My girl, Melody, tagged me in a new post to come up with 10 books that either shaped me or really speak to who I am as a person. After a lot of consideration, I think I have the perfect list. Surprisingly though, this was much harder to figure out than I thought it would be.
I almost went with simply self-indulgent stuff, but unfortunately the things I really like are harder to come by in that regard, and I still have a long list of recommendations I haven’t read yet. So I can’t properly add them here… Yet. But anyway, I hope you enjoy this!
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I wanted to kick off the list with one of the first books that caught me completely off-guard and enraptured me as a child. Bud, Not Buddy is the tale of a young boy who goes on a journey to find himself and maybe even his family. The story is full of musical history, wild characters, and all through the lens of a child not quite old enough yet to fully understand the world he’s stumbled into. When I was a kid, this story made me want to go on my own journey. There weren’t enough books back then for kids that used jazz and blues as the setting and starred a person of color. Bud is charming and sweet, but the writing is more layered than that. I was able to glean, even as a child, that this world was full of a lot of struggle.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
I admire Virginia Woolf in many ways, but most of all for what she gave me with this book/essay. It’s a reflective, imaginative piece about where a woman’s place in the world was, and how it could change if only we were given the space to grow and express ourselves freely. I’ve always written and always created in art – in various forms. Without many women in my immediate life to call my superheroes, when I read this in high school I felt something pluck at my chest that hadn’t before. Woolf spoke directly to my fragile soul and told me to be someone for my art and for myself. I’ve been trying to every since.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
I’m a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings, and in that regard Beddor’s twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, brings me so much joy every time I read it. It’s what Fanfiction writers aspire to. His form is so easy to get through, you never feel labored by the action or dialogue. My view of Alice (Alyss) and her friends will never be the same. I don’t entirely remember how I fell into this trilogy, but I’m so happy I did. Not only does it hit every note for me in plot, character development and action, but it’s given me inspiration in my own writing. Not to mention, Hatter Madigan is both goals and rigid fiction-boyfriend material!
The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
It took me a while to read this play. Like most high school students, I was exposed to transcendentalism, and with that Thoreau. Regardless of if Thoreau was the man the playwrights fantasized about, the Thoreau in this play was charming and humorous. “Thoreau”‘s wit made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The transitions between his life before and his time in the cell were so magically executed. It was what you would want it to be for a man so disconnected and philosophically stubborn about the world around him. It rings true to my days as a fine arts and literature student, hitting all the right notes of intrigue and entertainment along the way. I have a small reading-kink for plays (as well as going to them), so this especially fits the list.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Didion always just gets me. As someone who has spent countless hours stringing together some tenuous memories to form a full essay or two, that pulls together the elements of my journalism background, Didion does it all better than I ever could. There is no envy in that statement, however. She does what I want to do, and she pushes me to do it better. Slouching Towards Bethlehem was recommended to me by a fellow journalism-friend back in college. The moment I finished the first essay in the collection, I was immediately hooked. I fell in love with her ability to weave together memories with this formal, masculine-tinged writing that accompanies so many trained journalists before her. If I can muster even an ounce of this collection in my own writing, I’ll be forever happy.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read The Great Gatsby in high school (and no, I haven’t watched the movie). The thing about Gatsby and his parties is so much more than an aesthetic, and those who cling to the bombastic outer-appearance of this lifestyle of the 20s misses the point of the novel entirely. Fitzgerald was one of my favorite authors during the time I read this novel. it gives me the thrills of the glitz and glam of this era, while pulling together the elements of isolationism and obsessions with sex that aroused so many during this “rebellious phase” of American fashion and lifestyle. To say I wouldn’t want to be transported to the 20s briefly to experience this novel is a lie, but perhaps for different reasons than what DiCaprio inspired.
The Art of Tim Burton by Tim Burton and Leah Gallo
When we talk about “#MyBrand”, I can’t not talk about this art collection. I have always been drawn to graphic detailing and line-work when it comes to the designs I build for this site, for example, and others. But what I always gravitate towards in my own personal art journals is something much more abstract and nontraditional in form. When this book came out, I got it as soon as I could, and I still tear through the pages of this whenever I need inspiration. It’s full of a history of Burton’s art – some sweet sentiments about the people in his life and past – and behind-the-scenes of his greatest works in film. What Burton has taken from art and inspired through his own work is unmatched. And the goth kid in me from middle school and high school will always have an affinity for his weird, no matter what fashion I take on in the future.
Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 2 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis
I was originally going to do Their Eyes Were Watching God for this part of the list, but I decided to go more pop culture! I read through a lot of Scooby Apocalypse because it was actually available at my library. The second volume, in particular, is my favorite. The artwork in this is immaculate and so appropriate for the genre/twist of an apocalyptic story. The characters contain most of their known mannerisms but are set in a much more realistic dialogue and tone. The universe involves weird zombie/monster creatures everywhere, the Mystery Machine is a means of survival, and the crew don’t always trust each other or get along. In fact, they are always incredibly aware of the roles they place in the current state of the world, or at the very least what they have done to survive. This volume really circles around Velma’s own reckoning, while highlighting her ingenue. Plus, I was already drawn to her character, and then we get a moment of her dolled up in very awesome armor leading the monsters’ army as an evil ruler. What more could I ask for?
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) by Lemony Snicket
I wanted to slip in another children’s book in here, because I still speak so highly of this series and what it really does for children’s lit. A Series of Unfortunate Events is a 13-parter. If you didn’t already know. By now, some of you are watching the Netflix show, which I recommend to everyone, but getting the chance to really read these books is an experience all on its own. What this book represented for me as a child came in two parts:
The recognition of how undervalued a child’s voice really is to adults around them. No matter what the incredibly intelligent Baudelaires said, the adults always thought they knew better. Spoiler: They never did.
The high value on education. This story shows three children (and particularly the two that aren’t a toddler) who are incredibly intelligent and value learning, reading and investigating. On top of these skills, the book regularly shows adults using bigger vocabulary than the preset age-range of the series. But each time, Snicket will have someone else ask what the word means – usually the child – and the adult gives the answer. Or sometimes another Baudelaire knows it over the other. This really heightens a reader’s vocabulary as a child. And as someone who adores what books can provide to children, and what books afforded me as a child, this meant so much as a kid and even more as an adult. It’s also why I love that the Netflix series does this so often.
The books are full of mystery, frustration, humor, intellect and an intriguing Burton-esque darker world that I think was part of the reason why I slipped so easily into darker fiction later in life.
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
Finally I’m going to make mention of The Wicked + The Divine. A friend recently loaned me her copy (I need to get this back to you, I’m sorry!) as a “Goodreads giveaway” when I lamented I hadn’t won one yet. It was such a sweet gesture, and I’m so happy I got the chance to read through this act of the story. I still need to get my hands on volume 2. This is “#MyBrand” especially because of the dynamic women, the appeal to extremism in fandom life, and the ways this story juxtaposes celebrity god-complexes with atheistic society. We see so many who idolize them on stage and fall for their powers, but we also see just as many naysayers who liken them to just a gimmicky spectacle pushed out by the pop industry. It really raises the question: Would we be able to recognize a god/goddess if they were really right in front of us? The art is beautiful, and I would marry Luci.
I hope you enjoyed my list! Let me know if you’ve read any of these or are interested in them.
Tag: Whoever wants to play!