Books that changed your life (fiction only!)

I'm curious what you all read, in other words!

These are some fiction books that made me want to become a writer -

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

White Fang by Jack London

I Am Legend by Richard Mattheson

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Hamlet by Shakespeare

Poems and Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones

And of course not to mention all the trashy YA novels I've read! :P

Here's the thing, though. Changed my life? I can't say any book has. Books that made me want to become a writer? I think I always was one, and it was a question of just finding that. Books where I've taken something away from them? Yes; but there's bad books I've learned a hell of a lot from.

Notable works I remember, in no particular order:


Portnoy's Complaint



Moll Flanders

Snow Crash

A Young Girl's Illustrated Primer

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

The Black Company

Game of Thrones

Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series

The Abhorsen trilogy

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

American Gods


Any number of books by Dean Koontz (my later adolescent years).

Any number of books by Piers Anthony (my early/mid adolescent years)

The Giver

Day of the Barney (I think one of only two fanfiction pieces I ever really read - Cupcakes was the other)

Oh, The Giver is so good! I've only read Sabriel of the Abhorsen Trilogy. I loved loved the setting and the writing was so edible! And I had a feeling Snow Crash would be on your list! Don't know why, but I had a feeling haha~

And yes, you are right. Nothing *really* changes my life except for, well... life-changing events! But I was using it more as a figure of speech. Wait. Is it a figure of speech? Oh, you know what I meant! X)

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner:

"It tells the story of Colin and Susan, a brother and sister sent to stay at the farmstead of craggy Gowther Mossock and his kindly wife, Beth. They are plunged into a thrillingly dangerous adventure, in which goblins, witches and worse attempt to seize the gemstone that Susan wears around her neck. This is no ordinary pendant, but the all-powerful Firestone; should it fall into the hands of the morthbrood (Garner's inspired word for the legions of evil), the world will be powerless against Nastrond, the Great Spirit of Darkness. It's a tale that fires the blood and chills the spine, as Colin and Susan are pursued by their fanatical, misshapen enemies, over dales and under the ground. What makes it more frightening is that these other-worldly creatures have sympathisers and collaborators among the local inhabitants."

I remember it well. Twas towards the end of the school day. I was about 7 years old. My class had just finished reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis, which I loved and thought could have no equal. The teacher thrust The Weirdstone of Brisingamen into my hands. This book was set "up north" where my family roots were. It was eerie and mysterious, dark and dangerous. The locations existed. The legend was real and some people still believed in it - as indeed they do today.

Within a couple of weeks of my finishing the book my father changed his occupation. We left behind our home in the south of England and relocated in the north. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen totally influenced the way I viewed my new surroundings.

Some days I feel like Wildbow and I are eerily similar in our mindset, as I can't say any book in particular changed my life, and I think I was always going to be a writer. Books in general, as a concept, are to my mind what water is to a fish. When someone asks me my "favourite" book I kind of go blank because I like them as a species and not as individuals.

However, there are a few stand-outs I suppose:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien -- my dad had an illustrated version with pictures from the cartoon film, and I thought it was a children's book as a result, so I read it when I was 5 and grew up thinking it was for kids.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis -- I figured out Aslan was Jesus and suddenly became aware of symbolism.

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King (particularly volume 4, Wizard and Glass) -- it's King's Lord of the Rings, and much better than his usual stuff.

Robert Heinlein -- I've read almost everything, but the standouts are Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, The Number of the Beast, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Friday.

DragonLance Chronicles, by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman

The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

William Shakespeare - particularly Macbeth, King Lear, the Tempest, Richard 2 and 3, and the Taming of the Shrew.

Peace like a River by Leif Enger

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, and the Cider House Rules (though I like the movie better, oddly enough)

"Changed my life" can be anything. Certainly there were writers that a) made me want to write and b) are the standards by which I measure my writing. Which is sufficiently life-changing that I'm happy to include them here:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Descent Into Hell (Charles Williams)

Almost anything written by Fritz Lieber

I grew up reading Narnia books. Looking back, I kind of get what Phillip Pullman says about how they're maybe instilling negative or out-of-date values in our kids (obedience and faith over independence). At the same time, with Phillip Pullman's work (His Darker Materials), I enjoyed reading it on the first go-through, but less so on the second and even less so on the third.

I liked a prayer for Owen Meany.

Lewis was who he was. Pullman is who he is. I like Lewis better, but Pullman's a good enough writer for me to mostly roll my eyes and move on when he rants about how Lewis is evil and a jerk and so is everyone who likes him.

The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)

See, I knew I liked you! No one seems to mention the dark is rising series lately, but as much as I like potter, JK Rowling is NO Susan Cooper.

I would say that the Dark is Rising is one that changed me, as it let me see possibilities. On the same token, 20,000 leagues under the sea, and journey to the centre of the earth, both opened my mind to a lot of possibilities.

Songbird, by Orson Scott Card, was a real game changer for me at 11. I was having emotional issues and backlash from a... rather bad early childhood. It gave me a sense of self and self control.

On the same token, The Discarded and Adrift off the Islets of Langerhans, by Harlan Ellison, convinced me a few years later that suicide was probably NOT the best of ideas, because in the end we are all monsters inside, and how we deal with that is what makes us human.

The books that made me want to be a writer though... The Midkemia Series, by Raymond Feist, was the first time I think that I thought... you know... I could share my own internal stories with people too...

(Another Cooper fan here. But I think loved Lloyd Alexander more.)

I actually read a lot of genres -- mystery, romance, fantasy, and detective stories. I try to keep my reading habits diverse because I want to know what people like to read.

But in terms of influence, it's not so much books as authors that I find really inspire or challenge me.

Tolkien's nerdy obsession with his world is amazing. He had such an academic approach to his work, loved themes without using too much symbolism, understood how to build his world on a greater set of mythology (i.e., Arthurian/Norse) and was fantastically detailed with language and maps. He makes me feel lazy in my worldbuilding.

Bradbury is what I read to make me go back to something and rework it for descriptions or mood. I often pick up a short story or one of his novels and read it aloud. Wordplay. Fantastic. His insight into what the characters are feeling is also wonderful. I love that I feel alongside his characters.

Jane Austen - What I look through when I want to think about how to make the drama about people and not "things that happen." Pride and Prejudice is one of her most interesting works to get me thinking about conversational rhythm. Her work also derives a lot of tension from the inner character -- particularly the beliefs of men/women. I like that a lot. I don't know that a lot of popular fiction these days does that or cares for it as much as I do. ... but I think drama can be simply made off characters and think her work is effective in that regard.

I never got "lack of independence" from CS Lewis -- I find it weird anyone would interpret it that way. I find he depicts humans as centres of a struggle between good and evil, with the choice left ultimately up to them. Does he depict the negative consequences of poor choices? Sure. But he also shows how people can make bad choices and then recover, learn from their mistakes, and try harder -- which is very human. We learn and grow. Lewis depicts us as responsible for what we grow into -- and yes he has an ideal of what we can aim for, but that's better than being aimless.

The book that made me want to be a writer was "The Great Brain" series, by JD Fitzgerald. I think that I was 10.

Is it tacky to say "Twilight" because it gave me hope that I could get published?

No, MrOsterman, it's not tacky. Actually, given the many, MANY dumb people that would cite that book, you are one of the few with a legitimate reason.

My list:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Stieg Larsson

Harry Potter-J.K. Rowling

Carrie-Stephen King

Sword Art Online-Reki Kawahara (As a Japanese Light Novel, it was never *officially* translated into English, but there are fan translations out there, and they're probably more true to the original than an official translation ever could be, anyway)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky

1984-George Orwell

And Stonewall, my first attempt at writing a book. I had a single copy printed in sixth grade, and I still keep it to remind myself of the day when I realized my dream could actually become a reality.

Just for kicks, I'm also gonna add one more.

The Sims 3 Strategy Guide-Catherine Brown

Okay, being serious:

Cather in the Rye - Something about being so naive, and so boastful made Holden such a neat character to me. And as I was pretty angsty for a nerd I felt like I was reading about myself, a "real person" trapped in a sea of "phoneys"

Lord of the Flies - Not the book so much as the discussions of it. I really do reject the implication that without cops and laws and bigger people to beat us into following societal norms that we'd devolve into cannibalism. It shaped me in my rejection of it more than anything.

DragonLance - It was my gate way into fantasy and kept me reading fiction when I wasn't able to digest Lord of the Rings (too ponderous for me) but loved Dungeons and Dragons. I read every Dragonlance bit I could find from all of the novel series through every short story collection.

Other books since the era of life formations included books for reasons similar to Twilight.

Specifically Twilight is why I began to write Mind the Thorns - I wanted to write a ~better~ Twilight, one that my daughter could read and say "okay, there's how a woman acts". However, I have to admit that the concept of the unreliable narrator as well as the common self image problems of teens are both good topics that can be sparked by discussing that book.

At the moment the movie adaptation of the Hunger Games has also been a life changer for me mostly because it's gotten me more and more inquisitive about what makes for "age appropriate fiction" and it's made me a quiet but ardent champion of something better than "reading level". The fact that it's rated as a top 10 banned book due to the number of challenges over the amount of violence makes me wonder if the book actually ~is~ appropriately shelved or not.

THE GREAT BRAIN! holy crap I loved those books.

I also devoured Dragonlance and later Forgotten realms in junior high/high school.


Also, Anthony Trollope. Reading his books changed the way I write. Plus favorite author. And the only one of the above authors/books I still really read.

Lord of the Rings. My mom read it to me when I was three, then got me the BBC radio play version on tape. I listened to it over and over throughout my whole childhood, then started reading the books myself when I was a little older.

The "Redwall" series

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


More recently, A Storm Of Swords

Graphic novels: Quantum & Woody, Preacher, Transmetropolitan

I'd probably give a different answer to this depending on when you ask, to be honest.

I'd have to say my childhood favorites probably have the most meaning to me.

The Hobbit, for my mum reading it to me when I was very little.

The early Harry Potter books (cleche I know), But I re-read them a lot!

My most loved book has to have been The Northern Lights. I loved the idea of having a Daemon (which is basically a childs dream - best friend + super changeling pet monster thing!)

I totaly had a crush on Lyra too... Gave me a love of strong female characters + tomboys. I liked the second book in the series but wasn't a fan of the third. I can tell my most-loved books by how dog-eared they are