What Books Influenced You?

I acquired my first library card when I was four, and I knew that this was something. I had the power to choose books and take them home to read. My grandmother always said that books were your friends. I have a lot of friends. Just ask the movers. The majority of the boxes from the last move were filled with books. I was thinking about all the books that have influenced me as a person and a writer over the years, and I started making a list on one of my long commutes. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…


  • Bible Stories

  • The Monster at the End of the Book (Grover is still my favorite Muppet.)

  • Green Eggs and Ham (I checked this out of the Woodstock Elementary Library as often as I could.)

  • Charlotte’s Web

  • The Biography of Walt Disney

  • The Wind in the Willows

Elementary/Middle School

  • The Crooked Banister (and all the other Nancy Drew books)

  • The Hardy Boys series

  • Agatha Christie’s books

  • The One-Minute Mysteries (There’s definitely a pattern here.)

  • Stories by O’Henry

  • Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

  • Anything by Edgar Allan Poe

I started reading scary or woo woo stories in middle school. I read Jaws one summer and avoided the beach. Then I checked out The Amityville Horror from the library and started it. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the cover was glowing. I threw it out in the hall and promptly returned it to the library. (I think the light was bouncing off the foiled cover, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I still don’t know how it ends.)

High School/College/Grad School

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Sun Also Rises

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Animal Farm

  • Hamlet

  • Gulliver’s Travels

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Bell Jar

  • Pride and Prejudice

  • Jane Eyre

  • Wuthering Heights

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Gwendolyn Brooks

  • The Scarlet Letter

  • The Call of the Wild

  • Oliver Twist

  • Moby Dick

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I have a BA and an MA in American literature. (I got to go to school to read books. The perfect setup.) The best class I ever took was Dr. Magnuson’s “Detective Fiction.” He introduced us to the literary conventions, the genre, and a variety of authors. And that’s where I fell in love with hard boiled, detective novels.

I also took children’s literature as an undergrad, and it was fun to see how things had changed since I was in that demographic. By then, Nancy Drew had undergone a makeover, and she now drove a Mustang and dated boys other than Ned Nickerson. YA was just starting to evolve then, and it has exploded over the years.

What’s your favorite genre? What’s on your list?