Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy by Tad WilliamsI didn't actually realize just how much this series influenced my writing until I started rereading the first volume, The Dragonbone Chair, in anticipation of the sequel, The Witchwood Crown, coming out this June. This was the first fantasy with flavors of Tolkien that I encountered that was not simply a carbon copy. It has been called a deconstruction of Tolkien's story, but really it's just a more modern take on high fantasy. It turns a number of tropes on their heads (including prophecy, which is still one of the coolest things about this series). This series helped develop my first novel and the world it takes place in.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThis one and Narnia are both also huge parts of who I am as a person, but The Lord of the Rings has shaped my view of fictional worlds in a larger way. Together with The Hobbit and (especially) The Silmarillion, this book has shown me how large a story's scale can go while still being concerned with small, everyday heroes. (Now please pardon me while I dive back into a Middle-earth reread.)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisWhile I didn't come in to Narnia as young as many people, it still left a strong mark on me. This series is the reason I started writing novels. I had heard the story of C.S. Lewis starting with images and then crafting the first story (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) from there. I wanted to do something similar and write a book (or series of books) that would impact people the way the Narnia books impacted me. (For the curious, the image I began with was an Elf from another world walking in a garden in ours.)
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'EngleI think I can blame this book for my earliest concepts of what Doctor Who refers to as "timey-wimey"; it features all kinds of time travel and interconnectedness of people, time periods, etc. The series as a whole opened my mind to the possibilities of what books could contain and do, and Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace are still some of my favorite fictional heroes.
The Wheel of Time series by Robert JordanAnother Tolkien-honoring fantasy series, this one helped inspire my second fantasy world. While it does have its flaws, this series was so good the first time I read it that I devoured the books that were available (ten) over the course of one summer and fall. Then I spent the next 10 years waiting for the end. But it was (mostly) worth it. (There were elements of the ending that, while consistent with the world Jordan built, were not to my taste. Still, the conclusion was overall satisfying.)
James and the Giant Peach by Roald DahlBecause Dahl understands the importance of books and the power of the imagination. And because I read it several years in a row during elementary school.
The Wizard of Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank BaumThese are the only two books in the Oz series that I've read more than once. Wizard is the classic, the essential story of the franchise. I've talked about its importance to me before on a ThrowBook Thursday. Scarecrow is what I think of when I think about Oz, though. It's the story that I read the most and the one that captured the potential of Oz the best (in my opinion).
The Redwall series by Brian JacquesI discovered these in middle school because everyone it seemed had read one or more of them, although I actually picked the first one up by accident. I had searched the library system for fantasy books to see what came up (I didn't have a particular book in mind, as I do, so I went for a broad search). The Pearls of Lutra struck me as an interesting title, so I checked out the shelf where it resided. Someone else had already checked it out (or it hadn't been reshelved yet), so I wound up taking The Long Patrol instead. Then I read Marlfox (direct sequel to TLP) and then I made my way hodgepodge through the rest of the books in the series. While the books can be somewhat formulaic (especially in the later books), the series as a whole is special to me because of its focus on heroism and humility and its mythic tones through the Badger Lords, the spirit of Martin the Warrior, etc.
What are some books that have shaped who you are, as a reader, a writer, an artist, or simply as a person? Let me know in the comments! (And if you feel like writing a blog post about it, share the link so we can see.)