Books that Have Influenced me the Most

While tripping across the interweb I happened upon this article and thought this would be a wonderful meme to join in on.  Although, unlike some of the other participants in this one, the books will be in no particular order.

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  Lee’s classic was poignant, memorable and above all else struck a chord in me due to the careful illustration of bigotry she presented and her unflinching view at the hypocrisy inherent in people even as it pertains to this kind of bias.

2.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:  It’s a book that exploits the difference between true free market capitalism and corporatism with the added bonus of getting a wonderful look at how this corporatism manages to take hold.  There are, of course, so many other ideas presented in this 1000 page behemoth but it was the treatise for individualism that truly spoke to my heart and got my mind working.  And, no, I’m not into Objectivism due to the great flaw of subjectivity and I also skimmed that horrific monologue.  Speaking of monologue – it also got me thinking about what editors should have done.

3.  We the Living by Ayn Rand:  I had little knowledge of Russia prior to this book and have since added five non-fiction tomes to my shelves for future research.  This became particularly necessary when I realized the internet failed to produce the same information Rand espoused in this book.  As someone who lived through the years in which the story takes place, I rather think she had it right.  The other non-fiction books agree.  [This book has also taught me to never trust Wikipedia.]  The description is impressive, some moments awkward due to Rand’s somewhat elementary knowledge of English at the time, and the characters are three dimensional and human.  It’s also not at all preachy like her more widely read books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead were.

4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy:  It was depressing as anything and still contained an optimism in humanity that surpassed the darkness.  This book is a lesson in sparseness, choosing the right word instead of filling pages with many of them, and the prose was mostly brilliant.

5.  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Rhett Butler quickly became my ideal man upon reading this.  The rogue who is principled, ruthless and will always put his money where his mouth is.  I’ve never gotten over this.  The tale was broad in scope and always got my heart and head screaming at Scarlett to stop being such an ass and give up on Ashley.  Alas, she didn’t listen until too late but Mitchell made cry in anguish just as she made me cheer out for my hero’s strength in leaving.  Best romance ever.

6.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  Have I mentioned how much I love a good love story?  Well, this be another one.  A strong character in a time where it was rather unseemly for women to be such also hooked me.  Reading this only last year, and still not knowing anything about it, I very happily discovered the story between Jane and Mr. Rochester.  The characters were consistent and fully developed and flouted the rules of society at the time.

7.  Stranger in a Strange Land (uncut version) by Robert A. Heinlein:  This was my first experience with science fiction and, as a result, all else seems to pale in comparison.  It’s a book about religion, politics and humanity – all of which are dealt with carefully and fully.  I had no idea fiction could encompass so many ideals prior to reading this book.

8.  Wild Swans by Jung Chang : This was the first book to open my eyes to the concerns of book banning/burning as well as what can happen when people have overwhelming faith in their government to take care of them.  I don’t mean to say what happened under Mao was what one should expect from such things, but one should consider the history of this country and this time period before committing fully to such a notion.  An autobiography that is shocking and gut wrenching everyone should endeavor to read.

9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See:  This book was poetry to me as well as just an incredible tale of friendship.  There is, of course, the cultural knowledge espoused by See when she speaks of Chinese customs regarding foot binding and marriages that also educates the reader as well as shows them how these characters lived.

10.  Ahab’s Wife by Seena Jeter-Naslund:  A character book revolving around the life of Una, the wife of the captain done in by that damnably prolific whale, that spins out in such a way you feel as though she is your very dear friend.  To close the cover after the last page is to say goodbye and the parting brings sadness if not for the knowledge you can pick it up again and say “hello”.

Some runners up:  Oath of the Renunciates, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Rings, and Next.

What about you?  What are some of the books that rocked your world?


16 responses to “Books that Have Influenced me the Most

  • Joanne

    Jane Eyre is definitely right up there. I go back to it every few years and reread it. It’s amazing how each time I take something new from it, or discover a passage I hadn’t noticed the first time. I also have a small collection of old, illustrated novels, with a couple different versions of Jane Eyre. The drawings add another wonderful dimension to the story.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I’ve never seen/read an illustrated copy of Jane Eyre! Sounds like a wonderful way to further the enjoyment of the story for sure.

  • Jemi Fraser

    I’ve only read a few of these – but they were incredible. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a powerful book – such an amazing story.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jemi – It so is. I only wish I had read many of these books earlier in my life. Although, I truly don’t know if I would have gotten as much out of them if that had happened.

  • Helen Ginger

    To Kill a Mockingbird was wonderful. A recent book that changed my way of thinking about writing was Geek Love.

    Straight From Hel

  • Galen Kindley

    You know what Kimberly? You get big, big kudos for having read all these books. Golly where do you find the time. My hat is off to you.

    I can’t think of a book that particularly focused my life, but your first mention, To Kill A Mockingbird, inspired my brother to become an attorney. How about that!

    Best Wishes, Galen.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Well, shucks…. Thanks, Galen! I think that your brother being inspired by Atticus Finch is just awesome. 🙂 [ My explanation of time: I also don’t sleep/eat much some days.]

  • Hart

    Great list! I have a couple Ayn Rand’s on my own list. I don’t agree with her very often, but she engages my brain in ways I like–that’s quite a gift.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Hart – What a great way of looking at Rand’s works. I do agree with her more often than not (Objectivism is fatally flawed), but it’s that intellectual push I really find gratifying. “We the Living”, I think, explains her violent reactions to Socialist ideologies by way of what she lived through when her family returned to Petrograd/Leningrad in 1921-22. That’s a book I recommend to people for the history alone. 🙂

  • Elena

    Love Jane Eyre! There’s a gorgeous gothic-looking illustrated copy in my bookshop but as I already own a couple of copies I’m not sure if I should buy it or not. >.<

    To Kill a Mockingbird = amazing.

    Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park for me, I'm not sure why though. (It's an Australian children's novel, very haunting and beautiful.)

  • Mae

    What a great list. You have a lot of titles I want to read especially Ayn Rands and Stranger in a Strange Land (which, somewhat embarrassingly only piqued my interest after an episode of Lost was named after it…). I agree about Mockingbird and Wild Swans. I read those when I was in my mid-teens and really opened my eyes about racism and the threat of the mob mentality. Wild Swans made me sad about the state of China.

    I think we already know my stance on Jane Eyre – LOVE it. This line has stayed with me ever since I read it: “Reader, I married him.” *She* married Rochester and not the other way around.

    I might steal this meme! 🙂

    • kimberlyloomis

      I hope you do! I would love to see your list! That is such a good like from Jane Eyre, too. *sigh* What a remarkable work it is. Thanks for recalling that line to me – put a smile on my face. 🙂

  • The Most Memorable Books in My Life (so far) « Mad Bibliophile

    […] April 17, 2010 tags: book list, memorable books by Mae I’ve pinched this meme from Kimberly and was inspired to write my own post. I’m still young (quite) and hopefully still have long […]

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