To say books have influenced me is an understatement. I have a difficult time pinpointing the books which have influenced me the most and keep the reminiscence positive because far more books have influenced me negatively than positively. Overall, the net result was positive since I learned what not to do.
Genres have played a large part in influencing me. Each one brings something significantly different to the table, stimulates a different part of the brain and bears different flavors of fruit.
I am the single least romantic person ever (at least in the accepted connotation- by definition I am very romantic, but I digress). Romance novels make my eye twitch. If anyone really desires to live in a world so saccharine, it certainly is not me and my artificial-sweetener-challenged self.
The entire genre to me seems alien. I find the sweetness with no real conflict implausible. The three (It was all I could stomach.) romance novels (bodice rippers) were enough to make me write real (hard core) erotica.
Piers Anthony is a long standing favorite author of mine. Besides being the king of puns, he has a sharp wit. Over the years, I have seen his novels dismissed by many as children’s-book attempts at adult sci-fi. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The realization most of the humor and much of the complexity of his enormously long story lines (and the wherewithal it takes not to require readers read all fourteen books in the series to understand) cleared my vision to the growing number of people in my world who do not understand snark, sarcasm or dry humor. I generally ask them to name their favorite Three Stooges episode to bring levity back to the conversation.
Mary Stewart is another author whose foray into the distant past, be it legend or folklore, influenced my ability to enjoy fictionalized history. As a stark historian, rather than a revisionist, I had to learn to disengage from some of the opinion which passes for fact and appreciate the research which goes into making a historical fiction novel not feel like a caricature of a reference book.
By far, the text book which influenced me more than any other was this series of grammar books. One of the holy texts in the Grammar Nazi genre, along with Strunk’s and Harbrace’s, Wariner’s was the beginning of learning how to use mechanical language consistently to give my reader’s brains enough spare RAM to process what can be any number of complex topics.
One of my favorite subjects is serial killers. Chalk it up to my love of psychology. My books span the gamut from cheap novellas promulgated from newspaper clippings (read seventh grade reading level) and Internet searches to well-researched novels with interviews of the offenders, victims and investigators.
Besides the psychosis-on-a-slide view, what struck me was even a story this heart-rending and gut-wrenching it can be filled with viable information and useful facts: Neither of which need smash the reader over the head with words like You should…
No. I did not grow up with Wikipedia, fortunately. The impractical production costs of encyclopedias is a sad state of affairs to my mind. For me, the encyclopedias (We had more than one set.) were the largest set of flashes and short stories, with the fiction sucked out. Generous with illustrations, they were the cure for rainy day boredom.
Michael Moorcock is one of my all time favorite fantasy writers. Although many people only know of Corum (Swords), Cornelius and Elric, by far, my favorite of his books is The Weird of the White Wolf. His imagination is seemingly boundless, and his body of works is rivaled by very few. (full stop)
I got a few raised eyebrows when I mentioned my love for The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, which coincided with my outrage at my own poetry being compared to William Shakespeare, shudder. While my friends are enamored with the likes of e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Margaret Atwood, my appreciation predates all of them by a few centuries. While I do not denying having read them, they are far less influential than poetry from before the turn of the 19th century.
The part of poetry which influences me more than the rhymes themselves is the lack of commentary from contemporaries. The complete lack of celebration of poetry outside very small and snotty circles cannot be explained in terms I understand. Perhaps, enough of the world has been convinced they are too illiterate to understand and are content in such a ludicrous assessment.
On the other foot, it may be impetus for me to write another book… of not poems.
My entire world is a place of discovery and sharing; ergo, it stands to reason self-help would be nestled in my library in significant comfort. Ranging from a plethora of cookbooks (with stories to support the recipes) to scattered repair manuals, I will always be the four-year-old with the eternal Why?
All of them have influenced me in different ways because I have a massive amount of information amassed, which (in my not at all humble opinion) is worth sharing. Long before the coining of the term SEO, I learned how to collate the tidbits into manageable bites: Tender, satisfying, flavorful- even if it was mystery meat before the meal.
No, I cannot answer this question as to one single book which influenced me more than all the others. The reason is, simply, every book is valuable. With more than 8,000 titles in my library ranging from the hundreds of children’s books to the dogeared reference books, I simply love to read.
As luck would have it, it makes me a better author.
What do you read? Why do you read it? Are you up for a challenge?
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