But the new fad that's going around made me stop and really think (instead of mindlessly clicking on green when asked my favorite color). When tagged by a friend, you're supposed to name the 10 books that "most impacted your life." Note that it doesn't ask for your 10 favorite books, or the 10 books you couldn't put down. It's hard for me to narrow any book list down to just 10, but this one was especially difficult.
Since it was already a fairly long post when I finished listing the titles and authors on Facebook, I didn't take the time to explain why and how each of the books impacted me, so I thought I would do that here. As you can see, many of these I have already reviewed or referenced on this blog - just follow the links for more.
And now consider yourself tagged - which 10 books most impacted YOU?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This book was completely mind-blowing for me. The symbolism was rich and intense and the writing was different from anything else I had ever read. If I could tell you the number of times that I think about Ellison's description of Optic White and the 10 drops of black...now that's an impact. And here I must thank my high school English teacher, Ms. T, who assigned this to the class that adores her to this day.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I know a lot of little girls may have dreamed of being Jo, but I tried to make it a reality. I created my own Pickwick Papers, developed plays for my sisters to showcase their talents, and set myself on a lifelong writing path in the process.
Light in August by William Faulkner
I went through a full summer of Faulkner as a teen, and this book is the one that started the whole thing. It appealed to my sense of being a misfit (weren't we all) and it was thrillingly full of Southern Gothic themes of race, sex, class, and religion. It made me question everything I thought I believed.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Like Light in August, this book came along at the right time in my life. With its gentle protagonist and his simple-but-not idea to change the world, this book reminded me that life isn't always about the destination, but the road you travel.
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
This huge chunk of writing transformed me into the Anglophile I am today, covering pre-history to modern day at the magical English site. It was also the first book in the sweeping-historical-saga genre that I actually
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I am a huge fan of YA fiction and of Neil Gaiman, and this is my favorite of his books. It is charming, witty, and unique, and it made me appreciate the category all over again.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Where to begin? It is set during a favorite historical time period, it is set in one of my favorite countries, and it is a completely different take on a story that I thought had been told in every way possible. But that isn't what impacted me - no, that was Mantel's writing, which is straightforward, gripping, and worth every award she received. I could not put this down.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
There are two books that I consistently give as gifts. One is Peter Mayle's A Dog's Life, because it's so funny and everyone needs a good laugh. This is the second one - and I press it into people's hands with a determined "You have to read this." A completely different take on race, crime, and Southern literature, it really is that good.
With No One as Witness by Elizabeth George
There is no one in the same class as George when it comes to writing characters, and her Lynley-and-Havers duo ranks among my favorites in all of literature (yes, I do mean that). There are 19 books in the series at this point, and I selected this one as having the most impact on me because it is one of maybe three times in my life that I gasped out loud at a book's plot twist. Incredible.
First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
Historical fiction is a tough genre - veer too close to the history side and it's boring, swerve over into the fiction lane and it's too fluffy. McCullough finds the perfect middle ground in her Masters of Rome series with meticulous research combined with her imaginings of the real men and women behind the myths. She even includes her own sketches of the historical players - and they're quite good. There are three historical time periods that I'm nuts about, and that can be attributed to three books. This is the one that dragged me into ancient Rome, and I've never left. In case you're curious about the other two points in history: Ancient Egypt and Tudor England.
Of course, once I saw everyone else's lists, I wanted to add more books to my list. So here are some honorable mentions: To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride & Prejudice (Austen's sarcasm obviously had an impact), Pillars of the Earth, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Handmaid's Tale, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.