I wanted to post about something reading related, seeing as I’m currently tackling my stack of to-be-reads and as it was something I hadn’t touched on in a while.
Some books you can’t help but be influenced by. We all have our favourites – the ones we re-read over and over again which we can’t forget. When a book makes an impact on me like this, it always makes me realise how much I still have to learn about writing. Whether it’s the way in which the characters have grabbed me, the finesse of the plot or even just the way the novel has been written, I always take something away from reading books like these.
This is a rundown of my top five influential books, starting from the earliest to the latest I’ve read.
1. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. I cannot say enough about this YA series. It was incredible when I first read it, and it’s still incredible so many years later. This was one of the first novels I read which had dystopian elements, along with the extreme focus on beauty. I loved the way Westerfeld built up his dystopian society around Tally, and how her own life revolved around it. The characters were amazing and the pacing was perfect on all three books. Though I didn’t favour the fourth spin-off, Extras, as much as the original trilogy, it was still another great read from Scott Westerfeld. After this I collected most of his novels, and I’ve loved pretty much all of them. The Uglies series is the embodiment of dystopian YA done right. It’s what I myself aspire to achieve.
2. The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. Wait. Before you call me every name under the sun and swear never to read my blog again, let me explain. I read this when it first came out in 2005, when I was in my teens. Hardly anybody had heard of it, though by the time I’d finished it, I had convinced most of my friends to read it too. The reason why this was influential to me was that it showed me how one novel could completely capture my thoughts. I fell in love with the characters and plot, and although I don’t share that insane enthusiasm for it now, I can’t completely hate the series. When I was younger, it honestly reached me and made me think. I even started writing fan-fiction about it, which was one of my first ventures into more than a few pages of creative writing. It was the beginning of a long road. I can’t help but be grateful for that.
3. 1984 by George Orwell. This blew my mind. It was sophisticated, developed, dystopian and political – it was the book I had been searching for without knowing it was everything I wanted. Similar to Uglies, I was fascinated with the way Orwell’s world had been built around Winston, how he fought against his totalitarian society and his overall struggle to change. The post-modernist end was amazing. I didn’t expect it at all, and I think Orwell gave us a truthful ending. I loved this book, and for a long while after, I shaped my own writing around it.
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. When I’d begun to move away from my obsession with 1984 and dystopia, this came along and made me even more devoted to the genre. The violence and brutality of the novel was strangely beautiful. The way Collins made you feel for the characters and drew you into the world – and arena itself – was a fantastic experience. I devoured this book; I couldn’t help but sing its praises. Once again, this was YA dystopia done utterly right. My one disappointment, as I couldn’t help blogging about when it released last summer, was Mockingjay. The plot wasn’t up to the standards I had expected after the brilliance of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. People had mixed reactions on this final novel, so while I’m glad some people loved it, the novel just didn’t sit well with me.
5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I read this last year, and it officially replaced 1984 as one of my favourite novels. Recently, I finished reading one of her earlier works, The Fountainhead, and wasn’t disappointed. Again, I blogged about this soon after I finished it. The first thing which I loved about this book was the prose. It was a style of writing which I had come only to expect in poetry. To me, it seemed beautiful, intricate, delicate, and despite the overuse of punctuation in some places, I fell in love with it. Then I fell in love with the characters. Rand had me completely under her spell; I loved every part of her plot and the way the novel unfolded. I was amazed at how interwoven it was. Her scenes always found a way to link in later, something which wasn’t quite developed with The Fountainhead. There is a reason Atlas Shrugged is said to be her greatest work. Rand has writing down to an art form in this, and it changed my entire perspective for a time. It made me realise what qualities I should strive for in myself and what standards I should set. This novel honestly inspired me. It’s the closest book I’ve ever read to being perfect.
The reason these novels influenced me and my writing so much is how they drew me into the novel itself. They gave me characters I loved, they made me feel, they took me along the plot as if I myself were experiencing it. No matter how varied they might be, each one of these novels taught me something about writing and what I wanted to achieve in a novel as a writer. Though I may have grown apart from some of the novels now, I’ll always hold a small affinity for them. You never forget your favourites.
What novels or series have influenced you over the years?