Let’s face it—-it’s virtually impossible to answer the question, “What is your favorite book?”. There are just too many, and my answer would shift from day to day. But the ones that defined who I am as a writer, a reader, and a person? Those books are set in stone in my brain, locked away in a protected space. No matter how many books I read and how many I fall in love with, these titles are the ones I will forever be able to go back to on a cold, rainy, miserable day, plop down in my favorite chair, and lose myself in.
The Redwall Series (by Brian Jacques): Specifically, Mattimeo, Martin the Warrior, Mossflower, and Salamandastron. The Redwall series was my first high fantasy series, and I can remember everything about the moment when eleven-year-old me picked up Mattimeo (the first I read in the series). I credit Brian Jacques with triggering my love for F/SF, and am forever grateful to him for introducing me to the genres I would end up writing.
Julie of the Wolves (by Jean Craighead George): I don’t remember stumbling across many books in my childhood that starred protagonists of color. Julie of the Wolves may have been the first. I also read a ton of animal books at that age, everything from Where the Red Fern Grows to Misty of Chincoteague and The Wind in the Willows–so Julie of the Wolves was the perfect storm of everything I wanted in a book. Miyax! Amaroq! Kapu! It was almost enough to make me want to get lost in an Arctic tundra and stumble upon a pack of wolves. (Almost.)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (by J.K. Rowling): What is a list of life-changing books without Harry Potter? I dismissed the whole phenomenon as some trendy Pokemonesque craze, until finally a friend shoved the first book in my hand and demanded that I read it. A book that people screamed about as much as a pop star? Instant convert.
The Hundred Dresses (by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin): Being an immigrant child to a relatively poor family, this story hit home for me when I first picked it up. For months afterward, I would draw my own colorful dresses and hang them up along my desk. Breaks my heart every time I read it.
James and the Giant Peach (by Roald Dahl): Is it a coincidence that my favorite fruit is the scrumptious, awesome peach? Probably not. I still remember how much sheer joy I felt when that peach squashed James’s horrible aunts. I want a pet peach.
The Poisonwood Bible (by Barbara Kingsolver): This was the very first novel I ever saw rotating first person POVs in—and what inspired me to do the same in my novel. I honestly didn’t know, going in, that I would love this book so much, but the Price family’s story still haunts me.
Peter Pan (by J.M. Barrie): I love, love, love Peter Pan. I love his arrogance, naivety, and vulnerability, his eternal youth. He was probably my first literary crush. I wished so hard for him to whisk me away to Neverland and tell stories to the Lost Boys. Every time I crack open this story, I get that warm nostalgic feeling in my stomach. Such wonderful memories.
I have the nagging feeling that I’m missing a ton more-—but these are the first that came to my mind. Now I’m curious: what are your most formative reads?
Marie Lu is the author of the Legend trilogy. The first book in her next series, The Young Elites, comes out this fall (2014). She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she spends her time writing and getting stuck in traffic.