I saw on Facebook a thing called the book bucket challenge, a takeoff on the ice bucket challenge. The idea is to list the 10 books that have influenced you the most. I’d have trouble coming up with my 10 because I’ve read so many books over the years and I don’t remember them all. But here are five that stand out.
Hunting for Hidden Gold: This Hardy Boys books was one of the first books I received from my mother who passed away when I was 12. I don’t remember my mother being a reader but it’s not necessarily something I would have noticed at that age. I actually received quite a few Hardy Boys books over the years and I still have them.
The Dynamite Flynns: Written by Leslie McFarlane, this is a book about two hockey playing brothers that I got as a kid. It was a book I had for a long time. It might be with the Hardy Boys at my sister’s house.
Great Apes: This was the first Will Self novel I read. I think it was 1997 when I bought it on a trip to Florida for a job interview. Up until that time, I was mostly a mystery reader. I had tried some literary fiction, but often was bored. I needed action. I needed a story to move in an obvious manner. I needed something solved. Reading about a slice of life, I just didn’t get the point. But reading Great Apes opened my eyes to other genres other than mysteries.
The Dreadful Lemon Sky: This Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald opened my eyes to what I call smart mysteries, novels that focus on character and observation as well as action or plot. I was 13 or 14 years old and I spent every weekend at the family cottage. Two young people — although I thought them old at the time — lived in an old run-down farm house nearby. We called them hippies because they matched the stereotypes. They didn’t work. In the summer, Randy would pick tobacco in Ontario, then live on EI or something through the winter. Often they weren’t up until mid-afternoon and stayed up all night. Or so it seemed. Randy took a look at my book and record collection and then started making some suggestions. The Dreadful Lemon Sky was one of those books. He said it was significantly better than any Ian Fleming novel I had been reading.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. This was a real challenge at the age of 13, or at least it was from me, but Randy considered it a must read. I still have his copy of the book all these years later. He also gave me a copy of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (That’s six books I can think of)
So how did these books influence me? Well, the books I got as a child simply opened my eyes to reading. It was fun to read. I enjoyed it. It’s something I still enjoy and look forward to doing on most days.
The last three books opened my mind to the power of books, how they could change your thinking or the way you viewed the world. Even if I didn’t agree with the author, I knew that there were other beliefs out there a lot different from what was in my own little world.
Great Apes made me realize books didn’t have to be easy reads. Great Apes was not an easy read. In fact, Will Self is not always an easy read, especially when the author is on record saying he doesn’t write for readers.
I’m sure there are many other books that had made an impact on me. I’ll do some thinking and see if I can come up with four more.