As an English major, books obviously hold a special place in my heart. Books served as this once lonely suburban kid’s entertainment for a good portion of her life. While it has gotten harder to pick up a book as I’ve gotten older and busier, I still feel a connection to certain authors and their work. So, I’ve decided to share with you my list of the top ten living authors who have been most influential to my life.
1. Marc Brown – I will always feel grateful towards the author of the Arthur picture books not just because of his written work, but also because of the televised world he created. Yes, Brown created characters I grew up with and presented storylines that are now classic, but I want to meet and thank him for subsequently creating the TV series Arthur . Now one of the most long-running animated children’s shows, Arthur’s first episode actually premiered on my first birthday. Call it foreshadowing, but my siblings and I grew up watching Arthur. It was pretty much the only TV show we’d all agree on watching together. The show exposed me to so many real-life situations and taught me how to face them. It had such an enormous impact on my childhood and to speak with the man who initially concocted these visions would be amazing.
2. Judy Blume – To write a series of books about a middle school kid trying to deal with his wacky little brother and for this series to equally appeal to boys and girls is an incredible accomplishment. Judy Blume’s Fudge books gave me such joy as a kid and I can’t even count how many times I reread them. For me, Judy always felt like that laidback, hippie aunt who snuck you some more “mature” reading material than what was probably appropriate for your age. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret was the first book I read “before my time”, as it presented some situations that I was a tad bit oblivious to in real life. Blubber and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself were other Blume books that I fell in love with after I outgrew Fudge. Like Marc Brown, Judy Blume is a writer that left a huge impact on my pre-teen self and – now looking back – on my writing style as well.
3. Meg Cabot – I strongly believe that Mia Thermopolis helped me find my own voice. She helped me form my sarcastic side, my witty side, and showed that it was cool to know about pop culture (all of her Top Ten lists! How I loved them!). While I separate the Princess Diaries books from the film and appreciate the latter as its own work, I think that the characters Cabot created in this series were my first exposure to contemporary literary characters that I could easily picture meeting in real life. Her work was the first in which I noticed mentions of real life TV shows and movies, as opposed to fake ones that other authors utilized. A Meg Cabot book always came with the guarantee that it would make me smile, and I’m happy to say that nearly all of her books – Princess Diaries or not – have lived up to this promise.
4. Sarah Dessen – I had a major Dessen phase around eighth or ninth grade. Her books were probably my first real journey into the YA world of books. She was also the first author I followed on social media – before the days of Tumblr, I would always read her latest blog post. I didn’t enjoy her last two books as much i have her older ones, which is probably a sign that I’ve outgrown her style, but knowing what her personality is like tells me that she would so nice to meet and have a conversation with.
5. J.K. Rowling – This is obvious for any Harry Potter fan. She’s lower on the list because of the high improbability of ever meeting her. But what more can be said about this woman that someone hasn’t said before? She created a universe that will live forever, and I can’t wait until the next generation gets to discover Harry Potter. On a personal note, Rowling is important to me because her books, particularly Deathly Hallows, inspired me to write fan fiction, which led to about three solid years of my life immersed in that wonderful online community. I got to talk to such lovely people through writing fan fiction, and sometimes I wish I still wrote, but I don’t really have the drive to write about HP anymore.
6. John Green – This one is a bit of a cheat, because the only book of John’s that I truly loved was The Fault in Our Stars (although I want to give Looking for Alaska a second chance). However, I am a devout Nerdfighter and John has ultimately created a community that strives to improve humanity in any and all ways. Anyone who has watched his YouTube videos can tell that he is a witty and humble guy who has perhaps redefined author-reader relationships for good. Like Rowling, he’s lower on the list because of how unlikely it is to meet him one-on-one.
7. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – She is the author of my beloved Alice series and the woman reponsible for the majority of my “reading before my time” scenarios. I feel like these books don’t get much attention, but they have been around forever – quite literally! The series ended last October with Book 25 (28 if you count three prequels), after several decades of telling about the life of Alice from a third-grader to a sixty-year-old. I’ve probably dedicated more years to reading this series than I have reading the Harry Potter books. Needless to say, I was sobbing when I finished the last book, because I really do feel like I grew up alongside these characters. Meeting the woman whose books taught me so much about life, while simultaneously making me laugh and cry, would be amazing.
8. Curtis Sittenfeld – I have recently found Sittenfeld’s books, and have read Prep and American Wife in the past year. Both of these books have really stuck with me. I didn’t love them intensely, but they were such unique narratives and were pretty engrossing stories. Both books tell stories over long periods of time, and this is a literary element I’m always a sucker for. Sittenfeld writes wonderful prose and her books always go beyond the typical “girl grows up and learns about life” story. She has an impressive resume and I think it’d be interesting to talk with her and see how much of her personality seeps through in her books.
9. Louis Sachar – Sachar is the author of Holes and the Wayside School book series, all of which I really enjoyed reading as a kid. I remember rereading the Wayside School books so much and being so intrigued by the kooky characters and how nothing really ever made sense. Holes will always have a special place in my heart for being the book I resorted to for a fourth grade report after my teacher insisted that I was beyond the reading level of most of my classmates and should read something a little more advanced. Holes was probably the first book I read that regularly went back and forth between the past and the present, an element that I still love in books today. I think that anyone who can create such whimsical stories would be so great to meet, hence Sachar’s place on this list.
10. Carolyn Meyer – She is probably the least known author here, but this woman was essential to my middle school reading life. She wrote the Tudor Women series, which were books told from the perspectives of the young Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, “Bloody” Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth Tudor. My series box set is still in its coveted spot on my bookshelf. Meyer’s books were my first exposure to the Tudor era of England, now one of my all-time favorite time periods. They were perfect middle-grade substitutes for other Tudor fiction, like Philippa Gregory’s books. These books sparked my deep love of anything associated with King Henry VIII and his six wives. I can imagine meeting up with Meyer over tea to discuss British history till the cows come home. It would be quite a lovely day.
What about you? What authors have influenced your life?