Important Books

Kate 2Kate Wyland



A few days ago I was challenged to come up with a list of ten books that have stayed with me and changed my life. Initially I was nonplussed at the request, wondering how to winnow the thousands of books I’ve read down to just ten. I also realized I had to create categories to provide a focus.

Not to make a big deal out of a Facebook challenge, I finally decided on Books That Influenced my Writing Life. And I also noticed that often it was not individual books but authors or topics that have been important. So here is my idiosyncratic list.


Black Beauty. I was born crazy about horses. My favorite toys as a kid were a mismatched family of stuffed horses that I slept with every night. So of course my favorite book would be about the wonderful animals. Anna Sewell’s plea for better treatment of horses was contained in a sentimental story and proved quite effective in changing people’s ideas at the time it was written. The specific things that bothered her are no longer applicable today but Black Beauty remains a childhood staple.

Smoky the Cowhorse. Like a lot of young girls I avidly read the Black Stallion and all its myriad of clones and loved the stories. At the same time I knew they had little relation to real horses. Not so the Newberry Award book by Will James. It gave a great picture of how a horse thinks and reacts to things. And what made it even better were the true-to-life illustrations by James.

Tales of the Knights of the Round Table. That probably isn’t the correct title but I loved the stories about the brave and noble knights of Camelot. I adored fairy tales and fantasies and gladly charged into battle with Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad. And I’m afraid I look for similar real-life heroes.

Johnny Tremaine. I’m not sure if Johnny or Little House on the Prairie came first but I became addicted to historical fiction—all eras, all places. I loved reading about how characters lived and worked in past times. As I got older I transitioned to more adult fiction such as the stories of Anya Seton, who wrote lovingly researched historical romances, although she considered them biographical novels.

Lord Peter Wimsey books. Oddly enough I never particularly cared for mystery stories until I discovered Dorothy Sayers’ tales of an insouciant, aristocratic sleuth and his super-competent manservant. Prompted by the original BBC series, I looked up the books and fell in love. Then I discovered Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters and I was totaled hooked. Historical mysteries. What could be more fun?

Romance novels. I came somewhat late to the romance genre—not counting the Seton books. The early stories with the brooding, domineering hero and the subservient heroine were not my cup of tea, but when the stories changed to more realistic characters I became interested. Nora Roberts wrote stories I could get into. I particularly liked the ones with a paranormal theme—witches, Irish fairies and such. I could believe her characters. Since then I’ve discovered many wonderful writers, too many to mention. But one of my particular favorites is Jayne Ann Krentz. I encountered her via her Arcane Society novels and fell in love.

So that’s my odd list of books, authors and themes that have stayed with me and influenced my writing life. I written about horses and noble heroes, paranormal, mystery and romance. The only thing I haven’t yet done is something historical—which my husband keeps bugging me to do. Who knows I may have an American Revolution mystery waiting to emerge.

What about you? What books have been important in your life?


photo credit: <a href="">Book Buzz: Presented by Booklist</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>


Forewarning Cover

Healing is her life. Will it be her death?


Wyoming Cover - 4x6 - #2.

Wyoming Escape
Two dead bodies. One dirty cop.
Is she next?


Cover - Images - 2.

 Images – A Love Story
She’s learned to hide from life.
Should she hide from him?


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24 thoughts on “Important Books

  1. From my youth, probably the Little House books had the biggest impact on me, along with Sherlock Holmes. As a writer, the day I picked up a Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker was the day I knew what I wanted to write. As I got older, CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY by Alan Paton has been the book that meant the most to me in terms of how I live my life.

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  2. Kate, I did this on FB as well sometime last year, and it was lots of fun to think back on the books that influenced me. I also included BLACK BEAUTY on my list. I loved it as a little girl as I was always an animal lover. I’d have to include WATERSHIP DOWN as well. It made me cry and horrified me at the same time. I also loved A LITTLE PRINCESS and THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgsen Burnett. These books whisked me away to a whole new world. I’m with Joe on the LITTLE HOUSE books. I had the whole series. The Spenser series was also a reason why I started writing crime fiction. As well as the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. I’d have to include TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a book that really shook me and made me cry. It’s my #1 favorite book. Thanks for the fun post, Kate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We shared lots of the same escapes but I’ve not gotten into crime fiction too much. Prefer lighter fare. Spenser had a lot of humor to offset the dark. Loved Mockingbird too.


  3. I was a very avid reader and I read 10 + books a week from the 6th grade through High School. I read a lot of True Detective Mags. I read teen mags, and I read the extra book you got every yesr as an upgrad to the encyclopedia set Mom and Dad purchased. Dad read Zane Hrey, so I read Zane Gray. I read a book one time that had a purple cover, and inside was the ‘Sunday’s Child” poem, but can’t remember the name of the book or author. If anyone knows please let me know. I loved Tarzan and White Fang. So many books. Lol Cher’ley

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    1. I read voraciously as a kid too. Used to get in trouble because I’d read in class. Never did magazines though. I read a couple of Zane Greys years ago but for some reason didn’t get hooked. Odd, given my love of horses and the West. I should revisit him again and see what my reaction is now.


  4. I agree that it’s difficult to pick favorites when you are an avid reader. I don’t remember ever not reading. My favorite book is Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I also loved Jack London, Ralph Moody, Zane Grey, and all the historical books as a child. I had the whole set of Little House books and when my parents got a set of encyclopedias it came with several books like Sherlock Holmes, Ali Babba and the Forty Thieves, Treasure Island and The Knights of the Round Table, among others. I read them over and over. I read every Anya Seton book, loved the Nancy Drew Series and the Hardy Boys. I could go on and on, I guess. My favorite mystery writer today is Harlan Coben, but Robert Parker and John D. McDonald made me want to write. Aren’t we lucky to have so many wonderful authors to choose from?

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  5. Love all the different, yet similar, experiences with books. We writers do love to read. I don’t think I’ve read Coben. Have to give him a try. So many books, so little time. 😉


  6. I got such a request myself. I’ve got to focus on my Civil War novel, so I’ll probably beg off. Most of the books I’ve read through the decades have been SF and fantasy. I could probably list 10 of those that have impacted my life, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I read back in college in the early 1970s.

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  7. Each and every choice is a winner. I’ve read most of them and agree totally. The only author I would add is Gwen Barstow. Her “Calico Palace” is still a favorite. Doris

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  8. What a great list of books from everyone. Black beauty, Bambi, the White Stallion, Little House, the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Lost Horizon, and Billy Goats Gruff when young enthralled me. Later The Robe, and others by Costain, and Gone with the Wind really stayed with me. I had a book club that sent the stories of Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Pocohontas and other heroes from that era too that really influenced my love of historical novels.

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  9. Little House books at the top, then a variety of animal books like Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows (but I soon tired of pets that died!), and Nancy Drew. Later, historical fiction, including historical romance, and even novels based on true characters, like Sacagewea (read that long novel twice!). Lately back into animal-oriented books, including Until Tuesday, about a former military officer and his service dog, the Michael Vick “Vicktory” dogs, and A Street Cat Named Bob. I’ve downloaded some Kindle romance books that involves pets since that’s something I thought I’d be interested in writing — but that’s on the back burner and so are the books. 🙂 Not sure what’s next for summer reading…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Animal books definitely. Read every horse and dog story in our library. Remember the Albert Pason Terhune boks? Until Tuesday sounds interesting. Do you have time for reading, with all you do? 🙂


  10. I kind of feel like you did, Kate,

    Too many to distill down to distill. Right now Don Winslow’s style and scope has impressed me. So many others in crime fiction. I can’t list them just yet.


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  11. So many books. I moved quickly from Nancy Drew through Zane Grey to Dickens. I remember with great affection Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy Quartet. I cried and cried when Sherlock Holmes went over Reichenbach Falls, then a year later learned he’d reappeared, so I recovered and read the rest of the stories. As a teen I read To Kill a Mockingbird, which about knocked me flat. And Huckleberry Finn. But as for the top 10? I’m glad I don’t have to choose.


  12. I did this list on FB last year, as well, and it took me ages to narrow the list down to 10 books. Enid Blyton stories were big in my early reading chilldhood. I don’t remember many of the titles but as a mid teenager I loved Agatha Christie’s crime novels, and the huge historical books of M.M. Kaye and Taylor Caldwell. Around the 1980s a big influence was Jean M Auel’s pre-historical novels and those of Morgan LLywelyn. In between all of those read for pleasure were many texts for school or college that were a big influence in many different ways.


  13. There are so many books on my list. Some made me laugh, others made me cry, a few scared me and others taught me, or made me think. There aren’t any romance books on my list and no sci fi .


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