Books that have influenced my writing:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
World According to Garp by John Irving
The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After I first wrote this list I noticed something glaring: how few were written by women.
Where’s Edith Wharton whose House of Mirth shaped my first novel?
What about Doris Lessing? I remember clutching The Golden Notebook as I ran through the rain-streaked streets of Paris. I doubt I understood half of what she was writing about at the time but I knew enough not to let the book out of my sight.
And Fay Weldon who showed me that writing can be punchy and clever and short.
As did the brilliant Marie Darrieussecq whose Pig Tales is electrifying.
Why didn’t I think of their books when I first drew up my list?
Is it because they are women and therefore part of me? That the experiences they wrote about are so internalized that it would be like putting my own books up there?
Or is it because when I was growing up and thinking about becoming a writer, I read what was considered the best literature at that time and that was said to be by men.
And I continued that tradition on my own blog!
So having cleared my head, here is my additional list of books that shaped me:
The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Short stories by Isak Dinesen
Every single one of Mary Renault’s books
Old habits die hard.
photo by Liz Henry (flickr)