesis Kristin Stewart. I can't stand her. So I guess in a roundabout way they impacted my life in a negative way. Haha.

    Ok, so here are a few that impacted me:
    - Reservations Blues by Sherman Alexie - in a good way. It was such a good book, eye opening and expanded my world view.
    - Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie - in a bad way. This book was so angry and I have never felt guiltier for being white in my life. It made people in my college class cry.
    - Some fantasy books I read in Middle School and High School with my friend and became huge inside jokes for us: The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, Heavenly Horse from the Outermost. I was such a nerdy kid. (these are the embarrassing ones...mostly because we acted out scenes from them...and we were teenagers. O.O)
    - The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. This book really resonated with me. But I'm a total Irish-phile, so this really reminded me of the movie that started my love for Ireland: The Secret of Roan Inish.
    - Watership Down - It has rabbits. I love rabbits. I love THESE rabbits.
    - Hunger Games - because it started me down the YA rabbit hole again and in many ways lead me to blogging. :D

  12. Sorry about the typos, and now that I have re-read it, that last part sounded a little creepy. Lol. I am so happy we were talking about Heidi because the book that startedme on my chilhood goat herding obseession was a children's book titled, Moni the Goat Boy. I wanted to look up about it and the author, and it was written by thee same author as Heidi! I never connected the two books all of these years.

  13. Well, I can't say I know of any other authors who have much to do with goat herding hahahaha! I'll definitely let you know when I make it to Heidi (...warning, I'm SUPER BAD about reading books I mean to, so it might be a few...years....I'll try soon though!)

  14. Same! Well, except I did read the rest of the series. The second book is much like the first, but the last two seriously lost me. *shudders* baby nightmares forever. Lol! I've actually never seen her act in anything other than Twilight, so I don't have a clue how she is in an actress. I chalk most of the acting up to the just awful script and poor source material. Bella doesn't really have...well anything to act on really lol! ...I didn't even make it through the entire first movie. The writing was just...SO BAD. Also werewolf guy had Fabio hair and I died laughing everytime he came on screen because of that, so I gave up haha

    I am making a determined effort this year to read at least ONE Sherman Alexie novel (probably Reservation Blues because of how much you've mentioned it haha). Indian Killer sounds....intense. Really, really intense. And that is so adorable hahahaha! I wish I'd had a friend to act out books with! I've never heard of The SEcret of Roan Inish, but as a fellow fan of most Irish like things, I'll see if I can find it. And now that I'm a reformed Maggie Stiefvater fan, I really need to give Scorpio Races a chance. All I can remember about Watership Down is that it made me cry. A lot. And that there were rabbits. I kind of wish Hunger Games were more people's YA leap off point (I mean I'm sure there are, but it seems for most people it was Twilight. It almost feels like Twilight got YA really, really going and then all those people who got in with Twilight made Hunger Games a big thing. There's way more to it than that, you get what I mean at all or am I going all crazy talk?)

  15. Yeeessss Scorpio Races. I heart it so much. I will cry if you don't like it.

  16. I'm like 95% certain I'm going to love it. If I EVER get off my library ban this year (Must NOT have books stuffed into suitcases anymore!!) my guess is it'll be in my first 5 books checked out haha

  17. Ditto the Amber spyglass being an open space to question beliefs. I guess my experience is a bit different because I attended an open Catholic high school where we were encouraged to discuss different perspectives on viewing the world. (I remember my homeroom teacher recommended the series starting with the 1st book - Northern Lights/The Golden Compass when she found out I liked reading.)

  18. That is so awesome! My family and a lot of my friends went to school in Catholic high schools and that definitely wasn't their experience (although to be fair, my family was in school a good 40 years ago). And growing up in the Bible one likes Catholics there (or at least in my area there), so I got a lot of kindly meant religion shoved down my throat even before I stopped identifying as Christian haha. It was pretty controversial when the movie came out (even though the first book doesn't touch a whole lot on religion). So I'm really impressed that a teacher introduced this series to you (and good on her/him because it really is a totally amazing trilogy)


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