I frequently scour the interwebs for book-related news or factoids or anything remotely interesting to discuss on this blog right here. Today, I happened across a “Top Ten Tuesday” segment that obviously made me stop and think of what I would say if asked to list my ‘Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors.’ I could pretend to be modest and assume that no one is genuinely all that interested in what books I would pick (or that you’ve all hopefully followed Untamed Shrews long enough that you can already predict my picks), but I’d rather pretend someone has a (fake! Duh!) gun to my head and will NOT rest until they know my “Gateway Books.” “Okay, endearingly obsessed maniac, I will tell you my picks.”
1. OBVS!! The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – I suppose expounding upon the huge impact this book has had on me is ultimately unnecessary. I’ve written many a blog post about the book, my tattoo of dedication, and how it feels to me like literary sunshine; thus, I will consider it sufficient for me to say that it is my favorite thing ever and the rest of this list is practically irrelevant in Bilbo Baggins’s shadow. (So, “irrelevant” is a little strong, and I take it back.) If you want to really know how I feel, I’m including some links at the bottom of the page so check those out.
2. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – This is one of those instances where the book means so much to me that I can’t truly, adequately describe how much it means to me. The series affected me as a reader partly because I was the same age as Harry when the books came out, so I could relate to the awkward youthful angst and desire to be something “special.” However, it had a seriously life-changing effect on me, in that I saw books as a treat instead of a chore, I for once sought out more books with similar levels of entertainment, and literally abandoned the t.v.-watching lifestyle that had previously nicknamed me “couch-potato Lou.”
3. Beowulf – I tackled this for the first time in my high school Medieval Literature class and loved it from the very beginning. I loved how old and mysterious it was, I loved the language and monster-filled subject matter, and I loved the almost “bad boy” image it had among young readers (since the mass hatred and aversion everyone else my age felt towards it made it that much more appealing to me). It helped me choose English as my major in college with an emphasis in Early World Literature.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I have to say this one was a big deal because it surprised me so much! My bread and butter, in terms of literature, is Early World Lit or Classical Gothic Lit (contrary to the fact that my “Top 2” are generally for kids), and I typically hate “soft” literature about bland romances and boring, Victorian-style plot twists. I wrongly considered Austen to be within this category of “boringness” and avoided her up until just a couple of years ago. I was so surprised by how witty and forward Austen was with her language, characters, and plot subjects. My eyes have been opened to a writer all but new to me and hopefully to a whole genre of bold, witty female authors.
5. Dr. Seuss – Yep. I freaking love Dr. Seuss. Loved him as a child and still love him to this day. Dr. Seuss was (and still is) such an important influence in children’s literature, because he wrote about adult subjects (racism, bullying, preserving our planet) in a way that children willingly received and really loved. What child doesn’t love a good rhyme?! The good thing about this is that, no, the child may not initially understand the message behind the Dr.’s silly words, but they just eat that “one fish, two fish” stuff right up, so that the message has plenty of time to set in and be contemplated during the one million times the child requests that you, the parent, read it to them. I think Dr. Seuss was a genius and I fully intend to buy/read every one of his books when I reproduce.
As you can see, I did not list ten picks. If the aforementioned polite gunman expects complete honesty, there are way fewer than ten books (I count a series as one influential unit) or authors worthy of such a profound impact on my life. Just like with all “favorites,” I have a few here and a few there. To have too many devalues the few. If asked to list my top five instead of ten, it credits much more power of influence to those five, than if they were listed among five other, lesser-amazing picks. I could probably come up with five other works or authors that I think are just grand, but what would be the point? The five listed above have made me the person that I am today; any other works were simply adding “fluff” to the person that Rowling and Tolkien already made. Sorry, everybody else; you snooze, you lose.
Anyway, check out the links below for a little more detail on my favorites. I’m still reading Persuasion and I have no idea what Hannah is doing these days, so we’ll be in touch. Let us know what you think!