There are a lot of books that have influenced me over the years, and they’ve done so in various ways: Books that have changed my way of looking at the world; books that have been instrumental in creating lasting friendships; books that made me think about issues that I’d never considered before…
I thought that today I’d let you know about a few of the books that have influenced me the most over the years (for better or for worse), & tell you a little bit about how. I’ve picked out ten (though there are, of course, a lot more out there), and I’d love to hear about how you think you’ve been shaped by books, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know!
In the order in which I first read them:
1) Biff, Chip & Kipper series. I don’t know what this series is actually called, but oh well. There are probably hundreds of these books, & I’m pretty sure that my primary school had the lot. During my first few years at school, we would have time every week to sit down & read these books, to develop our reading ability, but I absolutely hated them! I guess that pretty much everyone hates the books that they were made to read at school, but I got started pretty early: I must have been about five when these books led me to the conclusion that reading was a chore. I don’t remember ever finding them difficult to read – just annoying.
[Edit (9/9/2014): Literally a few seconds after posting this, I checked my email and found a Nintendo Newsletter announcing a Biff, Chip & Kipper game series, so apparently that’s a thing. 😐 ]
2) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. An exception to my no-books rule, since I never technically read this book myself. When my sister and I behaved ourselves, our Dad would sometimes come upstairs and read a chapter of The Hobbit to us before we went to bed. I was completely obsessed with it, and I even called my fish-shaped lunchbox Bilbo, after the main character (or possibly Gandalf. My sister & I had matching lunchboxes…). When Dad had finished the book, I wanted so badly for him to start again from the beginning, that he went out and bought me the tapes of the BBC audio drama, which was the first audiobook (kind of) that I ever listened to.
3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I think that pretty much everyone in my generation has been influenced in some way by the Harry Potter series. In my case, this was the book that made me love reading. My sister was badgering me to read this series pretty much as soon as it came out, but I was stubborn, and ended up not picking it up until a little before Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire was released, when my best friend Jen started pressing me to read it, too. I went home, read the first couple of chapters, got frustrated that it wasn’t moving quickly enough, and then, at school the next day, I told Jen something along the lines of, “This is boring. I though you said it was about a magic school.” Her response was to tell me to start from chapter 5 (I think), so I ended up skipping over most of the stuff with the Dursleys the first time (though nowadays that’s actually one of my favourite parts of the book).
Anyway, needless to say, I loved it, and when I’d finished, my parents were so overjoyed that I was reading for fun that they went straight out and bought me the next two books in the series (something that my sister thought was incredibly unfair, since, having been an avid reader pretty much her whole life, she had to save up all her pocket money if she wanted new books to read), and I read them both in a day, and then went and re-read all three over and over until Goblet of Fire came out…
4) Flambards by K.M. Peyton. I first read this book in year 7 at school (when I was 11), and it was the book that made me realise that school books didn’t always have to be boring. I ended up finishing it way ahead of time, and when I did, the first question I asked my English teacher was, “Does this have a sequel?” It did, and I raced through the other three books in the series, as well. I eventually also discovered an old TV adaptation, which was amazingly done and I recommend to anyone who likes World War I-era period dramas, or horses, or aeroplanes.
5) The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce. It’s complete luck that I ever actually read this series, since the first book (First Test) was a Christmas present from my parents, who have notoriously bad luck picking out books for me. I probably only read it because I was stuck for the whole holiday at my Granny’s house, where the only other books available were things that I felt even less like reading. This series was what got me started on fanfiction – the first fanfic I ever read was a Kel/Merric story set a few years after the end of Lady Knight – which is still a surprisingly big part of my life.
6) Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper. I probably first picked this up when I was about 12, just by chance in Waterstones one day – my attention was drawn to the book next to it on the shelf (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), and I only looked at this one because I thought the cover was pretty, and the title was kind of interesting. I actually really love this whole trilogy, but the main reason it’s on this list is because this was the first book I read that made me really want to write my own stories. I remember that after I finished the last book in the series (Keepers of Light), I started planning out my own series of fantasy novels (with a main character who suspiciously resembled the girl on the cover of Daughter of Storms), and I spent almost my entire summer holiday writing about her adventures.
7) The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. This series is what really sparked my love affair with high fantasy (which is my favourite genre), and also with Tamora Pierce (who is probably my all-time favourite author). It’s definitely not the best of her series’ (nor the first one I read), but it was the one that best managed to capture my attention, and – more surprisingly – to keep it.
8) The Grey King by Susan Cooper. This is the fourth book in the Dark is Rising sequence, which I briefly mentioned when I was talking about Daughter of Storms. I initially picked up The Dark is Rising on a whim, and I really didn’t like it (or rather, I could barely follow it), but a couple of years later, I came across a bind-up of the whole series, and discovered that I had actually tried to start the series from the second book. Needless to say, this has made me a little more cautious about starting books that I don’t know anything about, and now I will usually look up books that sound interesting and make sure there’s not another book that I should read first…
But anyway, The Grey King is the fourth book in the series, and my favourite. It takes place in Snowdonia, in Wales, and a large part of the story is tied up in local Arthurian legends. This was the book that really got me interesting in mythology (particularly Arthurian myths and Celtic myths), and was a big part of the reason why I decided to go to Wales for University. It’s also a book that my cousins and I bonded over (we spent a couple of weeks one summer visiting all the places that Will and Brân went to in the book), so it’s also very special to me for that reason. 🙂
9) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. This series made me fall in love with love stories. It was so funny and Mia was such a realistic character that reading these books made me feel like she was actually speaking to me. And Michael, I swoon for thee. Michael was probably one of my very first book boyfriends, and Michael/Mia was definitely my first OTP (One True Pairing). I remember watching the two films with my cousins (who were very young at the time), and rejoicing at the end of the second film, when my cousin Zou turned around and said to me sadly, “Why couldn’t she have married Michael?” This series is basically on this list because it turned me into a massive shipper. ~♥
10) The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve. Also known as the Predator Cities series; also known as the Mortal Engines series. Whatever you call it, this series is awesome, and it made this list because it was the first series I ever read that really made me think about the future, and not just in an ecological, the-world-is-going-to-die sense (though there is that, too). Shrike is my favourite character from this series, and also one of my favourite characters of all time, and the journey of self-discovery that he goes on in the series incorporates a lot of thought/discussion about the way that the civilisations of the future will look back on the events of today. I first picked up Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, when I was about 15 at the insistence of my friend Clare, and it’ll probably (hopefully) stick with me for the rest of my life.
What are your most influential books? Let me know in the comments!