The Books That Shaped Me
By Kristin Key
One of my favorite books to read as a child, the silly tale of Bunnicula allowed me to explore the world of science fiction satire, a genre I had never delved into at the time, and fall in love with a whole new kind of satirical novel. The story took the classic tale of a misplaced vampire attempting to hide his identity and satirized beyond belief by making the "dangerous", "fearsome" creature into a cute and cuddly bunny rabbit that simply wanted to suck the life out of veggies in peace. It was such a shockingly witty take one vampires that it has stuck with me to this day, reminding me that sometimes the "monsters" in my life are not nearly as dangerous as I think they are. Though seemingly silly and only directed for children, the tale of Bunnicula not only allowed for a humorous dive into the typically-too-serious scifi world, but also taught an important lesson in valuing others despite their differences. Even though the little vampire rabbit was strange and theoretically dangerous, the loving dog that accepted him experienced a warm happy ending while the distrustful cat was punished and driven nearly insane for acting so cruelly towards Bunnicula.
The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
There seems to be a theme of vampires in the beginning of this list, though honestly until I read this series books such as Twilight had given me a rather bad impression of the vampire genre. However, unlike the sappy romance of Twilight, Vladimir is presented as an entirely relatable character that just happens to have vampirism stacked on top of his numerous other struggles that come with being a teenager. The creation of such a potentially dangerous character and then trapping him inside of an awkward teenage body makes the story incredibly relatable, especially since I read it around the time I became a teenager myself. To see a mythical creature turned into such a familiar character is incredibly humorous and comforting; I may feel awkward sometimes among my peers, but I will never have to simultaneously deal with being a vampire. To me, the novels serve as a reminder that even the best of us will have to struggle with the smallest, most basic of life's matters, and that we are universally connected in that sense.
The Harry Potter Series
This magical series was a huge part of my life growing up, as I found myself growing, learning, and changing right alongside the students at Hogwarts academy. The series instilled a love of the magical side of literature within me, something that has permeated to all my other hobbies; seriously, I love the idea of magic. I even attempted to learn some magic tricks at one point just to be more like Harry, something which quickly fell flat due to my clumsy hands. A sense of enchantment surrounded the books and slipped quietly into my mind, slowly engulfing me until I became completely obsessed with the series and numerous other books with any magical elements in them. Additionally, to grow up alongside the characters and see how even the seemingly perfect world of wizards have normal everyday struggles as they age was extremely comforting and calmed my anxieties about aging.
Without a doubt this was my favorite read as a child; I literally read it ten times over and it still possess a place of honor on my crowded, over stressed bookshelf. For some reason I simply found the story utterly fascinating, causing me to fall in love with all things centered around medieval fantasy, video games, and strong female characters. Never before had I read a story in which such a hardheaded, determined girl was displayed as the main protagonist, which I found to be incredibly inspiring, making me feel like I could have easily entered into a daring situation and emerge a hero just as she did. I also became engrossed in fantastical spins on medieval culture, namely dragons and trolls, which caused me to read and study many a story about whimsical creatures and draw dragons in numbers like you wouldn't believe. Additionally, despite it being a book, this story helped generate my love of video games as I realized how they can truly be a portal into fascinating worlds that can otherwise only be experienced within the mind.
The first graphic novel that I ever read, Hush both spurred my love of drawing and started my deep fascination with comic books as a whole. I fell in love with the beautiful art style, full of color and immense detail, which caused me to put far more effort into my own drawings and sketches in an attempt to create something just as beautiful. Additionally this graphic novel can be marked as the starting point for my extreme nerdy love of all things comic-bookish, from fan-art to movies, which still strongly influences me to this day. It may not have any literary merit to anyone else, but to me Hush is one of the most important novels I've ever read; it still sits dogeared and worn out on my bottom shelf.
The Percy Jackson Series
This series instilled in me an immense and long lasting love of Greek mythology; without them the worlds of Oedipus, Odysseus, and the numerous allusions to said mythology in a huge variety of novels would have been utterly lost on me. Throughout every novel Greek God's, monsters, and tales where presented in relatable and interesting environments, not only teaching me about them but making the concepts far easier to grasp and comprehend. It spurred in me a deep love of Greek legends, causing me to research and seek out many more stories and information on the subject in order to fully understand the fascinating ideas and monsters the Greeks created. In addition, the main character, a rather relatable misfit named Percy Jackson, also helped me to grasp the concept that although it may seem like you don't fit in anywhere, even among friends, there will always be a place you can call home where solace can be found.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The first extended series I read all on my own, A Series of Unfortunate Events not only determined my love of wordage but also my love of reading as a whole. Even now I can distinctly remember the word that first caught my attention in these novels; it was standoffish, and I actually took the time to ask around and look up the word in order to fully understand what it meant. From then on I analyzed every large word I did not comprehend within the stories and continued to do so outside of the series, both to further my knowledge of the English language and to increase my vocabulary as much as possible. My occasional tragic wordiness can without a doubt be traced back to these books. Additional, I can say with confidence that were it not for this series it is highly likely I would not possess the deep love of books I still hold on to today. During a stressful and tumultuous time where I retained no friends and struggled with loneliness I found consolation within these novels, and developed something of a sense of family with three scrambling main characters who simply desired a place in a strange, lonesome world.
This wild manga series simultaneously altered the entire way I drew characters and instilled in me a deep love of the manga and anime world. Throughout reading the graphically stunning and distinctive manga's I found myself studying every single page for its techniques, character positioning, and use of forced perspective in order to adopt it for my own drawings. The art style was so strangely beautiful that I just had to model my style after it in order to achieve stunning and distinctive characters. In addition, the series attracted me to the otherwise avoided world of manga, something I had become prejudiced against due to the extreme stereotypes surrounding anime/manga and the people who viewed it. Upon reading the books and later watching the show, though, I instantly fell in love with the imaginative nature and lovely art style of the genre, causing me to develop a deep and rather worrying obsession with manga that still stands strong.
Tales of Suspense
Edgar Allen Poe's collection of short stories, Tales of Suspense, spawned my love of the more macabre side of literature, which not only influenced my choices in reading but also affected my sense of humor in quite possibly a bad manner. Before reading the stories I generally chose happy, upbeat novels with pretty descriptions and happy endings; upon reading Poe's stories, however, I fell in love with the more realistic, darker side of literature in which happy endings did not necessarily occur and the true brutality of human nature shinned through. Somehow I found the dismal stories immensely engrossing, alluring even, and have since sought out the more grotesque side of literature for reading and analyzing. Unfortunately, I also believe these stories also influenced my admittedly darker sense of humor; something about ironic death and brutal karma struck me as strangely funny, which is still reflected today in my fascination with the macabre and rather bad taste in jokes.
The Warriors Series
This series is by far the most important to me, as it not only caused me to fall in love with descriptive literature but inspired my future forays into writing. The beautiful details throughout each novel of green forests brimming with life juxtaposed to the dirty, dangerous human world filled my imagination and captivated my sense of wonder. It was truly inspiring, since never before has I been able to read a series with such wonderful descriptions, and it honestly changed the way I thought and wrote. I started thinking in details, determined to put onto paper only the most beautiful and imaginative stories I could think of, which not only helped my writings for school but caused me to write short stories filled with delightful imagery. This series really did influence my entire life, allowing me to understand how to imagine pictures in great detail and catalyzing my desire to write.
Whales on Stilts
The first satire I ever read and fully understood, Whales on Stilts is undoubtedly one of the funniest and most creative novels I have ever read, and started my deep love of satirical stories. Throughout the crazy, over-the-top adventure everything from a half-whale villain to a teenager capable of stopping an army of laser-shooting whales are presented, which I found both immensely amusing and brilliantly satirical of the typical over sized heroic tale. Never before had I encountered such a wonderfully crafted, critical take on a classic hero story, and I found it absolutely hilarious. Ever since I have found myself in love with satires for their critical views and humorous derision, as they both present an opportunity to laugh and a chance to delve into a serious topic and watch it get ripped apart.
A Wrinkle in Time
Probably one of the stranger books I read as a child, A Wrinkle in Time made me realize fully it was okay to not only be imaginative, but be absolutely crazy with it. The twisting tale through dimensions and worlds was like Alice in Wonderland on steroids, filled to the brim with memorable characters and events not even a child could dream up without months to form their ideas. Never before had I encountered such a stunningly-insane seeming tale, and it absolutely fascinated my young, impressionable mind; after so much time of being forced to only meet the lacking status quo of grade school I had finally found a novel that perfectly captured how truly beautiful and immense imagination can be. The book inspired me to let loose on my inner creativity, no matter how strange it got, to not only set myself apart from the normal habits of people but to also try and create my own world and thoughts that no other person could touch.