As I walk down this path of writing my own books, I have been reflecting on the books that have influenced me the most throughout my life. This week, we discuss what books I have been reading since college that have stuck with me. What keeps me an avid reader as an adult?
Audio Books – Especially Mysteries
A few years after college, I started a new job that required me to commute three hours a day, so I had a lot of time in my vehicle. I found our local library had an extensive collection of books on tape and CD. I listened to two to three books a week during that year of commuting. My favorite books to listen to were mysteries and thrillers, as they helped keep me awake during my long drive across the Indiana countryside. I listened to nearly all of The Cat Who… mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun, the Agatha Christie mysteries (Poirot stories being my favorite), the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and enjoyed more action oriented books by John Grisham and Clive Cussler as a change of pace between mysteries. This is the time I truly fell in love with mysteries while listening to all of these audiobooks.
Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
Like many around the world, my wife and I were drawn into the Harry Potter stories by J.K. Rowling. My wife, Angie, has a passion for children’s literature so she gravitated to the books first and I then followed along. The modern and whimsical urban fantasy stories were as wonderful for adults as they were for children. We were so drawn into the stories, that we kept re-reading the previous books as the next books would be released in the series so we could remember all the details. Then we had the movies to watch, which encouraged us to read the books again. Then our daughters were growing up and read the books, so we listened to the audiobooks while on family trips. Then Kids on Brooms was released as an RPG which encouraged me to return to the stories again. These stories continue to fascinate my family and we are reminded of them when we read or watch other fantasy tales.
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Remember how I said we really enjoyed Harry Potter? Well, then my wife and I found another urban fantasy series that had a grittier and even deeper link to real world myths and legends. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher were a fascinating next step from Harry Potter’s urban fantasy. I also am intrigued with the more noir style of writing in the books. Admittingly, there are moments we skip some pages or fast forward the audiobook, but overall we love the Dresden stories. What I had not expected, but am fascinated by, is Butcher’s depth of understanding and use of the Christian Faith in the story arc of the Dresden Files. Any time Michael Carpenter, his family, or another Knight of the Cross shows up in a story, I know I am going to be crying in sorrow or joy at some point. I have enjoyed the world of Dresden so much I have a board game and have run adventures in the RPG.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
I so enjoyed the film version of The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery, that I sought out the book by Umberto Eco to know even more of the story. I reread this book or listen to the audiobook every couple of years or so, and I constantly recommend it to friends asking for book recommendations. The historical foray into the heretical movements of the Christian church and the debate about the poverty of Christ at the time as a backdrop for a challenging murder mystery in a remote monastery piqued my interests as a Christian, history buff, and fan of mysteries. I get all absorbed into the debates, the emotions, and the intrigue and can’t put the book down once I pick it up again for a reread. We are planning to try the audiobook so I am very curious to see how well the reader portrays the emotional feel of the book.
Space Odyssey series by Arthur C. Clarke
I remember seeing the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact back in junior high school and being fascinated by their stories, the cinematography and the soundtrack, but it wasn’t until after college that I finally read the books and was pulled into the writings of Arthur C. Clarke. While I also really enjoy the Rama series, the Space Odyssey series will always be my favorite and what I considered one of the most iconic science fiction stories I have read. I am hoping Hollywood will someday release movies for 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. I still quote elements of these stories often, especially great lines from Hal, and the soundtrack comes to mind at the slightest hint. It is time once again for me to pull these novels out and read them.
Dune by Frank Herbert
With the upcoming release of a new movie for Dune, I requested a new hardcover copy of Dune by Frank Herbert for my library for my birthday. I had long ago destroyed my paperback copy with so many reads and had not replaced it. The impending movie drew me back to the story I knew so well and pondered so long after reading. Dune is a true classic of science fiction that I feel everyone should read at least once if you enjoy that genre of literature. Even if you never read any of the sequels, this first book in the series stands so well on its own with its depth of world building, extensive character development, and an epic galactic story. This book is my icon of expansive science fiction storytelling.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis have been with me most of my life. The stories they tell, the worlds they build, and the philosophies behind them have been a cornerstone of my life. I try to read or listen to these series once a year if I can. Each time I read them, I find a new aspect of the story I had overlooked or not pondered in such depth. The stories have grown up with me, each decade of my life finding new meaning in these books. I have a small library of books and games devoted to these two literary worlds, their authors, and the influences they have had. I have given academic presentations on their stories, played games in their worlds, and visited The Eagle and Child in Oxford to raise a glass to two authors who have had such a profound impact on my life. No other authors or books have had as much influence on my life as these have. And my life is better for it.
That gives you a glimpse into the #AdultKnight’s reading that influences me to this day. What books have a huge influence on you?