This list is different depending on which day you ask, although many of them would be on my list any day. I look at books like food. Some are a great well-rounded gourmet meal, food for body and spirit, some are cotton candy. Hopefully you get the proportions right, but the cotton candy fluff never will make the "influential list." My list is in no particular order.
- The Bible. I know many people say this, but I don't know of any other book that has so thoroughly made me take stock of myself and my life and changed my politics, my relationships and helped me re-evaluate myself and my attitudes on a day-by-day basis. Particularly I love Philippians which taught me how to find joy in the midst of trouble.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein. I cannot separate these books, as they have been part of a series of lifelong experiences in my life, reinforcing my love of and longing for adventure. The books are wistful, exciting, have great characters (Tom Bombadil is a particular favorite) and an engaging story line I have read many times.
- the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson. When I read this series I was struggling to deal with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. The series is dark, but Thomas Covenant, a leper brought into a world where he is whole but cannot believe it because he is afraid to lose the skills that in the "real world" keep him from deformity, taught me the value of pain. I treasure that lesson. It has been a great source of strength, and a reminder that pain has purpose, even if my pain response has gone somewhat awry.
- The Sacred Romance. byJohn Eldredge. At a time in my life where I was struggling with understanding what church should look like and with why I was so incredibly unhappy, this opened my eyes to another way to see how God might be working with me, calling not just to me, but to all of us, revealing to me a different way to understand the love of God.
- A Grief Observed. by C.S. Lewis. For years I struggled with grief. What I saw around me was a peculiar observance of grief that seemed like pretense, a pretense of joyful celebration without the weight of grief I felt myself. Lewis honestly deals with his own sorrow, and through it I found such a relief reading someone else express emotions I understood.
- The Heavenly Man. by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway. This book grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Spending years in a Chinese prison for his faith, his observations about the western church as it interacts with the Chinese church and how the western church varies from the Chinese church, once he left China with his family spoke volumes to me about how the church should behave, and how I should respond.
- A Tale of Two Cities. by Charles Dickens. I read this reluctantly at the urging of a good friend. I had been tortured by "Great Expectations" in high school and hated how incredibly depressing and creepy it was and was afraid of more of the same. Oh how glad I am to have read this one. The beauty of love and the enobling act of sacrifice of one for the object of his love moves me deeply. I wept.
- through 10. I guess it's laziness that has me do an homage to various authors for different reasons. The following are influential in my writing, specifically. I try to emulate and disect what works in what they do and why. I found myself reading Robert B. Parker, if not cotton candy, then perhaps a grilled brat at the fair. Suddenly I realized how great his dialogue is at expressing character and how I could hear the different characters speaking, even when they weren't named. I have studied his dialogue and amazed at how well he did this. Cornelia Funke: simply a great storyteller. Although her books are written for children, or youths, most of them are advanced enough that they make great adult reading. It is a genre I enjoy writing and she is a superb storyteller. George R. R. Martin does such a great job at telling a story from different points of view, getting in the mind of different characters to where, if I don't always like them, I do understand them, and feel sympathy for even the vilest person once Martin does his magic. George, if you are reading this, please, please, please finish the Song of Fire and Ice series. I've been waiting a long, long time. Work your magic.