The “ten books that have stayed with me” meme

Because over on facebook friends have been doing this (some tagging me, some just leaving it for anyone who wants to join in), and because apparently once I start talking about books that have touched my life, I go on at more length than facebook is comfortable with. (Facebook’s definition of TMI having nothing to do with content and everything to do with number of characters.)

In your status line (hah!) list 10 novels that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be “right” or “great” books, just the ones that have touched you.”

1. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle (Can see the book’s flaws now, but still love its sense of hope that the awful things that haven’t happened don’t have to happen)

2. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle (Because I was Meg, and also because I needed to know there were Calvins in the world)

3. Arm of the Starfish, Madeleine L’Engle (“It’s the fall of the sparrow I care about. But who’s the sparrow? We run into problems there, too.”)

4. The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley (Because Harimad-sol)

5. The Empire Strikes Back novelization (This was my entry into the Star Wars universe, a lifetime love of SFF, and a whole lot of fanfiction that helped me become the writer I am)

6. Feed, M. T. Anderson (Most depressing book I ever … not sure loved is the right word here. But.)

7. Eye of the Heron, Ursula K. Le Guin (Shifted my understanding of non-violence and what it really is)

8. Tam Lin, Pamela Dean (Because I argued and argued with this book, and the results of those arguments have informed my own work)

9. Moonheart, Charles de Lint (Part of my introduction to urban fantasy)

10. War for the Oaks, Emma Bull (The other part of my introduction to urban fantasy)

7 thoughts on “The “ten books that have stayed with me” meme”

    1. The short version is that they had to do with being uneasy with the book’s disdain for mundanes (I was in college, and had loved finding my own people, but the book helped me begin to realize that not everyone worthwhile needed to be part of my people, even as I desperately wanted Tina to find new roommates who were worthy of her) and the book’s disdain for the sciences (as a smart, literary sort of college student with a second major in biology who loved hanging out and talking books with engineers I’d already rejected the dichotomy between the arts and sciences).

      I should say it’s been years since I read it, so I’ve no idea if both those threads were as strong as I remember them being at the time.

      What are your conflicted feelings about the book?

      1. I think my main problem was that it seems like a very utopian, idealized view of college. Everyone seems to make friends very smoothly and easily with whoever happens to be in the vicinity at the time, and as a person who struggled with finding the right social group in freshman year, I feel like it doesn’t take the inevitable shyness of many literary types into account. Given the obvious target audience, I feel like acknowledging that difficulty–which seems pretty universal among my more introverted college friends–would have been nice. The struggle to find people is even harder when you feel like everyone else around you makes friends at the drop of a hat, and you can end up feeling like there must be something wrong with you. And there was an odd sort of academic sectarianism going on. 90% of my college friends are STEM majors (because I dance Argentine tango and most tango dancers seem to be STEM people–which certainly says something about their much-maligned ability to be creative and appreciate beautiful things) so that’s a bit odd too.

        I enjoyed the book a lot, though, and weirdly the lack of plot coherency didn’t bug me at all. I still reread it occasionally, because I love the prose and I love finding new quotes I didn’t recognize before. Plus, Classics major jokes! I’ve discovered that they’re pretty funny when you’re studying Classics!

        1. And it seems like the very disdain the characters have for those not like them would probably make those who do have that shyness even less comfortable …

          And yes, in my experience most STEM types (though we didn’t call it STEM when I was in school) seem to have other, not necessarily science related, interests as well, because they’re just folks who are, well, interested in the world. I’ve met far more humanities majors who disdain the sciences than science majors who disdain the humanities … hmm, maybe the book _is_ true to life, in that sense.

          And it’s been pointed out to me that if you assume Janet is an unreliable narrator, the problematic elements seem less prescriptive.

          Have you read the Secret Country books? They have much of the same loveliness of prose, without (for me as a reader, ymmv) the same problematic elements. They also wound up on the above list, too, except I stopped at ten. 🙂

          1. Yeah, I know a physics grad student who adores French poetry, for instance. And of course some who are astonishingly fantastic dancers. I’m not sure what the issue is that people in humanities have with scientists. Maybe they haven’t talked to enough of them and instead get their images from The Big Bang Theory?

            Actually, Janet as an unreliable narrator–possibly a nostalgic one, remembering the highlights of college–would make a lot of things a lot more sensible. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before. 😛 Because it DOES seem like a nostalgic, boiled-down experience, only full of people the narrator has some kind of connection to, and ignoring a lot of other things. Memories sometimes skip over a lot of things, and get the details a little wrong in favor of getting the overall story right.

            I love the Secret Country books. 😀 I read them out loud to my little sister when we were kids, because they are AMAZING books to read out loud (pretty sure it directly spawned her Shakespeare phase, which, in a preteen, is an awesome phase to have). They’re the reason I picked up Tam Lin, too. I’m never quite sure what makes Pamela Dean’s prose work so well, but whatever it is, it’s awesome.

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