Thursday, April 28, 2005

Cover your eyes, guys

I've just stumbled across an interesting article published last September in The Independent. Four hundred women were asked to name the books that had changed their lives:

While works by Jane Austen, the Bront√ęs and George Eliot are only to be expected on a list of essential female novels, the inclusion of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes as something of a surprise. [Hey! Brenda says. What's surprising about it?] But a survey of 400 women from academia, the arts and publishing shows that women are as likely to cite Douglas Adams's comedy as the book that made a difference to their life as a novel by the feminist icon, Virginia Woolf. [Darn right, Brenda says. Sounds like some truly intelligent women were polled.]

The women were asked which novels had most changed the way they viewed themselves by the team behind the Orange Prize for Fiction, which celebrates women writers.

When I stopped to think about what I might have contributed to that list, I had to laugh. My life was materially changed by a novel I read only once and then threw out. It was awful, but Reeking Romance by Helena Handbasket* was an inspirational romance, and until that time I had no idea such things existed. I was so intrigued by my discovery that I read the book all the way through, then immediately sat down at my computer and started an inspirational romance novel of my own. I've read other books--good books--that changed my life, but none to the degree this seriously bad book did.

Go read the list of oft-cited books and then report back here and tell us all what novel changed your life. And since I'm sure the guys have been reading this even though I hinted it was a "women only" post, I guess we might as well let them participate, too.

*The book title and the author's name have been changed, obvs.


Kristin said...

I would have to choose "Great Expectations." Powerful book. Many people have trouble with Dickens' style of writing, but I adore it. Every single descriptive word.

lindaruth said...

It's hard to pick just one. "The Left Hand of Darkness" because it so completely sucked me into its world and I wish I could write like Ursula LeGuin; "Jane Eyre" because I read it in 8th grade and I fell hopelessly in love with Mr. Rochester; "The Lord of the Rings" because Tolkien is the master. I could go on, but I won't.

Chris said...

I am not familiar with The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson, but I could never have written my WIP without The PowerBook by Apple Computer.


Robyn said...

I was 12 when I read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I finally felt like paying attention in science class, and found a heroine that wasn't at all perfect.

In high school, it was Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, the bigger themes of racism in the South affected me, but the book is about more than just that.

Camy Tang said...

Good topic for today! I love Jane Austen but haven't really enjoyed any other truly "literary" authors. Gasp!

A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett. The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums) Dragonflight and Dragonquest, all by Anne McCaffrey. After getting sucked into those books (engulfed, devoured, overwhelmed) I started writing my own stories.

I really cannot imagine reading something serious, enlightening and depressing like Les Miserables and deciding to pen my own epic. If I had, I don't think I would be a romance writer.

Beth White said...

Little Women
The Trixie Belden series
Border Guns by Max Brand
The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey
Black Beauty
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Friday's Child
by Georgette Heyer
Wrinkle in Time
Anne of Green Gables
Lorna Doone
The English Witch
by Loretta Chase
Those are books I've read multiple times, books that have influenced my writing style. I barely tolerated Jane Eyre. A romance with a crazy wife in the attic? I don't think so.

Fair said...

"Middlemarch" by George Eliot had a big impact on me. It also spoiled most of my favorite writers for me. They all looked so small-minded and petty after George Eliot. That book should come with a warning label.

It's surprising that George Eliot is so little discussed today. If she were a man, or better looking, she'd be right up there with Shakespeare.

Gail Dayton said...

I read a LOT. Always have, but when we're talking about books that have "changed lives", I'm going to have to mention the original TARZAN by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I literally read the cover off that book. And of course, since there was no girl in it--other than Jane, who face it, was a wimp compared to Tarzan who got to live in the jungle and hang out with apes and stuff--I immediately rewrote it in my head to include Tarzan's little sister. Been making up stories ever since. ;)