10 Books That Have Stayed With Me


Yesterday I was asked, by a friend on Facebook, to list 10 books that really moved me. My first thought was, ‘Only 10?’ But the idea was not to overthink it, just to come up with a list of books that really made an impact. Don’t think too long about it. So I did. Here is my list:

  • The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Jody and Flag – do you remember? It was the first book that made me sob uncontrollably.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Each time it’s better. Harper Lee only wrote this one book, but wow. Just wow.
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I saw the movie before I read the book. The movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg, was mesmerizing. The book, inspirational.
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. Published in 2009, this is the most recent book of the ten. I read it just last year, and was moved beyond words. Lamb taught me, as a writer, about the delicate balance between hope and despair.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Published in 1977, I read this book in 1978, while a student abroad in Switzerland. It’s possible that every one of my classmates read the book as well, since none of us had much money, so books were passed around and shared.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. A young writer in Paris? Well, of course it resounded with me! Paris in the 20s, beauty and innocence, and Hemingway’s style.
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. If I needed a dose of reality after the previous book, Orwell provided it. I read this one while in Europe, too, and even though I was there decades later, in totally different circumstances, Orwell’s novel of poverty and society stayed with me.
  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Another instance where I saw the movie before reading the book. The movie remains one of my favorites, and the book, in Forster’s gentle writing, is lovely. I wanted to be Lucy Honeychurch!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Required reading in high school and again in college. Decadence, excess, hypocrisy, all wrapped together in Fitzgerald’s beautiful writing.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I don’t think I read this book until I was in my 20s. A gripping narrative about a quadruple murder in Kansas in 1959 still sends shivers down my spine.

What about you? What book or books have really stayed with you? Inspired you? Given you nightmares? 😉


11 thoughts on “10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

  1. Great list! Oh man, The Yearling just about killed me. Same with Where the Red Fern Grows. Loved The Thorn Birds! Never read In Cold Blood, but saw a really good movie about him writing the book recently (called… Infamous maybe??? I forget) that made me want to read it.


  2. Great post, Martha – thanks. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos come to mind, as well as Nabakov’s Lolita and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf made a big impression on me in high school. Two short stories by William Trevor stand out: Mrs. Silly and The Day We Got Drunk On Cake. And I am addicted to Joyce’s Ulysses, constantly reading random pages and sections, to my wife Deb’s bemusement. It is a lifetime pursuit and pleasure!


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