With the cold and cloudy arrival of 2016, I completed one lifelong goal and drifted into a more meditative phase. Having penned the last words of my first novel-length story, I decided to look back on the books that have inspired me over the years.
Two meaningful gifts
This reminiscence began with a gift from my beloved husband, whose presents were nothing short of inspiring last year! For my birthday early in December, Matt gave me an album from one of my favorite folk artists that simply spoke to my soul. Glen Hansard, who composed the music in the movie-turned-musical “Once,” croons in his new release, singing Irish ballads that tell honest tales.
Then for Christmas, my love gave me the movie adaptation of a young adult novel that lifted me up in my formative years.
Although the movie didn’t contain a poem I remember fondly from the book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a masterful adaptation of an important coming-of-age tale. It was this work by Stephen Chbosky that helped me — even as a young girl — understand that there is strength in being vulnerable and there is beauty in being different.
My foray into memorable literature continued during the holiday travel. On a plane coming back from Ohio, I cracked open “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, admiring the way the writer sculpts the English language into poetry — and nearly drifting to sleep!
Immersed in great stories
Editing is essential to great writing. As I edit my own work, I want to spend a month immersed in stories written by great authors. I plan to read books or excerpts of books I admire, taking note of powerful storytelling techniques and ways I can improve my writing. It seems inevitable that I’ll also fall in love all over again with my favorite books and authors.
I have to admit I haven’t read all of the important books. Coming from the country, I missed a few of the classics, and I spent my college years forcibly trying to catch up. With the help of a few great teachers, though, I found the books I needed to read when I needed to read them.
Let the record show, that I haven’t yet read “Wild” either, the book by Cheryl Strayed. I purposefully waited until I was done writing my manuscript to break the binding on this bestseller. There’s a good chance that my book is similar, and although I do very much want to read Strayed’s memoir, I had to tell my own story too.
There are so many books that have made a lasting impression on me, I thought I’d highlight a few here. So, without taking any more tangents, here’s a list of books I treasure and admire. They’re organized by the periods of time where they impacted me the most.
In my unusual youth:
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
- I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb
- Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
- Howl, a poem by Allen Ginsberg
During college when I became the person I wanted to be:
- Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
- The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
- Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
- … and every poem I could get my hands on!
When I searched for healing after tragedy:
- Eternal on the Water, by Joseph Monninger
- The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Point Omega, by Don DeLillo
- Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Marakami
- The Gift, Poems by Hafiz
Disclaimer: I’ve written articles following so many different style guides that I couldn’t decide on punctuation for book titles. Hope you don’t mind!