Monday, March 29, 2010

George's Meme: The Ten Books That Most Influenced Me

You can find George's choices here. The idea was not to think about it too much. And I didn't. Plus I wrote this list at four in the morning when I couldn't sleep-- so it may be spacey. And, as George said, it might be a different list next week.

The Bible-I've probably read most of the Bible. I spent most of my childhood in church, went to a Christian high school and college. It certainly has had a huge impact on my thinking. It's history, it's poetry, it's a plan for living.

The Diary of Anne Frank-I read this obsessively as a child. It led me to read every book about Nazis and the war and the Holocaust, I could find. I will never forget how finding out Anne's fate at the end of her diary made me feel at age 10. I will never forget how visiting their hidden rooms in Amsterdam made me feel at age 50.

Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis. This book stands in for all the books I read in my teen years and early twenties, books that were written by muckraking writers-Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Theodore Dreiser and so many more. I think they formed my world view as much as the first two on the list. A shame that no one reads them now.

The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald-I fell in love with Zelda and Scott as a teenager. Read all his books and stories, biographies about each of them, her stab at a novel. All of it. But this was his masterwork and arguably American's masterwork.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. I've read this book many times and am always charmed by both this book and her other five. I know many men don't get it. They think it's about tea parties and balls (Or at least my husband does). But it captures a strata of society as well as work by Dickens or any other writer.

The True Believer, Eric Hoffer-I don't know how or why I read this book, but it made a tremendous impression on me and explained many of the things I wondered about after reading a work like Anne Frank's diary. It deals with the nature and dangers of fanaticism.
I don't know how it's regarded today, but it immediately jumped to mind (at four o'clock).

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan. A Bible of another kind. Also Our Bodies, Ourselves. Someone actually was talking about female frustrations, aspirations, bodies, orgasms, aging, disenfranchisement, roles.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. Another obsession. Her poetry especially the poems in Ariel and this novel blew me away. Words could be scorching and beautiful at the same time.

Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead. I know she's not considered to be as brilliant as she once was, and that she manipulated her studies and her subjects possibly. But the idea of studying the way people live-finding the patterns in it, amazed me. Also books by Colin Turnbull such as The Forest People and The Mountain People.

Die A Little, Megan Abbott. This knocked me out for reasons you all understand.

What books have most influenced you?

Here's Fleur's list.
Rick's list.
Alan's list.
R.T's list.
James Reasoner's list.
Randy Johnson's list.
Evan Lewis' list.
Cap'n Bob Napier's list
Scott Parker's list.
K.A. Laity's list.

Phil Abbott's list
The Liberal Tradition in America, Louis Hartz
Rabbit Run, John Updike
Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good, Bertrand de Jouvenal
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
, Nietzsche
The Mountain People, Colin Turnbull
The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
American Pastoral, Philip Roth

Jeff Meyerson's list

1. The Hardy Boys — Rick has already mentioned this, I believe, but it’s the first time I got interested in a series, in collecting, in reading books in order (not that it mattered).

2. Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo. Our library used to have “summer loans” so you could take out books for 2-3 months if you were going away. I picked this. “I am Edmond Dantes!” This got me interested for teh first time in injustice, and payback, and the bad guys getting what they deserve.

3. Douglass Wallop, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. You may recognize it as its adaptation as Damn Yankees. My mother subscribed to Readers Digest Condensed Books and I picked this off the shelf to read. It also made me want to read unabridged versions.

4. (General) Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. First time I can remember reading a book after seeing a movie, a practice that continues to this day.

5. Osa Johnson, I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin & Osa Johnson. Another summer read, this exciting story of the Kansas-born husband & wife adventurers was pretty exciting to a kid in Brooklyn.

6. Richard Wright, Black Boy. One of the few books we had to read in school that has really stayed with me for over 40 years. Really vivid writing, a tale of incredible abuse and perseverance.

7. James Clavell, Shogun. I’d read and loved his earlier Tai-Pan but this one just blew me away.

8. Vincent Bugliosi, Helter Skelter. I can still remember reading this late at night in 1975 after my wife was asleep and it scaring the crap out of me.

9. Norman Mailer, The Executioner’s Song. This introduced me to a world I never knew. A brilliant job by Mailer.

10. Jack Finney, Time and Again. The first – and one of the best – of many time travel books I’ve read. Yes, if given the chance I’d do it.


Unknown said...

I really like the illustration!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I got tired of looking for people reading and went right to the heart of it. BOOKS!

George said...

What a wonderful list of books, Patti! I went through a Fitzgerald phase, too. Brilliant writer! And Jane Austen...I love all of her books especially PERSUASION. One of my political science professors at MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY had us read TRUE BELIEVER by Hoffer. That's a very underrated book.

YA Sleuth said...

Nice list!

And a cool exercise--I did the same on my blog.

pattinase (abbott) said...

RE: The True Believer-I am not sure why it had such an impact on me but it does explain behavior I constantly still see.
I'll be over, Fleur.

Enchanted Oak said...

Some of your books have influenced me as well, such as Our Bodies, Ourselves and the other Bible. But oddly enough, the first book that leaped into my mind was "Harriet the Spy." I could identify with this misfit, and I immediately became a spy. Because of her, I wanted to write stories, and indeed I have.
Another powerful book was "Lord of the Flies," which I read when I was 11. OMG, it scared the pants off me. I'm not sure why I would list that novel, but it made a huge impression on a little girl.

Loren Eaton said...

Very interesting list, Patti. Given the first selection on your list, you may find Robert Alter's Pen of Iron interesting. Looks like a fascinating read.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lord of the Flies scared me to death too and how often is that phrase used to describe situations. Enormous impace. Also Big Brother from 1984.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll check that out, Loren. Thanks!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Interesting list. I thought Hoffer's book amazing. It still is as valid now as when it was written, and should be required reading in high school.

You know, in addition to Hoffer, I think it something by Gramsci on cultural hegemony would be a valuable companion piece.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That sounds like one on my husband's list.

George said...

I, for one, would be interested in seeing Phil's list...

Richard R. said...

Interesting list, Patti, but then that's the point of these things, right?

My list, not nearly so literate, is up on my blog now, along with the background of this list-meme thing.

Alan Griffiths said...

Hi Patti, I really enjoyed reading your post and it inspired me to put together my own list over at Brit Grit.

Thanks Patti and kind regards.

Dorte H said...

Oh, I am not good at lists, but the Bible would also be no 1 on mine.

I would probably also pick one by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens´ Our Mutual Friend, and perhaps Shakespeare´s Hamlet.

Modern fiction? Margaret Laurence´s The Stone Angel and a Danish novel, A Good Day by Jørgen Thorgaard (not translated) are certainly memorable reading experiences.

But what next? I read so many gorgeous books that I find it very difficult to decide which ones are THE best.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dorte-I loved Margaret Laurence's THE STONE ANGELS--and all of her books. Nobody remembers her. How about doing it for forgotten books.

Joe Barone said...

I ran across The True Believer in the old Time-Life books series. It would surely be in my top ten too.

I'm just joking when I say this, but if nothing else, you should read it just to increase your vocabulary.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's been perhaps 40 years since I read it so I'll have to take your word, Joe.

Evan Lewis said...

Nice choices, I think, though I've only read three of these. I'm hooked on this meme, though. I'm listing mine tomorrow.

George said...

I'm surprised there's no Henry James on Phil's list!

pattinase (abbott) said...

He liked the recent book about Henry James more than he liked Henry James. I was surprised at the lack of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, since I've spend my whole life hearing about them.

Anonymous said...

I posted my list on Rick's blog, if you're interested.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I like the Updike and Hemingway choices on Phil's list. Either might have made my top 20 or 25 (though I'd have gone with THE SUN ALSO RISES), but not the top 10.

Jeff M.

C. Margery Kempe said...

I saw this elsewhere, too, but I'm going to credit you if I get around to it today before I run off because it's what got me going.

George said...

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau can make for some tough reading, Patti. I prefer John Stuart Mill.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Jeff-TIME AND AGAIN is just brilliant. Also like THE THIRD LEVEL.

Waiting to see K.A. Laity's. I'm betting for some different choices there.

George-And James Mill.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting that, Patti.

Jeff M.

Erik Donald France said...

This is a truly excellent set of lists -- will ponder a while on this one. Proust is in the mix, definitely.

Todd Mason said...

Kate's link ain't woikin'.

Look what you all get up to when I'm not in on the fun. Sigh.

OK, just for churlishness, I've done my own list of the most influential magazines...just as top o' the head, just as true.

And thanks for bringing this about...when I have time, I'll be able to mull everyone's lists...

not K. A. Laity, but in loco bloggus said...

A good link for Kate Laity:

or hit the name-link above.

Todd Mason said...

Harold Robbins, THE BETSY
Bret Easton Ellis, LESS THAN ZERO
Alexei Panshin, RITE OF PASSAGE
Robert Heinlein, FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD (among many)
Ayn Rand, ANTHEM (among many)
Robert Bloch, PSYCHO HOUSE

...ten books which taught me Things Not To Do, If or When I Write a Book...(In Bloch's case, don't keep going back to the well, when the water isn't to your taste any longer...)