Stan Lee shaped a lot of my early life without even knowing it. Through the pages of Spider-Man, The X-Men and the rest of the comics that make up the Marvel Universe I learned to differentiate right from wrong. I learned that good guys win. Most importantly, I learned that with great power, comes great responsibility.
He told stories about heroes. Heroes with super-normal powers. Those heroes were flawed. They struggled against adversity. Those heroes fought for a better world. Sometimes they stumbled, but they never stopped fighting the good fight.
I remember watching some mid-80s Incredible Hulk cartoon with Stan’s iconic “True Believers” narration and being instantly hooked. I watched the cartoon because it was cool and it was the Hulk, but I went back every week for more because Stan’s voice over made everything cooler.
Here’s the problem with challenging a creative type like myself with making a list about something I’m passionate about. It won’t stop. Limit myself to seven books? I’d rather cut off my good right arm. Like I said at the beginning, the number of books that have influenced me may be closer to seven hundred rather than seven and while paring it down to seven was challenging, there were definitely a few that I left out.
I purposefully left out a number of books that my friends had already posted, even though they meant a lot to me because I didn’t want to dilute their contributions by saying ” Oooh! Oooh! Me too!”. There were also quite a few books that I debated over for various reasons and while they influenced me, and were definitely among my favourites, they have been supplanted by the books that made the list.
This list is by no means comprehensive. I may revisit this theme again in the future and go a little deeper down the rabbit hole of my favourite authors and/or books but in the meantime here is a glimpse of a few more books that orbit the being that is me.
And so we come to the final day of the challenge. As they say, you should always save the best for last. To that end, I give you…
This is definitely, by far, my favourite book and series in recent memory. The style is a retrospective story within a story somewhat along the lines of Scheherazade. Sometimes it becomes nested stories within stories within stories. Rather than having to tell a story to prevent themselves from being killed. The main character, Kvothe, tells the story of his life to a chronicler, telling him it will take 3 days (something unheard of). This is day 1.
Kvothe, is a prodigal musician and arcanist (read: sorcerer). He is self-confident, humanly fallible, and wholly believable. He is a character that lives, breathes and steps right off the page, fully formed.
The magic is understated, more steampunk science than sorcery. It works in this setting
The main draw is the story itself. It sucks you in like nothing else. Rothfuss has a way with words that makes you believe you can feel the air move around you like a whisper or feel the force of a whip crack.
I wait “patiently” for the third book in the trilogy. Is it here yet?
I had an extremely hard time deciding between this and Raymond Feist’s Magician as today’s book. Both books have an almost equal hold on me for similar reasons. Ultimately I went with this one, because I read it first and that counts for something right?
Pawn of Prophecy and the whole series of books that followed were always a fun read. It was the first “series” of books that I read (I don’t count Lord of the Rings as a series, as it really is just one big book split 3 ways). It was my first chance at watching a character develop over time, and grow through the series. The characters within became parts of my life and because I knew them so well, they helped me identify things about myself that I didn’t quite understand. They really were the perfect companion for a dorky kid stumbling through puberty.
I loved the system of magic. The Will and the Word. It’s how magic should always be in my mind. Simple. No fancy scrolls or incantations. Focus your will, say the word to release your will. Just don’t try to delete something from existence. The world has a Conservation of Matter clause that kicks back pretty hard if you try to break it.
Like all books do, it does have its flaws, (Namely that the whole 2nd series is the same as the first, just everyone is… older and has levelled up a few times), but for a young reader’s first steps into the great beyond, you can’t go wrong.
Tomorrow is the last day of this silly little challenge. I’m going to have to go out in style. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Names…
I can’t do a book list without including this book. For everything that I love about storytelling, about epic journeys about larger than life characters (and smaller than average ones as well) came from the seeds this book planted.
Does it have its faults, indubitably. But it, beyond any other book, made 9 year old me want to turn the page. To find out what happened next. To see where the story led. I wanted to be a Ranger like Strider (though never a king like Aragorn, too much spotlight), A wizard like Gandalf, and a burglar like Bilbo Baggins.
I read it many times in my youth, and my original copies have cracked and broken bindings that are well past repair. I read it again, around the time the movies were released (cause I’m THAT kind of nerd) just to re-familiarize myself with the minutiae and there was still depth to the story that I missed as a child. Few books can do that.
I posted the cover to this version, because for one I had a hard time finding a cover that matched my original one and secondly, This is just the best damn picture of Gandalf ever. Thank you John Howe!
Here’s a version that isn’t battered and cracked.
As for what comes tomorrow, I’m somewhat torn as to which way I’ll go. It will either involve Magicians or Sorcerers. I haven’t quite decided yet.
I make no bones about my geekiness. I was, am and always will be a nerd.
As I blogged about fairly recently. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for D&D. It fueled my imagination. It increased my vocabulary well beyond my grade level. It allowed me to make complex mathematical calculations in my head. It empowered me to make friends. It made me problem solve and develop both communication and teamwork skills. It allowed the introvert inside me to learn to sometimes be an extrovert. It was in fact, the genesis of everything that I can take credit for today.
And yes Dorothy, if you noticed that every single one of those skills is something I can translate on to a resume today, you wouldn’t be wrong.
To anyone who reads this and fears D&D is evil and we’re all a bunch of Satanists bent on bringing about the apocalypse… 1) Please pry open that closed mind of yours and realize that D&D is nothing more than a tool to develop young minds into social, independent, smart, funny, radically thinking individuals who will amaze you with their skills. 2) Sod the Fuck off!
Tomorrow, we shall discuss dungeons deep and caverns old.
My wife says I have a “type”. What kind of type you ask? A type of woman? A type of speech? No, a type of book. She says that we can go into any bookstore and walk the shelves and she can spot my “type of book” almost instantly just by it’s cover. She’s not entirely wrong. I do have a type, though it’s not as evident as she may make it out to be.
My type generally lies somewhere between historical fiction and genre fantasy with a solid story for a backbone. Often its a series. More often than not, the main character is rogue-ish in demeanour or skillset. The covers often feature cloaked individuals performing roguishly nefarious deeds.
So without much preamble, the next book that I’m choosing is:
I inherited this book from my mother. I was bored one day, had nothing to read and she thrust it at me, warning me that it may just be a little too complex for me. I suspect it was to give her a moment’s peace more than anything else. “What’s it about,” I asked? “Merlin” was all she responded.
So my friend Jon challenged me to one of those stupid “post your x favourite ____ and then tag bunch of your friends” chain letter spam things on Facebook recently. Normally I ignore them passionately because I personally hate the gullible sheep mentality they breed and I simply hate spam. This time however, I was intrigued. The challenge is thus:
Day 1: I have accepted a challenge to post the covers of 7 books I love — no explanation, no reviews, just the covers. Each time I’ll ask a friend to take up the challenge. Let’s promote literacy together. Today I challenge: ____
Pretty innocuous right? I mean it’s books! This was a challenge I was born to participate in. So I started thinking about it… then I thought about it some more and then today I caved and took up the challenge.
I started rummaging around in my head for the books that I love. Books that have shaped my identity and my world views over the years and realized that I had way more than 7. The number might be closer to 700 truth be told. This might be harder to narrow down than I had originally thought.
On top if this, just posting without any explanation makes me twitch out. I’m the kind of person that needs to know why. I need to understand the reasons. The story behind the story if you will. I’m sure there’s more than a few of you out there that feel the same.
Now, so as to stick to the spirit of the rules, if not the letter, I’ve decided to post the original over on Facebook and then link each day to a new post here with the juicy details about why these seven books are so important to me.
Or at least bad timing. I’m one of those creatives whose brain doesn’t shut off. I drive to work, I develop characters. I’m working on my staff’s schedules at work, I mentally run through 17-18 different permutations of an encounter that I’ve planned for my characters that I highly doubt they’ll even attempt. I watch tv, I tune out and start rewriting the plot. I go to bed, I wake up at 3 in the morning with the cheesiest pun of a title for an episode of my star wars campaign that I have to remember.
And there’s the rub. 90% of the time, these ideas pounce on me at the wrong time. Or in the wrong place. You’d think that by now, I’d have learned to carry a notebook with me. Nope. I did that for awhile, then kept leaving the notes around. Yes, I even had one of those silly little digital recorders with me in the car for awhile. Couldn’t stand talking to the thing. Like most people, I hate the sound of my own voice. Plus I found that the batteries were always dead when I actually did try to use the thing.
I’ve called myself and left voicemail. I’ve scribbled notes on napkins in restaurants. Most of the time I just let the thought rattle around in my head until pen finds paper, or fingers find keys. A lot of times these days, I even will just text random burbles to friends without context or anything more than the briefest explanation.
Thankfully, the couple of friends that I end up usually sending things to are creative enough to understand and humour me as I go daft in my old age.
Can’t stop… Clowns will eat me.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the gloriously bad pun title for my Star Wars campaign…