1. The Bible. Not necessarily trying to come off devout here (though that's not a bad thing); these were the
5. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (a 4-for-1). Around senior year in high school, best I remember. Tolkien hit me like a meteor out of a clear sky; never before had a created world so captivated me with its completeness. I wanted to go there, Sauron be damned.
6. The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and Mere Christianity (sorry for all the package deals, but there you go...). C. S. Lewis taught me how to think about my faith. I needed that. Still do.
7. Ringworld. SciFi was an addiction, starting in high school, that carried over into my early adult life (which I'm still living, by the way). Larry Niven's Ringworld and its sequels may have been the apex of this phase. Also, it was around this time that I started to think I might be able to write something, myself. Niven's skill with a yarn was an inspiration.
8. Celestial Navigation. Anne Tyler's characters in this, one of my earliest "grownup" novels, truly broke my heart. This book taught me what can happen when an author's creation really connects with a reader's emotions. These were people who inhabited my mind in a way I hadn't previously experienced in literature.
9. God Came Near. This was the breakout book by my friend, Max Lucado, and his experiences, along with my growing conviction that I could write, pushed me to begin working on the collection of short pieces that eventually became my first published book (for which Max was kind enough to write a foreword).
10. All the Pretty Horses. The pared-down, salty, utterly authentic language of this book changed my whole approach to prose. Cormac McCarthy started teaching me that it was more important to decide what to leave out than what to put in. No other book in recent years has had as much direct influence on my approach to writing.
Okay, them's my stories, and I'm stickin' to 'em... for now. I won't nominate anyone else, but I will say how enjoyable this exercise was for me; I encourage you all to do the same. Thanks, Jess!