A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My top ten most influential books.

Good morning!

Something making its way around Face book lately has been a top ten list of most influential books in a person's life.  I was going to get a list together, but then I decided it would make a nice year end blog post for you all, especially since I haven't done a top ten list in a while.

I'm giving you my top ten list with a couple caveats:  First, I'm leaving the Bible off the list.  For me, it's THE most influential book, but my list, for the purposes of this blog, is about human authors, not deities.  Second, I'm not putting my books on the list because...well, that's sort of cheesy.  (However, if you'd like to purchase one of my books all you have to do is click on the following links:)

Novels under Sarah J. Bradley for electronic media other than the Kindle:

Novels under Sarah J. Bradley for Kindle or in print:

Elsie Books under Sarah Jayne Brewster for kindle or in Print:

Elsie Books under Sarah Jayne Brewster for electronic media other than Kindle:

Okay, that's out of the way.  Now...the top ten books that influenced me through my life.

10) Stephen King:  On Writing

I'm not a fan of horror, but I am a fan of Stephen King's, especially after reading this.  One part autobiography, one part how to for the aspiring novelist, it's a winner and I keep it close.

9) C. D. Payne: Youth in Revolt

Don't let the awful movie by the same name fool you.  This book is heartbreakingly good.  A big reason it's on the list is a few years ago my son told me to read it.  He'd never told me to read a book before.  He thought the book was hilarious.  I thought it was shattering and sad.  And I realized that a book can be completely different things to different people.

8) Laura Ingalls Wilder:  Little House on the Prairie

In the days before "YA" was a category in the library, there were pioneering authors  (pardon the pun) bridging the gap between children's picture books and adult novels.  Wilder was one of them.  Still the gold standard of writing, I remember, as I read these books in third and fourth grade, thinking:  I can do THAT.  I can write about stuff in my life.  Which is probably why I begged for red covered notebooks every Christmas for years.  I thought it was the key to literary success.

7) Joan Aiken:  Wolves of Willoughby Chase

While all my girl friends were reading Laura Ingalls' books, I was entertaining my youthful dark side by reading and rereading Joan Aiken's wonderful, dark, children's books.  "Wolves" is the first of three I read on a monthly basis:  Blackhearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket were the other two.  As a child who saw adults as villains all the time, I found a kindred soul in Aiken's heroic children characters' battles.  As an adult author, I look to the unexpected for my villains, thanks to Joan Aiken.

6)  Charlotte Bronte:  Jane Eyre

Many of my books are the study in the dark side of people, how we try to hide behind a pretty facade.  I blame my mother for this because when I was in 8th grade she was my school librarian and she suggested we all read Jane Eyre.  She painted a wonderful, dark picture of romance entwined in mystery and insanity.  I was hooked from the first reading, although I didn't completely understand the full content of the book until much later.

5)  Adrianna Trigiani:  Big Stone Gap

Think of her as a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Her Big Stone Gap books reopened my eyes to the ideal of "writing what you know."  I realized regular people can be interesting in books and, bigger bonus, overweight girls can have a fun life and a dash of romance.  Since reading Big Stone Gap, I've read everything she's written and enjoyed every minute. Her work reminds me that it's okay to have a normal, mundane setting. Knowing your characters and how they live in their every day settings can build a very compelling story.

4)  Thomas Hardy:  Jude the Obscure

Jude enjoys the rare distinction of being the only book on the list I was assigned to read as part of one of my million English classes in school.  The book itself is what I deem a dark comedy, which is exactly what I said in class when I announced I'd nearly finished reading the book far ahead of the assigned date.  My professor, a dear man I adored, asked me what I thought of it.  I said, "It's HILARIOUS!"  He looked shocked.  "What is wrong with you?  How can you find this funny?"  Maybe it wasn't so much the book itself, but my reaction to it that put this book on the list.  I realized that day that I find humor in the strangest places, in places many don't.  To my professor's credit, the end of the book is shattering.  But I maintain, until the very last page, Jude is one of the most entertaining dark comedic characters I've ever read.

3)  Judy Blume:  Blubber

I could fill this list with Judy Blume's works, but I'm pretty sure Blubber was the first book I read by her.  Judy Blume was to me, as she was to almost every girl growing up, the "go to" for advice on how to handle every situation.  As an author she did not shy away from the difficult topics.  Blubber, dealing with bullying in the days before bullying was a hot button political topic, is the magna carta of the topic still today.  Having been on both ends of the bullying stick by the time I was in 5th grade, I knew the pain of it all too well, and Judy Blume's book was a reprimand and a comfort at once.  Later, I delved in her books about getting a period, teen sex, scoliosis, and divorce. Every parent with a child needs to read Blume aloud to their kids.

2)  Emily Bronte:  Wuthering Heights

It's not a top ten book list without Emily Bronte's gothic novel.  Say what you want, every single woman dreams of fixing the bad boy and let's face it...there just wasn't anyone more of a bad boy than Heathcliff.  I read it every year starting in eighth grade and until I got married and got busy with kids and whatnot.  Now, I still love to escape to the bleak, windy swept moors.  It's the atmosphere of the book that is most haunting, and is probably the best part of the book.  The setting is every bit as much a character in the book as Catherine or Heathcliff.  And it's something I strive for when I'm writing my own fiction.

1)  Erma Bombeck:  anything

Erma Bombeck is my sensei.  When I was eleven, I would run home from school so I could get the newspaper and read her daily column.  I knew from a young age that I wanted to BE Erma Bombeck.  I wept the day she passed.  I read her books all the time, marveling at how she managed to make the every day hilarious, and hoping I can, in some very small way, do her honor by writing something people can laugh at.

There are so many other authors and books I'd love to put on this list.  One I wrestled with was Beverly Cleary, who was every bit as much a part of my childhood reading as Joan Aiken and Judy Blume.   Beverly gave me Ramona Quimby, who remains to this day sort of my alter ego.

Finally, friends, I want to share with you a quote from Erma Bombeck, because it's fitting and, as writers, I think we all need to keep this in mind:

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