10 Influential Books (Because None of You Jerks Tagged Me on Facebook)

This is my first post in nearly a month, and it will say nothing Earth-shattering. It is simply a return to blogging warm-up exercise, that I’m partaking in off of my blog because none of you slang-for-male-genitalia-that-rhymes-with-songs tagged me in this on Facebook. I’m perfect for this. I love reading and I’m enough of a unabashed Facebook geek to participate. Your loss.

Here are 10 books that have influenced me in a major way. I tag everyone who hasn’t been tagged that really wants to do this thang. Also, I’m just going to go ahead and say that I bet most of these are by male/white authors. But I’m trying to change that!

1. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

A beautiful book that is one of the few ties between my mother’s childhood and mine. Whimsical and funny. And the part where Christopher Robin *SPOILER ALERT* goes off to boarding school and says this quote about never doing nothing ever again makes me bawl like a baby every time.

2. House of Spirits – Isabel Allende

I’m not sure if this was the first book I read by Allende, but whatever that book was, I’m eternally grateful. It turned me on to Latin American literature and magical realism. Allende’s books have been incredibly helpful distractions from heartbreak in more recent years, and I am so grateful.

3. Summerland – Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon wrote a book for children in the early 2000s and it is a gem. It’s essentially an American fairytale. It’s about baseball, contains characters and legends from multiple North American folk traditions and is another one that makes me cry. Part of the reason I probably love it so much is to quote a sticker on a CD in WOBC’s crap bin, it is “pure Americana” and I love that kind of shit. This is a book that I routinely see in bookstores and promise myself I’m going to buy, but still haven’t. It will happen soon.

4. Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld

I read this book in high school. I was maybe a little too young, but it was perhaps the first book for adults written about teenagers that I ever read, and something about that made a huge impression on me. Also, it has a very vivid description of a blow job that remains with me to this day. So it was basically a nerdy teenager’s equivalent of Cosmo that I wasn’t embarrassed to be caught reading.

5. Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy

My English teacher assigned us the less-popular, much-better-than-Tess-of-the-D’Ubervilles Thomas Hardy novel and I’m glad he did. I don’t remember much about what happens, but the heroine, Eustacia Vye, made a big impression on me. I wanted to live aspects of my life like her as a teenager, but in retrospect, I feel like that was a pretty bad idea because I’m pretty sure she drowns herself in a mill pond. I bought a copy today, and I’m going to re-read and then maybe discuss with a trained professional.

6. Night Comes to the Cumberlands – Harry Caudill

When I lived in Kentucky, I went on a huge kick of reading books about Appalachia and by Appalachian authors, inspired by my friend William, who I’ve written about previously and I was totally in love with. I probably read a dozen books at William’s recommendation, but this is the one that sticks out the most. It’s a really hard read for a number of reasons, but provides an excellent history of Appalachia and explains a lot about why the region still struggles. When I think of this book, I think of William.

7. Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook

Not really a book book, but an amazing songbook that was one of the books I packed when I moved to Colorado. Lyrics galore, chords, well-indexed, a constant companion in my musical life. Dad, if you’re wondering where your copy is, I have it.

8. Rebecca – Daphne DuMaurier

I could read this book once a year and still find new things. I have my grandmother’s copy, and I love to imagine three generations of women in my family getting lost in this somewhat terrifying mystery. Delightful.

9. The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

Magical realism, this time from the Balkans. One of the few books I remember when asked for book recommendations. A real delight. Also one of the few books I did not first encounter as a teenager. I really need to read more books.

10. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

I feel like I should feel embarrassed for listing this but I FEEL NO SHAME. Some of the best young adult fiction ever. These books are addictive without insulting the intelligence of teenage girls (I’m looking at you, Twilight). Just so good. That’s all

BONUS: Any book that I ever read that my Dad owns and read first.

My dad writes little notes on the inside covers of books that he buys, with the date he started reading the book and a little note about what’s going on in his world. Sometimes it is a current event, sometimes it is a major life milestone in our family (“Janney got into Oberlin”) while other times it is more mundane. Always, it is a treat to find.


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