“It was a dark and stormy afternoon in hell– err, high school– when my ninth grade English teacher (shout out to you, Mrs. Harrell!) handed me a copy of the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand with the crisp directive of “Read.” The book effectively shut my angsty self down for the next few days (and classes) as I did so. It blew my mind, too.
Super architect Roark went about being superawesome with his superhawt girlfriend, changing the world, one super(misunderstood) design at a time. It was superphilosophy about being superselfish while making the world a better place. Having finished the book, I went on to join a school book club, started up fencing and violin (something I’d wanted to try for years, but had been too much of a pansy), and was a generally insufferable human being for about three months. The insufferable bit went away eventually (kinda), but the idea that it was okay to do whatever I wanted to do… (pick one)
- a) …has never left me.
- b) …will endure as a tattoo forever, I just can’t show you where.
- c) …is genius and my capitalist army will crush the 99%.
I have to mention two books.
For the first, I recall my parents going on holiday once when I was little. During the course of their trip they visited my aunt and cousins. And they returned home with “Who’s a Pest?” by Crosby Bonsall – proclaiming it to be my cousin Conan’s favourite book, and he wanted me to enjoy it, too. This from a cousin at the other end of New Zealand, who I saw very rarely. That in itself was special. But, the book is a great little read, even given that I never fully understood it until I read with an adult’s sense of narrative recently (with the birth of my son). Sometimes I wonder how much of my own personality was influenced by that tale…
Second, I am grateful for stumbling upon “The Crow Road” by Iain Banks in my last year of high school (a long, long time ago). It was sitting on a special stand on the end of a shelf of the school library, and the striking black and white cover caught my eye. I borrowed it, read it, and found it extremely enjoyable. And that was my first real foray into the world of “adult” fiction (other than those books assigned by teachers). I remember suddenly feeling that I had not read enough books and that I must do something about it…
Those are both great book memories! I don’t remember what my first ‘adult’ fiction book was, but I remember that feeling as well, that there were so many books that just NEEDED to be read.
I’m late, I know! 😀
But I just wanted to humbly submit the one series that changed my life and outlook forever: Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage trilogy.
Why? Because it was the first time I could read about two male characters falling in love in a way that could be beautiful. And believe me, in my country where “intercourse against the order of nature” is a crime? It made me sit up and open my eyes. Sure, there were parts of the series that were melodramatic, but damn, it made me bawl my eyes out back in the day.
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