It's official. There's just too many good books in the world.
If you were to ask me my 10 favorite books, I'd stumble for a bit, and then sheepishly request a few more hours to give you a proper answer. Even within one genre, I can think of 10 books that I love and would reread to the point that their spines gave way.
And that's the beautiful thing about books. The magic that one book contains differs greatly from another written by the same author or about the same subject.
So instead of taking on the impossible task of listing my favorites, let me tell you about the ones that inspired my writing in one way or another. I hope that some of you out there have read and enjoyed these as much as I.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Seriously, guys, if you haven't read this book, drop what you're doing and go get it now. Okay, well maybe wait until you're done with this post, but seriously, get it. Just Kids is the memoir of famed queen-of-punk Patti Smith. The book is a beautiful mix of memoir and poetry. Smith, a poet herself, masterfully weaves together stories in a way that's minimalistic but rich at the same time.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I'm going to be honest and say that I'm actually still in the middle of this one. How I've made it through an entire liberal arts education without picking this up is beyond me. Despite the fact that I've yet to complete it, it absolutely warrants a spot on this list. King uses the book to provide advice to writers the best way he can---by telling stories of his own life. Never have I wanted to pick up a pen and start writing so badly as during this book. As a hardcore fan of King's books, it's also thrilling to read the origins of some of his biggest hits, including Carrie. It's an enriching reminder that some of the best stories originate in your own experiences.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Okay, this might seem like a little bit of an odd choice, but I read this book so quickly, I felt like the pages were going to catch fire. Rubin's book focuses on a self-discovery project where she tried to make herself as happy as possible for one year via measurable standards and tasks. The reason I find this book inspiring (besides the fact that I'm a sucker for a good self-improvement tale)? Rubin manages to take scientific thoughts, statistics, and methodologies and make them addicting. That is a skill to be admired.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I won't bother to summarize this classic, as I'm sure (and hope) you're all familiar with it. Besides the fact it's simply a great piece of children's lit., I admire Sendak's ability to succinctly create a world and fill it with lovable monsters. There are no good guys or bad guys---we're all just Wild Things at the end of the day.
Helter Skelter : The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry
Helter Skelter tells the story of the famous Sharon Tate murders by the notorious cult leader Charles Manson. Written by the lead prosecutor on the case, Vincent Bugliosi presents a horrific event in a very detailed, enthralling light that reads almost like a novel. Bugliosi's true-crime narrative was my first venture into crime writing, and I often return to it when I'm in need of a little spark.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
I feel like any of Mary Roach's books belong on this list, but Stiff in particular deserves recognition. Roach manages to write about a normally squeamish, taboo subject in as normal a manner as talking about your weekend plans. This book made me think that I could be a non-fiction writer, and also convinced me to become a whole-body donor through the University of Minnesota (also, PSA: Save lives and be an organ donor, folks!)
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
As with Where the Wild Things Are, this pick doesn't require much introduction. Seuss was an immense talent at crafting stories using bizarre sentences, words, and rhymes. The Lorax happens to be my favorite of his, and it began my fascination with children's literature.
Hart Crane: Complete Poems and Selected Letters by Hart Crane (Author), Langdon Hammer (Editor)
During college, I took an American Poetry class that changed my life. Our professor journeyed with us while we read some of the great American poets---Dickinson, Whitman, Ginsberg, and the list goes on. None, however, opened my eyes to the beauty of poetry like Hart Crane. Immediately after our session on Crane ended, I ran to the library and picked up this behemoth of a collection. For my love of reading and writing poetry, Crane deserves credit.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
True story: I actually started a list while reading Lolita of all the words that I had never heard before. This list is extensive, and I still don't know what most of them mean. Nabokov's controversial book uses some of the most beautiful language I've yet to read, as well as the greatest opening line in literature. One of these days, I'll revisit that list and learn all of those lovely words.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Okay book snobs out there, hear me out on this one. Yes, I know that the story is eerily similar to Battle Royale, but I'm asking you to ignore that for the time being. The Hunger Games made the list simply because it had all the ingredients of a bestseller: complex yet approachable writing, an epic battle, and engaging characters. Collins creates intricate worlds and complex human and social dynamics, and does so it effortlessly.
My list of inspirational books could go on forever, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'd love to know what books inspired you in any aspect of your life! Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.
(P.S. Want to make sure you don't miss any blog posts? Subscribe to the blog and receive updates through the RSS Feed on the right sidebar!)
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.