10 of the Most Influential Books Ever (at Least to Me)

As sometimes happens on social media, I was called out by a couple of friends to complete a list of the 10 most influential books of all time. Now, I’m not always big on social media challenges, but when someone says “books,” I say, “right on!”

It’s taken me about a week to piece together my list because I guess I am either incredibly indecisive or have a terrible memory for things I’ve read. Without further ado, here are the 10 books that have influenced me more than any others.

 

The House on Mango Street#1 The House on Mango Street

The first time I finished reading this book, I opened it back up and started reading it again. At that time in my life, this quote really spoke to me:

I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free. One day I will pack my bags of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away.

 LittlePrince

#2 The Little Prince

An all-time classic, The Little Prince is full of whimsy and encourages self-reflection. I love everything about this book, including the skillful illustrations.

GoodEarthNovel

#3 The Good Earth

This novel deserves the Nobel Prize it won back in 1932. The story takes place in China during World War I, showing the struggle of both the starving poor and the decaying rich. It’s one of those books that you finish reading and can barely breathe, it’s so good.

The_Giving_Tree

#4 The Giving Tree

This sweet children’s book makes me tear up almost every time I read it. I hope it becomes a favorite of my daughter’s, too.

CagedBird

#5 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

This book should be required reading for each and every student across the U.S. (and world!). Angelou’s autobiography helped me understand so much more about race and growing up. It also prompted moving, insightful discussions with my students when I was teaching in the Dominican Republic, a country full of racial tension (and students with compassionate hearts!).

The_Namesake

#6 The Namesake

This hauntingly brilliant book details the lives of a Bengali couple who emigrates to New York. But more than that, it reaches deep into the humanity and touches on love, loss, and everything in between.

on-writing

#7 On Writing

Every writer should read this beautifully written and painfully honest memoir by Stephen King. And then reread it. And reread it again.

MoveableFeast

#8 A Moveable Feast

I suppose Hemingway had to make it on this list. This posthumously published memoir has quite a bit of controversy, including questionable edits made by his fourth wife, Mary Hemingway. Yet it was so impactful to me as a developing writer, seeing what life was like for the “greats” way back when.

LeanIn

#9 Lean In

This is a relatively recent read that’s had a big impact on how I view myself as a woman in business and also how I relate to my husband who’s navigating this new world of being a stay-at-home dad. All women should read it.

100years#10  100 Years of Solitude

This multigenerational storyline is so intricate and detailed that you can’t help but feel accomplished just by finishing it. But more than that, it just…I don’t know, speaks to you.

 So, that’s my list. What books have impacted you?

3 Comments

  • Robin Bethel Reply

    I saw this, too, but it seemed like a tricky list to make. But since you asked…here’s an attempt. 🙂

    In no particular order:
    1) The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. Like half of the planet, I just love these. Such detailed world-building and whimsy, such fun. I started them in high school–was actually one of the last of my high school friends to read them–and have been reading them on and off until the final book was published. My favorite is The Goblet of Fire.

    2) The first three books in the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. I haven’t read these alternate history fantasies for about ten years, and my tastes have definitely changed since then. Yet I hope I would experience these as strongly as before, appreciating the strong, quiet heroine and her first person narrative, and finding the plotting organic and creative and satisfying.

    3) The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. This gave a name to the style of parenting I seemed to often gravitate toward intuitively. And while I’m not an attachment parenting purist, I’ve found a lot of value in learning about the practice.

    4) The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Lovely prose. Magical realism. (And maybe the most perfect title I’ve ever come across.)

    5) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. In middle school, I think I had a couple summers where I would just alternate reading these (along with other books, I assume). I’ve probably read both of them ten times. What can I say–I am a sucker for period pieces with strong heroines and a great love story.

    6) The Norton Anthology of the Romantic Period. This anthology introduced me to a handful of voices–Keats, Wordsworth, Shelly, and Blake–whose prose and poetry echoed and informed a growing preoccupation of mine, the notion of inherent beauty.

    7) Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. Ah, Anne. She is simply the best.

    8) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. First person narrative perfection in a charming period novel.

    9) The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Here, I fell in love with Virginia Woolf’s rhythm.

    10) How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson. My first baking book, and what a good place to have started: Nigella’s prose drips coziness and indulgence.

    Ten is too hard. I also want to mention the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. And more.

    • Robin Bethel Reply

      One more: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. So much swirling texture and depth.

      Now I will make myself live with the imperfection and incompleteness of this list. 🙂

  • Robin Bethel Reply

    Also, I really want to read The House on Mango Street, 100 Years of Solitude, and A Moveable Feast. Love The Little Prince. 🙂

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