Meme: The Ten Books That Most Influenced Me

Via Patti Abbot’s blog (and a bunch of others) AKA a swift post as I rush through last minute things:

Alice in Wonderland: the book of my life, the set me up for a lifetime of absurdity and nonsense — and wonder;

Mary Poppins: ditto — the books have little to do with the wretchedly painful Disney version (of COURSE), but I read ALL of them; magic without the twee fluff;

Shrieks at Midnight: gave me a taste for the macabre at a very young age, which has never changed either;

Beowulf: read with Njal’s Saga in Stephen Mitchell’s course and literally changed my life — grad school, academia, a whole new level of writing inspired;

The Books of Blood: fearless imagination, bold writing, horror inside out;

Lucky Jim: One of the first books that both touched on my love/hate relationship with academia and made me laugh so hard that I cried;

The Bloody Chamber: Fearless writing, grotesque and beautiful, infinitely inspiring;

Pride and Prejudice: The genius, sheer genius of her observation, the rapier intensity of her wit, the horrible weight of her knowledge;

Waiting for Godot: hilarious and painfully sad, not a wasted word in the text, the ultimate in efficient writing;

The Dagenham Dialogues: funniest damn thing ever; that they live on the page without the impeccable delivery of Cook and Moore is miraculous wonder.

In half an hour, I would give totally different answers, but at this moment, with these things sifting around my brain and writing furiously, these are the ones…


  1. A few here and completely new to me–as I would have expected from your original mind. I will go check them out and add your link.

  2. K. A. Laity says:

    Thanks, Patti! Hope they inspire. I would already add at least another ten I "forgot" (I did slip Njal in there as well which has the same status as Beowulf). So many wonderful books…Where are Marlowe, Shakespeare, Wilde, Behn, Nin…?!

  3. The Queen says:

    Oh, we share Alice in Wonderland, but now I have 9 new books to read!

  4. K. A. Laity says:

    Vonnegut Vonnegut Vonnegut!!!!

  5. K. A. Laity says:

    @QoE — make sure you get a good translation of Beowulf and NOT the Heaney-wulf.

  6. K. A. Laity says:

    Peter Pan! Oh, this is senseless — I could easily make a list of 100 and still not be scratching much more than the surface…

  7. K. A. Laity says:

    One more: The October Country (though of course Something Wicked This Way Comes is just about equal..). Argh! Jane Eyre! STOP now!

  8. George says:

    Love LUCKY JIM! Yes, it's an impossible task to list only 10 books that most influenced you. But the constraint illuminates what books you really found important (at that moment). I'm impressed with the diversity of the lists Patti is linking us to!

  9. K. A. Laity says:

    Oddly enough, I became a medievalist after reading LUCKY JIM. LOL! Wouldn't have guessed that possible. I'm in the midst of reading the Amis bio(ish) LUCKY HIM and it's making me want to re-read again. Thanks for dropping by, George.

  10. I'd like to add these as they were my formative reading matter:Robin Hood……Henry GilbertTreasure Island..R. L. StevensonCollected Ghost Stories..M. R. JamesPeter Pan…..J. M. BarrieLe Mort D'Arthur..Sir Thomas MalloryThe Arabian Nights..Sir Richard Burton (trans.)And last but never least…..Beowulf.. Translated by Burton RaffelAnd could I EVER go on………………

  11. George says:

    The Amis letters are worth reading, too, Kate. He and Philip Larkin were politically incorrect in many of them, but sharp and witty always. It's a whale of a book, but it will provide you with hours of amusement and pleasure. Great for dipping into from time to time!

  12. K. A. Laity says:

    Absolutely! I have read excerpts and as much as I'm sure the two of them would have hated me listening in, I do look forward to reading what's available in their correspondence. Fascinating stuff!

  13. K. A. Laity says:

    Oh, and Jack — I approve of the Raffel translation! Nicely done.

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