I think I'll discuss these books chronologically, in the order in which I read them. Each one did something to my mind to shape the way I write.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I read this book as a senior in high school and it was the first assigned book ( alright, fine, the ONLY assigned book) that I didn't cheat and use the cliff notes to understand just exactly what was going on. (Please don't think less of me....but it is cruel and unusual punishment to make anyone read Moby Dick who really isn't up for it.) Anyway, I loved this book and reread it many times throughout college when I needed a break from other reading. There was just something about the way he retold the Arthurian legend in the non-stuffiest of ways. I fell in love with the down to earth narration, as if I, myself, might have met Arthur and Merlin on the street. It was my first intro into King Arthur, but I felt like I'd been waiting for this book for my whole life.
My Love Affair with Roald:
First time I read this aloud to kids, I was blown away! Loved this book....the way Dahl talks to the reader, the danger, the humor, the bittersweet ending......I wanted to BE Roald Dahl, although I never thought I could write something so long (or so good.) Now, I had loved Dahl's books when I was a kid....Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all that, but this book made me want to write something......something that I didn't even know.......but it woke up that author inside and made me want to try new things.
Ah, Matilda. The characters in this book are so amazingly written. This book made me fall in love with the characters, even the ones he wrote so miserably awful. The unusual details he provides about his characters truly brings them to life. The Trunchbull has to be one of the greatest villains ever. Heck, I'd pick her in a battle of nastiness over Lord Voldemort any day.....
Which brings me to....
I love all of the Harry Potter books, don't get me wrong. And this one, The Prisoner of Azkaban, well, it's not even my favorite. (Half Blood Prince is the best.) But it changed me. It took me from mild-mannered Potter-fan to crazed Potter-Fanatic. The whole time-turner things just made me sit up and go, "Say What??!!" I could not believe Rowling's creativity, her moxy, her shere wonderfulness as a writer. I mean, heck, Hogwarts is her universe. She created it and she gets to make the rules. But for the first time as I read one of her books, I felt like she pushed her own envelope (which I think she continued to do in many of her other books as well). She took chances in P of A, and I think it made her a better writer. (I think Harry would have taken chances, too.)
Honestly, I didn't even want to read this book. I didn't read Young Adult Books. I either read grown-up books (for I am a grown-up) or I read children's books (because I write for children and work with children.) But my when my eldest daughter said, "Mom, their making a movie of that Twilight book, and Cedric Diggory is going to star!" I thought I'd buy it for her. (She still hadn't gotten over Cedric's senseless death at the hands of Lord Voldemort in the Goblet of Fire....but I digress) She read it in a day. "Mom, you should read this. I think you'll like it."
I read it in a day. It was sooooo easy to read.....and it made me remember what it was like to be a teenager. And it made me realize that YA is a much broader category than I thought....not all YA books are about drugs. (Okay, so when I was a kid, Go Ask Alice was the big YA book.) Meyer told a very compelling story, the one SHE wanted to tell. She created her place in the writing world. Isn't that what we all want....to make our own place at the table instead of just filling in for someone else?
Now for something serious:
I did not want to read this book either. And when I started it, I didn't want to like it. And I didn't. Not a first. But Markus Zusak won me over. He broke the rules with this book. His narrator switches from telling the story, to talking to the audience, to waxing poetic. Even the font changes depending on the mood of the narrator. Zusak didn't worry about the rules. He just wanted to tell his story in the best way he could. And he was not afraid to go places that were painful, for we had spent so much time with his characters, we deserved to know the truth.
Side note: After I first read the book, I felt like a horrible writer. I would NEVER write something so profound. (But I got over it....I mean, it's not like I wanted to write something really profound anyway...) But he inspired me to try harder, and to try to write better.
Hot off the press:
What I love about this book (by fellow blogger Laini Taylor) is that she breaks the rules, too. Three stories in one book? What? You can't do that. Nobody buys those kids of books.....Well, if they don't, they should. Laini masterfully weaves three stories together, which is an unusual book structure these days, but it is her description that makes me go, "Wow." She has a style, and better still, she seems to know her own style, and uses it to her advantage as a storyteller. When I read this book, it made me want to look at my own style, and make sure I was using it in my stories in the best way I can. (Plus, this book is awesome because it has pictures. The picture book writer in me loves the visual images......)
So, again I ask you, what are the books that changed you as a writer?