Books That Shape Us

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.  ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Can you date new eras in your life based on pivotal books?  I can.  In fact, I could go on and on, so I'll break this into two posts.  One today and one tomorrow.

Here is elementary to senior year of high school . . . If you don't want to read my explanations, that's fine, but enjoy the covers.  I tried to find the ones that I owned/borrowed/read wherever possible.  There are links to more information about the books themselves, in case you are interested in any of them!


Kipling's Just So Stories I used to be put to bed at 8:00 every night, without fail - regardless of the time of year.  This annoyed me - especially in the summertime.  I began reading to myself at this point by the waning light of the sun streaming into my window from the West.  I remember one of the first books I enjoyed during this time was Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories.  I was around 7 or 8.

Keene's Nancy Drew & The Triple Hoax I read all of the Nancy Drew paperbacks from #57-#83, until I grew out of them.  It crushed me a little later in life to realize that "Caroline Keene" didn't really exist, that "she" wasn't a she - or not a single female author, anyway, but a series of men and women ghostwriters.  But I got over it, and I've loved mysteries ever since.  I was between 8 and 11 while reading these.

Murdock's Web of the Romulans My brothers knew I was a Star Trek addict, despite having only watched these shows in re-run (I was too young, of course, to catch them during their original airings.)  One Christmas, one of my brother's gave me a Star Trek novel.  I had NO IDEA that there were such things!  Thus began my intense love of reading science fiction.  This was also my first "adult" book - meaning, not a children's or young adult book.  I was probably around 11 when I read it.

L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time To be honest, I can't recall when I first read this extremely pivotal book, but, since I've read it probably twenty times since, it scarcely matters.  This book is amazing in every possible way.  I recommend it to all - young and old.  My senior high school English teacher told me that she read it first when she was thirty years old, and she read it again each year afterwards, and found something new in it each time.  I couldn't agree more.

Shakespeare's Hamlet: Prince of Denmark:  Hands down my favorite Shakespeare play.  Why?  Probably because when I first read it back in high school, I could somehow relate to the prince's angst and tendency to over think things to the point of inaction.  I've since changed.  Now I tend to act before I think.  Whoops.

Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead:  High school, senior year - a companion piece of Hamlet, of course.  Once my novel, The Time Minders, makes it big, you will appreciate two of my villains of the book, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are equal parts the R & G of Shakespeare & Stoppard, with Agent Smith of The Matrix thrown in for good measure.  But R & G are Dead introduced me to farcical literature, and its one of the best in that sub-genre.

Herbert's Dune Again, this is one of those books that I've reread so many times, I no longer recall exactly when I read it the first time.  High school, but not sure when.  I reread it once a year.  It is the gold-standard for sci-fi world-building.  My favorite scene in it is when Paul runs into Gurney again after years of being presumed dead.  Beautiful.

Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night If you haven't read this vampire novel, do it.  It is intelligent, historically-informative, and not at all oversexed or glittery.  (I do like me some glittery vampires, but I fell in love with Don Simon Ysidro before I ever met Edward Cullen.)

Golding's Lord of the Flies If you think The Hunger Games is harsh, you haven't read anything yet!  Check out this classic; it'll chill you to the bone.  And, you won't turn your back on a group of manic teenagers ever again, that's for sure.  Read this one senior year: what a send-off, I'll tell you.

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