Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Most Influential Books I Read This Year

Before I sign off for the holidays, I wanted to bring together my list of the ten books that most influenced me as a writer over the past twelve months. It should be sort of obvious from this list that I'm not compulsive about reading every new book when it comes out. I'm actually quite particular when it comes to books and rarely take chances on something just because it's new, after all, I have a 'to-read' list in the hundreds.

When I read, I'm pulled in by the same things that I stress in my own writing. The elements of a book that appeal to me are character, emotion, and the author's writing style. The ten book below are the ones which most captured my 'writer's' imagination this year. (In no particular order)

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Absolutely riveting stories with an amazing heroine that makes you care not only for her own survival, but for the people around her as well. Rarely is such page-turning action found in books with so much depth.

Mice Templar by Michael Avon Oeming & Bryan Glass

A collection of Mice Templar comics in one volume. Early in the year, this the book reminded me how much I love mythical fantasy, which dominated my Great Rabbit Wars blog story and the current book I'm working on. Amazing scope of story, intriguing characters and spectacular art.

This middle grade novel swept me away into a story that I felt I've always wanted to visit. Featuring one of the best main characters I've encountered in a long time, this is a timeless sort of tale and one of the rare books that I see myself wanting to read again and again.

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

The fourth and last book in the City of Ember series is a perfect ending to a story that has inhabited my imagination for the better part of two years. The resourcefulness of the two child main characters and their ability to dare to think bigger than their adult counterparts is an idea that has always appealed to me.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

This modern fairy tale about hobgoblins was one of most original and well written stories I read this year. The world created in its pages is terrifying and wonderful at the same time. It's attention to core fairy tale elements is something that has been weaving its way into my own work of late.

This Newbery Honor novel from 1968 is one of the most beautifully sad stories I've ever read. It's delicate look at how it feels to be a child that nobody likes is amazingly handled. It feels to me like the story some of my teen characters might have told as younger characters.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The classic Swiss children's novel from 1880 felt surprisingly modern when I read it this year. There's a reason Heidi as a character has endured for so long. Unlike so many child characters today, Heidi doesn't feel contrived at all. She's simply a child, complete with a child's confusion and generosity.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

A terrifyingly exciting look at our possible dystopian future. The best of this genre takes current disturbing trends and stretches them to their farthest reaches of plausibility. Too far, or not far enough, and the results can be mixed. But Margaret Atwood walks the line perfectly. In addition, her writing style magnificent.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Yes, it's a wonderfully told romantic love story which is most likely what propelled it to Bestseller's list, but it's also an achievement in writing. To tell a story out of time is hard enough, but to tell it with as much time skipping as this is masterful. Not only that, but this book features some of the best written conversations I've encountered.

This book is not at all what one would expect from the cover. It's much older than the 'look' suggests and much less light-hearted. Another amazing character, Olive is an eccentric girl who is slowly abandoned by her best friend and quickly becomes an outcast. Kim Kane is able to make the reader feel the painful experience while never making Olive feel like a victim.

That's my now you all have something to buy with those endless gift cards that you are sure to receive. (On most of the links, you'll find a full review that I wrote if you're interested, along with the reviews of other readers).

Happy Holidays!


  1. Have a good break Brian.
    I feel ashamed to say I've only read two of them. No excuses, these look good.

  2. i loved Pip & Olive - it haunted me! Your list is great. I'll definitely be checking out some of those titles. I only recently discovered E.L Konigsburg (I read the View from Saturday - and love it) - Merry Xmas & happy holiday writing :)

  3. I felt the same way about Olive. You'll definitely love the Konigsberg book. It's a similiarly themed book.

  4. I love these choices, Brian. I am definitely going to have to check out The Stolen Child. It sounds so freaky!