I was tagged on Facebook to list ten books that stayed with me or influenced me in some way. Because I’m a very verbose chick, I figured one FB post wasn’t going to cut it, so I created this list of books I love with the reasons I love them. I’ll warn you in advance that this is a little eclectic because I wanted to look at all the books I’ve ever read, not just the recent ones. I’ve got everything from YA to erotica to a celebrity autobiography. I couldn’t narrow it down to an even ten, so I lumped together some of my favorites by author. If you list your ten, put a link up on my Facebook page so I can see what you picked.
I think I was in fourth or fifth grade when I read this book. It was one of the first things I read that dealt with heavier subject matter. Anything dealing with Infanticide and dystopian society seemed about a million miles away from Goosebumps and The Boxcar Children, and I remember The Giver as one of the first books that made me think about the world.
The Great Gatsby
Another school book, we read The Great Gatsby in class when I was a sophomore in high school. It had been a long time since I’d enjoyed any required reading, but this was a school book that I actually looked forward to reading. Gatsby gets bonus points for having film adaptations starring a handsome, young Robert Redford, and an even handsomer Leonardo DiCaprio.
Blindfolded Innocence/The Girl in 6E
Like most erotic romance fans, I had read Fifty Shades, but it wasn’t until Alessandra Torre’s Blindfolded Innocence that I truly considered trying to become an author. Self-publishing seemed too complicated, traditional publishing too elitist, but then this sexy book about an Italian, alpha male, divorce lawyer who was into threesomes found its way to my Kindle, and I decided to give self-pub a shot. Torre is the queen of sex scenes, but what I like most of all about her writing is that her heroines are never the weak, timid doormats you see in so many other books in the genre.
The Girl in 6E makes the list because I got so wrapped up in the story that I blazed through the entire thing without sleeping a wink that night. I felt like Torre combined her natural talent for mystery and sexiness with a Chuck-Palahniuk-style flare that totally captivated me. I’ve recommended this book to pretty much everyone I know, and I think a lot of my friends would probably like me to shut up about it already! Sorry, it’s too awesome to not push on everybody who talks to me. Really, all of Torre’s books could make this list, since I’m a huge fan of Sex Love Repeat and The Dumont Diaries too.
I read a lot of angst-ridden romances as I was writing the Vice, Virtue & Video series, but then came this funny little story about an interior designer (not decorator!) and her sex god neighbor who kept her up at night with his wall-banging ways. Banger was a great change of pace from all that drama and heaviness. The characters were fun, the banter was clever, and it was a romance you could really feel, as opposed to just pages and pages of creative sex scenes. It was one of those books that made me think, “Damn! I wish I’d written that!”
I am a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan, so it’s pretty much impossible for me to pick a single book to represent why I love his writing so much. Instead, I picked a few that really stuck with me for various reasons. Lullaby makes the list because I read it at a time when I was pretty sure that I was not a reader. I had finished college, gotten a crappy job, and I was certain the meaning of life was crappy reality TV. Then a filmmaker friend and I had a big conversation about the movie version of Fight Club, and that got us talking about Palahniuk. He suggested Lullaby, and I found my love of reading again.
Snuff was so beautifully twisted and perverted that I couldn’t help but love it—plus it takes place on a porn set, so you know I was going to be into that one. Fight Club has to be included because, aside from being a phenomenal book, it also became a phenomenal film that served as my initial introduction to Palahniuk. Lastly, I wanted to select Damned because I found myself laughing out loud at some of the thoughts coming from the inner monologue of our snarky, recently deceased, thirteen-year-old heroine. The book is set in hell, where people work as telemarketers, and there is simply too much cleverness to describe in one measly blog post.
On the Island
I was just starting to dip my toe into romance when I read Tracey Garvis Graves’sOn the Island. I initially picked it up because I’d just received a Kindle as a gift, and it was only $2.49 on Amazon with about a zillion glowing reviews. I quickly got wrapped up in the story of a teacher and her to-be student who find themselves stuck on a deserted island with only each other for companionship. I love sexual tension in books, and this one has a lot of it. The romance grows slowly, and soon it’s clear that the two have fallen deeply in love. It also featured the alternating POV that let readers see what both characters were thinking, as opposed to the female-focused perspective I’d seen in so many other romances. Needless to say, this one was hugely influential when I first started writing the Vice, Virtue & Video series.
I love Tina Fey. I admire her. I want to be her. So naturally, I picked up Bossypants when it first came out. Her bio is fun, inspirational, and informative, and it was such an enjoyable read. Plus, this was the first book I ever bought from iBooks, so I had the enhanced edition with a little narration from Fey herself.
I couldn’t walk down an aisle at Target without seeing Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster. That book was every-freaking-where—so much so that I resisted it on principle. I fancy myself to be an off-the-beaten-path kind of gal, so I wasn’t interested in something so ultra-mainstream, but a friend of mine kept insisting that I would love Travis Maddox, so I caved and gave it a shot. I ended up really liking Beautiful Disaster, but it was Walking Disaster that stood out for me. A lot of people said it was just a cash-grab, just a way to milk an already successful book by telling the exact same story from a different POV, but that really doesn’t matter to me as long as the book is good—and Walking Disaster was really good. I write male POV, so I liked this one even more than the first.
Bared to You
Oh, the dramz! Oh, the angst! Oh, the graphic descriptions of every sexual interaction between Gideon and Eva! Sylvia Day is a badass, plain and simple. She’s created a series that I should hate—what with the insanely controlling billionaire and sex-as-plot thing—but I love it. What strikes me most about the Crossfire books is the sex. There’s a lot of it. Like, a lot. But what saves it from becoming monotonous is the connection between the characters. Hell, Day can give us descriptions of bodily fluids and still make it sound hot. It’s classic porn with plot, and I dig that.
The Hunger Games
I’m not much of a YA girl, but I found myself getting really into book one in the Hunger Games trilogy. I read a lot of smut, so it was nice to have a book I could talk about with family members. I loved the setup, the dark and at times horrifying world Katniss lived in, and the fact that it didn’t really descend into some kind of “which cute guy should be my boyfriend?” crap that seems to plague most female-driven YA. These are children sent to murder other children for entertainment. We don’t need all that love triangle stuff to take the front seat. The Hunger Games also has the distinction of being the only book that ever made me cry, since I haven’t yet read the infamously tear-jerking The Fault in Our Stars.
Honorable mention to Laura Kaye’s Hearts in Darkness, Emma Chase’s Tangled, and Palahniuk’s Choke.