5 Books That Made the Biggest Impact on Me
As a writer, reading is one of the most important tools in my toolbelt.
I’ll be honest, during the pandemic I’ve had a bit of readers block. I wonder if I were to go back and read some of these old favorites would I get that excitement back again. Reading can open you up to a world of opportunities.
Here are the 5 books that have impacted me the most.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
When I was 7, a movie came out in the theater that was so magical for me the experience is burned in my mind. My father took me and my brother to the movies and it was one of the best memories of my childhood. I remember sitting on the literal edge of my seat watching The Last Unicorn on the big screen.
My father also read to me every night. The next chance I had to pick out a book at the library, I chose The Last Unicorn.
As it turns out, the book is not written for 7-year-olds and we didn’t finish it then. I have since read it many times. It’s about a unicorn who, as you might imagine, is the last of her kind. She embarks on a journey to discover what happened to the others and she meets a colorful cast of characters on the way. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Beagle several years ago and I was able to tell him how much the Last Unicorn affected me. It affected an entire generation of women, too. This story taught me to find my true self and never waiver from my goals.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This was another movie-to-book experience for me. The cartoon, featuring the music of Art Garfunkel, is a simplified version of the story. After I saw it for the first time, I needed to know how it really happened. I remember being in the 6th grade and finding a beat-up copy at a used book sale. I devoured it quickly.
But, just like The Last Unicorn, it wasn’t until I was much older that I truly understood the book. Adams used the story of the rabbits’ journey as an allegory – and it's a powerful one. The storytelling is amazing and detailed; right down to the rabbit language. Watership Down made me rethink community, survival, and how we treat others.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
When I was in college, my roommate took a Women’s Studies course. She was asked to read The Handmaid’s Tale. She tried, but the story affected her so much that she was unable to finish it. I needed something to read, so I picked it up. The story bothered me too, but it was powerful and moving.
Atwood’s writing is some of the best produced in our time and her vision of a world where infertility is rampant and childbearing women are treated as possessions is chilling and disturbing. Atwood can create a future like few other authors; a future that we can picture and it makes us stop in our tracks to think about our society. Reading The Handmaid’s Tale led me to read everything else Atwood has written and, while I would love to include those books on the list as well, there simply isn’t enough time.
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
I have always loved Greek mythology. It’s meaningful to me and informs a lot of my world view. While there are thousands of versions of Greek stories rewritten, as well as translations of ancient Greek epics like The Odyssey by Homer or Hesiod’s Works and Days, I find Roberto Calasso’s poetic prose to be inspirational. His book is a meandering tale of the gods of Olympus and the Greek heroes. He delightfully transitions from story to story, often in the middle, with phrases like, “But before I tell you that, I have to tell you this.” But the single most affecting quote for me is this:
"A life in which the gods are not invited isn’t worth living. It will be quieter, but there won’t be any stories. And you could suppose that these dangerous invitations were in fact contrived by the gods themselves, because the gods get bored with men who have no stories.”
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
A more recent addition to my list is a book I wish I had discovered sooner. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Like Atwood, she weaves a dystopian future so realistic it practically became prophesy. It’s a little close to home for 2020 America, but it gives us hope as well.
I wrote extensively about Octavia Butler at The NotMom. You can see that post here.
What books affect you deeply? Knowing this information about a client can help me understand their voice. Do you want to know more? Email me.
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