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The Top 5 Books That Changed My Life and Helped Me Write

Tom Wolfe’s recent death inspired me to write a blog about the books that changed my life. I hope that every writer “reads,” in my case, I can say that the more I read, the better I hope my writing gets – no matter hold old I might get.

What kinds of books inspire? In my head, they are the ones I am reminded of based on day-to-day experiences. It could be a small passage from a book or even the entire plot.

Here, in no order, are the top five books that inspired me to write:

Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry: Without a doubt, this was his finest book. I say “was” because he claims he’s not writing any more books. That remains to be seen. Close friends know I have a full library of his books – and I even collect reference books and doctoral essays about McMurtry and his legacy. If there were ever a “great American novel,” I think this is it. Skip the made-for-TV movie and focus on the book, it’s two sequels and I think two to three prequels. Lonesome Dove is great. It’s funny, sad and heart-wrenching all at the same time.

The Last Picture Show – Larry McMurtry: This comes in a close second to Lonesome Dove and is another example of a great American novel. Read the book – and this time, see the movie. It won’t take you nearly as long to read this one as reading Lonesome Dove, but it can be just as powerful with its storyline about small town life.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I had a colleague years ago who turned me on to Marquez and his books, and she said that if I could read just one of his books, read this one. She was right. It’s great – a saga of one family through many generations, it is translated from Spanish to English, but doesn’t lose anything in the translation. Read it, today.

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King: Ok, I know you’re thinking this is out of left field, but is still the best example of  modern horror around. I read this years ago when I was 15 and it still punches me in the gut every time I think about King’s storytelling mastery. I went on to read just about all of his books, with some better than others. Still, this one remains my favorite, hands down.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers: I love Southern gothic fiction, and I think McCuller is the best example of this (sorry Faulkner – I just don’t get it). Again, funny, sad and life changing. This book has it all, told from the perspective of a young heroine trying to figure out the world around her and a collection of true characters she interacts with. Read it!

That’s a short list – maybe I’ll expand on this in the future.

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