I've seen this post around in blogs lately, though I think I saw it for the first time in Booktube. I am not sure whether and where it originates from, but some bloggers who have done it lately are, for example, Jillian at Random Ramblings, Adam at Roof Beam Reader and Rayna at Libereading.
The most influential books are not necessarily your favourite books of all time, although mine mostly are because I don't feel like the books I didn't enjoy affected me all that much.
I think the idea behind this post is to simply list the books and offer no explanation why they are so important, but I'm going to cheat a bit here for the sake of clarification. For example, I have an anthology in Estonian in the list, which without explanation says exactly zero things to 99% of my blog audience. I also picked the books that I haven't read for the first time in the past, say, 5 years, because although I have no doubt that one of David Mitchell books may take one of the positions in this TOP10 some day, it hasn't been through my own personal test of time yet.
The books are listed in alphabetical order and with Estonian title, if I read it in my native language for the first time. I currently own seven of these books, the rest three I either lent from the library or are at my mum's house, somewhere.
1. American Psycho (Ameerika psühhopaat) by Bret Easton Ellis - the book that taught me to look through blood and violence and to appreciate the idea behind. The lesson I still appreciate today, and not only when it comes to books.
2. Lilled Algernonile - published in 1976 in Soviet Estonia, this book was probably the closest thing in many years for Estonians to get a good glimpse at sci-fi and fantasy that came from the western world. The impact that Lilled Algernonile has had on me and so many others cannot be underestimated. The title is that of Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon, which was the story that affected me the most out of all the others in this book. Other authors represented in this anthology are Isaac Asimov, Brian Aldiss, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Marshall King, Clifford Simak, Poul Anderson, Robert Sheckley, Murray Leinster and Theodore Sturgeon.
3. The Fellowship of the Ring (Sõrmuse vennaskond) by J.R.R. Tolkien - no comments needed here.
4. The Martian Chronicles (Marsi kroonikad) by Ray Bradbury - my first Bradbury book. Among other fantastic values it has, The Martian Chronicles also taught me that you should not lend out your favourite books to random people - I gave it to my ex's brother to read, and never got my old, tattered, Estonian copy with an ugly cover back. I now own a copy in English, but it ain't the same :)
5. Martin Eden (Martin Eden) by Jack London - this book is fantastic, with 4.30 average rating on Goodreads and during my 1+ years of blogging, I don't think I've seen any blogger mention it. I am not a fan of London's White Fang, but this book made me open it 5 am each morning for about a week and read before I went to work.
6. The Master and Margarita (Meister ja Margarita) by Mikhail Bulgakov - dare I say this book is underrated as well? Interestingly, after my first read in high school, I didn't think much of it (clearly the intellectual abilities of my brain were not quite there yet...), but the following reads proved me so wrong. This book is so funny, so intellectual, so fantastic, so sarcastic, so many things. Read The Master and Margarita, people.
7. My Family and Other Animals (Minu pere ja muud loomad) by Gerald Durrell - one of my childhood favourites, which I probably read a few times every summer. Every time it ended with a tummy ache because laughing can do serious miracles to your abs. I also felt connected to Durrell for his infinite love for all things living, be it big animals or small insects. The way he describes life with his crazy family on a Greek island is utterly enjoyable.
8. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami - though not my favourite Haruki Murakami book, it was good enough to make me want to read *counts* six other novels by him. Murakami is the only author so far who has made me believe that a character sittin' by the kitchen table, sippin' beer, or then, chopping vegetables on the counter are the most fascinating bits of story ever created.
9. The Sound and the Fury (Hälin ja raev) by William Faulkner - the brightest memory I have from American Lit courses in uni. I'd probably hate it if I had to read it alone and not be able to discuss with teacher and the others, but alas this was not the case; we took this book apart from cover to cover and it was so good.
10. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Olemise talumatu kergus) by Milan Kundera - probably the most poetic non-verse novel I've read. Full of vague plot and extremely flawed characters. I could have easily written down half of this book in quotes. Kundera also taught me to despise the kitsch.
Master and Margarita underrated??? Nooo, it's the most cited book in Russian social networks! In fact, it appeals to so many pretentious dumb-heads (or at least they say so) that it's already kinda not cool to name it among your favourites :) But it's brilliant anyway, I totally agree :)ReplyDelete
The sci-fi collection looks soooo much like something we had at home, that I suspect maybe the publisher it even the same? :) Totally possible! Anyway, I'm sure I read a lot of short stories by these authors, and some were unforgettable!
You are right, M&M is generally highly rated by people who have actually read it, I guess I more meant that it doesn't get read as much as some other classics do. I thought it's probably a cult book among Russians and well loved by some nations, for example in Estonia it used to be in school programme, so naturally many people have read (and loved) it. Given though how diverse this book is I am sometimes surprised by how much the rest of the world seems to know very little about it.Delete
I think it's likely that this story collection was taken after some other country and was not an idea by Estonians! The spine of the copy I own has fallen off, which I guess describes well both, the quality of book-making at the time and also how much love this book has gotten over time.
Now I feel ashamed that I've owned Master & Margarita for almost four months without reading it!ReplyDelete
That was not my intention! :) But I'd be lying if I said I'm not curious to know what you think of that book :)Delete
My sister loooooves The Master and Margarita. She gave it to me for Christmas years ago (I'm ashamed to say how many years ago), and I keep reading the first few pages and getting frustrated and giving up. It's awful, I know! I swear to God one of these days I'm going to sit down with lots of time on my hands and read it cover to cover.ReplyDelete
I am curious, what frustrates you in the beginning of this book, Jenny? I think for me, the first chapter of this book is perfection in many ways, but maybe people get annoyed because of Russian names, I guess that is possible. Or maybe it just doesn't grab, as I mentioned, after I read it the first time I really wasn't that impressed at all. :)Delete
But I'd recommend to give it at least first 2-3 chapters, it might take a bit time to get into the story.
What an excellent idea -- I can see why a lot of bloggers would want to give it a go! This reminds me of the idea behind Ideal Bookshelf, to get a custom piece of art depicting the spines of your favorite books -- I always like getting a peek at what other people choose. (Which reminds me I really need to read the book they published highlighting all sorts of notable people's Ideal Bookshelves -- but it might be dangerous for my TBR pile!). I think I would have a very hard time choosing myself, but I really should give it a try sometime.ReplyDelete
Oh, right, I have also heard of the Ideal Bookshelf idea in the past. Just like you, I am curious to see what other people choose :) I didn't write it, but it was difficult to choose only ten books. I had whole bunch, from where I kept narrowing down. Interestingly I had so many classics in the bunch (like Grapes of Wrath and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Trial), so it was curious to notice how even though my taste has changed, the books that have influenced me most still come from way back! Nowadays I love sci-fi, but I can't find book from that genre that would have had such impact on me (except Bradbury, but he is also excellent writer, so it doesn't quite qualify), so classics totally deserve their place in the canon :)Delete
After I typed this post yesterday I briefly thought about bloggers I'd like to see mentioning some of the books they have been affected by (maybe because mostly we talk about our most recent reads so it would be interesting to know about people's past reads) and you were one of them, Christine - I'm really really curious :)
Hi! To my shame, I've only read The Sound and the Fury, and I have the feeling my experience of the book is quite similar to yours. I too had to study it for an American Literature class I took at university, and I think it was precisely the "scholarly" approach that added to my enjoyment of it, because, my, is it a complex read!ReplyDelete
It was a complex read! I've seen very few people saying they enjoy Faulkner and most say that he's difficult to read/understand, so I am very thankful for my uni course for making me appreciate this book :)Delete
I can't wait to read The Master & Margarita for myself!ReplyDelete
My fiancé is reading it now and he kept chuckling through the first chapter so I take it he finds it enjoyable. It's a great book :)Delete
Glad to hear!Delete
I still need to read Martin Eden - I remember you recommending it to me ages ago and it's still written in my phone! When I was 16/17 Norwegian Wood would probably have been an influential book in my life but now, when it think about it, I remember absolutely nothing about it. Great post, Riv :DReplyDelete
I should actually re-read Martin Eden myself - who knows, maybe it doesn't feel like that awesome of a book anymore? And you are right about Norwegian Wood, it's one of those books that is a bit age specific maybe and that you get most out of when you are young :)Delete
Ooooo this is a deep list!ReplyDelete
The Martian Chronicles and the Estonian anthology made me smile :) and I like your comment about The Sound and the Fury - there are so many books that I would probably enjoy more if I was discussing them in a class rather than reading on my own. And Norwegian Wood.... ugh is all I have to say. I know I'm in the minority here, but man... definitely not a book I enjoyed. It was a bit too emo and weird for me, I think.
Anyways, HI! I'm trying to get back into blogging! Yay! Hope you and yours have been well :)
So happy you are lurking around here again ;)Delete
It's a bit sad I think that many people get negative experience with Murakami because Norwegian Wood is regarded as the best "first Murakami" to read. I totally see how it is annoying in many aspects and I definitely prefer some of his other works a lot more!