anghara (anghara) wrote,

Formative books

norilana posts in her journal on the 18 books she considers "formative" - she qualifies her choices by saying that she is considering only books she had read or encountered before high school - and I suppose I could have done it on that basis but I decided, instead, to come up with the first 20 books that came into my head that I would consider to be "formative" for me in the sense that they matter to me deeply or that they were milestones of sorts in my life or reading career. Although much of this list - nearly half of it - does meet norilana's criteria, some of the others were encountered when I was older, some merely by virtue of having been encountered later than they should have been because my level of English, the language in which I read them in, governed the chronology rather more forcefully than the actual age that I was at the time - and one or two I read as more or less an adult, but they have left a lasting impression on me and I consider them, at this point in my life, as formative as anything else I can remember.

So - here's my list:

1. Heidi by Johanna Spyri - the book on which I learned to read. Talk about formative!

2.The GOod Earth by Pearl Buck

3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

4. "Vreme Smrti" ("The Time Of Death") by Dobrica Cosic (yes, there IS a translated version - but I read it in the original Serbo Croat and I honestly don't think that while it is a gripping book in any language it will not resonate half as much for someone who ISN'T part of that culture and that land as it did for me)

5. Winnetou by Karl May (It was the first book that made me cry while I read it - I realise it's corny and utterly devoid of any realistic ideas, written by a German whose ideas of the Wild West and the Noble Savage were less than, uh, accurate and whose evangelistic tendencies drove me nuts sometimes, but hey, it was a small price to pay...)

6. My son, my son by Howard Spring - hell, ANYTHING by Howard Spring, the man is a genius at giving you the story of a life in a way that makes YOU, the reader, share it.

7. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay - that spoke to my MARRROW...

8. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres - the man really knows what makes people change.

9. Cat;s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

10. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

11. the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde

12. the poetry of Desanka Maksimovic (Hey, I can't help it if I can read in several languages!)

13. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

14. "Through Desert and Jungle" by Henryk Sienkiewicz (also read originally in my own language, as a child, and a beloved book to this day)

16. Almost anything by Ursula le Guin

17 Le Morte d'Arthur by Mallory (and, as corollary, "The once and future king", by T H White)

18. the ORIGINAL Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales (not the sanitized stuff, thanks very much, I loved the visceral quality of the originals)

19. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (I learned English at ten; at thirteen I was reading the full-blown, unabridged, fulsome and stylistically tough set of Forsyte novels. That was a milestone for me)

20. Narnia books by C S Lewis

What a mix... It's often been said that mixing one's drinks leads to faster and harder intoxication - here I'm mixing genres, languages, reading levels and subject matter with such wild abandon that it's no wonder I wound up as drunk on language as I am...

So. What books are rattling around in YOUR head...?
Tags: growing up, reading, writing

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