5 books...

I saw this topic on another message board, but thought it’d be fun to throw out here. What are the 5 books or poems that influenced you the most. These are not necessarily your FAVORITE books/poems of all time, but rather the ones that had the biggest impact on your literary tastes, and maybe even that helped define your work...

For me (in no particular order)...

Ginsberg, Howl & Other Poems
O’Hara, Collected Poems
Joyce, Portrait of the Artist…
Rimbaud, Illuminations
Blake, Songs of Innocence & Songs of Experience

But like I said, with the exception of O’Hara, I don't think any of these are among my “favorite” books/poems.

If we really want to get into it we can say how & why & what & etc. etc., but I'll save that for the thread.


Grendel said...

In terms of deeply sunk, never-get-it-out influence, I know my top ten, in chronological order (and therefore deepest first):

1. Lord of the Rings
2. The Chronicles of Narnia
3. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever
4. The Great Gatsby
5. Of Mice and Men
6. Breakfast of Champions
7. A Prayer For Owen Meany
8. Lolita
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude
10. Lonesome Dove

Now that I look at that list, there's no question in my mind that my novel is an attempted synthesis of these! I'm stunned, really.

Pete said...

Airships (You can do that?)
Jesus' Son (How'd he do that?)
Ham on Rye (If he can do that...)
Till We have Faces (I want to do that.)


Jane said...

Hard to narrow it down, but, in no particular order...

1. The Great Gatsby (Perfection in economy of language)

2. Anna Karenina (Perfection in total lack of economy of language)

3. The Hours (read during the awakening of my fiction writing self)

4. The Age of Innocence (Passion and emotion bleeding through utter restraint)

5. Gone With the Wind (A little embarrassing to admit, but at a young age, it taught me the power of fiction to recreate a whole living, breathing world -- the people, setting, culture, history, etc. A time machine between two covers.)

kclou said...

In no order. I realize now that I taught the first two this year. The first three made me really love language and the second two opened my mind to what people after 1960 were actually doing with it.

The Great Gatsby
Huck Finn
The Ginger Man

ian said...

1. "The Garden of Forking Paths"
2. The Sun Also Rises
3. Invisible Cities
4. White Noise/Underworld/Libra/The Names
5. The Stories of John Cheever/The Journals of John Cheever

Pete said...

I figured out the fifth one, but it's a story, not a book: Ralph Lombreglia's "Men Under Water." I read it in college, right when I started writing stories. It's a solid story, but the ending was what got me.

SER said...

Hmmm, I am not 100% sure, as perhaps I am, in the manner of a cult member, under the sway of something that haven't been able to detect yet, but here's a shot:

1. The End of the Affair - Graham Greene
2. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
3. Various Edgar Allan Poe stories (yep)
4. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace (both for what to do and what not to do)
5. The Quiet American - Graham Greene
6. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
7. The Code of the Woosters - PG Wodehouse
8. Decline & Fall - Evelyn Waugh
9. Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson

And I am currently v. much under the sway of The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, from which I believe I can learn a great deal.

From looking at my list, it is clear that I think British people are superior to American people. That accent - so charming and smart!

segall said...

What a great thread...

The Collected Stories of:
Saul Bellow
John Cheever
Mavis Gallant
Bernard Malamud
Flannery O'Connor

Also - The Information, Underworld, V.

Vampiro said...

Chronological Order (though I'll kick myself for forgetting something):

As I Lay Dying (the book that turned me from a promising career in aeronautical engineering into a career of little hope as a fiction writer)

Ginsburg's Howl

Some Collection of Garcia-Lorca I Had

The Brother's Karamazov

Jesus Son

bonus: Moby Dick

I only still love a few of these, but they all marked turning points.

Charlemagne said...

Looking back at the books I am putting on my list I see how some of them aren't very good. But this is the list and the reasons I think why. In no order...

Lord of the Rings: It made me want to make up worlds. I was young, and it was just so enormous in scope to my imagination.

On the Road: Writing can do this? Holy crap, how fun? And its not about robots or dwarves? Just so much energy and rebellion. Writing is not for school projects alone.

Howl by Ginsberg: Through Kerouac I find Howl. And I write my first poems and they are bad imitations of Ginsberg.

Strike Anywhere by Dean Young: Brings me into contemporary poetry. Saves me from a life of beat poets.Introduces me to the ways of the New York School (Ashbery, Koch, O'Hara) and the French surrelists.

The Collected Poems of Frank O'hara: It was indescribable. The immediacy, the skill to make the language seem so casual, and yet so beautiful.

Norton Post-Modern American poetry: So many ways to write poems!

Wordsworth's Prelude: I have no idea why. It just did.

PJKM said...

1. The Chalet School books of Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

2. Katherine Mansfield's stories, especially the New Zealand ones

3. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

4. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

5. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

TLB said...

Hmm...is it coincidence that Grendel and I have such similiar taste?

1. Little House on the Prairie books (NOT the craptacular Michael Landon TV series)
2. The Outsiders
3. Lord of the Rings
4. Cat's Cradle
5. Housekeeping
6. Sometimes a Great Notion
7. Lolita
8. A Prayer for Owen Meany
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude
10. Time Will Darken It

TLB said...

I LOVE Delta Wedding, PJKM...too bad there wasn't more room on the list, because she would definitely be on it.

Nate said...

chris's post reminded me i should have added dean's strike anywhere. and for all the same reasons.