Looking back, I had always been the storyteller of the family.
I remember talking to my grandmother on a rainy day, or during one of those unfortunate days when there was a blackout and we couldn’t do anything but gather by a candle in the living room and chat until the electricity’s back on again—I had always been the one telling stories, whether they be from my own experiences or pure fiction.
But I have to admit that I owe a major bulk of my interest in storytelling to my hobby: reading.
And as I am writing this post, I feel overwhelmed with disappointment that I don’t read as often as I used to, just like I had mentioned in my recent post. Reading used to be what defined me; it shaped me into the person I am today. It would not be an overstatement to say that I owe my whole interest into creative writing to the great books I read during my childhood.
Here are five of them, in no particular order:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
No surprise there. Harry Potter had practically shaped my childhood. Reading it became such an annual event to be excited about, even when I was just a kid. Prior to this book, I was very skeptical about books and tomes (even though I still loved to read lesser text blocks). When I got myself a copy of this, however, my life changed forever. It brought me into reading. It brought me into writing.
My very first encounter with the series was actually when I went to my aunt’s house and saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets laying on top of her coffee table. I remember thinking that the cover art looked somewhat cute. It didn’t take long for me to pick up the book and start reading it.
I hadn’t even made it to the end of the first chapter when my cousin sauntered by and laughed at me because I was reading the second book, and not the first book. I remember feeling so bummed by it, and eventually asked my mom to get me a copy of the first book.
And after she did… let’s just say that I spent almost every day wishing I had gone to Hogwarts instead of my elementary school.
The moment I finished reading the first book, I knew that I wanted to write something like Harry Potter. I don’t care how long would it take for me to learn the craft, or how much embarrassment I would get for even trying. I just knew that I had to write a book someday.
And so I started writing fiction.
The Famous Five Series – Enid Blyton
If I have to choose one series of my childhood that I hold in high esteem aside from the Harry Potter series, I have to choose this one. I remember reading the whole set of books over and over again each year when I was waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. While I loved most of Enid Blyton’s works (The Naughtiest Girl, Secret Seven, etc), this series resonated the most within me. It sparked the adventurous part the child version of me had.
My mom was very delighted when she discovered that someone in the family was a bibliophile, since usually she was the odd one out. Fortunately for me, she already had most of Enid Blyton’s works in her collection, as she was once a big fan of Blyton’s works, as well.
I really liked the adventure and mystery aspect of The Famous Five series, so much that I think it influenced my writing preference to include adventures (in my earlier works), and mystery (in my recent works, although I applied mystery in a different way than Blyton did).
Actually, you know what? Given enough time, I think I should do a readathon of all my childhood favorites. Have any of you done a similar thing before? Let me know down in the comments if you have! I’m curious to hear how did it turn out for everyone else.
Jinja no Miko – Alamanda
This is not a very well-known book. In fact, I could have sworn that the author self-published the book without actually sending it to major publishers. But gosh how I thoroughly enjoyed the book!
I have to thank my Mom for picking this book for me when I was in junior high. It got me into Japanese cultures in fiction very quickly, and even though it didn’t have the most compelling storyline, or the most beautiful diction and word flow, it shed some light to the junior high version of myself.
This was back when I started watching anime, you see. So the whole theme of the story resonated with my interest at the time, and it was practically a no brainer for me to pick up the book and finish it in one sitting. I am so glad I did.
Although there is no direct connection, I can confidently say that without this book, I would never be as interested in Japanese culture as I am right now. And without that interest, there would be no way I could write my debut novel, 3 (Tiga).
I’m just saying.
For One More Day – Mitch Albom
No, I didn’t read Tuesday With Morrie, at least until I read this one first. To sum it up, this book gave me a new perspective of how to engage the readers in an emotional roller-coaster. The book simply made me cry, sob, and contemplate after each chapter, reconsidering whatever bonds I have with my family at the moment. Even though it has a relatively low re-read value, I still hold this book close to my heart.
If you could see just what kind of a mess I was after finishing this book, or if you had read this book yourself, then you would know what I mean. This is one of the most tear-jerking books I’ve ever read, and I don’t think it’s going to be replaced soon.
Come to think about it, perhaps the very first spark of idea that helped me create Unspoken Words was shaped right after I finished this book. That’s just how powerful For One More Day was to me.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
It was a very tough decision to pick between this and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Ultimately, Jane Eyre won my pick simply because it was longer and it taught me more by the pages. Wuthering Heights was compelling and darker, but Jane Eyre was more emotional, and above all, human.
It’s amazing how a literature work written over hundreds of years ago could still touch people’s hearts in modern days. I would love to pick both books to be here, but if I have to choose one, I’d pick Jane Eyre, because it deviated from the usual archetype of books written by women.
This book got me into bildungsroman kind of works, and I believe it influenced my writing style of retelling someone’s life story, as I did with both of my books. There is something in writing a coming to age story that feels so satisfying—like you’re also living their lives for them.
And I can say for sure that it would be something that I look forward to write in my future writing projects.
So there you have it; the books that inspired me to write fiction myself. I have, of course, read more books than this tiny list, but these five books would always have a special place in my heart, for not only accompanying me when there was no internet, but also for leading me to my calling: creative writing.
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