Like every other book lover out there, I was tagged in the 10 books that have stuck with me meme. Instead of giving just a quick list, I thought I’d provide a snippet of explanation for each selection. Plus I wanted to figure out why these particular books have kept their prime shelf space in the endless library in my heart.
Yes, I realize that this meme was just a way to gather information about the most popular books. (You can find the results here.) It’s still fun, and it still gets people talking about literature. In my book, that’s a win.
When creating my list, I realized how many of these novels had been made into movies. Of course I read ALL the books before watching the movie version. And strangely, many of the movie adaptations are on my favorite movie list, though the books were so much better (as always).
Also odd: none of the books are in the genre I write and read most often now, though I do still read varied genres. Figure that one out.
Most of these books stole my heart and captured my imagination while in I was in high school. Perhaps they are ingrained on my psyche because that was a time when I was so open to new experiences, when books blew my mind with radical new ideas and influenced my tastes even today.
So here’s my list, in no particular order:
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
It happened. They dropped the bomb. But for the residents of a small Florida town, their fight to survive has just begun… I read this one in high school English class just before the Berlin Wall crashed down. It seemed too real, too close to home, and my mind swirled with what if’s. It has haunted me forever.
Gone With the Wind by Margret Mitchell
I’ve been enamored with this 1032-page Civil War epic since the first time I opened my (now extremely worn) paperback cover when I was a mere twelve years old. History and romance walk hand-in-hand through the graceful plantations of the old South and the trials of war and Reconstruction. Scarlett is the original spunky heroine, and Rhett…I’ll love that sexy scoundrel forever.
It by Steven King
This book SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME. IT preyed upon children (and I was still a “child” when I read it). It got to them through their ordinary fears, which truly messed with my head. Yes, about 200 pages could have been trimmed from this tale, but I don’t think I’ll ever go to Maine—or go near a clown again. And then there’s the time my own father played the most
brilliant evil IT-related prank in the world on me (read about that one here.)
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Another one that scared me, and I loved every second of it. I can still picture myself reading this, curled up on the stinky couch in an apartment I shared with five international roommates the summer I interned at Disney. Fireworks exploded nearby, and the booms will forever sound like impact tremors. The blockbuster movie came out weeks later. Did I mention that I worked in The Pirates of the Caribbean ride? Figure out that connection.
Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles Book 1) by Anne Rice
Forget those silly sparkly, angst-filled creatures—this was my teen vampire read. I worshiped this series, fell in love with the brooding Louis and anti-hero Lestat, and dreamed of being changed over. Part historical novel, part horror, and fully entertaining, Rice’s vampire series will always be close to my beating heart. And then there’s the fact that I met my husband because of these books…
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
I was an odd teenage girl. Thanks to Clancy, I came to adore military thrillers and their mix of action, adventure, intelligence, and suspense. After reading this one, I caught up with all of the Jack Ryan series, and I’ve devoured each new release in since. But this is the one that started it all for me. Dasvidaniya.
Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
I think this was the first of Willie’s works I had to read in 9th grade English. It’s not necessarily my favorite (that would be Hamlet) but it was my first exposure to the beauty of his world and words. Then I had to memorize two of Juliet’s monologues for drama class, and they were such a challenge that I can still recite them today. I’d say that means the book stuck with me.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
I’m not even sure this is my favorite book by the amazing Isabel Allende, but this epic tale of a young woman’s perilous journey as she followed her love from Chile to Gold Rush San Francisco has stuck with me over the years. Once again, it tics off the key elements I’m now noticing draw me in: history, adventure, romance—and solid writing.
Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
Few No other books make me roar with laughter like Hiaasen’s. Though he’d been a savvy Miami Herald columnist for years, this was the novel that started it all. Laced with biting humor (literally—there’s a pissed off crocodile involved) it’s more a social and environmental commentary than an ordinary story. Carl had the balls to write about broke so many native Floridian’s hearts—our hatred for the obnoxious tourists and snowbirds, the crooked politicians who rule with dirty palms, and the rape and pillage of our natural world. And did I mention it’s funny?
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Don’t let this cover fool you. This is not a “beach read.” Not even close. This epic drama flashes from a piazza in Rome to a stormy beach house to the horrific memories of the Holocaust. Conroy’s settings are immersive, his prose drips with that lush Southern style, and his characters (both male and female) snare you in their complex web.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
I must have been about ten or so when I read this tale of about a young girl left behind on a lonely Pacific island and her fight for survival. I found the way she learned how to find food, shelter, and company fascinating. I wanted to be strong like her—while still enjoying the comforts of modern living, of course. I just passed along my copy to my 10-year-old son. He freaking loved it.
Ack! I just realized I’ve listed ELEVEN books. I’ve done the work, so I’m leaving them. (*Note: I was not a math major.) Just forget whichever one interested you the least.
Other runners up:
Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War
George Orwell’s 1984
and the list could go on and on…
How about you? What books have stuck with you over the years?