Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Influential Books

Candy Gourlay wrote on her blog yesterday about the books that have most influenced her over the last ten years. Kathryn Evans followed suit and it started me thinking about the books that have influenced me over the last ten years. For a start the last ten years have been fairly momentous for me. I stopped being able to eat, had a tube stuck in my stomach to keep me alive, lost a business and moved 5 times but I also got a BA(hons) in English, an MA in Writing for Children and am about to finish a PhD in the issues of representing/representation of sex, drugs and alcohol in British contemporary young adult fiction (what a mouthful!). I have given papers internationally on my subject and been published academically. I started and co-edit the ejournal Write4Children. Consequently, as you can imagine, books have had a major impact on my life.

Back in 2000 none of this was on my radar. I loved to write and had previously written for newspapers and obviously as part of my job within my PR company. I had aspirations to be a writer but never thought I could really do it. I can safely say I dabbled with it. In 2002 a flyer came through the door about an Open Day at Winchester University. Didn't think anything of it until the Saturday morning when I drove my youngest son into Winchester and found myself driving into the University and that was the moment my new life started and the moment books became an even more vital part of my life.

It had never occurred to me to write for children until I met Professor Andrew Melrose and Judy Waite. They were my beginning. But as for my books, it is knowing where to start and what to include. Candy Gourlay pointed out that if you go on Amazon you can look back at your order history. This was a revelation as it tracked the whole of my academic career in books!

OK so enough to the waffle, down to the books (unfortunately for some reason my blog won't let the picture of the books appear near to the write up so I will just add links) and this is in no particular order (as they say on Strictly):

Melvin Burgess's JUNK. I have included this because it is the starting point of my thesis as it is the first book written for young adults that deals graphically with drug use.

Aidan Chamber's BREAKTIME and POSTCARD'S FROM NO MAN'S LAND. I love the way both of these books were written. In particular with BREAKTIME the way Chamber's played with the narrative was inspirational and challenging.

HOLES by Louis Sachar because I love the story. It is full of circles and it is a great book to pull to pieces, dissect each chapter to see how it works and what it consists of.

ROLL OF THUNDER HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D Taylor. This is a book that actually made me hold my breath in fear as I wondered what was going to happen next.

NOUGHTS AND CROSSES by Malorie Blackman, ONCE by Morris Gleitzman, THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak and WARHORSE by Michael Morpurgo are all books that have inspired and enthralled.

And I know this is way over the seven that the others wrote about but there are six more which I must highlight. They are STOLEN and FLYAWAY by Lucy Christopher, A NOTE OF MADNESS and FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma, HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff and of course, TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay. These are books and authors that have touched my life and have reminded me of the importance of books and their influence but also how much I love writing for children/teenagers as these authors have truly inspired me.


  1. It's amazing how Louis Sachar features in so many lists. He's responsible for spawning a whole generation of aspiring children's authors! Thanks for putting me on the list, Vanessa - it sounds like you had a MASSIVE decade!

  2. I know the Louis Sachar is one I go back to frequently. Though I realise I have left off things like Harry Potter which I still go back to every now and then. She is good at describing meals etc. Plus Northern Lights and Stig of the Dump...and ....and...I think my list is endless and ever growing.
    It was a MASSIVE decade but have high hopes for the next one without quite so much trauma if possible!
    TALL STORY is there because it is another one I dip in and out for inspiration and thoughts on how to deal with character and place so it was my pleasure and thank you for writing it!

  3. Yes Ness, what a adecade - sounds like a heavy hand of fate at work....Book Thief could easily have been on my list too, adored it.

  4. OK, that's added a few more books to my 'Must Read' list! I had enough difficulty choosing 15 books from those I read last year, I'm not sure I could choose 7 that have inspired me as a writer, because as you illustrate, there are so many. I'm with you on Holes and Tall Story, and How I Live Now and Northern Lights, and … well, thanks for the other recommendations. Hope this decade brings success with your own words.

  5. Many thanks Dave. I am really pleased you enjoyed/agreed with my choices. Good luck to you too. I think it is going to be a pretty amazing year for you.