Five Books that Changed Me

When I was in Australia last year a newspaper wanted to know what five books changed me.  I thought this was a very difficult question - so many books influenced me over the years, but after much thought I came up with this list:

Frederick by Leo Lionni - this story is one of the first books I remember my mother reading to me. It's about a family of five field mice getting ready for the winter. Four of the mice work hard to collect enough food, but one, Fredrick doesn't help out at all. He's too busy collecting daydreams. The story taught me that a daydreamer does have a place in a family.

Risk by Dick Francis - before finding this book when I was fourteen, I'd been reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mysteries. While I enjoyed them, they were starting to get predictable. Risk, was an entirely different mystery. Written in first person point of view, the action didn't stop and I could never close the book at the end of the chapter. This fast-paced story telling influenced my own writing as I use first person point of view and try to end each chapter with a cliffhanger.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin - after reading nothing but mysteries for all my life, my future brother-in-law, Chris gave me this book to read when I was seventeen so I could "try something different." The story about a man whose dreams could change the world astounded me and hooked me into reading science fiction novels.

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony - this book introduced me to the fantasy genre. At first I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around a fantastical world that didn't exist in our world or in any time in history. But it didn't take me long to "catch on," and I was soon reading Tolkien and all the classics.

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - I almost put this book down after a few pages because the Irish dialect was distracting. But a friend encouraged me to keep reading and I'm glad I did. This book opened my eyes to the suffering of others and just how good my life is. No one in our world should go hungry and since reading this book, I've been very active with our local food bank and donating money to international organizations that help feed those in need.

What book had a big influence on you?  I'd love to hear which book and why!


  1. 1. "Daughter of the Forest" by Juliet Marillier was the first fantasy book I ever read. I had to write a year 12 exam on one kind of genre and no one had picked fantasy, I wasn't a big reader at the time in high school but loved fairytales and medieval movies so I thought it might be for me - turns out it was in a hundred ways :) not only did this book show me how amazing fantasy can be, it also taught me so many things, along with how to re-tell a folk tale. And in my stupid teenage way I emailed Juliet like the totally lame fan that I was and went on about things I never would today - and she sent me back the most beautiful letter ever, I still cringe at mine haha. So I have followed fantasy authors along with their books right from the start.
    2. "The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch - I was all ready into fantasy at the time and normally I never just pick up a book at random, I have to find reviews about them, but this one found me literally in the weirdest way from fate alone. It has changed the entire way I think about the fantasy genre and my dark sense of humour and the second book
    3. "Red Seas under Red Skies" again changed everything because I realised just how far you can take a character and keep throwing in horrible twist after horrible twist and still not think the story is far fetched but incredible, along with how deep world development has to go to create a story. These are my fav books of all time and I can’t see them ever being replaced!
    4. "Rhapsody" by Elizabeth Haydon. And all the books in this series - her leading assassin Achmed will always be my fav character of all time, he is the reason I love assassins in fantasy and seek them out (hello Valek). I knew I loved him from the start, which made me realise that characters don't even have to have outstanding good traits in order to love them, and his many fan clubs on the web tell me I'm not alone ;)
    5. This one is a short fiction collection called "Red as Blood: Or tales from the Sisters Grimmer" by Tanith Lee but mostly just for the last story in it, "Beauty-Earth" a beauty and the beast retelling. Long after I fell in love with fantasy I still couldn't get into short stories, in fact I think I couldn't stand them and I don't know why but I avoided even fantasy fiction mags because of the short stories. Until one day (because I love Beauty and the Beast) I read an Amazon review about Tanith's retelling of this classic, and I was hooked. It’s one of those stories that you dwell on for weeks afterwards trying to work out why you’re so affected by it. It’s beautiful but strange, and a little sci-fi that I’m not into either and I love it still! And now I read whole short fantasy anthologies haha
    Thank you for your post Maria! It was fun to share this 

  2. 1. "Stellaluna" by Janell Cannon. It was my favorite children's book to read a kid & it was my love of reading this book that made the reader I am today. The story is simple: Stellaluna is a baby fruit bat who gets lost from her mother & lives with a family of birds for a while. Along with being a huge lover of bats, I love how the moral of the story is that it is alright to be different & that even though the person next to you may come from a different background & lead a different life, you can still be friends.
    2. "The Christmas Lamb" by Anne Baird. This is a children's classic that I rented out in the library so many times in the first grade, I was banned from borrowing it again. This is about a small lamb who feels neglected on Christmas Eve, so he decides to leave his pen & tries to get the attention of the children by dressing up as a reindeer & doing other silly things all so that they will come visit. This book helped me realize is that you don't have to act out or pretend to be something you are not just to gain attention. Sometimes, just being yourself is enough to convince others that you are something special...and even if they don't see it, that doesn't mean you aren't. Plus, you will always have the people who love you to remind you of how important you are.
    3. "Anastasia Krupnik" by Lois Lowry. My mother had been trying to get me to read that book the entire year I was in 4th grade & I had stubbornly refused. So she bribed me: read the book & she would take me to lunch anywhere I wanted to go (I took the bribe) The series is about a preteen girl named Anastasia Krupnik & her various adventures. I love the strong message of the importance of family, how it is ok to laugh or cry, to try new things, to face your fears & how it is ok to make mistakes. I never got my lunch, but I consider the years I have loved this series a fair trade.
    4. "Vampire Kisses" by Ellen Schreiber. I read the first book in this series when I was 15 years old in 10th Grade. This book stood out among the aging, faded covers in the "S" section with its ebony cover & magenta writing. The story is about an outcast, vampire loving goth girl named Raven, who lives in a town she calls "Dullsville". When a mysterious family moves into the abandoned mansion on Benson Hill & rumors begin to spread that this new family may be vampires. It was reading this book that I finally accepted & completely embraced my love of gothic things. It also began my love of vampires & I have been a huge fan of them ever since. Ironically, the final book in this series came out the day I graduated college earlier in this year in May.
    5. "Poison Study" by Maria V. Snyder. I was in my junior year of high school in 2005 & one of my friends' dad saw an article about this book being released in the paper. From the moment I read the summary, I knew that I wanted to read this book. Just the concept alone about a woman having to choose between being executed for murder as planned or becoming the new food taster was enough to entice me. I was hooked onto the characters of Yelena & Valek from the very beginning & along the way, I found myself loving the characters of the Commander, Ari & Janco as well. The detail in this book is very descriptive & the plot gets better & better with each chapter. I really can find nothing wrong with this book. I have recommended this book to so many people & I have enjoyed reading the sequels & the spin off to this series as well. I am currently reading "Poison Study" for the sixth time...or is it seventh? :) On a personal note, both this series & Maria V. Snyder have inspired me to be a better writer & to never give up on that passion. I cannot say it enough, thank you for writing your wonderful novels & for the inspiration as a writer you have given me, Maria. Thank you, thank you & thank you. :)

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  4. Great list. A book that changed me is called, The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World by author Edgar Swamp. This a futuristic fiction novel written in a satire tone about an a group of mutants living on Garbage island after an environmental disaster.

  5. Awesome list! I just ordered "Frederick" for my boys! Sounds like one they will love. A book that changed me was "The Blue Sword" by Robin McKinley. I still remember my middle school librarian handing it to me. It was the first sci/fi fantasy book I had ever read and it's the only book I've ever had to re-buy because my original copy had been re-read so many times that the pages starting falling out!

  6. I remember my older brother read aloud A Spell for Chameleon for me when I was in the hospital recovering from one of the many surgeries I had growing up. I couldn't see well without my glasses, but my face was swollen and taped up with oxygen tubes and such, so it was hard to wear glasses; so my brother read the book for me. Like you, it was my first introduction to fantasy and I soon jumped headfirst into the genre, starting with Dragonlance and eventually moving on to authors like Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, Terry Goodkind, Carol Berg, Barbara Hambly, etc. Before then, I, too, was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (especially their SuperMysteries), but was beginning to find them a bit predictable. But they still hold a special place in my heart!

  7. Ms. Snyder, it is interesting that you mention Angela's Ashes, that book made me appreciate so much of what I have in my life when I had to read it my junior year of high school.
    Some books that inspired me:
    1) A historical account of the sinking of Titanic/ of the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. A wierd combination I know but it was seperated into parts so it did not over lap. This really influenced what I now enjoy reading, books with history (either fictional or non). I love reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Paolini's Eragon, that have a background that cannot be overlooked and I get entranced by the details.
    2) Nancy Drew drew me to feminist characters and organizations in my life. I love reading L.J. Smith's novels because of her strong female heroines. And your own novels always have a strong female lead, which could be one reason I was drawn so initially.
    3) Poison Study. I have read this book a dozen times at least, I never tire of it. And my boyfriend loves it so much I had to buy him his own copy. This book had some of everything I love, a history, female lead, some mystery, and of course a little bit of romance too.
    All the books I have read hold a special place in my heart, and if I may, I have a recommendation for anyone who wants it, Into The Wild by Jon Krakaur is a great book about finding out one of the many meanings of our life.

  8. 1)It probably sounds really cliche, but Harry Potter.
    My mum first read it to me when I was six and ever since then, I wanted to write novels and bring magic into the world.
    2)The Belgariad by David Eddings
    I loved this book in primary school. It influenced me a lot in what type of books I wanted to write, and what morals I wanted my characters to have.
    3)"Daughter of the Flames" by Zoe Marriott.
    There is a beautiful scene in this book that I wish I had written. The entire book was good but that particular scene heavily influenced me.
    4)Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
    This book has shown me a different style of writing, and I now want to write a deeply cultural and realistic book.
    5) Poison Study.
    I can't even express how much I love this book. Valek and Yelena are one of my favourite book couples and I could read about them for hours [hint hint, please write more books about them ;)]. There wasn't anything I didn't like about it and I regulary re-read it at least once a year. I would love to write books like this.

    Another inspirational, heart-warming and adorable book that I would definately recommend is "Wesley the Owl":

  9. Thanks everyone for sharing your lists and your reasons! There are some fantastic books here and my TBR pile just got higher :)

    And I'm very honored that my book has made a few lists - it's wonderful to hear. And while getting an award is fun, hearing that my book influenced my readers is way better!

    Rebecca L - Are you subscribed to my email newsletter? I'm about to send out a new issue with some news you might like - I thought I'd announce it to them first ;> The issue should be out in a few days.

    And for anyone who like to subscribe, go to my website news page and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page for the form:

  10. 1. Heidi - it's the first book I ever read and it started a life-long passion of reading. Plus I've always wanted to run over the alps, arms outspread, crying,"grandfather, grandfather".
    2. All the Famous Five books - I discovered fun and adventure from the safety of an armchair as a young reader. I adored this series.
    3. Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern. This is the first paranormal book I ever read. I remember finishing the book and clasping it to my heart and thinking, this is what I want to do. I want to write books!
    4. Across the Nightingale Floor - in fact all the Otori Tales - I absolutely loved this entire series of books. I found the first one on a bargain table and I was hooked.
    5. The Belgariad - these books just reinforced how much I love this type of work. I can still remember where I was when reading the very first book in this series - Pawn of Prophecy.


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