Carl Thoren

Marcom professional with international experience

My favorite novels

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I don't miss much of my old life in San Francisco, but I do miss being able to go to good bookstores and buy books.

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:

Childhood

Where the Wild Things Are

The Winnie the Pooh books

Teens

Watership Down

Dune (the 3-part series)

Pickwick Papers

College

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)

The Plague

Post college/Adulthood

War and Peace

Master and Margarita

Catch-22

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?

2 Comments

  1. Sara Fiscus September 17, 2010

    Hi Carl. I love that you are proposing this. I am responding to your categories as follows.

    CHILDHOOD:

    Dr. Suess
    Laura Ingells Wilder –all books
    The Great Brain books (don’t remember the author) –all bookd (read 3X at least)
    Nancy Drew –all books
    Trixie Belden (don’t remember the author) –all books
    Agatha Christie –I can’t pinpoint anyting in particular that stands out to me now at age 42 but I know I read a shitlod of her books at that age.

    TEENS:

    Judy Blume novels
    Catcher in the Rye

    COLLEGE:
    Pride and Prejudice
    Vilette
    Catch22
    Wordsworth, Keats
    SYLVIA PLATH
    (THIS IS TOO HARD!!!!)

    POST COLLEGE/ADULTHOOD:
    to be continued…

  2. Carl September 17, 2010

    Thanks, Sara. Very funny to think of you reading Agatha Christie as a little girl!

    One thing I noticed about my list is that it doesn’t have any female authors in it, which really bothers me. I do love Jane Austen and many other female writers, but none of their books captivated me so much that I read them over and over. Austen is the closest, actually. I love her devious sense of humor.