This week, I want to take a moment to visit my bookshelf and share with you some well-loved old friends, or as some would say, my GOATs (for those of you who are wondering if they have wandered onto a blog about animal husbandry: GOAT = Greatest Of All Time) You might be able to tell from the picture, but all of these books are a bit worn and a bit tattered, not because I haven’t tried to take care of them, but because, over the years, I have read them SO MANY TIMES, or have taken them off the shelf just to hold and flip through in moments of nostalgic perusing.
- Twilight – Yes, yes. I might get some flack for this, but when I was younger, I loved the Twilight series, and I mean LOVED. I devoured them, probably because I am, and always will be, a die-hard romantic. Add to that the ranging hormones of a sixteen year old, and really, what can you expect??? As such, I have to include it in this list.
- Son of the Shadows – This is actually the second book in the Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marieller, but I will start with it because I would hazard to say it is my favorite book of all time. Liadan, daughter of Sorcha and Hugh, is a loyal and dutiful daughter of Sevenwaters gifted with the Sight. However, her peaceful and quiet life is disrupted when she falls into the hands of the Painted Man and his band of mercenaries. She quickly discovers that behind his wild and forbidding exterior, there is a man worthy of being loved, and that the people who have been outcasts and enemies might be the ones to help her save her family against the dark forces that conspire to destroy them. I don’t think I have ever connected more with a female protagonist the way I connected with Liadan. She was a tour de force in that she knew what she wanted, and she fought for it with an iron-clad will and unflinching courage. I have to smile as I write this because I might have taken Liadan’s example to heart and tried my best to emulate these qualities, only my family and friends would more likely use the words determined and stubborn.
- Daughter of the Forest – This is the first book in the Sevenwaters Trilogy, and is an amazing re-envisioning of the Six Swans fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. When her brothers are enchanted by an evil sorceress and transformed into swans, Sorcha must complete a near-impossible task: she must stay silent until she weaves each of her brothers a shirt made from the spiny starwort plant that cuts and stings her hands at the slightest touch. Juliet Marillier does a spectacular job of transporting us back to 9th century Ireland and Ulster, and like her daughter Liadan, Sorcha is another epic protagonist that I admired for her strength of will. Sorcha proved that courage and strength don’t have to be loud and obnoxious – in fact, you can be bad-ass without uttering a single word.
- Kushiel’s Dart & Kushiel’s Justice – Jacquline Carey is hands down my favorite author. Her prose is as beautiful as her world building, and the love stories in both of these trilogies hit me in the feels so hard, I swoon just thinking about them. The characters are complex and conflicted. They have dark sides and dark emotions, and it makes them so much more dynamic and real. I picked the first book in Phedre’s arc because while I adored and understood her, some of her decisions in books two and three drove me crazy, enough that I might have pulled my hair out and thrown the books across the room before running to pick them up and apologizing. I picked the second book in Imriel’s arc because the emotional anguish of the star-crossed lovers was just…
These books left me feeling both elated and emotionally drained, but they will forever remain top of my list.
- Harry Potter – Is anyone surprised? I grew up reading Harry Potter from the age of 10. I remember every time a new book came out, I would argue with my sister over who would get to read it first. Granted, I use the term ‘argue’ very loosely. There never really was any arguing. My sister just assumed first book reading privileges and I got it second every single time. Ah, the pains of being the younger sibling!
- Outlander – Of all the books on this list, I read the Outlander series most recently, and it pains me that it took me so long to get around to them, because WOW. I think I’d made the assumption that it was a dry historical fiction about the Battle of Culloden, and I tended to avoid historical fiction. The trouble was, I’d minored in History in University, and found it agonizingly dry and dull. This, it turns out, was the fault of the professors, and the fact that I read about history in text books written by academic historians. What I needed to do was read history from the pens of novelists – especially one as deft and detailed as Diana Gabaldon – because they juice up the stories with time travel, witch hunts, and sexy Scotsman. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, lads and lasses!
- Redwall – This was my childhood. I have so many happy memories of curling up on the couch with a mug of apple cider or peppermint tea and reading these gems by Brian Jacques. I can say with considerable confidence that these books – Redwall in particular, which is why it makes the list – sowed the seed for my love of books and reading.
- The Twisted Root – This is the first William Monk novel I read of Anne Perry’s, and of all the books mentioned above, it comes out of left field, being a Victorian murder mystery with no hint of the fantastical and minimal romance. Even more shockingly, I read it back in eighth grade after I stumbled across it in the library when we were told to pick out a book and write a report. Of all the books I could find that day, it appeared the most challenging, and being an avid reader, I figured I’d take a risk. As it turned out, I loved it, and commenced reading the entire series as quickly as possible. William Monk was spectacular. He wasn’t like any main character I’d read up to that point, and nothing like I’d come to expect of a protagonist. He had a strong sense of morality and justice, but was also mean, sharp-tongued, and vain to boot. It was the first instance I had of simultaneously loving and hating a character, and loving him all the more because of it.
What books shaped you? Leave a comment below!