I recently watched a video by Regan from PeruseProject on YouTube where she talked about some of the most influential books in her life, and it made me think about the most influential books in my life. There are most definitely more than five books which have had a huge influence on my reading (and writing) life, but I wanted to put the top five most influential books into a list and talk about them here.
Not all of these are books that I consider to be five stars or think of as my favourites. They’re just the five books which have shaped me into the kind of reader that I am today. They’re also not in any particular order, so don’t think that any of them have been more or less influential than the others — they’ve all impacted my life in different ways, so I could never rank them!
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
I think I’ve talked about this book before on this blog. I found this book in Tesco when I was fourteen and decided to buy it on a whim. Back then, I wasn’t the biggest reader in the world. I’d read and enjoyed a couple of books, but I could easily go weeks without caring to pick any book up; reading wasn’t anywhere near the kind of priority that it is now. This book undeniably changed all of that. Granted, it still took me a long while to get into it and get through it, but on finishing this book I was so eager to head out to another shop and buy the second, ELDEST. The whole series changed my life, making me see that there was enjoyment to be found in books that weren’t the kind of books I was reading for school, and in 2011 — on the lead up to the release of the final book, INHERITANCE — I found myself making friends online as we discussed the final book and what we thought was going to happen. That was the first time I ever felt like a part of a community and the first time I realised that other people in the world were willing to talk to me about my favourite books, which was awesome!
PERCY JACKSON and the LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan
This is another book that changed the way that I went looking for books. Before this, I was more interested in fantasy (thanks to Eragon!) and wasn’t ever really looking for anything different. I’d seen the movie for the first Percy Jackson book and enjoyed it, so when I saw the book on sale one day I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I read it over the course of a few days and ended up buying books two and three when I was on holiday in Florida and devoured them just as fast. Seeing that I could enjoy different genres and different ‘levels’ of reading (Percy Jackson is, of course, Middle Grade) made me see that there was a whole world of books out there waiting for me and I just had to broaden my horizons to find them.
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
Like a lot of people, I read this book for school when I was fourteen or fifteen. It was in English, and the class had been given the task of finding their own book to read and write an essay on, rather than having the teacher assign a book to the whole class. I struggled when looking for a book to read when the teacher suggested LORD OF THE FLIES. It was a whole different experience reading this, knowing that I wasn’t being given essay topics to think about, I was having to read it and form my own thoughts on it. And Michael back then really hated it. I thought it was the most boring book I’d ever read, and I got no enjoyment out of it. I read the whole book, of course, because back then I didn’t realise that I could SparkNotes a book for class instead of reading it (I only did that once for Uni, and I still feel bad about it…). I wrote my essay and got an alright grade for it. But that book made me understand that I could read a book for myself and form my own analysis and opinion of it, rather than having a teacher dictate how I should read it. I think that this book was also one of the reasons why I went on to study English at University (and graduate with a BA after seven rejections, hello).
CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare
This was the book that really made me a YA reader. I’d read loads of YA books before this one, but never really taken the time to realise or think about the fact that I was reading YA. When I read CITY OF BONES, it made me realise that I needed to read YA. It was everything that I was looking for, but I just hadn’t realised it. For the first time, however vaguely, I could see myself in the characters. I might have picked up this book way later than everyone else, and found myself in the YA-world later than others might (I was eighteen when I read this book), but it let me finally find my place. (It was really nice, then, that I got to tell Cassandra Clare some of this in person when I met her earlier this summer!)
THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken
And finally, the book. THE DARKEST MINDS is the book that instantly comes to mind when people ask me what my favourite book is. I read this book a few years ago, and it changed my entire outlook on my reading life — and just life in general, actually. It was the first book where I really felt so strongly connected to the world and the characters, and where I could fall so easily into the book that I’d forget I was reading. Every night that I would sit down to read, I would lose myself in this book and everything that it represented. For me, it’s the book, the one that I’ll return to time and time again when I need a comfort read. Even now, years after reading it, I can’t really fully explain everything that it did for me. All I know is that it’s my favourite, and it changed the way that I considered everything about my bookish life.
(And just to top everything off, it’s the book that opened me to a host of others; if I hadn’t read THE DARKEST MINDS and followed Alex Bracken, I wouldn’t have found Sarah J. Maas, or Erin Bowman, or Susan Dennard — three of my other favourite writers of all time.)