Kelsey’s Most Influential Books

This post is a little tough for me, because although I am great at picking out favorites, unlike Samm, I do have a hard time analyzing exactly how something affects me. Everything I’ve ever read has had some impact on my life and who I am as a person, so determining the top three most influential is going to be difficult for me. Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

  1. Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Image result for little house in the big woods coverPicture this: it’s Christmas morning, 1996, and a bleary-eyed, tousle-haired, five-year-old Kelsey is enthusiastically ripping wrapping paper off of presents. Unwrapping one such present reveals the green plaid border of a book, my very first chapter book. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the proverbial book to launch a thousand ships.

This book means so much to me, because it is the book that started my life-long love affair with reading. After finishing Little House in the Big Woods, I went on to read every book in the Little House on the Prairie series, and every companion series that they came out with. I loved Laura, and longed to be as fierce and resourceful as she was. I wanted to ride stallions across the open prairie, ford rivers, and pick fresh berries to make into pie. I wanted to experience a maple syrup tapping, and a family dance. This book, and consequently series, introduced me to the art of losing myself within someone else’s adventures, and for that I’ll forever be grateful.

2. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Image result for a wrinkle in time bookWhen I first started reading, I tended to lean toward stories that stayed within the realm of possibility. I liked stories about things that could actually happen. If you know me, or have listened to even half an episode of the podcast, you may be surprised to learn this, since these days I am heavily entrenched in the world of magic. While Harry Potter is largely responsible for my love of all things magical, there is at least one book that predates my initial reading of Harry Potter, and that I consider my introduction to fantasy.

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that I reread almost every single year. The story of Meg traveling through space and time to save her father is rife with messages and lessons that I still try to follow to this day. Meg not only overcomes her fears and faults throughout the book, but she embraces them and uses them to her advantage. This book showcases the dangers and stifling rigidity of conformity, and I believe it has been instrumental in my desire to always be myself.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. RowlingImage result for goblet of fire book cover

This book. This freakin’ book. I feel as though this book needs no introduction or explanation, as I sincerely doubt I possess the words to describe what this book means to me. This is the first book whose release I actively anticipated. It was the longest book I had ever read, and contained the first impactful fictional death that I had encountered. I devoured this book, and have read it more than any other. It is my favorite book.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the influence this book has had on me, as it has basically just become a part of who I am. The biggest impact this book has had, I suppose, is that it taught me to never give up, and to always remain constantly vigilant. Although it was a Death Eater disguised as a professor who said it, the phrase “constant vigilance” has always resonated with me, and is something I repeat to myself whenever I feel like throwing in the towel. This phrase from this book means so much to me that I recently made it a part of my body forever. And if that’s not a mark of its influence, I don’t know what is.

 

Samm’s Most Influential Books

Before beginning this post, I think it’s important to note the title.  This is my list of most influential books, as opposed to being my list of favorite books.  That is, of course, not to say that these aren’t some of my favorites.  However, if you know me, you know I’ve always been dreadful at forming steadfast opinions and determining favorites.  A list of books that have had an impact on me as a human is far less intimidating to determine.

  1. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

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    I have always liked to read.  Most of my formative years were spent with my nonna (grandmother), and she liked to read.  That meant we spent a fair amount of time at the library and inventing stories to each other.  She also didn’t mind funding my book addiction once a year during an annual trip to Borders, may it rest in peace, for my birthday.

    It was on one of those trips that I picked up this book randomly in fifth grade.  I picked it purely for the cover, something I still do.  I was weird and introverted as a child.  Like many weird, introverted girls, I liked horses.  One of our family friends let us come over to ride the horses he kept for others on our property, which led me to read an entire slew of late 90’s, early 2000’s book series with horses on the cover.

    As a young reader, Tamora Pierce figuratively blew my mind.  Aside from Harry Potter, which hadn’t fully landed with me yet, it was the first fantasy series I read that felt so real and accessible.  It was the first realm that I ached to be a part of.  I also loved Pierce’s main character, Daine, who felt unsure and timid, while being an absolutely terrifying boss-lady.  Though undoubtedly a little dated, I would still recommend this series and all the Tortall books to any fantasy lover.

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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    Hands down, no questions asked, Atticus Finch is my ultimate favorite character in literature.  Now, I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman, so my opinion might change if I ever decide to crack that particular spine.  I also know that I said I was bad at picking favorites, but as a thirteen-year-old reading Mockingbird for the first time in my eighth-grade English class, Atticus Finch loomed large in my mind as not only the perfect man but also the perfect example of how we should treat other people.

    I’m older now, and admittedly, it has been a while since I revisited Maycomb County.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  When I think what kind of example I want to be for young people in my rural classroom, Atticus Finch is still the framework for my paradigm.  I strive to exhibit all the characteristics Atticus envokes in my mind: fair and honest, thoughtful and tenacious, imposing yet nurturing, moral in the face of terrible adversity.

  3. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

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    This was another Border’s find that I shamelessly purchased for the packaging.  As a sophomore in high school, its adorable, bow-wearing skull babies were everything I wanted in a book cover.  It was a simpler time for me as a reader, one in which I went home and promptly read the books I purchased.  At fifteen, I had yet to inundate myself with a flood of books no sane person could possibly hope to keep up with.

    Thinking back, I believe this was one of the first books I purchased from the fiction section of the store; my previous finds came from the “teen” section.  This was also the first truly hilarious book I read.  This is the book that taught me that the inherently macabre could still be delightfully funny and that books didn’t have to sacrifice levity to make an impact.  In many ways, A Dirty Job represents some of my favorite aspects of media.  I have always loved dark symbols and imagery, but I hate being scared.  This was my gateway into the realm of dark humor, where the best parts of two genres I loved could co-exist as one.