I know that reading Agatha Christie’s ‘Death Comes as the End’ early in my life helped point me in a mysterious direction, but there were other books that had a lasting impact on my life as a reader, writer and, yes, as a person.
My father read bedtime stories for years after the fairy tale stage. Some of these were classics that he read aloud more than once—‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ and, most of all, ‘The Secret Garden’ come to mind as books that stirred my imagination and taught me the power of storytelling. But when I think of books I read to myself it’s Edward Eager’s series—‘Half Magic’, ‘Knight’s Castle’ and the rest—and C.S. Lewis’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ that resonate. As an adult, I reread ‘The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe’ and the Christian allegory was front and center. It didn’t ruin the story, but the magical experience was altered. I’ve never attempted to reread the Edward Eager books but maybe a wave of nostalgia will make revisiting them an inviting prospect?
In Junior High School my English teacher was the head of the department and she was pushing the envelope when she offered us the choice of The Odyssey in prose OR poetry form. I picked the long-form poem and loved it. I wrote a paper mimicking the poetic style, while recounting the story of the Cyclops from the point-of-view of one of the sheep. That initial introduction to Homer started my mythology (and monster) obsession that continues today.
Other books? The original ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley inspired me to write the Candy’s Monsters series and to read 19th Century literature with a more open attitude. Most people forget that the book’s full title is ‘Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.’ That second title is part of what guides me to read non-fiction, including books on science and how the shaky borders between science, magic, technology, religion, history, and civilization, continue to change the world.
What books have changed you? Please share a few titles. Maybe your important books will inspire someone else?