Ten (plus a few extra) books that influenced me as a reader

This meme goes around Facebook every so often. If you haven’t seen it, it goes something like this:

In your status list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Then tag 10 friends, including me so that I can see your list.

I’ve been tagged on this a couple of times. Because Facebook’s search features leave a lot to be desired, I decided to post it here to make it easier to find. This isn’t an exhaustive list. I’ve added several extras and may come back and add more later. It’s just too hard to pick a few.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.These are in no particular order:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker — One of the few books that I was assigned to read for a class that became a favorite. The characters go through hell, but come out the other side. A wonderful story of perseverance and empowerment.

The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald — My dad read the Travis McGee series and I picked one up in middle school because he liked them. That began my love affair with hard-boiled detectives.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams — I found this at the Bookcase Bookshop, a little bookstore about two blocks from my house. It was my first experience with the absurdity of British humor. I was hooked.

Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella — Also found this at the Bookcase Bookshop. One of the few literary novels that I love, probably because it’s a weird combination of baseball and the mystical. The movie Field of Dreams is also one of my favorites.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger — I saw a lot of myself in Marcy and was really happy to find a fictional character I could relate to.

’til Death by Ed McBain — I think this was the first 87th Precinct novel I read. I know I bought a bunch of them at Acres of Books (a great, now defunct used bookstore in the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Campustown), but I may have checked this one out from the library. It was my first police procedural novel. It wasn’t my last.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher — I’d never read urban fantasy before I picked up this book. The combination of snark, wizards, vampires, and the Chicago setting pulled me in immediately. As an added bonus, each book in the series has gotten better, sometimes exponentially. It’s now my favorite series and urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres.

The Damiano Trilogy by RA MacAvoy — This series takes place in Italy during the Italian Renaissance and combines magic, faith, music, and the angel Raphael. I’ve never been a big fan of sword and horses fantasy (and definitely not Tolkien, much to the disappointment of some of my friends), but this series was different. There was humor, hope, and love amid the darkness. Plus a really brave (and not very smart) little dog.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner — Read aloud by Mr. Henry, my first grade teacher. In his class, I went from reading at grade level at the beginning of the year to reading at the sixth grade reading level by the end of the year. I think this book had something to do with it. I loved it so much that I wanted to read more on my own.

Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden series by Carolyn Keene, Franklin W. Dixon, and Julie Campbell Tatham/Kathryn Kenny — Responsible for my love of mysteries. I liked Trixie better than Nancy because she wasn’t perfect. I wanted to be a Bob-White when I was a kid.

The Tobey & Midge Heydon, Marcy Rhodes, and Pam & Penny Howard series by Rosamund Du Jardin — I found these 1950s era teen romances at the Decatur Public Library when I was in fifth or sixth grade. They were the first romances I ever read and it led to a lifelong love affair with the genre.

My dad was a journalism professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He taught a Readings in Journalism class that featured a crazy long list of books that students could choose from. Both were on that list and he recommended them to me.

The Corpse Had A Familiar Face by Edna Buchanan — Edna covered the crime beat for the Miami Herald for years and won a Pulitzer doing it. She brings Miami to life by telling wonderful stories about her experiences as a beat reporter.

And So It Goes by Linda Ellerbee — A highly entertaining and insightful book about broadcast journalism by a woman who never fit the standard anchorwoman mold.

The next three were read aloud to our class by Sally Happel, my wonderful third grade teacher.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards (better known as Julie Andrews) — This is a really great adventure/fantasy story with just enough absurdity that it stuck with me. It’s an excellent read-aloud too. That Julie Andrews wrote it is an added bonus.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume — This was my first exposure to Judy Blume. It’s still one of my absolute favorite books. I’m forever grateful that she read it to us and that Fudge wasn’t my little brother. It’s also a great read-aloud because each chapter stands on it’s own, as well as contributing to the larger story. Plus kids still love it. I read it to a couple of Tessa’s classes when she was in elementary school.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobel — I read all of these multiple times. I loved the short story format and the challenge of solving the puzzle at the end. Also, Bugs Meany was a great villain.


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