Books That Influenced my Childhood

We all have these books, the ones that, despite the years, have stuck with us. The books that, for better or worse, shaped us into who we are. Here’s seven of the ones that have had a lasting effect on me, ever since I was young.

Pendragon by D.J. MacHale


I don’t know that my love for this book has any particular meaning. I think it comes from the fact that it has the greatest first line ever. “I hope you’re reading this, Mark.” Overall, it was a fun series, and I certainly got obsessed at one point. I remember taking the 7th book to one of the first summer camps I went to, and completely ignoring everyone else to read it. This book is quite possibly why this developed into a regular habit for me.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini


I know this book is belittled as derivative. But it had a profound impact on me for several reasons. I loved it for the story–that’s undeniable. I really enjoyed the adventure. I read this one before I was big into fantasy–to me, it wasn’t derivative, it was something I’d never seen before. I’ll probably never re-read it again, because I fear I will find it derivative and boring, but I enjoyed it when I was a kid.

But beyond that, Paolini inspired me. Here was a homeschooled kid getting published at age 16.  His story was the one that inspired me to want to write. It’s probably the original inspiration, and though it certainly isn’t my main driving force today, it was the one that started me on the path that I’m still on–the path to wanting to be published.

Holes by Louis Sachar


I can’t quite even quantify why I loved this book so much. It was just… A mainstay of my childhood. (I don’t think Sachar quite understands it either. I’ve read some of his other books, and… eh.) It does a lot of things that you’re not supposed to do in YA books, notably flashbacks and non-linear story-telling, but I found it to be just such a good, true story that I reread it many, many times.

Redwall by Brian Jacques


This book was, and still is, to me, a classic of fantasy. While I feel that the later books in the series devolved into multiple copies of the same formula, the original Redwall will forever remain one of my favorite books of all time. It’s got everything a fantasy novel needs. A bumbling hero, an absolutely evil villain, the peaceful folk who need defending, a beautiful yet capable romantic interest, a mysterious/mystical figure, a magic sword, a quest against the other embodiment of evil to reclaim the sword, the helpful folk of the land, and the great storytelling voice that makes you feel like you’re sitting by the fireside, an elderly storyteller recounting stories. I loved this book, and I still do.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer


Lots of super-genius books are overblown. I honestly feel like Ender, for example, is a great, determined hero, but he does not display the super-human intelligence and brilliance that seems attributed to him. Artemis Fowl is one of the few books that I feel really gets this across. His plans are brilliant, and he always sees so many layers into and beyond what the reader does, and all of the other characters. And he’s also probably my favorite morally grey character of my childhood. Most of my other favorite books feature truly good people doing good things, yet Artemis is something of an antihero, and I loved him anyway.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling


I’ve read my copies of this series enough times that they fell apart and I had to get new ones. Do I really need to say anything else?

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George


This book isn’t the most famous of George’s works, but it is definitely my personal favorite. The story of Sam Gribley, a boy who runs away from home to live in the woods, this book simply enchanted me. There’s no overarching evil, no magic, not even truly a plot. It’s more of a journal than anything. And, yet… It captured my mind in a way that no other book has ever done. This is the book that inspired my love of camping, that made me decide to be a boy scout, and is why I still have so many wilderness survival manuals lying around, somewhere. I always wanted to run off into the woods, to try to do as Sam did. This was how I wanted to live my life. Heck, it’s still how I want to live my life. I am still tempted, every few months, to just grab a backpack full of stuff and disappear from civilization for as long as I can, living off the land, having my own adventures. The pull is strong. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find the time to reread this book again.

2 thoughts on “Books That Influenced my Childhood

  1. ZOMG! My Side of the Mountain! I had forgotten about it, but I loved it when I was a kid. I also really liked the Eragon books. Like you said, the adventure was fun. I still need to read the last book. Harry Potter is a definite staple of my childhood. As for the other books, I’ve read Holes and a couple of the Artemis Fowl books, but that’s it. Great list, Mark!

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