10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. The first book to make me cry. It taught me about emotional resonance. I never want to write a story that doesn’t make you feel something.
9. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. I read this during high school, when I was unsure of who I was and who I wanted to become.
8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The reason I became a Steinbeck fan instead of a Hemingway fan. It taught me that stories don’t have to have happy endings to still be beautiful.
7. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. Such a ground-breaking series. Rowling excels at world-building, bringing all things wizarding to life. It is text-book How to Write a Series. She never leaves you with an annoying cliff-hanger. Instead, each story is complete in itself but continues an overarching theme.
6. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. Katniss is the perfect unreliable narrator. She is so guarded, you can’t believe a word that she says. Collins makes you guess the truth from Katniss’ actions. It’s an excellent example of “show, don’t tell.”
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy taught me that you can write about immorality without glorifying it. His book is a reminder that you always expose yourself in a story, whether you want to or not.
4. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potock. This book gave me the courage to write the kind of writing that comes from my soul without worrying about the traditions of my religious community.
3. Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon. Harmon excels at character development. She writes toe-curling romance without the ick factor that is so common in literature these days. Her books are required reading for anyone who wants to add romance to their stories, regardless of genre.
2. Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley. Although this is a brand new release, it definitely belongs on this list. Yardley shows what can be achieved when you write fearlessly. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reach that level of abandon, but I aspire to it.
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. To me, this book is the pinnacle of writing excellence. Narration, dialog, character development, pacing, and oh, the exquisite, lyrical, metaphorical description. Someday, I tell myself, someday…
So tell me, what books have affected or inspired you the most?