My Ten Most Influential Reads

Here is a list of my ten most influential reads. These are the books or series that I read again and again, or that I remember as having impacted me in some way. There are many other books that are almost on this list, like Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap Cycle, and Raymond E. Feist’s Magician and Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, but I had to end the list somewhere, so I chose ten.

You will also notice that the list is all SF and Fantasy. That’s what I read growing up in the 80’s. I have read outside those to genres. I’ve read horror, romance, mysteries, thrillers, and even a few classics, but nothing captured my imagination like the books in this list. These are the books that prompted me to want to write.

They are not listed in any particular order.

The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks
– I read this book for the first time when I was twelve or thirteen, I think. I can’t remember, for certain. It was THE book that introduced me to epic fantasy. I liked it better than the two books that followed it. I read it multiple times in the years that followed, then put it aside. I’ve tried to read it again, more than once in the last few years, and I haven’t been able to get very far. I wonder if my memory of the book is better than the reality. There are still scenes in it that I can picture.

The entire Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn trilogy – Tad Williams
– If someone were to ask me what my favorite epic fantasy books ever are, it would be these three. The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower. They started coming out around the same time as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, yet Tad Williams finished his epic story in a reasonable amount of time, and the writing is just beautiful. These are also the books that stopped my effort at becoming a published writer for quite a while when I realized I couldn’t ever write like Tad Williams. It took me a long time to figure out that idea was as stupid as an idea can be.

The Belgariad – David Eddings
– I love the story of Garion. There are actually two series about this character and his friends, but I’ve only read the second series twice while I’ve read the first series so much my paperbacks have nearly fallen apart. Today, I suspect these five novels would be classified as YA, but that didn’t matter back then. If I wasn’t so busy reading some other things right now, I’d go read them again.

The first five books of The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
– This is on the list because I love the first five books, starting with The Eye of the World. The rest are mostly good, too, but these first five were stellar, and I would recommend every would-be fantasy author read them (if there are any would-be fantasy authors that haven’t).

Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
– I read this once a year. It’s hard for me to say anything about it that isn’t something like “Oh My God You Have To Read This Book”! I hope, someday, to write a story as insightful as this book.

Speaker For the Dead – Orson Scott Card
– Though this is the sequel to Ender’s Game, this book is very different. Depending on the day you ask, I might name this book as being better than Ender’s Game. The idea of the Speaker really moves me. I hope someone will speak for me when I’m dead. I read this one every year, too.

Battlefield Earth – L. Ron Hubbard
– I know all about Dianetics and his crazy religion, but there’s none of that in this sci-fi romp. If you’ve seen the movie, forget about the movie. This book is far better than that movie. It’s a thousand pages, and I re-read it often.

Armor – John Steakley
– Reminds me of the movie Starship Troopers (not the book), only better and darker. And I read the book long before seeing ST. Military SF that just keeps moving.

The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through – Stephen R. Donaldson
– These two books form the Mordant’s Need duology, and I go back again and again to the land of Mordant. They are not at all like The Chronichles of Thomas Covenant. It’s a really long single fantasy novel with a touching love story in the center.

Everything by Guy Gavriel Kay
– There are scenes in his Fionavar Tapestry that make me tear up (doesn’t happen often), and the rest build such wonderful characters and intricate settings (all pretty much based on historical settings but with magic) that I have to read them. I’ve read all but his newest books multiple times, and I intend to read those again, too.