The Books that Mean the Most
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is that book my sister bought home from Southend High School for girls in 1982 and which evidently never went back. Although you have to pick it up from the clues because it doesn't state it outright, it's set in a dystopian future of post-nuclear winter and tells the story of a boy, David Strorm, who is different in a world which doesn't tolerate "mutants, blasphemies and abominations" including David's little friend, Sophie, who has six toes. It is chilling and absorbing, and firmly fixed my love of science fiction. It has dated only slightly (compared to much of John Wyndham's other work written in the 1950s) and I recommend it to everyone.
I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy at University and it took me a week to recover from the shock and the injustice. I loved all of Hardy's books, but this was the one which most moved me. Vanity Fair by WM Thackeray was another book which showed me exactly why the classics are classics, and just how unsurpassed they are.
The next book to take me by surprise was The Heart has its Reasons by Kerry Blair. I had read two LDS novels prior to writing my first, intending to get a feel for the market. My overwhelming impression after reading them (and I won't name them) was "I can do much better than this!" I decided that the LDS market was easy to break into because the standard wasn't very high, and lo and behold, Haven was published. I had a 40% author's discount with my publisher, so I bought some other books published around the same time and was blown away by the quality of Kerry's writing. It made me realise how lucky I was to have broken into the market at all and how very good fiction by LDS writers could be. And as an added bonus, I got to make a wonderful new friend, and Kerry in turn introduced me to many other supportive, talented and lovely LDS writers.
Finally, as as much as it may make you wince, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer sucked me in and captured my imagination just as it has for so many other people. Like them, I have a hard time explaining why it is so very compelling. The writing is good but not brilliant, and yet somehow it is completely absorbing and enthralling.
There are other books I love, of course. Pride and Prejudice, The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency, Harry Potter and a great many more. But I think that these five books are the ones which had the most profound effect on me, and most shaped my enjoyment of reading and my view of the world.