For Mariam

Most nights you could find me under my covers with a flashlight, chewing an old piece of gum I retrieved from the stockpile on the back of my headboard, heart pounding so loudly I was sure my parents could hear it down the hall and would implicate me at any moment, and reading. I read most anything I could get my hands on – and I’m sure our very frequent trips to the public library were amusing to the casual observer. I always went home with a pile of books taller than me (I realize it doesn’t take many books to make that stack), and within a couple of days I was ready to exchange them all for new ones. I had my personal favorites – books I read over and over again, but I always enjoyed new stories, too.

Recently a dear friend asked me to list some of the most influential books I’ve read. Since I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, alike, my first list is only comprised of works of fiction. I found this to be a daunting task. What if I forget one? What if my list isn’t that impressive? What if no one else has ever heard of any of my books? What if my readers laugh at me? (Just kidding. You can laugh all you want; I do it all the time.)

I took a deep breath, grabbed my pen and my notebook and started writing. I know if a book comes to me later – I can add it; that’s the beautiful thing about the “Edit” option in WordPress! This list of books is my list – and these books in one way, or in many ways, have made an impression on me, and that’s why I created it. If you haven’t heard of any of these books – it will be a great list to take with you to the library, and if you laugh, then I will feel even happier I took the time to write it all down.

I plan to write about each book individually to explain its impact on me, but for now we at least have a starting point. What are some of the books on your fiction list? Let’s compare notes! Leave a comment to get the dialogue going because I’m always looking for my next read.

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns
  2. All of a Kind Family
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front
  4. Anne of Green Gables
  5. Cold Sassy Tree
  6. Harry Potter – all seven of them
  7. James and the Giant Peach
  8. Jane Eyre
  9. The Kite Runner
  10. Little House on the Prairie
  11. The Lord of the Rings
  12. Mama Day
  13. The Neverending Story
  14. The Poisonwood Bible
  15. Possession: A Love Story
  16. The Secret Garden
  17. The Secret Life of Bees
  18. The Witch of Blackbird Pond


  1. Erin Dymowski says

    I love that you included All of A Kind Family. My sister and I adored these five wonderful sisters, but hardly anyone else has ever heard of them. We could never decide which sister we wanted to be—they were each so wonderful in their own way. Thanks for including this gem of a book!!

  2. Gini Dietrich says

    There are so many reasons I love you and “Little House On the Prairie” is one of them! What about any of Ayn Rand’s books? Or John Irving?

  3. says

    @Erin: I absolutely adored this series. I read them over and over and over again. I think I was 30 before I heard the correct pronunciation of synagogue, and then it took a minute for me to connect the dots!
    @Gini: See? We’re destined to be friends. I hate to admit it, but I’ve never read Ayn Rand, although I own “Atlas Shrugged.” For some reason it keeps getting bumped in my pile of next reads. Same with John Irving. What of his do you recommend?

  4. Mara Van Nostrand says

    great list and I have to say I totally agree with Erin. I grew up with the All of a Kind Family books and no one else had ever heard of them. I searched the web to find them for my daughters and they loved them as much as my sister and I have. I’ll make sure we hold on to these copies!

  5. David Bradley says

    I discovered the joy of books very early in life, and have never really been without them in my life. My home is filled with books on a variety of topics, fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, whatever.
    I read the Little House books as a young boy, but I’ve always had an admiration for Laura and her family, their fortitude in the extremes of heat, the brutal winter that nearly killed them and their community if not for Royal and Almanzo Wilder… I remember thinking, while a little kid, that I wish that there was a time machine so that I could go back in time to meet them.
    I’ve read about seven of this group, Arminda. I say about because The Lord of the Rings is a group, and so is the Little House series. I found the Kite Runner to be wonderful, even if some of it was a bit predictable.
    I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings immensely. I took a class in fantasy literature in college, and this was required reading. It opened new levels of understanding for me, not only of the work itself, but also of Tolkein. I read “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever”, which has your standard quest plot, with dwarves, elves, and humans. Where “Rings” has characters and plots, talking/moving trees, and the rings of power, the “Chronicles” has great characters, but enough wierd terms scattered throughout, in a variety of languages, that you really needed a Elvish/Dwarf dictionary with you while reading the books. Rings, a complex work, full of moral tales and strange adventures, did not continually interrupt the flow of the story with irrelevancies.
    Your friend Gini mentions Ayn Rand…I highly recommend her work, especially “The Fountainhead”. “Atlas Shrugged” is a book full of strength, mystery, and questions. It is not a book to be taken lightly; some concepts will grab you by the throat, as is similar to The Fountainhead. You might try “Anthem” as a starting point, but I would definitely recommend reading “Fountainhead” before “Atlas Shrugged.” Why? You’ll find out. ;)
    I would also suggest some international authors; Frederic Forsyth, Michael Gilbert, Lionel Davidson, Thomas Gifford, and Arturo Perez-Reverte spring to mind.

  6. Christie says

    Great list Arminda! I’ve read a dozen of them, and now have half a dozen more to add to my reading list :) I started “Atlas Shrugged” on a number of occasions without being able to get very far into it. Then, one day I picked it up again and found that I couldn’t put it down. I think I finished it in about 2 days! Definitely thought provoking, though there were some ideas with which I didn’t agree, it certainly made me think (which I love). A few others that I love:
    Life of Pi
    A Tale of Two Cities
    The Bell Jar
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Alvin Maker series – One of these days I’m going to convince you to read
    Ender’s Game (series) something by Orson Scott Card!!
    War and Peace
    The Walk
    The Passage

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