The Influence of Books

One of the writing groups I belong to this week started sharing the Facebook game that encourages people to post a book cover each day for seven days, choosing the books that have most influenced them.

I am a rabid reader, and I have been since I first learned my ABCs. To narrow the list down to seven has proved impossible, but in thinking about the influence of books on my life I have, at least, been able to narrow them down.

Books by or about women leaders and legends.

This interest starts with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the entire nine-volumes of the Little House series of books. But it also includes The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, and biographies of Elizabeth Blackwell, Clara Barton, Juliette Low, Louisa May Alcott, and Queen Elizabeth I. It includes Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Mountain Wolf Woman. Frankly, I can’t recall all of the women’s biographies I’ve read over the years, and these are just the top tier.

Books about the U.S. western experience.

These are largely fiction, but I enjoy both creative nonfiction and fiction that focuses on the U.S. west. I read every Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey book I could get my hands on when I was a tween and teen, and to this day, I can get easily sucked into any of the Sackett books by L’Amour. I’m also fascinated by the actual history, and most historical sites that feature a western anecdote can count on my purchasing several books from their gift shops.

Science fiction (not to be confused with fantasy).

This habit I totally picked up from my father, who also enjoys science fiction. We went through an L. Ron Hubbard phase together, and I must have read Heinlein’s Strangers in a Strange Land until it wore out. We’re also both Star Trek fans, though I have to admit to not being as rabid about that as others I know. (Best Star Trek captain is Janeway. I know them’s fighting words, folks, lol.) I’ve tried my hand at writing cyberpunk, too, in homage to Philip K. Dick.

Mystery

I love a good mystery. I’ve gotten quite good at spotting the perpetrator early on in the text, but there a few authors who can still get me. Let’s start with the classic Sherlock Holmes, because variants of those stories can be found everywhere, and they’re clearly influential to this day. I’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie as well, and my favorite contemporary mystery writer is J.D. Robb, the alter ego of Nora Roberts, who also appears in the next category.

Romance

My grandmother loved a good Harlequin romance, and I was introduced to the world of the paperback romance novel at a young age. There’s something comforting about a story that I know will have a happy ending. It’s like eating cotton candy. Of all the romance writers available today, my favorite is Nora Roberts. Despite my busy schedule, I make time to read the new Nora Roberts books as they come out. I also appreciate her work ethic as a writer.

Fantasy

Oh, boy. I love fantasy. As a kid, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do as an adult, but now, of course, I’m a true convert. I enjoy, particularly, the Tolkien and the Harry Potter universes. I also have been turned on to The Mortal Instruments series. But honestly, Harry Potter is the true favorite here. I keep my wand in my office, and I sorted Slytherin on Pottermore.

What’s fun in looking over the entire list is noting the different kind of influences these different fields have left with me. I’m a cultural historian that focuses on women’s history, but I’m also a media scholar fascinated by contemporary media technologies and popular culture. It’s hard to know at this age which came first, but this list was fun to complete.

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