Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
I'm sure I'm not alone on this one - who could resist a lifetime supply of chocolate? Or the strange, magical, consequential world where good and evil were divided so wickedly and well? My brother used to read Roald Dahl to me when I was little - in fact, I can still recite, to perfection, the plight of Goldie Pinklesweet (an Oompa Loompa song from The Great Glass Elevator). If being a writer could produce such brilliance, then that's what I wanted to do.
The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
Seriously, I've read this book no fewer than nine times. My cousins loaned it to me on a camping trip. I remember nothing about the camping trip, but I do remember staying up until 3a.m. (which, at age nine, was a big thing) and crying when it was over because I truly wanted it to be neverending. And I can still remember my cousin Karin's perfect rendition of the empress saying, "Bastien, pleeeeeeeeeease!" from the movie (which actually only covered chapters A-K of a book that went all the way to Z). The coolest part was the red/green ink - red being Bastien's story and green being Atreyu's, and the beautiful A-Z chapter illustrations in red and green. A classic.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
It was all over, once I'd discovered this book. The angst. The poetry. The utter romanticism of depression. As a young, searching writer struggling with depression and insecurity myself, I felt understood, validated, and hopeful. Such a gifted writer, with a tragic end to her life's story. I often wonder what would have become of her if she had weathered that period and lived to write about it from the other side.
Six Memos for the Next Millenium, by Italo Calvino
A collection of essays by one of the most creative, brilliant minds in the last century asking, what qualities of literature should survive into the next millenium? The qualities he proposes are lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. The sixth, consistency, remained unwritten at the time of his death. This little book provided a window into the kind of writer I wanted to become and led me to his fiction. His little novel, Invisible Cities, about a visit to Kublai Khan by Marco Polo, remains my favorite book of all time. (Ok, so that was cheating, two in one.)
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
When I decided to pursue writing for children instead of a PhD, I had a 1600 word rhyming picture book in my hand and a dream burning in my heart. Before my epiphany, I thought I wanted to write the Great American Novel rather than books for children. After reading Speak, I realized it was possible to do both. Therein was a seed of desire to write for teens - in as beautiful and truthful a way as possible.
Books from other lists I plan to read:
- Oh My Goth, by Gena Showalter (from Stephanie's list)
- The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler (from Julie's list)
- Dune, by Frank Herbert (from Karlene's list)
- Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (from Faith's list)
- A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly (from SheReads/Diane's list)
What about you? What five books have changed your life in some small or crucial way?