This seems to be a popular meme these days, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ll try for ten, in no certain order, just as they come to me.
1. TUNNEL IN THE SKY – Robert A. Heinlein. My first real science fiction and it defined my personal reading habits for most of my teenage years. For that reason, it has always been my favorite of his books(though I love nearly all of them).
2. 1984 – George Orwell. I can’t explain it. It was a reading assignment in school, of course, and I recognized it was science fiction. It’s one of the handful of books I’ve read at least half a dozen times.
3. SHOGUN – James Clavell. Everyone seems to have this one on their list. It’s on mine for different reasons I think. In 1975, I saw this one and was interested. It was a very long book and I was hesitant at first. I finally tried it, loved it, and have never been put off by the length of a book since.
4. IN COLD BLOOD – Truman Capote. My senior year in high school the English teacher, Miss Barker, had a spinner rack of paperbacks in class for us to choose from for reading assignments. I tried this one, never having heard of Capote, liked it, and really mined grades from it. The Sociology teacher saw me with it and offered extra credit if I would give a talk on it in class. Woot! Two grades on one book. It was very good, too.
5.TOM SWIFT and THE HARDY BOYS – I include both series here as they really fueled my interest in reading when I was very young. Though they contained SF elements, I really considered the Tom Swift books as adventure.
6.THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS – H. R. R. Tolkien, My discovery of fantasy. Really involved worlds with a laid out history. It made them seem almost like I was reading something real. I knew they weren’t, though, just saying…
7. THE HUNTER – Richard Stark(Westlake). I’d never read a lot of Westlake before this one(under the title of the Mel Gibson movie, Payback), a shortcoming I’ve been rectifying ever since.
8. LONESOME DOVE – Larry McMurtry. The western that showed me that “horse operas” could be something more than shoot-’em-ups(not that there’s anything wrong with those), which led me to a lot of other great writers.
9. THE BIG SLEEP – Raymond Chandler. This is the novel that ramped up my love of the PI tale. I’ve long ago lost count of the number of different characters I’ve read and am always on the lookout for new ones.
10. SUBTERRANEAN – James Rollins. I love a good thriller and this man is responsible. I was working part-time in a Waldenbooks(the dream job for people like us) when an ARC of this one came in. It was Rollins’ first and I’ve since gone on to more writers in this vein.
I’ve noticed a distinct lack of literary authors on the list. I make no apologies for that. I’ve read them all, I think, both for reading assignments and enjoyment over the years, but influential…I don’t think so.
Finally, in looking back over the list, I could substitute another book for #9(what I have were off the top of my head). Both came along to me at about the same time. It was by a certain Mr. Spillane, but I think I’ll leave what I have listed.