Tuesday, September 2, 2014

10 Books That Affected Me

So my friend, Taylia, tagged me on Facebook to do the following:
Name 10 books that have affected you in some way. Don't think too long or hard. They should be books that naturally stand out to you.
 Now, this was supposed to be a quick list to be reposted on FB, but since I have a lot of book feelings, I thought it would make a good blog post. So here we go!

10 Books That Affected Me (in no particular order)

1. The House at Tyneford
by Natasha Solomons

Some books you read and enjoy so much, you can't help but want to go out and proselytize it. At every available opportunity, you try and shove the book into a friend's hands, babbling about how amazing it is. But for other books, they affect you on such a deeply personal level, you'd rather hoard it away, protecting it from the judgment of others.

For me, The House at Tyneford is the latter book. I read it at just the right time in my life, and it hit me hard. Like, waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-a-mess-over-the-fate-of-one-of-the-characters hard. This story is not just beautifully written, but raises some haunting WWII ghosts, and it still leaves a kind of ache in my heart when I think about it.

by Shannon Hale

This book made me laugh out loud, and had me crying so hard I couldn't see the pages. Any book that can accomplish such a spectrum of feelings is one that lingers with me for a long time afterward. The Actor and the Housewife wasn't at all what I expected when I first started reading; it turned out to be better than I anticipated, heart-rending, funny, and honest in ways I couldn't have imagined. When I first read it, I was still uncertain whether I enjoyed contemporary/women's fic as a genre; afterward, I had no doubt that I did.

And I maintain that if this were ever to be made into a movie, Colin O'Donoghue would absolutely have to play Felix. No exceptions. I have very strong feelings about this.

3. World War Z
by Max Brooks
World War Z was definitely a slow-burn for me. It's a fascinating pseudo-oral history account of a zombie war, and for much of the book, I simply felt fascinated and curious, devouring every survivor's story. Yet whenever I wasn't reading the book, I couldn't help but keep thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more it freaked me out. Because here's the thing about World War Z: it is incredibly realistic. The author clearly put a lot of thought into how a zombie apocalypse would actually conceivably go down and the result is a harrowing peek at a world ravaged by the undead. A world that could easily be ours. It's more than just zombies. It's about humanity--sometimes its beauty, sometimes the lack of it entirely--and that's what really makes this book stick out in my mind.

Also it was the first ebook I ever bought on my kindle so there's that.

4. Summer of My German Soldier
by Bette Greene

This was one of the books required for reading in middle school, along with books like The Pearl by John Steinbeck and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Yet, Summer of My German Soldier is the only one I really remember (fondly, anyway), and there's good reason for that.

This was the first book to ever make me cry. And whenever I'm prompted to list books that were meaningful to me in some way, it always springs to mind. It is not a book I ever intend on reading again, however. I'm not sure I would derive the same pleasure as when I was the intended audience, and I would rather not ruin my halcyon memories of the book.

5. The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien

I was tempted to cheat here and list The Lord of the Rings as one book, but I'll play fair and list my favorite of the trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring is by far my favorite of the books, which may seem strange to some people since it has a rather slow and ponderous beginning. My reason for loving the book, apart from it's wonderful prose and dreamy, mythical atmosphere is quite simple: Boromir. This is the book that not only started me down a wonderful journey of fantasy and lore, but introduced me to one of my favorite fictional characters ever.

Seriously, guys. Boromir is the best. <3

In more recent years, as I've learned about Norse mythology, Germanic legend, and poetry, I've begun to appreciate these books even more for how Tolkien handles the source material he's drawn inspiration from.

6. The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale is a disturbing book in many ways, but also very affecting. Like World War Z, I enjoyed this book for its elements of realism, nestled into a dystopia society that seems far removed from our own, yet one can still glimpse the kernels of its possibility in our present day issues. This is the book that introduced me to Atwood, who has since become one of my favorite writers and poets. If her prose were a tangible thing, it would cut you. I never cease to be amazed at how she can pull beautiful phrases from such ugly settings, yet it never feels contrived or forced. And her imagination is incredible, as evidenced by the layers of this book, as with many of her others.

If you're in the market for a classic dystopian, you can't do better than Atwood.

7. Tough Towns: True Tales from the Gritty Streets of the Old West
by Robert Barr Smith

One of the best nonfiction books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Seriously, folks, Tough Towns is just FUN. Robert Barr Smith not only presents snapshots of historical events, but also, by virtue of his utilizing the vernacular of the time, really draws you in to the time period.

Best of all, Smith always appears conscious of the wild and frequently outlandish spirit of the American Old West, and embraces it like a fiction-writer rather than side-stepping it in historical textbook verbiage. I would highly recommend Tough Towns to anyone interested in outlaws, common heroes, and life in the Old West.

8. Dangerous to Know: Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic
by Susan Branson

I discovered this little gem in a class on women in American history. It's nonfiction bordering on creative nonfiction, simply by virtue of how well and interesting it is written. It nearly reads like a novel, and I was immediately captivated by the tale of Mrs. Ann Carson and Mary Clarke, the former who became a criminal to save her husband from the gallows and the latter who was a writer, ghost-writing the former's story. All true, too! Not only do you get a fascinating story with this book, but Branson also provides some in-depth feminist analysis on the culture at the time, and illustrates how both Carson and Clarke utilized to their advantage the gender conventions at the time in different ways. It is an utterly enthralling narrative, with very modern relevance. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to adapt it into a screenplay or else write a historical fiction novel about the two women at some point. Just saying.

9. Killing Lincoln
by Bill O'Reilly
and Martin Dugard
This was the book that made me really love Abraham Lincoln. Like the aforementioned title, Killing Lincoln is written in a creative, fast-paced, almost thriller-like manner, which immediately pulls you in and makes you eager to learn what happens (or, at least the manner in which it happens, as I'm sure we all know how Lincoln's story ends).

More personally, from the new admiration I developed for Lincoln through this book, and a burgeoning interest in the period of the Civil War, I came up with the idea for a character... and then a whole story idea which became the basis/inspiration for my current work in progress, Corkscrewed, about a woman formerly in the employ of President Lincoln who fails to save him and ends up moving West and becoming an outlaw instead. So yes, Killing Lincoln holds a special place in my heart for that!

10. Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

I read this at a time when I was wrestling with some theological questions of my own, and as a Christian myself, I found Lewis' perspective both frank and refreshing. I wish I had more to say about this book, but it definitely falls under a more personal category of effect. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I'd recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether you're a believer or not, since he presents his argument for Christianity in a positive, logical manner I haven't seen done as well anywhere else.

As per the challenge, I now tag the following 3 people: E.G. Moore, Missy Shelton Belote, and Sandie Docker! What 10 books have affected you? Note: your response need not be as extensive as mine, if you'd rather just list the books. Up to you!