We all have inspirations. At one point in time or another there has been someone or something that has acted as a muse for us. For me, all of my inspirations in life have come from books. Since I can remember, reading has been one of the things I have loved the most. To this day, my favorite thing to do is crawl into a snuggly bed and read. This all comes to mind because someone asked me the other day why I’m a writer- and I realized in that moment that I’m a writer because I am a reader. I want my words to inspire or move or make someone laugh just as the books I’ve read have done for me. I want my words to mean something, and yes, I have to admit the idea that my words could be forever preserved in print is extraordinarily appealing. All of this made me think about some of the books that have meant the most to me, that have inspired me the most to become a writer.
1. Suki and the Mermaid. I read this book in the second grade and it remains to this day one of my favorites. It’s magical and tragic and beautiful in every way. It’s effect hasn’t lessened in 16 years. The imagery and emotions in this book had an enormous impact on me both as a human being and as a writer. If you haven’t read this book, you need to.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia- The Silver Chair. It’s a bit odd I suppose, that this is my favorite of the Chronicles (totaling 7). The most famous of course is The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. I love all of the Chronicles of Narnia and I have been reading all 7 every Christmas since I was 10 but The Silver Chair has always been my favorite. The characters in this book are so perfect and complete. It includes one of my favorite characters ever written, Puddleglum- a Marshwiggle who is always gloomy and dark but also brave and loyal, in my opinion this is C.S. Lewis’ most multi-layered character in all the Chronicles. Whenever I am having a rough day I pull out this book and read it. This story is so compelling and now that I think about it, maybe I love it so much because it includes a journey- and so many of my favorite books are tales of journeys. If you need an example of fully formed character writing or are just looking to get lost in a magical adventure turn to this book.
3. The Shadow of the Sun. This is my all-time favorite book. It’s the true stories of a Polish journalist living and working in 1960′s Africa during the Independence movements. Powerful, lovely, optimistic, brilliantly written. It absolutely captures the spirit of Africa. The stories are not all historically significant but they are all culturally significant. Whenever I read this book (and I do quite often) I feel like I am back in East Africa. He so completely captures the essence and spirit in his writing. This book makes me want to do great things.
4. The Places in Between. This is about a Scottish Journalist who walks from Herat to Kabul (Afghanistan). He travels completely on foot with limited supplies and numerous cultural and political obstacles to overcome. This is a beautifully written book- it makes me want to see and experience Afghanistan. The book is stunning in it’s revelations about Afghani life, culture, religion, and landscape. There are few books that change your mind and opinions- this is one of them.
5. Lost Horizon. I read this book at least twice a year. It is delicate, exquisite, and mesmerizing. Often, when I finish reading it I feel almost as if I am coming out of a trance. The story unfolds so preciously- you feel like if you read it too fast it will be lost on you. This book is simply the epitome of loveliness. This book makes me believe in Shangri-La.
Actually I don’t think the word “inspiration” really explains what these books mean to me. Yes, they inspired me to write, but they feel like more than that- they feel like pieces of my soul.