Friday, April 4, 2008

Books That Changed My Life

Courage to Write wrote here about the books that have changed her life.

Here's my (partial) list:

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Love, Death & the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker
Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
Crime & Punishment by Fydor Doestoyevsky
Egalia's Daughters by Gerd Brantenberg
Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Perhaps later I'll write about the significance to me of some of these books.

I'd love to hear your lists of books that changed your life. (I don't have to meme youyou, do I-I?)


Bookfraud said...

fabulous list. anybody who loves dostoyevsky, whitman, melville and woolfe is good by me.

just curious: why did these book (or a particular book) change your life? the books that changed my life did so either in shaping my literary sensibility or my general outlook on the world. they all did so in a profound way that was like being poked with a stick -- i just couldn't stop thinking about them, re-reading them, amazed i hadn't read this earlier.

i also noticed with these books i read many of them in my formative years, in h.s. and college. no surprise there.

invisible man by ralph ellison
v. by thomas pynchon
wuthering heights by emily bronte
the selfish gene by richard dawkins
the sound and the fury by w. faulkner
l’etranger by albert camus
the oedipus cycle, by sophocles (not a "book," but still)
anything and everything by shakespeare
dubliners by james joyce
the prince, by nicolo machiavelli

how come it feels like i'm just getting warmed up?

Kate Evans said...

Cool list. The only one I don't know is Dawkins--I'll look it up.

OK, I'll give it a shot re: significance.

Harriet the Spy was seminal to me because she was a girl who loved to write. She was also a bit of a gender bender.

Same for Jo in Little Women.

Mixed-Up Files fed my fantasies of running away and living in a museum. Who wouldn't want to do that?

Moby Dick because it proved as a writer I am freer than I think.

Marilyn Hacker. Lesbian sex in sonnets. What else is there to say?

May Sarton: Showed me how to pay attention to the minutae of living.

Egalia's Daughters and Orlando: gender bending par excelence. And Orlando: amazing writing (and again, I'm freer than I think).

Beloved. The great American novel. About our history. And our psyches.

Crime & Punishment. The most amazing internal journey ever.

Housekeeping. What can I say. It's kind of perfect.

Leaves of Grass. It's my bible. I am an ant. A leaf of grass.

Collin Kelley said...

In no particular order:

Written on the Body - Jeannette Winterson
Dubliners - James Joyce
The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
Underworld - Don DeLillo
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
The World According to Garp - John Irving
Satan Says - Sharon Olds
Morning in the Burned House - Margaret Atwood
And the Band Played On - Randy Shilts
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
The House of the Spirits - Isabelle Allende
The Prince of Tides - Pat Conroy
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy name a few.

Jo A. T.B. said...

For me:

The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Harlequin Romance Books!
Angela's Ashes ~ Frank McCourt. I listened to him read this on tape, was riveting.
Never saw the movie!

Can't think of any others at the moment, mostly loved to read the man gets the lady, loses the lady,
damsel in distress. All the mushy stuff with great sex scenes!!!

Mostly read a lot of Poetry:
This Is My Beloved ~ Walter Benton
Things I Meant To Tell You When We Were Old ~ Merrit Malloy.
Loved the work of these two so much in my early teens that I had the Poetry bug in me ever since!

Becky C. said...

I am going to have to ponder that--but Harriot is on my list--and also Freddy the Pig books--I am not sure how they may have influenced me--but I devoured them and still sometimes will read one:)


Kate Evans said...

Collin: I love Jeanette Winterston, especially THE PASSION.

Jo: THE GREAT GATSBY should be on my list, come to think of it. It really helped me to see the novel and writing in a fresh light.

Becky: I think books we devoured as kids are likely to be highly influential--even if it's just because they helped us fall in love with reading.

Dang, I just realized I need to add GO ASK ALICE to my list because I read that like 50 times in high school!

Anne Haines said...

Harriet the Spy would be at the very top of my list, too. That book taught me how to be a writer. Pay attention to what goes on around you. Watch unobtrusively. Write it all down. Take it seriously, but love it. Want to know everything, everything, everything. And when confronted with the possibility that what you've written might hurt somebody, deal with it but don't turn your back on the truth of your writing.

Kate Evans said...

Wow, Anne, YES.

As you may know, Louise Fitzhugh was a lesbian--and she wrote a novel about two girls falling in love that couldn't get published; the manuscript is lost.