Monday, September 01, 2014

My All-Time Top-10 Books ... For Now ...

Jessica Lemmons nominated me to list the top 10 most influential books in my life. Wow... my life... ten books... Okay, here goes, pretty much in chronological order:

1. The Bible. Not necessarily trying to come off devout here (though that's not a bad thing); these were the
first stories I heard, even before I could read; these people were my earliest heroes. And besides, "the Bible" means "the Book." What else can I say?
2. Green Eggs and Ham. This was one of the first books I ever read by myself. I was blessed with a
mother who knew the importance of reading, and she subscribed to a children's book club that delivered
classics like this to the door of our farmhouse in Missouri. I was reading pretty fluently before I ever entered first grade (no kindergarten in the Bell City R-5 School District in those days).

3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (sorry, guys; this has to be a 2-for-1). I probably read the kids' abridged version of these (another book club; see above) twenty times each when I was a kid. And please... I lived less than a mile from a floatable body of water. What red-blooded boy wouldn't want to build a raft and go exploring after reading about Tom and Huck? (The raft pretty much sank, but that's a different story)

4. Lord of the Flies. Yeah, I know... But this was the first "modern" novel I read (around 8th grade, as I recall), and unlike many, I didn't read it for a class; it was just lying around in the Bell City High School library. For the first time, I realized that not all stories had a happy ending. And that was okay.

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!


glemmons said...

Gave me just a little more insight into my you, g

Thom Lemmons said...

Thanks, Bud

Steve Allison said...

"All the pretty horses" is one of my favorites too. "Suttree" is also great. It is about Knoxville, TN. of around 1950. I lived in K'ville from 1978 to 2013 and absorbed a lot of the history of the place over the years, so it was easy to envision. Did not care for "The Road", however.