The following is a list of books I've read and why they were and are important to me as a writer (an assignment for my Narrative Structures course I thought I'd share here):
- Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska - The first novel I remember reading in its entirety. I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment when I was done. One kid in class, because it was every day during reading time that I read it, didn't believe me . He started reading it after I had finished it to quiz me. I would fail now, but I remember an inspiring story about the son of a matador expected to follow his father's footsteps but nowhere near as skilled and his friend, who was better suited to be one.
This book is also the basis for a future fan fiction piece I plan on writing in the Star Wars universe. (It may or may not get written, so no promises!)
- Ghosts of Fear Street: How to be a Vampire by RL Stein - One of the earliest books I remember reading. I loved this book (as well as RL Stein: I hoarded Goosebumps books). I seriously wanted to be a vampire for months. I would, in my thoughts while lying in bed, give permission to a hypothetical vampire that would hopefully visit my room and turn me one. I even practiced hanging upside down to get used to the feeling. I guess this explains my later goth years.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - The best science fiction novel I've read thus far. The writing, the prophetic vision, the philosophy, the language: there's more in there than I was expecting, than I knew I wanted. Thank you, Orwell.
I remember when I first read it that I had skipped ahead and read the last sentence. It didn't ruin the experience for me. I kept wondering how, why Winston would come to love Big Brother. (Has anyone been to North Korea? You know they have this propaganda-spewing radio that can be turned down but never off - just like in the novel?!)
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut - This book really changed my perspective of science fiction. I was unaware before I had read this that such wit and comedy could be employed so seamlessly in science fiction; quite the departure from Nineteen Eighty-Four. The way Vonnegut played with time and the overall structure of the novel awed as much as it inspired me. My writing changed.
- Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman - This book was suggested to me by a creative writing professor at Fordham U. He suggeted it after I had submitted what became my short story "Jim & the Parallel Worlds," which I'm hoping to make into a series of short stories and eventually a collection. I wasn't disappointed. Each brief chapter takes on a different theory of time and narrates such a reality: it was so inspiring and filled me with so many ideas and questions that I resolved to only read a chapter a day, before bed, appropriately enough. It shows that scientists do sometimes make great SF writers, and that they're not all boring - most are, though.
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - This is my favorite Hardy novel. It' an epic tragedy. I always learn a lot about writing (language, time, plotting) reading Hardy. He shows in this novel that it's about the characters, not the plot - that's what we really care about. It's ironic that so many people in contemporary England hated it (evening burning copies publicly), so much so that Hardy refused to write prose ever again and dedicated his final years to poetry. Hardy gets the last laugh, though: its has become a must-read for many Hardy fans and Victorianists.