Name Four Novels That Helped Shape You

Name Four Novels That Helped Shape You

The tile of the post is from Twitter’s Theophilus Chilton, who started a tag game saying “Name 4 fictional novels that helped to shape you, then tag 4 other people to play.”

His were Starship Trooper (Heinlein), Watership Down (Adams), At the Mountain of Madness (Lovecraft), The War of the Worlds (Wells).

The game exploded, so I thought it would be fun here.

My answers were, in order:

  1. Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume Aubrey-Maturin series. First is Master and Commander, which is almost nothing to do with movie;
  2. Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man;
  3. Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep;
  4. Niven & Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer.

In inverse order, being curious, I looked up reviews. The first one I found for Lucifer’s Hammer was in Nature magazine; yes, that Nature, from 2008. “In Retrospect: Lucifer’s Hammer“. The review is notable for two reasons.

First reason is the opening line, “Everyone remembers the surfer.” I recall hearing an interview Pournelle gave once in which he said “That damn surfer”. He said it was Niven’s idea. If you’ve read the book you’ll know exactly what this is. I recall the first time through rooting for the guy, and even allowing myself to consider the idea he might make it.

Before the second reason you have to know that the “hammer” is a magnificent comet that crashes to the earth and destroys all civilization. Nature says:

Feminism does not outlast the cataclysm, and it is not much missed. Woolly-headed pinko environmentalists eat their enemies and each other, as do most of the book’s black characters — a development with disturbing echoes, to say the least, of George Fitzhugh’s 1857 antebellum tract Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters.

That ought to explain the appeal of the book to me.

The book was representative of the type of science fiction I read when I was going into my teens. Another is Trevor Hoyle’s The Last Gasp (pure pot boiler). Yes, there was also Lord of the Rings (which is terrific) and a few others like it, but elf questing stories, for me, anyway, grew tedious. I preferred “hard” sci-fi, like Asimov (robots, Foundation) and Herbert (semi-hard, I guess).

Chandler I came to later, along with Dashiell Hammett (Red Harvest which became Yojimbo and many other movies), Loren Estleman (another Michigander; get Motor City Blue), Max Allen Collins (the Nate Heller series), John Mortimer (Rumpole) and such like personages. Chandler was the best of them, though. Complex plots, yes, but beautiful writing. You can pick up a copy of Big Sleep cheap, which you should. My number one Son gave me an annotated version of the novel which is great fun.

Every year at Thanksgiving I post the final prayer of Old Lodge Skins. He was a Cheyenne chief who fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn (does anybody remember what that is any more?), and who adopted Jack Crabb, a white who became Little Big Man. This book is so rich in imagery, language, ideas, and history, that I never tire of reading it. This one and the next come with my to the desert isle.

As I say in the prayer post, do not watch the movie. The script was written by what must have been an angry progressive. It takes incidents from the book and turns them into their exact opposites in the script. In the movie the Reverend Pendrake was an abusive hypocritical ignorant preacher. In the novel he is a caring man who wants the best for his charge, and who only allows himself the vice of gluttony.

I read a lot of Westerns when I was young, one of the best of which is True Grit. Charles Portis, the author, died just this week (read the obit). True Grit is not to be missed. The dialog soars about hackneyed Western argot. There are no “pardners” here. Rousing story artfully written. The John Wayne movie is a fair adaptation, too—and better cinematically than the gloomy remake which, it must be admitted, hewed closer to the book in detail. The original better captured the spirit.

I have said time and again what is true: Patrick O’Brians 20.1 volume Aubrey-Maturin series is the best novel in the English language. There is no disputing this. There are other Napoleonic war naval fiction series, like Forester’s Hornblower and Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho, all worthy, but these are in a class below O’Brian, who will never be equalled.

The “.1” in the “20.1” is because O’Brian left a holograph of the first few chapters of the twenty-first novel in the series, which is sold to hardcore fans.

I have read the series maybe seven times. I’m again on the last book, and am looking forward to re-reading just the first chapter of Master and Commander once more (the meeting of our heroes is one of the most memorable in literature). Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’ll go on to two…three.

Skip the movie, too. It has as much in common with the books as the film adapatation of Little Big Man. One damn anachronism after another, and a terminally constipated actor who played the doctor.

Now, what are yours?


  1. For my money and time, the best novels in English literature are Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. It begins as pure parody, but then blossoms into so much more.

    From Hogfather (DEATH is Susan’s grandfather):

    There is only one poet I care to read – Rudyard Kipling. His prose is excellent, as well. I carried a dozen copies of The White Man’s Burden to Iraq to hand out to people who asked, “Why are we here?”

  2. Excellent list. I think of the surfer often, sometimes willingly. I regret to say that I thought of it when I heard the news about Kobe Bryant. That was one of the most vivid descriptions I’ve ever read.

    In no particular order:
    1- Lee’s Lieutenants, 3 volumes by Douglass Southall Freeman. Extraordinarily edifying primary sourced account of the Civil War. It fundamentally changed my understanding.

    2- On the Beach by Neville Schute. I’ve never read something more gut wrenching, and it helped me on my way to realizing why Nihilism isn’t a cogent philosophy.

    3- Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed. This book helped convert me.

    4- I don’t want to duplicate “Starship Troopers”, though it was good, so i’ll say “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Heinlein. This helped mature my political philosophy while I was in college. It helped me realize both the strengths (in some respects) and the limitations (in many others) of Libertarianism, when taken to it’s ultimate conclusion.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Sheri

    I had a hard time coming up with 4 novels I have read. I loved Arthur C. Clark’s “Childhood’s End”. Why? I guess the imaginary of the Overlords, the evolution of man into something beyond the current physical form and the way society took it all in.

    Beyond that, “1984” and “Atlas Shrugged”, both because of the understanding of human nature portrayed. Sadly, “1984” never proposed a way out of the messes created, which would have been handy, since we are living the novel now. “Atlas Shrugged” proposed a solution I would love to see implemented, but in this novel’s case, it overestimated human being’s capacity for fighting back or caring.
    The prophetic accuracies held with both (in hindsight, of course) are why I found the novels intriguing.

    (Couldn’t come up with a fourth. I read short stories and non-fiction. Years ago, there was a commercial with a woman reading tech manuals to her child as bedtime stories. That was probably based on my life.)

  4. Joshua Smith

    The best novels I’ve read are not necessarily the one’s that had the most impact on me because of the time of my life I came upon them. David Copperfield and Anna Karenina came in my late 20’s so, while deeply enjoyed, did not impact me as much as those listed below. Naturally, most of the novels with the largest impact came on me in my university years and early 20’s.
    ‘Til We Have Faces by CSLewis is a yearly read. The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton (came to me a decade before his Ball and the Cross which is a hilarious romp). It clarified to me, my own constant striving against our Lord, which, futile though I know it to be, still can’t help myself all too frequently in my late 40’s. Starship Troopers by Heinlein is #3 and since we’re allowing series I’d have to say Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series. It’s tough to pick that over the Aubrey/Materin series because she throws in salacious passages that prevent me from giving it to even my teenage children ,where I can read all the Aubrey books to even the younger ones with only minor sporadic editing of already euphemized passages.

  5. trigger warning

    Level 7 (Mordecai Roshwald)
    Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
    Sometimes a Great Notion (Ken Kesey)
    One Two Three… Infinity (George Gamow)

    In no particular order, except Level 7 is a clear #1, probably because I read it at a young age. It still haunts me today.

  6. John B()

    I’ll list the three books I have proudly displayed on my open table at work:

    Winnie-The-Pooh – Milne
    The House At Pooh Corner – Milne
    Watership Down – Adams

    Winnie is an Alice In Wonderland like romp into logical fallacies (quite cerebral for a Bear of Little Brain))
    House I only recently discovered/realized, while having fun with logic, was a more emotional journey
    Watership I first read almost 40 years ago in my early 20’s.
    Recently reread it and was blown away (again … but more so)
    (I remember being underwhelmed by the movie back in 81 or 82 but rewatching it recently was extremely impressed)

    A fourth book which completely *!#&ed me up was Samuel R Delaney’s Dahlgren

    Honorable mention here would be Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness and LeGuin’s The Dispossessed.


  7. Zundfolge

    “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (well the entire series … basically they got me into reading in the first place, but also the themes of honor, duty, etc)
    “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand (basically pushed me across the left/right line, permanently to the right of center).
    “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas (taught me that focused hate/anger/rage can be useful)
    “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes (taught me not to take The Count of Monte Cristo too seriously)

  8. Russ

    1. “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” (Donaldson) – My favorite anti-hero. 10 book seriesthat I’ve read and reread many times, but the first trilogy was all that was necessary.
    2. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Lee) – I’ve read it countless times. Atticus Finch. ’nuff said!
    3. “The Stand” (King) – Was actually told by someone whose opinion I greatly valued that I was Larry Underwood in my 20’s, but nowadays I’m full on Stu Redman.
    4. “The Foundation Series” (Asimov) – Truly got my grey matter perking in high school.

  9. sussibar

    1. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings. This is truly a 20th century masterpiece of the English language.
    2. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Kids actually can be that cruel.
    3. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. When life gets too hard just take some more Soma and chill out, man.
    4. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Censor and burn All the things! Ideas are actually powerful and potentially dangerous.

    I read a lot of dystopian/apocalyptic literature and works dealing with human nature, the pursuit of truth, etc., in high school, courtesy of an amazing English teacher who inspired a lifelong love for reading and writing (I’m afraid teachers like that are quickly becoming relics of bygone ages nowadays). Thank you, Mrs. Miller!

  10. Yawrate

    I also think that O’Brian’s Aubrey series is a masterwork of historical fiction. I’m on my third reading.

    Philip Kerr’s noir detective series featuring Bernie Gunther, which takes place in WWII Berlin, is dark, compelling, and terrifying. The ‘hero’ is frequently left with only bad choices. Start with “March Violets”.

    Mark Twain’s “Huckberry Finn” let me see an entirely unfamiliar world and made clear the folly of humanity.

  11. Fred

    1. Catch-22. The funniest thing I have ever read. I’ve outgrown its left-wing politics, but its absurdist humor still appeals to the existentialist in me.

    2. Absolom, Absolom! Portrays both the greatness and the terribleness of the South, where I grew up and still live. Only Faulkner can combine tragedy and grim humor in quite the way he does.

    3. TS Eliot’s The Wasteland. A poem, not a novel, but it’s portrayal of a sick, decaying society should resonate with any conservative living in contemporery America.

    4. Shakespeare’s Tragedies. If I need to tell you why, you’ll never understand.

  12. c matt

    1984 and Brave New World. 2001 was another, and IIRC a “brave new worldish” type book called “This Perfect Day” – at least I think that was the title.

  13. Gary

    Given the criterion to “Name 4 fictional novels that helped to shape you,” I’m restricting the list to works I read before graduating from high school. These are the four that first come to mind.

    1. Haunt Fox by Jim Kjelgaard — “He was Star, a big handsome red fox, named for the star-shaped white spot in the center of his chest. But his talent for eluding traps and dogs with ghostlike cunning earned him a new name-Haunt Fox. An outlaw who mercilessly raided poultry farms, he was stalked and shot at by every hunter and farmer in the valley. But no one wanted the legendary animal more than young Jack Crowley and his foxhound, Thunder. Together, they set out on a blazing chase into the heart of the wilderness. It was a chase the brave outlaw fox would never forget” This novel for juveniles I read in 5th grade inspired a life-long fascination with forests and their inhabitants – animal and plant. When the library weeded the book from its shelves I grabbed the copy. It’s lost now but I just discovered a digital copy is available.

    2. The Lensman Series by Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith — This is a tale in six novels of a cosmic battle between two alien races, one power-hungry and the other benevolent. Humanity becomes the weapon of the good aliens who breed a strain of super-humans to defeat the bad aliens and then leave them to their own destiny. This novel opened my imagination far beyond the Heinlein juvenile novels (Tunnel in the Sky, Podkayne of Mars)I had been reading.

    3. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger — You know it so I don’t need to review it. Let’s just say it came at a time in my high school years when I just didn’t quite understand how people thought emotionally and it gave me some insights. Plus you just have to love Holden Caulfield’s determination to cling to his beliefs and as a reflect of Salinger’s insistence on his holding own.

    4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles — “Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.” I argued against all my 11th grade English classmates that Gene and Phineas were actually two sides of the same personality the author had cleverly separated into two individuals to work out an internal psychological conflict of who he was going to be. One had to defeat the other or suffer a permanent suffocation.

  14. John B()

    Allow me to break in – no rule regarding? – to further discuss

    Catch 22 – Yeah!

    I’d seen the movie on TV 3 or 4 times before I finally got past the non-linear narrative. Then I took the book along for a 1500 mile ride in the back seat of an Opel Manta with driver and passenger seats all the way back.

    I was laughing and chortling out loud the entire way. I just loved the logical fallacy humor throughout. (My laughter annoyed the hell out of the passenger but with his seat back and also fully reclined … don’t say it)

    Later I read Douglas Adams and Pratchett and then rereading Catch 22 within the past decade, it struck me how Heller’s humor was similar (setting up a joke on one page and then giving the punchline 50 or 60 pages later). When I checked Catch 22 on the Web, I discovered that it had sold a respectable 33000 copies in the US the first year and when it was released in the UK the next year it became an instant Best Seller there. So very British.

    I’m not sure I’d characterize its politics as left-wing, certainly anti-establishment, vaguely anti-war, vaguely anti-capitalist (I’m not sure Milo’s brand of Capitalism isn’t more of an AOC marriage of Capitalism and Socialism), some antipathy to western thought, but I’d say it was closer to libertarian? Maybe? I’d have to ask a Libertarian whose read it.

  15. Deacon Blues

    Mr. Briggs: I’ve never read any on your list, so thanks for giving me so new reads.

    My four:
    Starship Troopers by Heinlen, which was probably the first wake up I had about why all those ‘muh equality’ types were wrong. Although, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is probably a better novel.

    Dune, by Herbert, which I think this is a great work. I first liked it because Herbert was showing us a world where technology had advanced far beyond our times, yet humans were still fighting over the same old things. It showed competition and desire for power were immutable human characteristics. Nonethless, it shows that humans have the potential within to reach the stars.

    Blood Meridian by McCarthy. “Only that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen the horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance.” It simply must be read. Years ago when I was too afriad to engage the world, this novel taught me that I must overcome that fear or die having utterly wasted my life.

    Not a novel, but Milton’s Paradise Lost. It speaks of the fall of Satan from Heaven, and the consequences to the order of existence. Read it and you’ll witness the greatest tragedy, and for brief moments, sympathize with the devil.

  16. Chip

    c matt: YES! “This Perfect Day”, an unheralded book by a famous author, Ira Levin, anticipated much in today’s culture. I think it belongs with the classic dystopian novels.
    A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
    Brules, by Harry Combs, for you Little Big Man fans. Unheralded, great and gritty western. (“Cat Brules”, another dead shot Comanche hunter). Like McMurtrys Lonesome Dove, sequels not so good.

  17. Leo

    I remember reading the Foundation series as a teenager, and rooting for the heroes of the 2nd Foundation to resolve the crises and make a better world.
    I recently reread it, and saw the present day analogues of the second foundation as people like World Bank Economists who are trying to manipulate the economy, federal experts who want to nudge us to make better decisions, and the education establishment who are trying to reshape us. Paul Krugman cites the Foundation series as one of the influences that led him to economics.
    From this rereading, I’d have to say that it’s one of the best pieces supporting the modern rule by experts. Not sure I see Hari Seldon and his disciples as quite the heroes anymore.

  18. Jerry

    Alas most of my reading was done in my high school years. I do remember reading Lucifer’s Hammer, but not the actual read!

    I am at the point where I want to go back and revisit many books I read back then and have sadly forgotten – and I have never read Lord of the Rings!

    Add to the list to re-read: That Hideous Strength.

  19. Plantagenet

    Ok first off my favourite writer, and the best in the language, Shakespeare does not qualify as we are talking about novels. That said;

    1- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court- Not the best but it was the first proper novel I ever read and it forever disposed me to satire. Mark Twain

    2- Bleak House- As everyone who talks about it says sooner or later it is a book which seeks to depict society in it’s entirety from the poorest of the poor to the titled lords. Easily the most famous book about the law as well. Charles Dickens

    3- What’s Bred in the Bone/Fifth Business- Ok I cheat a bit by using two here but though the stories are different the effect is much the same. An exploration of the Canadian mind and culture circa 20th century which manage to be both savage and affectionate with regards to our pretentiousness and provincialism. Robertson Davies

    4- The Green Man- A short book which does for England much the same as the above does for Canada. Viciously hysterical towards most anything which it sets its sights on. Possibly the best, and most funny depiction of a functional alcoholic, and a darn good ghost story too. Kingsley Amis

    As you can see I do like a good sharp comedy/farce/satire

  20. Fred

    John B.

    I take your point about the politics in Catch-22. I still think it’s pretty left, though obviously not the oppressive, humorless SJW left we unfortunately have today. There was much overlap between libertarianism and the New Left in the 60s. Many of them tended to be anarchists rather than statists. In any case, I find libertarianism as fatally flawed as progressivism. So either way, I’m not particularly simpatico with Heller’s or the novel’s politics, but I still love it’s humor, and it has been a profound influemce on my own sense of humor.

  21. Will

    In no order:
    1. 1984, Orwell
    I was a teenager at the time, and it felt like it was describing a watered down version of my public school experience. Bureaucracies can have no soul.

    2. Brave New World, Huxley
    This was the first time I really was introduced to the concept of the human farm, complete with the husbandry. Also, one mans utopia is another mans hell. I still shout ‘orgy porgy’ from time to time.

    3. The Conquest of New Spain, Cortez
    Ahh, history. So inconvenient. A friend gave me this book when I was 16. I’ve been skeptical of every ‘official narrative’ ever since. This led me on a wonderful journey down the road of first-hand historical accounts.

    4. Ring World, Niven,
    A less dystopian view of the human farm (breeding for luck?), matters of faith (the lengths those without will go), and a fascinating take on how maternal instincts can go awry. Part II was also pretty good.

    5. The Selfish Gene, Dawkins
    This should be #1. It should also be required reading in high school. Read this book.

  22. It’s the ‘shaped me’ and ‘novel’ parts that limit this for me. The books with the greatest influence on me aren’t novels. The single most influential book on me is probably Euclid’s Elements, followed closely by the Divine Comedy. The Time/Life Science series I read in 4th grade, the Plato I read in HS and the Aristotle in college formed me more than any novel. By the time I read the wonderful Til We Have Faces and Watership Downs I was already more or less ‘shaped’. So, maybe:

    1. Miller: Canticle for Leibowitz
    2. Lewis’s space trilogy
    3. Asimov’s Foundation trilogy
    4. Lord of the Rings

  23. 1. Anthem, by Ayn Rand
    2. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Heinlein
    3. Counter-clock World, by Philip K. Dick
    4. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
    5. Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene

    And there you have it!

  24. Gary,

    “Haunt Fox by Jim Kjelgaard ”

    Yes! I read every Kjelgaard book in the school library in 4-5th grade (1969).

    What a gift for making nature come alive. My favorite was Big Red.

  25. CanSco

    1) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – eerily prophetic
    2) Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – why do I often quote this book 50 years on?
    3) Catch 22 – just so funny about the absurdity of life
    4) Tolstoy’s War and Peace – completely absorbing, it consumed me for two days in 1974

  26. 1. Lord of the Rings (actually the entire Tolkien work fits here)
    2. Crime and Punishment
    3. War and Peace

    I should read more fiction.

    Liked Little Big Man a lot.

  27. DG

    Well, in terms of fiction, and which I can remember,
    I’ve read …
    The Hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien which everyone knows what that is all about.

    Eaters of The Dead by Michael Crichton This story based on some apparent account of the Vikings fighting against Neanderthal men and the movie 13th Warrior is based on this book.

    and Exiles of Colsec from Douglas Hill which is a sci-fi story about prisoners being transported to an unoccupied planet and how the convicts have to survive in the strange planet.
    Yeah it’s fun to read at times.

  28. Uncle Mike

    The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    From Here to Eternity by James Jones

    Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

    Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

    There were many others. To “shape” is a difficult verb. I am what I am. Nobody else should share the blame.

  29. In order of how much of my life the book affected, from least to most:

    Robert Heinlein, Have Spacesuit–Will Travel: Inspired me to try to build and repair things on my own, but only high-tech things, not cars or home repairs.

    Andre Nortion, The Beast Master: Inspired me to read books about animals (several in the Jane Goodall genre, for example) and train the family dogs. Also boosted my interest in outdoor activities like camping. Also, this and other Andre Norton books set my expectations of what the hard science fiction should be like. Her vision (at the time) just seemed more plausible and realistic to me than other authors.

    Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged: made me realize that my teachers were feeding me a bunch of assumptions that were highly questionable. Played a big part in turning me into a skeptic of authorities.

    Victor Appleton, Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X: this book and the rest of the series (which I immediately began searching for and reading) is one of the two primary influences that made me want to be a scientist/engineer (the other was the moon landing). I always tell people that I wanted to be a scientist because I thought scientists had adventures.

  30. Amateur Brain Surgeon

    Crashmaker, a two volume novel that is a precis of right thinking about economics. morality, religion and culture.

    Sometimes a great notion Northwest passage to imagination and period place

    Watership Down wondrous warren

    Cat’s Cradle radical humor

  31. Nate

    I am almost finished with Post Captain. I must be honest that I am not a huge fan of the style, and trying to keep track of where and when things are happening is difficult, as well as the completely alien culture of British aristocracy. I feel like I need a map not only for the action but also the various people and their connections to each other. Great action sequences and descriptions of ship life though.

    As an ‘early millennial’ I’d have to say some of the novels I remember best include Asimov’s Foundation and Robot series, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, though I wonder sometimes if that (and Atlas Shrugged) actually did more damage to a teenage boy than help, particularly her rabid anti-God and anti-family attitudes. The Harry Potter craze showed up toward the end of High School, and they’re fun but didn’t really affect me deeply. I loved CS Lewis’ Narnia fiction as a child, as well as Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain stories, which are well worth reading.

  32. DaveW

    1. Everything by Hammett: Red Harvest is probably the best, but The Dain Curse shows California has always been California.
    2. Everything by Chandler, with The Long Goodbye edging out the Big Sleep.
    3. Maybe half of Philip K Dick, but forget the HBO series.
    4. About 2/3rds of Richard Stark (with an honourable mention for the rest of Westlake’s oeuvre).
    Honourable mentions for Heinlein, Charles Willeford, and Elmore Leonard, who had a way with dialogue that only Chandler exceeded.

  33. Mark

    Struggling to think of novels that aren’t part of the same series, but number one is the Lensman series by E E “Doc” Smith. Great classic space opera fun, but the key influence for me was the importance placed on thinking clearly and well.

    The Silmarillion has also been something of an influence, particularly as I like working on my own fantasy universe, but beyond that… hmm. Listing books or authors I enjoyed is much easier.

  34. Kathleen Reeves

    1. The Lord of the Rings, of course. As deeply theological, exquisitely real, magnificently written as anything in the English Language.
    2. The Patrick O’Brien masterpieces, worth reading over and over.
    3. Both poetry and fiction by Rudyard Kipling, politically incorrect and wonderfully written. Even the Jungle Book and his other “children’s stories” are worth the time, and children should be spared the Disney abominations.
    4. Anthony Trollop, both the Barchester and Palliser series, among others, are wonderful, humane and far less maudlin than Dickens.

  35. Yes, yes!! All of them. What a feast! With some never tasted to look forward to.
    I was captured in the second grade by Wrinkle in time, Then on to beast master, tarzan, Heilein, everybody. Ruint for life.

    Thanks for this.

  36. John W. Garrett

    – “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” (originally part of “Time Enough For Love” but published and available separately) by Robert A. Heinlein.

    – “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins (technically not a novel but formative and fundamental).

    – “The Vintage Mencken” a superb compilation of Mencken gathered by Alistair Cooke (this was my gateway to Mencken).

    – “Sociobiology” by Edward O. Wilson (again, technically not a novel but a manual for how the world works).

    Honorable Mention:
    – “The Limits To Growth” set me down the path of examining and understanding why and how Malthus erred.

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