There’s a FB meme circulating among my writer pals challenging one another to list ten books that we’ve read at a formative age, indicating why they stayed with us. I’m always fascinated by what influenced present-day writers. If you are too, here’s my list, though it could change somewhat next week or next month. Most of these are books I read before entering college. What I never fully realized until now is that several of the books on my list not only had a big influence on my first profession – archaeology – but they also seem to have had an influence on the fantasy and science fiction stories I currently write.
1. The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends – The folks who put out the Little Golden Books published this “Giant Golden Book Deluxe Edition” of Greek, Roman, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon myths, legends, etc. The illustrations are as evocative as the stories.
2. Tik Tok of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, Patchwork Girl of Oz – L. Frank Baum – For me, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent books in the series that were written by L. Frank Baum, will always be the true Oz, no matter what movies and subsequent reboots may come along. I recall being fascinated by the map of Oz, which may have led to a love of maps and geography of far-away places and imaginary lands.
3. Alice In Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll – So many sayings from this book still find their way into my day-to-day thoughts.
4. The Bull of Minos– Leonard Cottrell – a reporter’s account of archaeological excavations by Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans at Troy and Knossos. Though it does not hold up well for a number of reasons, it was the book that prompted me to go into archaeology.
5. The Illustrated Man -Ray Bradbury – I close my eyes and see myself reading this collection of short stories collection, which included one of my favorites,The Veldt.
6. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe – One after the other, I devoured The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc.
7. The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien -It’s fashionable to knock TLOTR these days. Though it may have various flaws, it introduced heroic fantasy to so many writers of a certain age.
8. Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny – I greatly fear that this fabulous writer who left us much too soon isn’t being read as much anymore as he should be.
9. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse – Many people rediscovered this book about the life of the Buddha in the 70’s, though you almost never hear about it any more.
10. The Fifth Head of Cerberus – Gene Wolfe – I read this in graduate school when I was very ill with bronchitis and in an impressionable state. Another anthropology student visited me in the school’s infirmary, pressed this book into my hands, and said I should read it. To this day, I have no idea how he knew.