Lu writes one of the most beautifully written blogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of discovering, and so when she posted her 10 Influential Books post, I was over the moon. I knew it would be a good list – her numbers 3, 4 & 5 easily make my list too, but I’ve only included one of those for the sake of variety. Because of course, there are already too many to choose from.
“Influential” is a hard description to pin down, so I’ve gone with those that have influenced my thinking/attitude/human understanding in a certain way, or have made especially impactful impressions on me. Books have shaped me since I was a young and keen reader, but here are just a few (10 to be exact) of those that have left significant imprints on my bibliophile heart.
1 :: Matilda by Roald Dahl
I have all the time and love in the world for each and every Roald Dahl book, but Matilda in particular was a favourite of mine. I adored Matilda, Lavender and Miss Honey more than most other real human beings, and the imagination of RD was and is a world I never want to escape. I think that Matilda probably made me even more of a book lover than I already was, and for that I am eternally grateful.
2 :: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Books that are studied in the English classroom at school have a reputation for being tarnished for that exact reason, but this was a book I studied in my teens that touched me like no other. Aside from the enthusiastic and passionate English teacher who taught us every nook and cranny of this novel, the story and writing themselves are monumental in its humility and human vulnerability.
3 :: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
I think it was after I had finished reading the book that I found out it was a true story, written hastily by Rudolf Ditzen under the pen name of Hans Fallada in less than a month in 1946. It is the story of the Quangels who lost a son in the war, and quietly and bravely begin to rebel against the Nazi regime in their own, seemingly small ways. It is an emotionally draining, bleak, powerful read about morality and true courage.
4 :: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
I read this when I was about 16, and in my opinion it was exactly the right time for me to have discovered it. This coming-of-age novel is so relatable in its honesty, clumsiness and raw expression, and it questions identity and existence in a way that is far from pretentious. I also enjoyed The Outsider by Albert Camus which I think has some similarities and is also as good (look at me sneaking an extra one in the list!).
5 :: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
I am a little partial to this novel, not only because it is just so fantastic, but also because it was the first proper book that I managed to read in English. The vividness of the characters and the story have not dulled even slightly after all these years (I was 9-10 when I read it, with the help of my new English friends and teacher), and I just wanted to be Pippi! She is one of the best characters ever created, and is a lovely example of being different and wacky and being loved anyway.
6 :: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
How could I not include this? I devoured this in my angsty, late teenage years and it was like Plath wrote my feelings (in an eloquent and wonderfully not-my-feelings-at-all way). Her writing is something you become addicted to, and this book is one that, to me, is a kaleidoscopic diary that has one foot in reality and one foot outside of it. Her poems are also a must read, as well as the poems in Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes that were written to and about Plath.
7 :: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I just absolutely love and cherish this novel. It’s one of those stories that while you are reading it, you are completely and utterly engulfed in its world and reality becomes a distraction. Scarlett may not be the most likeable character to begin with, but my god she will win you over by sheer will and determination. It is one of the most epic love stories (of all kinds) that has ever been written – in fact simply one of the most epic stories – and I will never lose the feeling of the red clay of Tara under my feet from my first read of this book.
8 :: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This globally adored novel is loved so dearly for a reason. I felt like I was one of the four sisters, and missed them once I’d finished. It is so beautiful in its simplicity, the gentle portrayal of love and complexities within a family, and it is one that I will place firmly on my future child’s bookshelf.
9 :: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
This was my first Murakami, and what an impression it made on me. His writing is like no other, and the way he bewitches you without you realising it is truly magical. This novel, with its poignant lull and sharp pains of love and loss, is one that made me explore and understand (as much as we can understand such things) the subtle nuances of human nature and our weaknesses and transparent desires.
10 :: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
I read this gem of a book as though Hemingway was talking to me. It’s a book about his early years as a writer, living in Paris, scraping together pennies and being in love with his first wife. It’s not much on the surface – simply an account of his days in the 1920s, which cafés he visited, his writing routine. But it is so much more than that. The intimacy you feel as he describes how much he has written that day, what kind of lunch he could afford, his dismissal of the rich and the successful, and the account of Paris through his young and vivacious eyes – all those things and more makes this the perfect self portrait of his youth. It is worth noting that he wrote this in the 1960s when his legendary career was already in decline, which colours the book differently – as a memoir of a man who is seeking comfort from reliving happier, simpler years.
I would absolutely love to know your most influential books, please write a post yourself or tell me in the comments!