After being tagged multiple times on a Facebook.com post Ten Books that Influenced or Stayed with Me, I figured, why not write a blog about it. Hard as it was to choose, after several days hard thinking, I came up with a list. So here they are. The ten books that have most influenced me and have stayed with me, long after I turned the last page and closed the book.
My first love…
1.) Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
This is the book for me, as in he is the one, the one book that brought me to the wonderful world of literature, of losing myself in the written word, of an addiction and love affair that has gone on for more than thirty years. Silverstein is also know for work such as The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, to name just a few of his many works. I can remember years ago, someone telling me that when they heard that Elvis had died, they sobbed, and not understanding why the person telling me the story had been so affected. When hearing in 1999 Shel Silverstein had died, I finally got it, the feeling of loss at an incredible creative in our world passing on and the knowledge that never again would there be more new work from someone so talented. But love is often eternal, and thirty years after coming across this wonderful piece of literature, I still enjoy reading it, most especially to my three children, who have been given a love of silly poetry by their dear ol’ mom.
2.) The Stand, Stephen King
The book that holds the title of most copies owned by Amber goes to The Stand. Upon seeing the cutest boy in the eighth grade reading the book, I shyly asked him what he was reading. He loaned me the book and then later gave me my first kiss. The kiss lasted twenty-heart-pounding-seconds, but the love of this book has lasted much longer. To date, I’ve owned a total of eleven physical copies of the book, and of course the e-book version, which was the first book I purchased after I received my Kindle in 2011. The Stand might be a book about good versus evil, but what I took from reading it is that faced with the world falling apart and the bottom dropping out, people still came together, still fought for what was right, still worked to rebuild, despite the obstacles in their way.
3.) Fatal Exchange, Russell Blake
Say what you will about John Locke, he had a hand in bringing me to the Indie Author Arena. Back in 2011, Amazon made a suggestion based on other titles I’d bought for my Kindle. After reading Saving Rachel I emailed the author to tell him how much I enjoyed the book. Locke responded very graciously, and asked me to follow him on Twitter. Until that point, Twitter was just something I had signed up for as a way to pass the time while I was recovering from my partial hysterectomy. Sending a congratulatory tweet to Locke when he sold a million e-books resulted in Indie Author Russell Blake following me on Twitter, and having read his bio, I downloaded and devoured Fatal Exchange. Blake’s first book was so exceptional, I reviewed it and began speaking with the author on a regular basis. My friendship with Blake led to two friendships that were monumental in the final steps I took to entering the Indie Author Arena as a published author: Dionne Lister, my co-host of the TweepNation Podcast and dear friend, and Barry Crowther, the man who would read four of my poems and respond to the email with the words, “How much of this do you have? We need to get you published yesterday.” To date, Blake has published a total of twenty-five books in thirty months, as well as very kindly writing the foreword for The Quillective Project’s 2013 collaborative effort of Four Paws.
4.) Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
My father has a knack of picking out excellent reads that are also life lessons. Tuesdays with Morrie was no exception. Touching, honest, powerful and relateable, this book had the effect of making me re-examine my life, how I was living it, and what is most important in the world. Ten years after reading it for the first time, I still pull it out and read through its dog-earred pages when I need a reminder of what matters most in this world. Tuesdays with Morrie is a damn good example of living while you’re still alive, and of saying what needs to be said before it’s too late. Much like The Stand, this is a book I’ve owned more than one copy of in print.
Albom’s inspirational retelling of the last months of Morrie Schwartz’s life is a powerful lesson in what matters most and how life should be lived.
5.) Waiting for Birdy, Catherine Newman
Back in 2004, I became pregnant with my oldest child, Amethyst. Unfortunately, due to the high-stress nature of my job, I found myself a Stay At Home Mother much sooner than I’d anticipated. And while baking a human bun in your oven is a very important job, it’s one that can take part in a multi-tasking type situation. Along came the message boards of BabyCenter.com, and with it, Catherine Newman’s most excellent parenting blog Bringing up Ben. Newman’s flat out honesty of what really goes on when pregnant, during and post labor (2X4 to the crotch anyone???) and with a newborn in the house had me laughing hysterically. Two years into the blog, Newman published Waiting for Birdy, and I immediately snagged it. It has also been my automatic gift for friends expecting their first children, thus making it the book I have purchased the most in my life. When Newman ended her run on BabyCenter.com, I felt like I lost a dear friend.
6.) Stories my Evil Twin Made Up, Scott Morgan
You could say that Scott Morgan makes this list because he’s a sometimes-writing partner of mine. You could say that he’s made this list because he’s one of my closest friends. But then you’d be illustrating the fact that you most likely don’t know me that well: Morgan is my partner in crime on certain projects because he’s excellent at his craft, and because he is one of my close personal friends, you know I’d never blow smoke up his ass (or anyone else’s for that matter) about their talent, most especially when it comes to the written word. The fact is, I’m a huge fan of his work, whether it’s the editing he does (and boy can he edit), his non-fiction, his teaching or his creative fiction. His style of poetry writing so impressed me that shortly after he and I met via Twitter, I emailed him to ask him to look over my own poetry. Stories My Evil Twin Made Up is a prime example of pure awesome in that Morgan doesn’t stick with traditional story telling and instead does it in a way that is fresh, honest, and all his own. Morgan’s stories (whether penned by him or his alter ego Francois) play more like a movie in your mind than a story you’re reading on the page.
7.) Yes Day, Amy Krouse Rosenthal
I came across Yes Day thanks to the book fair at my oldest child’s elementary school. It’s a simple story really: the main character has one day a year that they’re given where everything they ask for: Ice cream for breakfast, staying up all night, you name it is a “yes.” My oldest daughter Amethyst was so charmed and enthralled by the story that when she asked me if she could have her very own yes day, I agreed, which led to several excellent memories with my first born that will live on long past the day we shared together. Never mind scoring massive points as the coolest mom ever, there was quality time with my daughter when we read the book, and memories she’ll look back on years later that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I hope that one day, she buys this book for her own children and gives them the experience of never being told no, if only for a single day out of the year.
8.) The Smallest Narrowest Places, Derek McPhee
I met Derek McPhee like most of the author friends I’m blessed to have in my life: via Twitter. Derek replied to a tweet I’d posted with a hilarious comment, earning “Tweet of the Week” on the TweepNation Podcast. After I linked him to the show, I found out Derek was an aspiring author himself. I bought his book, started reading it, and liked it so much I invited him to be interviewed on the TweepNation Podcast. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until months later I’d get a chance to finish his book. When I did? I closed the book with an exhale, completely blown away by McPhee’s natural talent of pulling the reader into his story. I had to restrain myself from emailing the author to ask him about the character’s in his book, remembering I was reading fiction, not about real flesh and blood people.
9.) I Could Pee on This, Francesco Marcuiliano
I’m known for my laugh. Okay, that’s an understatement: my laugh is something people use to identify me. Related to that is the fact that I have a sense of humor that’s skewed and off-kilter: a friend saying a word in a certain way can have me howling for hours (and weeks after), my biggest problem as a parent is not laughing when my children do something horribly inappropriate which is none the less hilarious, and episode thirteen of the TweepNation Podcast is the episode that’s my go-to when I need to laugh like a braying jackass. A book of poetry that’s written by cats and how they’re going to terrorize their humans? So fucking funny (yes, I needed to drop that f-bomb in there to get my point across, dammit) that I pulled out my smartphone at a coffee shop and yelled at a friend to read it until he did (I’m nothing if not determined to get my way at times). The book is so frickin’ funny I actually stopped writing this blog post to go read it again.
10.) Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott
Back in 2004, expecting my first child, I found myself unable to work due to high blood pressure (among other craptacular pregnancy woes). And reading has long been a means to escape for me, as well as being my favorite way to pass the time, although I’ll admit lately playing Candy Crush Saga while bullshitting with the servers at my favorite coffee shop has jumped to the top of my list. But back before I spent most of my time formatting other author’s books, teaching social media networking and giving creative development feedback to other authors (seriously, would you do your day job in your free time?), reading was numero uno for ways to spend my time. And being pregnant with my first child, I wanted a heads-up, so I began reading mom-centric writing as often as possible. More often than not, Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott was mentioned, quoted, and referenced, not to mention recommended by other mothers I’d speak with. Lamott held nothing back while writing about her son’s first year: not the pain of labor, not the exhaustion that accompanies the newborn phase, not the feeling of wanting to just chuck it all and give up. But one constant throughout her book, no matter the downsides of the newborn phase was the great and powerful love she felt for her son. And I can tell you, having had three children, the youngest of which are a short eighteen months apart in age, those simultaneous feelings of impotence and elation are the rule, not the exception.
Why are you still here? Go grab one of these excellent books and get reading!!!
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a childhood favorite!! “The Stand” gave me shivers; I read it while riding on The T, Boston’s subway system. Every time someone coughed or sneezed, I cringed. I have not read “Operating Instructions,” but “Bird by Bird” was fantastic! Great post, Amber.
Thanks so much Sean! I have a feeling you and I would have a lot of “Oh me too!” in regards to the books we read.
The Stand rocks. Talk about a consummate storyteller. I’m humbled every time I read it, and feel the same way about The Silence Of The Lambs and anything by James Lee Burke. I’m also humbled to be on this list, right after King. You’re a doll, and it’s not just the tequila talking. Mostly.
Tequila or not, you’re a sweetie, which I swear I won’t repeat to anyone…. would hate to ruin your gruff image… 😉