On this beautiful, Pacific Northwest rainy day, I am reminded of how nice it is to curl up with a good book. This morning I began to think over all the books I read as a child, those that transported me away from a dreary day to a magical land, where I could fight my problems with a sword, or use magic to change things I couldn’t in real life, or meet new friends that lived inside a closet, rather than traveling via car to see my friends.
I decided to compile a list of my favorite books that inspired me growing up to pursue writing my own stories.
Catherine Called Birdie
Scholastic book fairs were one of the highlights of my childhood. I remember getting that little order booklet, seeing all the new books I could potentially delve into and explore! My mom gave me a monetary limit (believe me, I needed it!) and I chose what I wanted with what we had to spare. One such book fair, I had just read The Diary of Ann Frank and was interested in other diary books (it was fascinating to delve inside the mind of someone else!) and came across Catherine Called Birdie. It’s a fictional story in the point of view of a 14 year old girl in feudal Europe whose father has all these plans for suitors. She wants to have fun playing with the peasant children, but she’s forced instead to learn needlepoint and boring ladylike things. She comes up with ingenious plans to discourage suitors and get out of role requirements. As a tomboy, I ate this up.
Nancy Drew Files series
I got into the updated Nancy Drew Files that were written in the 80’s and 90’s, rather than the original yellow hardbacks my mom and aunt used to read. My friend Holly and I used to pretend we were Nancy Drew and George, her sidekick friend. We also decided to make our own detective names by taking our middle names and making up last names. I had found an old leather coat in the closet that looked sleuthy, just the perfect combination of hip and sophisticated I imagined Nancy Drew herself would wear. We solved crimes incognito and always saved the day.
Journey of the Sparrows
From as far back as I can remember, I have loved to go to the bookstore. Any bookstore. You could leave me there for hours, and I would still be wanting more time. I remember my parents taking me and the smell of all the books letting me know all the potential stories I might uncover. I wanted to read them all. One particular book, Journey of the Sparrows, caught my eye with the bright colors and pretty smiling lady on the front, along with a pretty bird with a long tail. I hadn’t heard of the country El Salvador, except brief world geography mentions. I had no idea how much this book would come to teach me. The story involves a group of siblings that their mother used all of their money to send them via coyotes (men that smuggle humans) away from the brutal civil war that was killing so many. These coyotes hid the children and others in crates piled in the back of a truck, with crates of chickens over the top to hide them. Their journey was dangerous, they face illness, brutality, starvation, and had to constantly be on the lookout. This book humanized what countless people go through each day and opened my eyes to what others have to do to survive.
The Song of The Lioness Quartet
This is one of the most inspiring series’ I have ever read. It follows a set of twins, a girl, Alanna, and her brother, Alan, who have destinies already planned by their father. Alanna is to go to the convent to study magic and become “the perfect wife” someday. Alan is to become a page and study under a knight and one day fight with swords. The only problem is that neither of them want these things. Alanna would rather learn to fight and become a great knight someday, and she is afraid of her magic. Alan would rather study at the convent and learn to use his magical abilities. Alanna comes up with a plan to switch identities, she cuts her hair, and they trade places. She has to pretend to be a boy, and hide who she is. The author talks about so much real life stuff, I had never read anything like that before. As the story progresses, you watch Alanna grow up into a powerful woman, something that inspires me to strive for even today.
Dealing with Dragons
This book changed my life. Every trope you can think of in fantasy about how a princess should behave, the author does exactly the opposite. Her universe she builds had an incredibly fun set of rules based in fairy tales and is so cleaver at weaving them together. The characters are rich and feel so real. I loved the play on the fairy godmothers and how princes don’t know how to act if princesses refuse their offers of rescue. Such a wonderful series as well.
My Side of the Mountain
I love stories of survival, human against all odds, persevering, relying on their environment around them to live. My Side of the Mountain is a beautiful story of a boy who gets fed up living in a crowded apartment in New York City and runs away to live in the woods. He wanders into town to do research in the library of how to survive, and on a cold and rainy night an old man in a pickup truck happens by and shows him how to spark a flint and steel to build a fire. The book contains sketches as if you’re reading his journal. I would replicate this so much, pretend to be living in the wilderness and use a little notepad to document my “inventions” for survival. He raises a falcon from the egg and I so desperately wanted an animal companion like his.
The Spirit Ring
In middle school, I remember seeing The Spirit Ring on the shelf and marveling at the large, black tome with a scary looking gold ring. What’s funny is I had heard people talking about Lord of the Rings, and I actually thought this was related. Once I started reading, I found it definitely was not, but drew me in nonetheless. It takes place in an alternate timeline in the Italian Renaissance, involving sorcery and magic. The main character’s father is an artist that creates gorgeous statues, and an evil man hires him. The man turns out to be cruel and evil, trapping her father in a ring. She goes on a journey and it’s up to her to save her dad.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
This series brought about so many imaginings and inspired so many of my stories. I remember pretending I knew where the Narnia portals would appear, combining it with Sliders, and traveling to different parts of Narnia, meeting different creatures, and swimming with the mermaids. Mr. Tumnus and I would have coffee instead of tea and we would fight the evil queen’s henchmen. A loose brick behind the fireplace was the perfect place to hide secret notes for the allied against the queen.
I remember reading this book after my dad had, a gift from his cousin Linda I think. It involves a reluctant messiah who travels from town to town in a small aircraft, giving plane rides to people and helping them solve their problems. The narrator of the book is a man that meets this pilot and learns how to manipulate reality around him. The pilot showed that reality changes once you start paying attention and realize you really can change things.
Johnathan Livingston Seagull
I don’t know how many times my parents read this book to me before I learned how to read it myself. It’s from the perspective of a seagull and his daily life. This book made me realize every living creature could have its own mind like Johnathan Livingston Seagull. Also the same author as Illusions.
Calvin and Hobbes
Even though it’s not a novel, Calvin and Hobbes inspired me so much. Calvin’s imagination along with his stuffed tiger that was real only in Calvin’s eyes felt so much like how I perceived the world. I imagined the school bus was a prison bus and I was being sent to work in a labor camp, performing sweatshop duties. I imagined every day how I could escape the evil wardens and run to my freedom back to the Allied Forces that I spied for. The blackberry bush out back was a giant squid octopus with razor sharp tentacles and I had to defeat it with my laser sword (what appeared to be a stick in other’s eyes). My parents were secret agents with made up identities, that’s why my dad went on business trips, and my mom had to maintain an appearance of normalcy. I had endless imaginings.
Romancing the Stone
This movie was so important to me. The adventures in the jungle, the danger of being pursued by thieves and murderers, the romance of the man trying to save her but she ends up saving herself, following a treasure map, all of it. I would draw endless treasure maps that folded to show clues. I would pretend to swing on vines away from the bad guy just in time (using my awesome giant swing my dad made with cables far up in trees). I had to dig up the treasure before the villains found it first. And the story being from the perspective of a romance novelist, well, there ya go!
I hope you enjoyed my musings on what has motivated me and been the fundamental ingredients for my imagination. Thanks for following!
2 thoughts on “What Inspires Me”
I remember you reading these books
From the time you were introduced to this world you have embraced the adventure
You are so amazing
You are definitely a precious gift to all of us
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I read this to Sharon she was in kind of a agitated mood (dementia symptoms) Once I started reading this to her she settled back in her chair an totally relaxed with a happy expression on her face She eventually fell asleep totally relaxed and enjoying the read
Thanks hun So special to read your Childhood in colorful words Love Your Dad ❤️
Sent from my iPhone
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