Books That Shaped Me

7:00 AM

I've learned a lot this summer, so I want to talk about some other things that have taught me.

Stories are powerful. If you don't know my thoughts on that by now you're either SUPER new or you're just...not paying attention? Words and stories are important. They tell the truth about humanity and the world around us, about our nature and the way we interact. We can learn from them -- whether it's a personal lesson or figuring out another way of seeing things. And some books just shape you in ways you can't explain -- they become a part of you, and who you are now.

I have lots of books like that, and I wanted to reflect on a few at this point in life. I've changed a lot lately, and there are some books that have helped to shape who I am right now.

1. Unwind by Neal Shusterman 
Image result for unwind neal shusterman

"We know, Aimee," you say. "It's only like your favorite book ever. You never shut up about it." 

Hear me out. 

Neal Shusterman could easily be my favorite author. He writes with a deep thoughtfulness I don't find in many writers. He writes honestly, and he writes well, and his words have a way of wiggling into your head and sticking there. He writes people the way they are, not the way he thinks they should be. His characters are layered and flawed and broken and honest. The Unwind series is one I've read probably ten times by now, and every time I pick it up I find something new. Connor was the first YA character I found that I could actually relate to, in all this anger issues and helplessness and street smarts and...normalness. He made me realize that I didn't have to be "ordinary" and extremely bookish (though I am in my own way) and introverted and special and the chosen one to be a hero. He and the other main characters taught me that it's in the way you determine to do the right thing for the sake of it, and never give up, that turns your ordinary self into something extraordinary. He taught me that it was okay to be more practical and blunt and outspoken. That I could work hard and be something. The book made me think long and hard about the soul, about human nature, about how society treats issues and makes excuses for their behavior while cheapening human life. 

Basically it's a deep, insightful dystopian series, and you need to read it immediately. It might make you uncomfortable -- but there's probably something wrong if it doesn't make you squirm a little. Real life and real society isn't comfortable. It's disturbing. 

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events
Image result for a series of unfortunate events series
*strokes the pretties*
I know, I know. This is technically a series of books and not one books. But it could be one book and really, it functions as one big overarching story, as most series do, so...I'm breaking my own rules and I have #noregrets.

This one has to make the list for several reasons. 

1: It was the first series I truly fell in love with as a reader. Before then I read a ton, of course, and couldn't get enough of words, but I was frustrated with most of what I read. Then lo and behold, middle-grade Aimee discovers a series of books that don't treat kids/tweens like they're idiots. A book written in a way that younger readers can access, but also one that's smart. That assumes the best. That's full of smart words and twisty plot lines and good writing and all that good stuff. Small morbid Aimee loved it. 

2. It encouraged me as a writer. I was intrigued by the questions without answers. The characters. The descriptions. The hooks. The mystery. Everything about it made me study it and, by extension, want to work hard to write like that. 

3. They're still one of my favorites. Lemony Snicket has a gift with words. His stories come alive in a witty, morbid way, with a wry sense of sarcastic humor that I love. He treats you like you're smart, in on an inside joke. He weaves together mystery and plotlines in a way that you can't untangle but you really, really want to untangle because it's so delicious. He's a bit of a genius and I'll never get tired of reading these. 

3. Brave New World
Image result for brave new world
*strokes the beautiful thing*
I am still not sure why my mother gave 12-year-old small Aimee this book for school. I am not sure why she thought that was appropriate. But she must have been right in her logic, because it scarred me in a mostly positive way. This book stuck with me, to say the least. It's very...blunt in its topic and depictions, and it's certainly not for everyone, but I think everyone should read it at some point in their life, even if and especially if it tests their comfort levels. It's an incredibly powerful look at society and our tendency to build up a society built on pleasure and comfort rather than true happiness; it teaches us how happiness is not necessarily a good thing, and what happens when you strip away emotion in favor of comfort. (After all, you can't have God without discomfort, you can't have learning, you can't have experience.) It's one of those books that makes you scared for humanity because you see echoes of it in our world today, and I think that's crucial. I've read it multiple times and every time, I come away feeling on guard.

4. The Great Gatsby
Image result for the great gatsby
gatsby covers tho
Ah yes, where would I be without another all-time favorite. Ever since I read Gatsby for the first time -- and I've probably read it four or five times since then -- I've been absolutely enchanted by it. Do you want gorgeous, lush writing that captures character and emotion and atmosphere in a hazy spiderweb? Read Gatsby. Do you want heartbreak? Read Gatsby. Do you want a harsh look at society and individual people and the American Dream? Read Gatsby. Gatsby. You will not regret it. For me, Gatsby is something that touches me in so many different ways I don't even know where to start. It makes me cry. It makes me cry thinking about it. I could analyze and over-analyze it for the rest of my life.

5. Out of the Silent Planet (the Space Trilogy)
Image result for out of the silent planet cover
Where even would I be without C.S. Lewis? I grew up on Narnia, and then Screwtape and some of his other nonfiction works, and then I found my way to the Space Trilogy, that trippy sci-fi series Lewis wrote up that gave me some breakthroughs in regards to faith and spirituality. If you can wade through the weirdness -- and it takes several reads -- it's an allegory woven into a fascinating story, and it's so important to where my faith is now. I've written in my copies time and time again.

6. The Iliad
Image result for the iliad
this cover.
I couldn't leave it out. I grew up on the Iliad, the Odyssey, other ancient myths and stories. I grew up on Percy Jackson, too, but probably these first? The Iliad is something I've grown into. It started as a story about cool battles and lots of death and has become something that tugs at my chest in an odd way and makes me want to weep. we'll pretend like i haven't actually wept over the iliad before. Honor. Glory. Treatment of the dead. Loyalty. War. Emotion. The Iliad is deeply powerful and still speaks to us even today. I'm still learning from it.

Is there a good way to end this? This list could go on and on. I've been shaped and impacted by everything I've read, I think, either negatively or positively. I've left each book with a thought or opinion I didn't have before. My entire life could be mapped out by the books I read in that stage of life and what I thought of them. I'll always love stories -- and I'll always love these especially, because I owe them and their authors something special. They've made me who I am as a writer and a human.

What books have impacted you the most?


  1. I need to try Unwind and Brave New World.

  2. this post is fantastic.
    I really should read that Neal Shusterman book because I always hear you raving about him, and his writing is really all you make it out to be and then some.
    Also, The Great Gatsby. yes. my little brother makes fun of me because I just think its the best book, but seriously, its great.

    As for books that shaped me; Its Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini really shaped me as a person. that book...Ive read it a million times and it always changes me a bit more every time. that book touched me in a way no other book ever has.

    1. Ooooh I'll have to read that! *puts it on the tbr* (and please, read Unwind! It's flawless.)

  3. OOOH Unwind looks so GOOD! *promptly adds to TBR*

    Books that shaped me? I'll go with 'books that stuck with me', and some of those would be the Lord Of The Rings series, The Hobbit, and the Harry Potter series. Among others XD.

    ~ Savannah

  4. Man, I need to read Unwind.
    As a kid I read a ton of fantasy, legends and mythology, but some of my absolute favorites were Robin Hood and Narnia. I've always been drawn to large-scale epics and fantasy. Then there's Lord of the Rings/all of Tolkien's mythology, Les Miserables, The Book Thief, Crime and Punishment, Fahrenheit 451, everything I've ever read by C.S. Lewis, Homer's works...I don't know, man. I could write pages about how these books have shaped me. There are tons of others, too, because every story you read impacts you in some way or teaches you something.

    1. Everyone needs to read Unwind! And yeah, C.S. Lewis is a genius. I love him to death.

  5. Off of the top of my head I would say Little Pilgrims Progress/Pilgrims Progress have been the most influential along with The Chronicles of Narnia, Bridge to Terebithia, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, the Harry Potter series, and Passion and Purity. But there are so many more! I feel like all of the books that I love have impacted me, even the frivolous ones. I really need to read Unwind soon, it really sounds like a great book/series. I also should read the Illiad, especially considering how much I love history and Greek mythology!

    1. I don't think I've read any of those except Narnia...but YASSS YOU NEED TO READ THE ILIAD. IMMEDIATELY.

  6. I kneeeeew Neal Shusterman would be on this list! I KNEW IT. (Although I also expected Red Rising, eep.) But I love this list and I love how varied the books are! I'm right there with you on Lemony Snicket. That was one of the first series I ever read that made me go "Dude, I'm going to be a published author like this someday." Also the first series I collected religiously and it can probably be blamed for my book-hoarding tendencies too. So much to blame, Lemony Snicket, bless you. (I was actually devastated when I learned that his real name was Daniel Handler. #BETRAYAL.)

    1. Lemony Snicket -- that's all I can bring myself to call him -- is pure genius, I tell you, pure genius.

  7. Off the top of my hand, a book that's influenced me enormously is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I was fourteen or fifteen when I first read it, and something about that story hooked me in a way that very few books had before. It's obviously not my only favorite book, but it is the one I probably recommend the most. Aside from being a great story with characters I'm still in love with, it was the book that first got me seriously thinking about things like poverty and class. Plus, it made me cry, and I barely every cry over books, even the ones I love.

    1. The books that make you cry are often the best ones, aren't they? Funny how that works.

  8. Great list!
    A book that changed my life among many is Miracle's Boys by Jacqueline Woodson. It had me full out crying in the middle of the library, yeah it's that amazing.

  9. ASDFGHJKL THIS LIST IS GLORIOUS, AIMEE. GLORIOUS. And I've never read a dystopian thriller before (uncultured swine i know. i am) BUT OMG WAHT NOW I REALLY WANT TO READ UNWIND. WILL IT SCARE ME?? WILL IT KEEP ME UP AT NIGHT?? GAH BUT IT SOUNDS SO GOOD. <333 i need more quality books in my life. *hugs this post*



  10. Lemony Snicket is amazing! I just read the Great Gatsby recently, I really enjoyed it.

  11. I actually have not read ANY of these, and that needs to change ASAP! I think that some of the books that have impacted me the most deeply would have to be Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, All the Light We Cannot See, Catching Fire, Every Soul A Star, The Outsiders...oh, there are so many.

  12. I enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events so much <3 I keep reading The Great Gatsby not because I like it but because it's interesting and also the characters are hilarious.

    1. I don't think many books have impacted me except THe Book Thief <3

  13. Sound like good books! Some of the books that have changed me would be:
    #1. Hope In Front Of Me by Danny Gokey. Just. Read. It.
    #2. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. That series is action-packed, yet totally awesome!
    #3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Could be solely based on the simple quote, "Always."


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