Book Meme: 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

10 books that have stayed with me in some way:

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
3. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
4. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
6. The Quartered Sea by Tanya Huff
7. Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey
8. Shade and Shadow by Francine G. Woodbury
9. The Truth by Terry Pratchett
10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This list is pretty heavy on fantasy novels, and that is primarily the genre I read in. I also read a lot of YA fantasy, the genre I write in, but a list of my favourite YA would look like this:

1. Everything Tamora Pierce ever wrote
2. Everything Diane Duane ever wrote
3: Everything Diana Wynne Jones ever wrote
4. Everything Lloyd Alexander ever wrote
5. Everything Annette Curtis Klause ever wrote
6. Everything Zilpha Keatley Snyder ever wrote
7. Everything Francis Hodgson Burnett ever wrote
8. Everything Madeleine L’Engle ever wrote
9. The Dark is Rising sequence
10. The Harry Potter books

and that’s less specific and also more than ten books, so I didn’t do that. Anyway, here is my reasoning for each of the 10 books I chose for the book meme. More than 10 books have stuck with me—many more—but these are some of my favourites.

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen

So, I love Jane Austen. All of her books are amazing, as far as I am concerned, and I re-read her seven main novels this past summer. Love.

Persuasion is probably my favourite. P&P and S&S are much more well known, but Persuasion has an interesting distinction from the rest: love lost and then returned. I adore Captain Wentworth and his devotion to Anne Eliott. Also, I think Anne is Jane Austen’s best protagonist, because of her forbearance, her gentle sweetness, her lovely plainness, and her determination, in the end, to do what she should have done when she was younger and marry the man who will make her happy.

2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Though I am not Christian, I enjoy the apologetics of C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape letters are hilarious, and he has a decent science fantasy trilogy series. Still, The Great Divorce is probably my favourite of his adult works. (I love the Chronicles of Narnia, but I couldn’t pick just one of them.)

The story is of a dream the narrator has, where he goes from hell to heaven, and sees what the dead experience. What struck me and often comes to mind is the realness of Heaven. Hell is a grey, boring world that closely resembles our own, and this is contrasted with the solid realness and colour of Heaven. The grass cuts into the feet of the visitors, and the water is so bitterly cold that they cannot drink it. In the end, many choose to return to Hell, because they cannot let go of past resentments or concerns. It’s an interesting idea, and Lewis is a brilliant writer.

3. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi is my favourite god; I listened to Anansi tales as a child. I harbour a soft spot for trickster gods.

I also love the writing of Neil Gaiman, and Anansi Boys is probably tied with American Gods for favourite work. The characters are fun and interesting, the settings are lovely, and—best of all—the main story is interspersed with short tales of Anansi the Spider and the trouble he gets into.

4. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

Near the end of my high school career, I decided to make a list of classics and grown up books to read independently of class; these books would be outside my traditional genre of fantasy, and I ended up reading all sorts of things, including Nausea and No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre, 1984, one or two memoirs, and a couple of Herman Hesse books. One of these books was Steppenwolf. At 17 years old, I’m not sure I really understood it, but it stayed with me, and I have re-read it a handful of times since. The main character is haunting, and I find that he sometimes floats into my mind with no prompting during quiet moments, and I get the urge to read his story again.

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is a masterpiece. I recently read an NPR article by Matt de la Peña about reading and writing, and in it he explains how this tragic-telling-triumphant book connected him to the beauty and power of reading. It’s a moving article—check it out here—and I love that this book is the one that really connected him to one of my favourite pastimes.

The Color Purple is hard to describe, but will always be one of my favourite books. The life experiences of the main character are painful and reflect the realities of many Black women in a post-Reconstruction and pre-Civil Rights America. It’s about a fictional woman, but the themes are very real, and they speak to me.

6. The Quartered Sea by Tanya Huff

This is the fourth book in a series of fantasy novels. This book is not the first I read in the series, but it’s my favourite, because of the relationship between the main character and another man. It’s still not that common to have LGBTQ main characters in fiction that is not specifically about sexual orientation, and even less common for it to be a complete non-issue. Loving another man is just an incidental piece of the story, but to a teen struggling around sexuality it was so vital to see that representation.

7. Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey

This is the third in a trilogy, and this set of books has the distinction of being the first I ever read that featured an explicitly gay character. Though it suffers quite a bit from the unfortunate “gay characters meeting a tragic end” trope, it still means something to me for having shown me that gay people could be in fantasy worls, could exist in literature.

8. Shade and Shadow by Francine G. Woodbury

This is a short and kind of obscure little read that I picked up in a used book shop in the late ’90s/early 2000s. (I spent about a year passionately searching through used book shops for the individual volumes of The Chronicles of Amber, which I believe were out of print at the time, though the series has since been reissued in a single volume.)

It’s about an assistant professor of modern magic at Oxford, who is accused of murdering his head of department, and must find the real killer fast. It’s not the best book ever written, but it’s funny, the characters are interesting, and the premise is pretty great. I love it, and it’s on my frequently re-read shelf.

9. The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and has been since I picked The Light Fantastic off the shelf when I was 10 years old, during my first foray out of the young adult section of the public library.

The Truth is a book about writing, written with all of the sharp wit and playful satire of Terry Pratchett. For some reason, the idea of a book about writing has always tickled me, and there are so many characters in this book that ought to be a bit silly, but are not somehow—or if they are, they are nonetheless real and  human (even when they aren’t human at all, like the vampires abstaining from blood-drinking).

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first book I remember reading. In first or second grade, I checked it out from my primary school library, and fell in love with it. I have three different editions of it, one of them the beautifully illustrated version found in my school’s library.

The story of Bilbo Baggins is a fun one, rousing and humorous, tense and illuminating, with an interesting cast of characters and a good moral at the end. I love the 1977 animated film adaptation, and the new film trilogy has been great so far, but I always come back to re-read the book. With a pot of tea, a warm pair of socks, and The Hobbit, I’ve settled down to read on many a rainy afternoon, and I anticipate many future afternoons re-living Bilbo’s adventures in Middle Earth.

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