Bob Bly, one of the world’s best copywriters — or at least one of the world’s most influential due to his books on copywriting — posted a list of his 10 favorite novels (and one play). That made me think about the novels, poetry, and plays that had a big influence on me and my writing style.
My criteria was that the books had to be ones that I loved at the time, reread several times, and which I still love now. So here’s my list, organized the time period in which I first read them:
Where the Wild Things Are
The Winnie the Pooh books
Dune (the 3-part series)
The Sun Also Rises
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Hamlet (and pretty much all Shakespeare)
Poetry by William Blake, Keats, Byron, Yeats, and T.S. Eliot
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Joseph Conrad’s short stories (especially those narrated by “Marlow,” including Youth and Heart of Darkness)
War and Peace
Master and Margarita
The Importance of Being Earnest
Arms and the Man
A Confederacy of Dunces
These are books that I’ve read and reread many times — and will probably do so again. Though I’m not sure about the Dune series. Also, I reread Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a few years ago and was totally bored by it; the writing is great, but I just didn’t care about Stephen Dedalus anymore and didn’t understand why the novel spoke to me so deeply when I was younger.
I notice several things about this list:
- I like books that start with a “W”
- I like humor, especially irony and wit (another “W”)
- I like adventure
Most of all, this helps me see that I’m drawn to a certain writing style, which you can find in Winnie the Pooh and Watership Down all the way through to War and Peace. It’s the “high” style, a style which is direct and clear, but has a high level of diction.
Which novels, poetry, and plays have had the most influence on you as a writer?