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What Books Made You a Writer?


A colleague at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto asked us today what books made us writers. I think that can be interpreted several ways, but I’m going to take it as: What books inspired me to become a writer? Here are mine, in no particular order:

A Wrinkle in Time—My all-time favorite children’s book, along with A Wind in the Door and Flatland (not a children’s book, but I read them all in fourth grade). I liked reading about other dimensions.

Where the Sidewalk Ends—When I was in kindergarten, I thought I wanted to be a poet. Later, in middle school, we had to memorize 20-30 lines of poetry. I memorized almost the entire book of Where the Sidewalk Ends. I think I came in at 487 lines of poetry. I’m a terrible poet, but I still enjoy reading poetry. (For great poetry, check out Matthew Zapruder’s books.)

The Danny Dunn books—I was probably the only girl in my school to read the entire Danny Dunn series, but I loved every one, especially the time travel story.

The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries—These were written before my time, but I found them in our basement in hardcover, dusted them off, and read everything we owned (40+ volumes).

The Most Dangerous Game—I hated most of the books we were assigned to read in high school, but I’ll never forget this amazing short story by Richard Connell. That story, more than anything else, made me want to become a writer.

Jonathon Livingston Seagull, Illusions and One—I was such a big fan of Richard Bach in high school that I wanted to change my last name to Bach.

Siddhartha and Demian—I was a huge Hermann Hesse fan while living in Paris in my 20s. All that searching for who I was…

The World According to Garp—What a great book. I read a lot of John Irving (Setting Free the Bears, 158-lb Marriage) and Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume) in my early 20s, but nothing compared to The World According to Garp.

Perfume—An older French man gave Patrick Suskind’s chef d’oeuvre to me when I was about 20. Amazing book.

Lolita—An absolute masterpiece. Love, love, love this book.

Ishmael—I liked this so much back in 1994 I sent a letter to the author and became part of his online community. I met up with fans in Tokyo and India. His plan to “go over the wall” fizzled, but it’s still a great story.

East of Eden—My all-time favorite book. If I were to aspire to write the great American novel, it would be this. Kate, Cal, Aron…all incredibly vivid characters.

I hate to think the last book that inspired me was one I read 15+ years ago, but I’m drawing a blank on great books I’ve read since then. I guess we’re most impressed by what we read when we’re young.

What about you? What books inspired you to write? And, if you’re not a writer, what are your all-time favorite books? 

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