ORIGINALLY POSTED 7/3/2014
1. Anthem by Ayn Rand
Just say the word dystopia and I’m in. Anthem has remained my favorite book for years. Its mix of science fiction, Rand’s philosophy and self-righteous rebellion keep me coming back, over and over. It’s a very quick read and I think that’s partly what inspired me to make the Everflame books rapid reads. If there is any one part of the Everflame series in which this book most directly inspired, it would have to be Tenturo’s rebirth upon the red planet. Anthem remains the only book that I have an audio version of, as well as the only book I’ve had to purchase multiple times because I give my copy away to people. If you read only one book on this list, read this one.
Best quote: “But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man's freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else.” ― Ayn Rand, Anthem
2. 1984 by George Orwell
Staying with the dystopia theme, 1984 was the only book I actually read in high school. (Believe it or not, I didn’t become an avid reader until after the age of eighteen.) As an angst-ridden young man, George Orwell seemed to hit the nail on the head in regard to how I felt about modern society. Sometimes the greatest books are the ones that help you realize you’re not alone in the way that you think, and 1984did that for me as a young man. I’m not quite sure 1984 inspired any part of the Everflame series directly, however, it did inspire me to become a reader and one who enjoys the written word.
Best quote: “Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” ― George Orwell, 1984
3. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead is one of the only books on this list that has no aspect of fantasy or science fiction in the story. What I find so inspiring about Ayn Rand is her philosophy of the individual. The protagonist of this book, Howard Roark, is everything I ever wanted to be as an individual. When I read this book for the first time it truly felt as if his words were my own, his conversations were my conversations, and his thoughts were my thoughts. I was misunderstood in the very same way that he was misunderstood, others hated me in the very same way he was hated by others, and the few that loved me, loved me in the same way they loved Howard Roark.
Best quote: “But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” ― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
4. Imajica by Clive Barker
Imajica changed my perspective on the fantasy genre and helped me realize that a fantasy book could move past the world of elves and dwarves. It was also the first fantasy book I had read that took place in a modern atmosphere. I would count Imajica as a fantasy epic that does not receive the credit it deserves and it surely got my creative side flowing in a way that other fantasy novels couldn’t hope to. Its most apparent influence in the Everflame series would have to be the Daughters of Earth and Sun. I recommend Imajica to any fantasy reader, but keep in mind that it has very adult themes.
Best quote: “Study nothing except in the knowledge that you already knew it. Worship nothing except in adoration of your true self. And fear nothing except in the certainty that you are your enemy's begetter and its only hope of healing.” ― Clive Barker, Imajica
5. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
How could one not include The Lord of the Rings? It would have to be tantamount to a modern musician never listening to The Beatles. The influences are intrinsic and obvious. A modern fantasy writer would be a fool to assume they are not influenced by this story, and the honest truth is that one finds they are trying to make sure that they don’t blatantly sample Tolkien’s work. If you haven’t read it, get to work.
Best quote: “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
…and back to dystopia. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the concept of rebelling against an oppressor. I would say the brothers Floyd are probably the characters in the Everflame series that most embody my love of rebelling against a society you hold in disdain. Fahrenheit 451 helped foster that feeling. It’s a definite must read.
Best quote: “I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
7. Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King
As I had already said, I didn’t really read much as a child, but I did carry this collection of short stories around with me for the better part of a year. I’ve always loved the way Stephen King could keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the payoff. I read through those short stories voraciously, dying to know the secrets King had yet to reveal. I’ve tried to replicate that sort of need to know what’s around the corner in my own writing. If I come even remotely close to achieving that curiosity in my readers I’ll count it as a success.
My favorite of the stories in this collection: The Ten o’Clock People
8. Dragonlance Legends (Time of the Twins, War of the Twins, Test of the Twins) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
This is just a very solid fantasy trilogy and it was certainly the inspiration behind my desire to create characters that could be both good and evil. It was the first series I had ever read where the protagonist was the bad guy… or was he? I think the strength of this series is in the characters and that is certainly an element I try to achieve I my own writing.
9. Illusions by Richard Bach
Illusions is another book that everyone should read. You can add Jonathan Livingston Seagull into this as well. (same author) One thing I have learned in my life is that the people in this world who are successful and who get what they want are the people who face the fear of failure and defeat it. Doubt will destroy you. If you want something, believe you can obtain it and never give up the pursuit. If you fail, learn from that failure, get back up, and resume the fight.
Best quote: “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it however.” ― Richard Bach, Illusions
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Stranger by Albert Camus is like an old friend, or more like an old picture of myself. I look back on it with nostalgia, knowing that it was a part of me, and a part of who I was, but also knowing that I have grown past it and benefitted from knowing it. The Stranger is a sketch of Camus’ existentialism, and when I was younger, I identified with it greatly. Yet at some point, I realized that I wasn’t really an existential thinker as much as I was someone who felt numbed by the weight of life. It was working through the ideas in this book that helped me grow as a person and find within myself the fire that I call Everflame.
I encourage you to read all these books. I find great value in having them as a part of my life, and I believe each one has helped to make me who I am today.