Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Books We Came From

It's a time-honored maxim:  With moving into your first house comes moving crap out of your parents' basement.

For a few years my parents been kind enough to store a few things in their house as my husband and I bounced from apartment to Very Nifty 1835 Rental House to, finally, Rather Old 1874 House We Bought.  They're all mine now (yay?) including several boxes of books that had been packed up years ago.

My copy of Ann Rinaldi's Wolf by the Ears
was worn-- I remember re-reading this one.
Unpacking those boxes was kind of like a family reunion--I was excited to see some books I'd missed, surprised to find some that I'd forgotten I'd loved, and there were even some books that I'd forgotten completely and didn't recognize.

What was in the boxes?  Lots of historical fiction and quite a bit of fantasy, too.  The historical fiction didn't surprise me--I remembered reading it a lot as a kid, and since I loved history, it was always a "safe" choice.  There were the American Girl books (of course...didn't most of us read those?) plus a lot of Ann Rinaldi and Scott O'Dell.

I still read some historical fiction today, though I admit that the subjects Rinaldi and O'Dell picked were ones I enjoyed more than a lot of the royal court focus I see in "grown-up" hist-fic--I guess I loved "normal people" stories then and now!

If you haven't read this book, read it!
Even if you're not into fantasy.
A couple of the books I was most excited to find were fantasy--Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic series and Garth Nix's Sabriel.  I remembered Sabriel so fondly that I downloaded it to Nook to read on vacation last summer, and it was just as good reading it as a grown-up!  Interesting, as I don't read much fantasy as an adult--I think I actually prefer the young adult "model" of fantasy to the adult genre.

I've boxed a lot of these back up for the elusive "when I have kids who want to read these" day, and plenty of books from the boxes have been relegated to the "donate" bin (mostly school assignments--I admit I don't have a desire to re-read most of those).

Still, I'm not sure that the books I enjoyed when I was younger explicitly shaped who I am as a writer today.   For one, I read in my youth for the stories more than for the writing style, and while story is important to me as a writer, it's in digging into the writing itself that I really find satisfaction.  (To be honest, I have a feeling if I dove back into some books from my youth, I'd be disappointed--just because my taste has evolved.  Sabriel is an exception, and I recognized even then the extraordinary magic behind Nix's writing--it was one of the first books I remember for the writing, not just the story.)  Something shifted in my high school years in that I started to think more about how things were written and less about what was written.

Second, and maybe more interesting--I write neither historical fiction nor fantasy!  I used to write quite a bit of historical fiction, but the subjects I chose and style I liked weren't compatible with where histfic is right now.  And I've never written fantasy--for some reason it feels over my head.

So while it was a fun walk through memory lane (or memory library), I don't know that it shed any light on "where I came from" as a writer--or perhaps I'm too dense to see it.

How about you?  Are there books from your childhood that shaped your writing, or patterns of reading that you see cropping up in how and what you write?  Ever have the fun opportunity to unpack a box of books like this?


  1. When I was younger I read Enid Blyton books, which had no affect on my writing whatsoever. I'm part of the Harry Potter generation... which didn't inspire me to read, or to write (because I was doing both anyway) but it DID inspire me to read more fantasy, and now I try to create the biggest worlds I possibly can.

    Oh, and Sabriel rocks!

    1. I love the Sabriel love!

      I think Harry Potter opened a lot of people's eyes to a genre they wouldn't have sampled otherwise--great point!

  2. Haha, funnily enough I've had a post planned for a while on this subject, myself! I'll wait until then, as I suspect it'll be far too long for a comment. But the gist of it is that, yes, I am very clearly influenced by what I read as a child and teen, as well as what I've discovered more recently.

    I still have some of my favourite childhood books - for me they're like old friends, and some of them I've read dozens of times. I've got a lot of attachment to them and would never willingly give them up!

    1. Oh, and I'm with you on Sabriel and Tamora Pierce, though I got into the Alanna series rather than Wild Magic and I only read Sabriel about 5 years ago when my Gent recommended the series. It's good having a boyfriend who loves fantasy almost as much as I do!

    2. Can't wait to see your favorites, Clare! I'm planning another post about the books that did influence me--and there's a lot!

      I couldn't bear to give up the childhood books, so thank goodness we have a lot of storage space! Books I had to read for high school English and didn't much care for though...I'll donate those and hope someone gets more enjoyment from them than I did :)

  3. I would have to say that childhood reading (the standards, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, etc.) influenced my subject matter a lot - fantasy, historical, fantasy/historical, with certain character types and tropes - but young adult reading influenced my writing style much more. At around 14 or 15 or so I got into reading classics, and even though that wasn't all I read, nowadays I have a very hard time writing fiction that doesn't sound like it was written in 1850. Which, you know, isn't a problem since I'm writing historical fiction most of the time, but it'd be nice to be able to turn it off for fiction without making an effort.

    I should reread the Abhorsen books, I don't remember much from them.

    1. Definitely--by around high school what I read and loved influenced my style much more than when I was younger, too.