The Influence of Books

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Pat O’Dea Rosen handed me the task of–well, it’s a bit of a self-defined task.  In Pat’s blog post, she says she was challenged to name her five favorite books, but she shifted that to five influential authors.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I found even that an impossible task.  First off, I have no real idea what authors have influenced me, or even what they might have influenced.  Further reading?  Writing?  Philosophy of life?  I don’t have a clue.  I just know what books, or more often authors, have stuck with me over the years.  Never mind what I’ve read and enoyed recently (a long list).  What comes to mind are the authors I read long ago, and nover forgot.

Even thinking about a question like that presents its dangers.  As I search my keeper shelves, I either find books I really want to read again, or gaps where well-remembered books have vanished, making me want to head straight for Amazon, or Alibris, or Half-Price Books, to replace them.  Right, I need more books.

Be that as it may, I found myself making notes on a scratch pad, listing authors in groups of three in various categories.  Looking for them on my shelves, wondering why I let some books slip away (because if I hadn’t my house would be starring in an episode of one of those hoarding shows), and looking them up on the Internet.

Going all the way back to childhood, my three authors would be L. Frank Baum, Hugh Lofting, and T.H. White.  Baum, of course, wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and fourteen sequels.  Long years ago, I tracked down a nearly complete collection of those Wizard of Oz Collection at Amazonbooks, including many of the sequels written by other people, in antiques shops and used book stores, and I have no idea what happened to them.  They stayed in my parents’ house long after I left, and I suspect they went to my brother’s kids when my parents moved.  I remember the Oz books of my childhood as big, thick volumes, but the only paper copy I have now is a paperback Wizard of Oz, 198 pages of fairly large print but without illustrations.  Must have been the illustrations that made the difference.  It probably says something about the influence of books that the first purchase I made for my Kindle was a collection of all the Oz stories written by Baum.

Hugh Lofting was the author of the Doctor Doolittle series, tales which bore little or no resemblance to the movies of the same name.  In searching for available editions of Lofting’s books a while back, I discovered that many of the editions currently available have been edited to remove racial and cultural stereotypes common in the 1920s when most of the books were written.  What I remember about the books are the good doctor’s ability to talk with animals, of course, and Lofting’s delightful illustrations.  Many of the books are available in Kindle editions, but if I decide to download any, I’m holding out for illustrated editions.

T.H. White is best remembered for The Once and Future King, his wonderful retelling of Arthurian legend (originally oublished as four novels between 1938 and 1958), but I loved Mistress Masham’s Repose (1946), the tale of  a lonely, awkward little heiress who discovers a colony of Lilliputians living on an islet on her land.  Both books are still in print, and both are still on my bookshelf.

I have five more categories, fourteen more authors, on my scrap of paper.  Guess I’ll save them for another post, or more likely several.  Do you have childhood favorites that live on in the back of your mind?  Are any of them still on your bookshelves?