Scheherazade is My Homegirl: My Top Ten Books

Alexis Hunter threw down the gauntlet by tagging me in her blog on her “Top Ten” book list. Thanks Alexis:) Now this isn’t just my favorite books of all time: these are the books that have morphed, reshaped, and evolved my brain as a writer and as a human being. Whoah! It’s hard core.

So here’s my list, in chronological order of when they changed my life forever:

1. The Midrash

adam-and-eve-from-the-stanza-della-segnatura-detail-1511I was raised in a religious (Jewish) home, and studied the bible, both in school and in yeshiva, for a very large chunk of my life. My favorite parts of bible study were always the Midrash—a collection of lively stories the rabbis wove to help explain puzzling parts of the bible. Basically, it is ancient fanfiction (don’t tell my rabbi I said that:). They are great stories. The Midrash for the book of Genesis has been particularly branded into my mind, and I draw on the imagery and narrative a lot in my poetry.

2. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin Mckinley

hero-and-the-crownHands down, my favorite book, of all time. I’ve read it at least ten times since I first picked it up at the age of eleven, and upon every reading, I get a deeper and deeper appreciation of this book. I reread it recently and it still blows me away. Just…beautiful. A strong female protagonist named after a Celtic Goddess who slays dragons, written in such a grounded way, you really feel like you are right there with her. This book change(d)(s) my life:)

3. Mercedes Lackey: The Heralds of Valdemar Series

by-the-swordOf course, the best books in this series, in my humble opinion, are “The Magic’s Pawn” series and “Oathbound” through “By the Sword.” Good old fashioned fantasy, and some of my favorite books as a middle-schooler. Kerowyn, from “By the Sword,” is one of my favorite female protagonists of all time. She’s just…so bad-ass.

4. Grimm’s Fairytales

grimmGrowing up, I had this HUGE collection of Grimm’s Fairytales (the Jack Zipes translation). I would plow through that thing and re-read my favorites all the time. I’ve recently re-read a bunch of the Grimm tales for a Coursera Class on Science Fiction, and was amazed at what a critical reading unearthed in these classics. There is definitely a large chunk of my brain dedicated to the symbols in these stories.

5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Mist-of-AvalonThe legends of Arthur from women’s point of view. What’s not to love? I got really deep into this book when I was twelve, and it informed me a lot about mystical experience.

6. Homer’s Odyssey

The-Odyssey-Book-CoverAnother favorite. I read this beast of a book in my freshman year of high-school, and revisited it again recently as a free audiobook from LibriVox. I’ve always been in love with ancient Greek myth. Though I wish, like Grimm’s Fairytales, it had more strong female protagonists. *Sigh*

7. Ovid’s Metamorphosis

metamorphoses-ovid-cd-cover-artI read this one in high-school, and again in college. What a beautiful book. I continue to be captivated by the theme of “metamorphosis” in all the different stories, how the characters physically change their forms to echo spiritual themes. Among my favorite myths are Daphne, who turns into a laurel tree, and Echo, who becomes an owl. These stories inspired a lot of my artwork, back in college.

8. The Arabian Nights

arabian-nightsOh yeah, Scheherazade is my home-girl. I read this one for a college class and I instantly fell in love with it. I really enjoyed how the quality of magic depicted in these tails differed so much from western fairytales.

9. Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

oryx-and-crakeBlew. My. Mind. Gave me nightmares for months. Atwood’s vivid prose always blows me away, but I found this book in particular to be the most haunting, and so seamlessly well-crafted, it left me slack-jawed in wonder that a human could write such an amazing book. Atwood remains one of my all-time favorite writers and influences.

10. Japanese Manga: Naruto, by Kishimoto

narutomanga485Manga are kind of like comic books, but so much more excellent:) Out of all the Manga I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot!) I think the one that’s influenced me the most is actually Naruto. Though the current arc leaves much to be desired (please authors, never zombie-ify all your dearly departed characters wholesale unless you can do it right), overall I’ve really enjoyed this series. It’s got great character development, and many of the arcs are quite dramatic and intense. And I love when ancient Shinto myths influence the story line. In general, I love how Manga reveals an approach to life that is so different from Western culture, especially the treatment of the spirit world, openness to other dimensions of reality, and the integration of magical abilities.

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Wow, looking back at my list, it’s a bit all over the place! But a common theme that unites all my top choices is a deep exploration of archetypes and symbols, and a strong reference to mythology. I think I’ve always been interested in the psychological relevance of stories, and these books have all struck a deep chord in me. Give them a try sometime and you won’t be disappointed!

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Tag! You’re it!

I’m tagging Gabrielle Peralta, a twitter/fb friend, and J.C. Wolfe of http://jaycwolfe.com. What’s your top 10? 😉

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3 thoughts on “Scheherazade is My Homegirl: My Top Ten Books

  1. Great list! The Mists of Avalon is one of my favorites too. Arthurian legend meets feminism? What’s not to love? 😀

    Thanks for tagging me! I’ll be sure to start building my list as soon as I can! 😉

  2. Pingback: My Top Ten Books | The Wolfe's Den

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