It's possible that I have not done this correctly, some of these books have stayed with me, some have shaped me in one way or another, and some may have done both. But I have neglected my pharmacology studies long enough while making this post, so I'm calling it good and moving on to drugs. Wait….studying drugs. Yes. That's it. Really.
Here, in no particular order, are ten books.
1. Island of the Blue Dolphins -Scott O'Dell. LOVE this book about a girl who is left behind when her people leave the island. She survives on her own for 18 years - teaching herself to hunt, build shelter, and tame the feral dogs of the island. My first introduction to the idea that girls can be strong and independent.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia -C.S. Lewis. Some of the first books I read by myself, and my introduction to mythological creatures. Yes, it's actually seven books, but it's my list. And they came in a boxed set.
3. Green Darkness -Anna Seton. I probably should not have read this at the age of eleven, being that it is clearly a book for adults. Actually, I remember getting quite a scolding from mom about it. Not only did it introduce me to the concept of reincarnation, but it also sparked a lifelong fascination with Tudor history. I think mom was more upset about the sex though.
4. Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham's simple, no-frills approach to one form of paganism. In a world of 'more Wicca than thou' and 'you must find a coven and be initiated or you aren't a real Wiccan/Pagan/whatever', Mr. Cunningham was the first to politely call 'bullshit' and provide a friendly framework for us non-joiner types.
5. The Hobbit - my dad gave this book when I was about 8. I remember it fondly for that reason, and because love of the genre is something I inherited from my dad. I find it the most enjoyable of Tolkien's books, although I don't think Peter Jackson should have stretched it out into three movies. Seriously, wtf? Smaug is awesome though.
6. Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg introduces me to the concept of free writing - just write, keep the pen moving, just let it flow. Perfect in its imperfection. This is pretty much how I write my novels. Actually, it's pretty much how I write in general. Which may be a problem when it comes time to write a thesis or a dissertation.
7. The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries - Dorothy L. Sayers. So, maybe not exactly life changing, but I really enjoy these. Not only are they well written, entertaining, and full of vibrant characters, they are written by and for someone with a classical education. Yes, there are some things I don't understand, what with not speaking Latin or French, but that doesn't interfere with the story. Sometimes, there's a bit of poetry, and I end up searching out something like The Wasteland, or one of Shakespeare's sonnets. Not a bad effect for a whodunnit.
8. The Quiet Room - Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett. This is a harrowing first person account of Ms. Schiller's journey with schizophrenia, told by herself, her family, her friends, and her doctors. More than any of my textbooks, this gave me a picture of what mental illness does to someone, and to the people around them. It will also give me a couple of extra credit points in psych if I get around to writing that book report.
9. A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin. You can't run from your shadow. It will find you, causing untold damage along the way. Face it, and call it by its true name.
10. On The Beach - Neville Shute. I read this more than three decades ago. To date, it is the only book that has given me nightmares. Thinking about it still fills me with a sense of suffocating dread.
It's set in Australia, post World War III, as the inexorable radioactive cloud moves ever closer. One by one, points north go dark. There's nothing to be done. It is coming.