Previously I participated in a meme on influential writers. This vastly different meme is on influential books. As seen over at Academia and Me, this meme asks for you to list the first 15 books you can think of in 15 minutes that have had a profound influence on you. I sat down at a Starbucks yesterday and came up with the following*:
I'm not 100% sure why this book has always felt important to me but at the time I enjoyed stories with multiple siblings (coming from a family of 4 myself) and who doesn't love a sand fairy?
I love being read to and my mother has a great reading voice. I remember her reading the first 2 chapters to me and my sister Amy. Once she had us hooked she said we'd have to read the rest of the book ourselves. I did and then went straight on to The Lord of the Rings. It was the beginning of my love affair with sci fi/fantasy.
Another book I can attribute to my mother. My mother kept a wall of shelves in her bedroom for all of her books. Whenever I was bored or without something to read I would peruse them and ask for suggestions. This was the first in the Dragonriders of Pern series that I read. I loved it and luckily Mom had several more to keep me busy. I still dream of having a dragon of my own one day.
So far all of these books are from my elementary school years. I read Jane Goodall's classic when I was around 8 or 9. It is, I believe, what made me want to be a scientist (ok I wanted to be a palentologist when I was five--also because of a book but I can't remember the name). Jane Goodall's work combined everything I loved: nature, animals, and observation. I also remember her describing how she and her photographer husband were raising their little boy while she was doing her research in Africa. At the time (the mid-70s) such combinations of professional and personal life seemed very possible. I don't study chimpanzees but I do observe family interactions, which is really what Goodall describes in this book.
With this book we move up into my mid-20s, shortly after becoming a mother. This is one of those books that I can remember exactly where I was sitting when I read it because it caused such a strong emotional reaction in me. I remember quoting passages to my then-husband, who apparently humored me.
This actually belongs in the days of elementary school. I first read it when I was around 10 or 11--what is now considered a "tween." I remember identifying so strongly with the protagonist--feeling his angst along with him. I've always been a rule follower and the thought of committing such a heinous crime and then living with the paranoia stayed with me for a long time. I decided to re-read it a few years ago and found him so very adolescent.
I am a little surprised by this choice, since To The Lighthouse has been such an important book for me throughout my life. However, this is the book that (a) got me started on Virginia Woolf; (b) I have a strange identification with the character, and (c) it explores gender in a way that has continues to fascinate me.
I mentioned in one of the Fairy Tale posts how I am a big fan of the King Arthur legend and this is the version that really does it for me. Here they are not young lovers but seasoned warriors and friends forced to into battle simply to "save face."
While not my first introduction to Taoism it is one of my favorite texts. It describes an approach to life I have been trying to achieve for 27 years.
My mother gave me this book when I was "of the age" and I've kept it ever since. She didn't give it to me in lieu of "conversation"--we had a lot of those--but I appreciated being able to look things up in between talks (this was way before the internet afterall). I tried to show it to Angel, when he was "of the age" but he was having none of that. For him, talking it out was enough.
A much more recent acquisition, I asked for this book as a Christmas present several years ago. It is my favorite cookbook (Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian is a close second) and is pretty much responsible for all I know about baking. In fact the recipe for my Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns comes directly from this book.
An odd last choice, but I read this book while on a camping vacation two years ago and it seriously changed the way I think about how we do and should promote health in our society.
If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged. Feel free to list your choices in the comments or if you post them on your blog let us know so we can all follow along.
*I've listed them in the order that I thought of them, which appears to be pretty random