Picking five books that influenced me as a writer is impossible, but fortunately Susan and Angie have covered a lot of my favorites, so I’ve picked five books that have taught me something specific about writing.
1) The House at Pooh Corner, Now We are Six, When We Were Very Young, all by A. A. Milne, and all three are memorable. These were read to me as a child and I loved the beautiful language, the rhythm and rhyme, and the touching characters.
2) Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, was my favorite book in fourth grade. It moved me from little kid books to middle grades. I was transported to a foreign place and kept me there for two weeks while my mother and read it every night at bedtime. When it was done we both cried.
3) James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl, was a book I loved so much I had to read it aloud. I carried it around and read from it while my mother cooked dinner and I read it to my little brother before he went to bed. It was full of weird characters that were very edgy compared to my white bread world, and over the top language that begged to be heard.
4) I Am Regina, by Sally M. Keehn, was the first book I read that made me want to write a novel. I had made a previous attempt at early chapter books, which hadn’t worked out, so writing was not really on my mind at the time. One day I sat down to read I Am Regina to see if it would be a good historical fiction for my sixth grade, and I became so involved I read it all in one sitting. I vividly remember saying to my son that I wanted to write a book that was as good. I’ve never attempted historical fiction, which is kind of funny, or maybe understandable.
5) Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, was the first YA book I read that made me want to write current YA. I had the same experience with Speak as I did with I Am Regina. I read it in one sitting and I knew I wanted to write YA.
I do write YA and I continue to read, but it’s different now. It takes a little work to get lost in a story. I too often find myself reading like a writer, rewriting something for the author, or guessing at the climax and spoiling the end of the book. Still, I think the books I read as a child, and the books read to me have made a lasting impression.