The Books That Linger

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?


10 Responses to The Books That Linger

  1. Jenny Bailey Feb 4 2014 at 8:58 am #

    I remember being really enchanted by the book “Mandy” by Julie Andrews. I desperately wanted to find my own little secret garden cottage and that stuck with me so much that I grew up to buy a small, cozy house of my own. The garden is still a work in progress. 😉

    • Kaye Feb 5 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Oh, Jenny. I had to comment because I thought I was the only one who loved that book. That was one of my favorites for such a long time. I really need to pick it up and read it again!

  2. Marc Vun Kannon Feb 4 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Hiero’s Journey, by Sterling Lanier. A post-apocalyptic trek through a world of mutants and psychic powers, in search of the mysterious technology of the past. I call this a ‘guided tour’ sort of book, where the author uses the story to show us all the strange things in his world, but it’s one of the better ones.
    Sovereign, by R.M. Meluch. A humanoid alien joins us undercover to end an interstellar war. Teal Ray Stewart is the heart of the story, possessed of great power but inherently unstable, his entire life is a search for love.
    The whole RiddleMaster of Hed trilogy, by Patricia McKillip. Morgan of Hed travels his world searching for the solution to the riddle of the three stars on his brow, that have marked him and all those around him for death, and if he dies, so does his world.
    I have others, of more recent vintage, but these are the ones I remember from way back when.

  3. Jes Mascaro Feb 4 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books (specifically the Song of the Lioness, Wild Magic, and Protector of the Small quartets) are the first that come to mind. I’m almost at the point where I have to buy new copies, again. 😛
    The others are more ecclectic: Cats Have No Lord by Will Shetterly, The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly, Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint, and The China Garden by Liz Berry. The one thing they all have in common is that I read them while I was being bullied in middle school. I think that’s why they all stuck so thoroughly.

  4. jodimeadows Feb 4 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Ohh, yes, THE HUNDRED DRESSES. I read that in school and it was just . . . amazing. Heartbreaking. I loved the main character so much. Thanks for mentioning it; I was thinking about this book the other day, actually, but couldn’t remember who wrote it.

  5. Rochelle Feb 4 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Harry Potter makes my list of course, too. But the book that really stuck with me was “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. It was the first book I read that didn’t have a happily ever after ending, and I remember finishing it then locking myself in my parents’ bathroom and just feeling for as long as I could get away with it.

    I loved “Holes” by Louis Sachar, too, for being a book that “let me fill in the holes myself.” I loved the complex story he weaved throughout it, and as a fifth grader who mostly read “The Babysitters Club”, it was a change of pace that changed my views on what makes a good book for the rest of my life.

    “The Poisonwood Bible” messed me up. I mean that as a huge compliment, but it still messed me up. I read it the summer after my freshman year of college, and the way it made me think and reconsider everything was phenomenal.

    I only just recently read “The Hundred Dresses” for the first time, and I don’t think it had quite the impact on me as a 20-something as it would have as a young, poor girl. Although I never knew I was poor…

  6. Alexa S. Feb 4 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    I honestly feel like I could write a blog post about this (and I just might).

    There are certainly quite a few titles that have stayed with me over time, and one of them just so happens to be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as well! It’s such a magical series, isn’t it? I’ve been in the mood to read the series again lately.

    The rest of the titles I’d include are: Matilda (Roald Dahl), Throne of Glass (Sarah J. Maas), Second Chance Summer (Morgan Matson), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Last Battle (C.S. Lewis), among many, many more.

  7. Katlin Collins Feb 4 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Gosh, in the beginning about how you are talking about you fall in love with a different one, I totally understand your feeling. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White impacted me a whole lot when I was younger. It made me fight for what I stood for, and it didn’t hurt that my love for animals grew within the pages of the book. Also, I recently read “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak in December. I felt sorry for Death actually, and I would love to go into more detail to give examples; but I don’t want to give out spoilers. I love Death with all of his faults and I understand how he feels toward humans.

  8. Shae/Shelver Feb 5 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I devoured the Mandy books by Lois Gladys Leppard as a kid. I loved the mysteries and her Native American heritage and the cute boys. That series and the Young Underground series by Robert Elmer really helped hook me on historical fiction along with Dear America/Royal Diaries/My Name Is America.

    But the series that really shaped my taste and expectations as a teen/adult were the Queen’s Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner. Perfection.

  9. A. Barone Mar 2 2014 at 12:11 am #

    Tamora Pierce’s : Song of the Lioness books are always at the top of my list. As are the Little House on the Prairie books. I read, and re-read those books so often, and they remain on my bookshelf to this day. More recent reads would Pride and Prejudice and the Winter Sea. Both books have stuck with me, long after I’ve read them. Pride and Prejudice is just such a romantic story, and the Winter Sea was so compelling and heart-wrenching that it’ll be on my re-read list for years to come.

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