What Are Your 15 Most Influencial Books?

This was a fun meme on Facebook this weekend — to name 15 books that will always stick with you, without thinking too long about it. Just the first 15 you can recall (in no more than 15 minutes).
My 15 came pretty fast and furiously. They popped into my head in no particular order, although they’re vaguely in the order I read them, if I think in decades.
And I’m sure I could have gone on with more, but these are the ones that stood out right away. They have either a theme or characters that I thought about for days, weeks, or years after I read them…
What are yours?
Here’s my list:
  1. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  2. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
  3. Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood
  4. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
  7. Anne Frank Autobiography
  8. Othello, Shakespeare
  9. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  10. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  11. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  12. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  14. On Writing, Stephen King (nonfiction, but altered the way I write)
  15. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Neffenegger
I have a serious romance theme going on, here, I noticed. … Big surprise!
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13 thoughts on “What Are Your 15 Most Influencial Books?

  1. Gosh. My list is lame. Atlas Shrugged, Christy, Dandelion Wine, Childhood’s End, Ender’s Game, Call of the Wild, Little Women, Harry Potter books,Stranger in a Strange Land. Well, that’s my quick, off the top of my head, don’t think too hard about it list. Since my brain suffers from sloppy filing, I am sure I will think of 20 more as soon as I post this! Wait, wait..Shogun. I loved that book.

  2. Kat — Your list isn’t lame! No one’s is, really. We’re all influenced by strange and unpredictable things, including books. I was realizing, as I was doing my list, how WHEN we read the book and WHO we know at the time makes a huge difference. Probably true of “Little Women” for you, Kat. Can you imagine how different it would be if you’d read it at a different time? (Believe it or not, I’ve never read that! I really should. Okay. I WILL …)

    Anyway, as an example from my own list, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Hemingway fan (although he’s intriguing to study), and I did NOT want to like “The Sun Also Rises.” But maybe because of something I was going through or who I knew at the time, those characters left a huge imprint on me. I thought about Jake Barnes and Lady Brett for years afterward. I thought they were brilliant characters. I think if I’d never met anyone like them yet, I wouldn’t have been so influenced, but I read that book at exactly the “right” time.

    Harry Potter showed up on lots of lists on Facebook, too!

  3. WHEN~! I never thought of it that way but it is so true. Some books resonate so well with us at different times in our lives and later on not so much. I really love the books that as I get older mean so much more to me because I have changed. Maybe I should go back and try reading The Great Gatsby again with that in mind…I had a devil of a time with that book in high school and even into my 20s.

  4. It’s really a strange thing to let your mind wander back to “collect” books that were what you’d consider “stand outs”. Expecially when you’re OLD!!!! I can easily eliminate anything I might have read during my school years. (David Copperfield – UGH!) So….here are some that just POP into my head as GOOD books that left an impression on me. Leon Erus (Sp?)Exodus, Judgement at Neuremburg, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Wambaugh’s “The Onion Field”, (McCullogh)The Thorn Birds, Centennial, The Drifters, (both Michener) To Kill A Mockingbird, my first “romance” book – Mrs Mike. I guess it depends on the era as Laurie says. Some books left an impression on me because they were so scary – some so sad – some just thought provoking, and most just enjoyable to get lost in. I can even remember reading the Alice in Wonderland books, but it evidently didn’t leave ANY impression on me.!!!! (I wish I would have kept the books, they were from the 50″s and a set of two in a jacket box) Anyway, over the years I’ve enjoyed many, many books and try to keep going. Don’t you ever wonder why some people don’t like to read?? How sad.

  5. I left my list on Facebook but I was thinking of one more that I would add to that list – Shogun by James Clavell. I loved that book!

  6. 1. Hamlet – Shakespeare (If plays count. I’ve read and seen this play so many times, even my French-speaking husband can quote from it.)
    2. The Virginian – Owen Wister
    3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    4. All Creatures Great and Small series – James Herriot
    5. Random Harvest – James Hilton
    6. Hornblower series – C.S. Forester (sometimes painfully awful writing, but a great character, if that’s possible)
    7. The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony(?) Hope
    8. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
    9. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
    10. The Bible
    11. Endurance – Alfred(?) Lansing
    12. Tiger of the Snow(s?) – Tenzing Norgay
    13. Narnia series – C.S. Lewis
    14. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
    15. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

    Looking at others’ lists, I wish I had thought of To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood, both devastating in their own special ways.

  7. Okay, “Atlas Shrugged” has shown up on at least five lists I’ve seen now, here and on FB … I’m going to have to add that to my “to be read” list. … Great lists!!!

    And Kat, yes, I do think “When” is hugely important for reading. The Great Gatsby has so many themes about materialism and how money can cause you to do strange things – I don’t believe you can really “get” that in your teens, until you yourself have been driven to do something for love and money. Plus, I loved that that book used the “outside narrator” to tell the story — Nick is kind of giving his own moral perception of what Gatsby is doing. For some reason, I find that kind of book irresistible. (“All the Kings Men” used the same technique.) I like that the storyteller has to grapple with his own morality while watching someone else’s.

  8. On Writing by Stephen King is the only one coming to mind at the moment.

    I have lots of favorite books and many that have moved me, but influenced me . . . that’s hard.

  9. Hi, Crystal! Yes, that word “influential” tripped me up a bit, too. And maybe I didn’t interpret it correctly, but the way I did interpret it was simply “left an impact on me.” Like I think about those characters/themes/language to this day, even though I read some of those books decades ago. Many of the ones I read back in high school or college I’ve suggested for my current book club, just so I could reread them as an adult. It’s cool how to bring a different sensibility to the books as an adult — you’ve much more likely experienced some of the pain/heartache/death/whatever that books are discussing, plus you’ve met so many more people that certain characters start to ring true for you! : )

  10. Pingback: Another ‘Best Book’ List

  11. Some for what they said, some for what they thought, and some for how beautifully they said it.

    1: The Fountainhead, novel, Ayn Rand
    2: Atlas Shrugged, novel, Ayn Rand
    3: Les Miserables, novel, Victor Hugo
    4: Ninety-Three, novel, Victor Hugo
    5: The Man Who Laughs, novel, Victor Hugo
    6: The Count of Monte Christo, novel, Dumas
    7: The Three Musketeers, Dumas
    8: Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott
    9: Paul Fire, novel, Nabakov
    10: The Ghost in the Machine, non-fiction, Koestler
    11: The Act of Creation, non-fiction, Arthur Koestler
    12: Human Action, economics, Ludwig von Mises
    13: Hornblower series, novels, C S Forester
    14: The True Believer, non-fiction, Eric Hoffer
    15: Music for Chameleons, short stories, Truman Capote

  12. Awesome list, Neil! And what a loyal fan you are — love that you have more than one book by certain authors.

    I must read those Ayn Rand books. …

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