As a lifelong bookworm — and now English professor — I found narrowing down the books that have most defined me a Herculean task. But I am always up for a challenge.
There’s a book challenge going around various social media sites right now that requires you to list the 10 books that have affected you the most. Here at Hypable, we’re kicking off our own version of the challenge. While we may be doing only five books, we’re also going to tell you why they affected us — and maybe we can convince you to read them, too.
There are numerous other books that could (or perhaps should) have made this list, from The Boxcar Children series, which were the first chapter books I ever read on my own, and The Wheel on the School by by Meindert DeJong, which I read and reread countless times in elementary school, to some of my more recent loves like The Hunger Games trilogy, anything by Rainbow Rowell, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
That being said, I have narrowed my list down to five influential tomes.
‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ by J.K. Rowling
The entire Harry Potter series has been hugely influential in my life, but I’m shining a spotlight on Prisoner of Azkaban because it is not only my favorite of the series, but also the first one that I read. When I was in sixth grade (am I dating myself?), my grandmother sent me a copy — one that is now very well loved — of Prisoner of Azkaban, saying she had seen the author on television and hoped I hadn’t read it yet. I hadn’t. However, I quickly fell in love for reasons Potter fans have spoken about for years and went on to devour the first and second books in the series, as they were the only ones out. And the rest, they say, is history.
My grandmother passed away a couple of years after that, so that well-loved hardcover on my bookshelf is a lasting connection to her that is immensely powerful.
‘The Magic Pudding’ by Norman Lindsay
The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and His Friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff represents my childhood literacy. This delightful children’s book takes place in Australia and tells the story of a cantankerous, everlasting pudding owned by three companions — a koala, a sailor, and a penguin — who must defend it against Pudding Thieves.
While the book is incredibly charming, my love of it stems from the experience that surrounded it. Before I could read, my mother read to me at bedtime every night. And the book I requested more than any other was, you guessed it, The Magic Pudding. It was being enthralled by magical tales at a young age that shaped me into becoming a reader. I think it’s safe to say that I would not be teaching English right now if not for this book.
‘Pride and Predjudice’ by Jane Austen
Though far from the first classic I ever read, Pride and Prejudice is easily my favorite. Witty and sarcastic, Elizabeth Bennet is immensely relatable as well as inspirational. The core of the story — the developing relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy — is one that strikes a chord with me; romances based on characters who verbally spar and challenge each other to be better human beings before falling in love are my kryptonite.
Pride and Prejudice may not have changed my life, but it’s the literary equivalent of a warm blanket and hot chocolate on a cold winter day.
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
Long before A Song of Ice and Fire was on my radar, there was The Sword of Truth series. This epic series follows Richard Cypher, a woods guide who becomes the Seeker of Truth, a position that obliges him to uphold justice in the world. During the 11-book series, Richard discovers his heritage and taps into powers he didn’t know he had, all while protecting the world of the living alongside his mentor, Zedd, and his companion-turned-lover, Kahlan.
The Sword of Truth series helped bring my love of the fantasy genre into adulthood. It opened my teenage eyes to the fact that there were fantasy books out there aimed at an older audience than I had been reading — a maturation that was hugely influential to my reading habits as an adult. While I still read my fair share of young adult literature, there’s something immensely satisfying to this old lady about reading about adults exploring a fantasy world rather than teenagers.
‘A Star Called Henry’ by Roddy Doyle
A Star Called Henry is the first in the Last Roundup trilogy, which follows main character Henry Smart in early 20th-century Ireland. Over the course of the trilogy, Henry joins the IRA, takes part in the War of Independence and becomes acquainted with a number of historical figures.
I first read this book in an Irish Literature class in college and immediately fell in love. Henry is a fascinating, perhaps uncomfortably likable character who does some pretty brutal things and realizes too late that what he’s doing is not for the greater good after all. Following Henry’s journey opened my eyes to what is actually possible in terms of exploring character in fiction, particularly protagonists. After spending most of my life reading books about likable people doing heroic things, Henry’s story was a complete 180, which has helped my reading choices evolve into something richer.
Hypable Staff Challenge:
Find out what books define the other members of the Hypable staff who have taken this challenge:
– Natalie Fisher
– Karen Rought
– Jen Lamoureux
– Marama Whyte
– Pamela Gocobachi
– Kristen Kranz
– Brittany Lovely
– Mitchel Clow