10 Books That Impacted Me

An author friend, Lauren Clark, challenged me to quickly come up with 10 books that impacted my life. Definitely not an easy task, but I took a shot at it. (Lauren has a new book out, too [Pie Girls]. If you like southern fiction full of sassy, smart women, you should check it out!)

Meanwhile, here’s my list. I really need about 200 more spaces to work with here, folks.

1. Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder

2. Birds of America – Lorrie Moore

3. Waltzing the Cat – Pam Houston

4. Larry McMurtry – The Last Picture Show

5. Annie Proulx – Close Range

6. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

7. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

8. White Oleander by Janet Fitch

9. Beloved – Toni Morrison

10. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Now, I’d love to hear your lists in the comments! Then I’ll psychoanalyze you. (Kidding. Mostly.)

Also, I am already revising my list in my head … Stegner, Steinbeck, McCarthy, Salinger, Lopez, Smiley, Conrad, Lamott … oh and The Solace of Open Spaces (G. Ehrlich) …and so many poets like Mary Oliver …heck, even Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew books … I’ll stop now.


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10 thoughts on “10 Books That Impacted Me

  1. I’m going to use your list as a fall reading list, as I have read very few of them. I tend to find a new favorite author and then read everything they ever wrote. So my list includes almost anything by Anne Lamott, but specifically Traveling Mercies and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, and anything by Ellen Gilchrist, but especially the collection of her articles that’s currently on loan to a friend so I can’t remember the name of it. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, which surprised me since I don’t like statistics. Anything by Anna Quindlen, but especially Being Perfect and A Short Guide to a Happy Life, which I give to college grads. The Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love, by Jill Conner Browne, which taught me that “life is too short – and too long – to spend it being miserable.” Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti of Esquire Magazine – a true story of the doctor who stole Einstein’s brain during his autopsy and drove to California years later to return it to his granddaughter, with Paterniti riding shotgun. Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I read cover to cover on my 45th birthday. From my school days I would add Charlotte’s Web, the Little House series, Johnny Texas on the San Antonio Trail and almost anything by Steinbeck but Of Mice and Men if I can only pick one. Wait – that’s more than ten…so many books, so little time! Now I want to go read instead of going to sleep at a decent hour as I promised myself! Thanks for the inspiration to read more and better stuff this fall – what’s on your reading list now that you’re going to be snowed in quite a bit?

    • One more, please! “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper, which was recommended by my 13 year old niece and turned out to be one of the most incredible and surprising books I’ve ever read.

    • Thought of another one this morning – Same Kind of Different As Me and the sequel, What Difference Do It Make by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. These books made me profoundly more aware of the reality of life for the homeless in my immediate area, and I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Moore after I had read the books.

      • Oh yes! Anna Quindlen was a big influence of mine. Back when she was just writing essays/columns, I had all of her books, and wanted to be just like her. I wanted a syndicated column gig. And now I love her fiction, too. You’ve piqued my interest on several new titles now, too. Gotta load up the Kindle! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing what books influenced folks.

  2. Any choosing when it comes to books is difficult, but this was almost impossible. I tried not to think too hard, but I have already kicked myself hundreds of times for the ones I have had to leave out.

    In no particular order:

    1 – Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Actually the whole series I have read and reread many times. I think this series has helped “set” my penchant for series and reading them all in order and preferably straight after each other.

    2 – Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. I would have given my right arm to be any of the Fossil sisters.

    3 – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Discovered when I was reading my parents’ bookshelves and subsequently read at least 50 times. A small book but an enormous story.

    4 – Duncton Wood by William Horwood. Again reread so many, many times. The kind of book you read until your parents threaten to take it downstairs so you’ll turn your light off, prop against the salt cellar to read at the table and start again as soon as it’s finished.

    5 – Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. I have had so many editions of this and given them all away. The first book that completely blew my mind.

    6 – the Dragon Series by Anne McCaffrey. I desperately wanted to be a dragonrider. ( Still do!)

    7 – Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I have my original editions (surprise, surprise it’s a series) which are now very fragile but still contain amazing magic.

    8 – Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Incredible storytelling. This was recommended by my Dad and one chapter in I thought he had lost his mind, but by chapter 2 I was hooked and read it in about 3 marathon sessions.

    9 – My Turn to Make the Tea by Monica Dickens. Again, found trawling my parents’ bookshelves. Old fashioned but a great story.

    10 – Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Beautiful writing for amazing characters. Made me weep like I was never going to stop.

    • Like Water for Chocolate is one of my favorites, too! And now I have to give the Chabon book another try. I couldn’t get into it and abandoned ship. Sounds like I jumped too soon. So many more to add to my reading list. Thanks for sharing, Samantha!

  3. My favorite books include To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, Edna Ferber books (all of them), Larry McMurtry books (all of them), all of the Whiteoak series by Mazo de la Roche, and several mystery writers including Michael Connelly, Grisham, Grafton, Patterson, ; Stephen King, Anne Rivers Siddons and too many more to name. As you can tell, I’m an avid reader and have been all my life. I have enjoyed your books and your blogs; so please let me say you make your home town (mine,too) very proud of you.

    • Thank you so much, Barbara! Anne Rivers Siddons is one of my favorites, too. And of course Larry McMurtry. I need to check out the Edna Ferber books! Thanks for the tip, and for reading!

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