Six books that inspired me to become a writer

There are books you read that are good, and you put them down and walk away. Then there are books that you read that you want to devour, to keep with you always.

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Books so wonderful that when you come to the last word, you rise, stretch, and then read them again. The following books are so well written and so beautifully composed that they inspired me to write.

1) A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

If you have never read Christopher Moore’s work, you are missing something wonderful and rare. The Author Guy, as he calls himself, is funny, really funny. But there’s something more, especially with A Dirty Job. This book got me through the death of my mother. It’s hilarious and silly and touching and emotional and gorgeous, in every possible way. It doesn’t hurt that Christopher Moore is also a really nice guy, who takes time to respond to his readers and maintains his humility even in the face of his enormous popularity. A Dirty Job is a perfect book.

2) Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

For those of you familiar with The Talisman, you know Jack Sawyer as a child, who enters a terrible and fantastic land to save his mother. In Black House, Jack is an adult, a retired police officer now living in a small Midwestern town, fighting his own past, and dealing with a terror that mimics a decades old serial killer. This is King and Straub at their best. Don’t read this in the dark.

3) Ulysses by James Joyce

Is Ulysses a tough read? Hell yes. Is it worth it? Oh yes. Joyce is a poet of the first magnitude, using syntax never seen before, forcing words to go in directions you’d never imagine. Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s protagonist in Ulysses is everything you could ask for in a literary character, and is commonly thought of as a harsh self portrait of Joyce in his twenties. You may not get through it in one sitting, or even five, but you will be forever moved by Joyce’s words.

4) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Set in the early 1960’s, The Help details the lives of African American maids working in Mississippi. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan aspires to be a writer, and she comes up with a brave and crazy idea: interview the maids in her small Mississippi town. Minny and Aibileen are the two most prominent characters in The Help, and you follow them to work, to church, you watch with horror as they are discriminated against time and time again, and you weep for the pain they endure. This is an astonishing first work, and Kathryn Stockett tells the story of Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter with great power and talent.

5) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This is a book from my childhood that I read over and over again. The story of Francie Nolan, her family and her struggles is one of the most touching ever written. You discover Katie, Francie’s pragmatic mother, trying to raise Francie and her brother, Neely, in abject poverty, without ever letting them know they are poor. Francie’s father, Johnny, is so handsome and debonair; he sings to Francie and to her, he is magic. Johnny is tragically flawed and Francie, even at the young age of eleven, realizes that there is something different about her family. The sights, sounds and yes, even smells of early 20th century Brooklyn breathe life into one of the most profoundly touching books ever composed.

6) No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men introduces readers to one of the most evil characters in literary history, Anton Chigurh. Anton is a hit man, tracking down missing money from a drug deal gone bad. His favorite weapon is a captive bolt pistol, he speaks philosophically about life and death, and never shows emotion. He is a killing machine, with eyes as “blue as lapis…Like wet stones.” Sheriff Ed Tom Bell serves as narrator, a WWII veteran who has seen a lot, but has never seen the violence Anton Chigurh brings with him wherever he goes. The film adaptation of No Country for Old Men won four Academy Awards, including best picture. The book is better.

Do you have a book that inspires you, which you read over and over again? If you do, please share it with MMA!

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Posted by on January 7, 2012. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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14 Responses to Six books that inspired me to become a writer

  1. Michael John Scott

    January 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve read all of these books at one time or another and agree with the author’s assessment. I would like to add Stephen King’s little “On Writing.” It’s a humorous little book that taught me more about the art than two university degrees.

    • Erin N.

      January 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      I’ve read that! You’re absolutely correct-excellent and funny book.

  2. Collin Hinds

    January 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for that, Erin. I’ll put No Country and Dirty Job on my list. Anyone who has made it through Ulysses is a better person than I. I’ve tried it a few times and can’t seem to make it past page 50.

  3. russwinn

    January 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Wow, every one of these is on my list. Including On Writing. I would add Christoper Moore’s Lamb, and Fool as well as King’s Duma Key.

    Otherwise books that I read repeatedly include 1984, Lord of the Flies, and Night.

    Excellent post.

    • Erin N.

      January 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Duma Key is fantastic. I bought it to read on a plane, and couldn’t put it down.

  4. Larry M

    January 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I love Moore’s collection, but I would say that I’ve read Lamb a dozen times and it hasn’t changed my mine on the book.
    Also Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels are amazing. Also if you haven’t checked it out try “Breathers” and the Percy Jackson series. The Greek mythology in the Jackson series amazed me, he took the time to try to teach kids along with writing a great. Book

  5. russwinn

    January 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    And if you liked No Country for Old Men, absolutely take a look at The Road. I can’t read it regularly; it’s too harsh, but it’s excellent.

  6. Les Millman

    January 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I agree The Lamb is wonderfully, however I prefer The Talisman to Black House. I also have read Dreamcatcher over and over. Never could deal with Joyce or Buck

  7. Jennifer

    January 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Very nice list. “a Dirty Job” is my favorite Christopher Moore book, and I agree with others on Stephen King’s “On Writing”. I have an old copy of “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”, 1943, it says Blakiston on the dust jacket, published by Harper and Brothers, and it has a message from Betty Smith on the back encouraging people to buy war bonds. I’m embarrassed to say I bought it because it was a beautiful book, but you have inspired me to actually read it! Thanks for that.

    • Erin N.

      January 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Jennifer-That’s a rare find. Keep it close!

  8. Gretchen Cassidy

    January 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I also count ‘A Dirty Job’ and ‘Lamb’ among my favorites and multiple reads. But I would also have to include ‘Watership Down’, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, ‘The Street’ by Ann Petry and the Stieg Larsson trilogy. Then there are also Stephen Kings short stories, namely ‘The Body’, imortalized in film as ‘Stand By Me’.

  9. David Rice

    January 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Thank you, Erin!

  10. Michael John Scott

    January 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I also loved “A Boy’s Life” along with pretty much everything Peter Straub, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, most of the classics, and lots more….Another extraordinary read is “Timbuktu.”

  11. Jess

    January 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    For me it is Hitchhiker’s Guide, The Tao of Pooh. I have read these I cannot tell you how many times. Black Beauty too and All Creatures Great and Small. I wanted to be a vet when I was little and the ‘rental units got me all kinds of animal related stories. My favorite book though is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, can never put that one down.