|Who: Rudyard Kipling
What: The Jungle Books
Why: The tales from the first Jungle Book have always interested me from childhood, including “Rikki-tikki-tavi”. Though I’m sure Kipling would be no fan of the “Bear Necessities”, it was actually the Disney cartoon “Tailspin” that got me to look up where Baloo, Louie and Shere Khan came from when I was younger.
|Who: Barbara Gowdy
What: The White Bone
Why: A professor of mine in university, Catherine Grise, suggested I read The White Bone since I was so ambivalent to Gowdy’s book We So Seldom Look on Love. I actually liked it a lot. It’s not the only piece of Canlit I like, others being Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage and Martel’s The Life of Pi.
|Who: Daniel J. Levitin
What: This Is Your Brain On Music
Why: Okay, so he’s a non-fiction writer. Does that matter? He is a writer, and I’m a journalist who loves music. This guy mixes two of my favourite things in his writing: music and words. He would follow-up his international bestseller This Is Your Brain On Music with The World in Six Songs. If you like music pick up both.
|Who: Bentley Little
What: The Resort
Why: Take King’s sense of home and the neuroses therein, mix them with Lovecraft’s beasties and add a dash of Matheson’s anxiety and you’ve got Bentley Little. A great talent in the horror genre he sets all of his tales in Arizona, playing off of the mystery of the state. He’s somewhat of a Thomas Pynchon character. This was the only photo I could find of him.
|Who: Raymond Chandler
What: The Big Sleep
Why: The Film Noir genre and me get along very well. However before there were movies, there were books to adapt them from. Chandler, along with contemporaries like Hammett and Spillane was one of those hard-boiled detective writers that you’ll see occasionally in the works of James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard and even my fave, Carl Hiaasen.
|Who: J.R.R. Tolkien
What: The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Why: I was a bit late getting into the whole Tolkien experience but once I had to read The Two Towers for an English class at university, I ended up buying the other two books and reading them when I wasn’t bogged down with archaeology, geography and English classes. What I like is the world Tolkien created, which has influenced me and my imagination.
|Who: C.S. Lewis
What: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Why: Lewis and Tolkien shared their imaginative worlds of the Shire and Narnia with children and adults alike. If you abide by the opinions that Philip Pullman has expressed of Lewis, I don’t care. Yes, Lewis’ works are rife with Christian themes and he’s a Christian apologist. So what? I like the stories of kids overcoming adversity. And Aslan kicks ass, to put it in layman’s terms.
|Who: Jeffrey Masson Moussaieff
What: When Elephants Weep
Why: Another non-fiction writer that makes my top 25. I like animals. Not to the point where I’d become a vegetarian, but to the point where I respect the laws of nature. I don’t eat anything that would kill me in their natural environment. But I digress. Moussaieff does a great job of describing the beings that share the ecosystem with us arrogant humans. Those being “animals” like cats, wolves and elephants.
|Who: Douglas Adams
What: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Why: You’ll pick up from the overall spectrum of writers on this list that I’m a fan of horrors, hardboiled yarns and allegorical tales involving critters. So, Sci-Fi is a bit of a rarity, probably moreso than Canlit in my book collection. Still, Adams’ wit was what drew me into his books and kept me reading Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect’s wacky explorations of the universe.
|Who: Richard Matheson
What: A Stir Of Echoes
Why: Besides the distinction of having Kevin Bacon in one of the adaptations of his books, Matheson is the precursor for King to the horror genre and the descendent of Orwellian dystopias, Lovecraftian hoodoo and botched Welles experiments. Matheson is a legend in messing with the mind, and social criticism.
|Who: Richard Adams
What: Watership Down
Why: He wrote kids books about bunnies. One was psychic, one had a bad haircut and another had a God complex. Still, the story is a great tale of survival. And on a personal note, my grandmother, a war bride, grew up near Kingsclere, where Adams based his novel.
|Who: John Saul
What: The Manhattan Hunt Club
Why: That book, The Manhattan Hunt Club, is in my Top 10 novels of all time. The story of a wrongly convicted man plunged into a Running Man inspired game involving the highest ranking officials in New York City is classic. Though it’s been done before some of the characters leave an indelible print on your mind, including Jagger the Dragger.
|Who: William Blake
What: “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”
Why: The first of two poets you’ll come across on this list. In my spare time I like to write poetry, and Blake is one of the biggest influences. I’m not a fan of free verse or slam poetry, but they are arts in their own right. I like to work harder at my craft though and the confines of Romantic period poetry seem to enable my creativity.
|Who: Franz Kafka
What: Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis)
Why: Clearly the guy had issues. Clearly. Freud would classify his fellow Bohemian as having a classic Oedipus complex. But it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead. Kafka’s existentialist musings and his angst have been put into great examples of the grotesque or psychological thrillers like The Metamorphosis, The Castle and The Trial.
|Who: Neil Gaiman
What: American Gods
Why: I’m not one for fantasy with a bunch of knights running around slaying wizards and dragons. That said I do like Tolkien. Of course, he started it all. When it comes to fantasy, Gaiman’s worlds interest me more because they are set in the here-and-now. Not some distant world or mythical place. I like taking the real world, and twisting it just enough.
|Who: Dennis Lehane
What: Shutter Island
Why: Shutter Island is my favourite novel of all time. Though the movie did stray from the book only a wee bit, I still loved that flick as well. Still there is something in Lehane’s words that make you question your sanity and Teddy Daniels’.
|Who: Dashiell Hammett
What: The Maltese Falcon
Why: Refer to Raymond Chandler. There are so many reasons why I like Hammett. Red Harvest, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse and The Glass Key, his five big pieces are classic hard-boiled detective work. They romanticize the gumshoe. They honour the anti-hero with Continental Op, Sam Spade or Nick Charles.
|Who: H.P. Lovecraft
What: The Call of Cthulu
Why: You wonder what the catalyst was in Lovecraft’s life to make him write such tales of bizarre horrors and gurgling beasties from the depths of God knows where. His imagination though came from reading Arabian Nights tales and due to his constant health problems, he escaped into the mountains of madness. Plus he was raised by three women and his maternal grandfather. You can draw your own conclusions.
|Who: Edgar Allan Poe
What: “The Raven”
Why: Now who doesn’t appreciate North America’s agent provocateur of the macabre. Long before high school the old poem “The Raven” drew me in, and once in university, I would speed through my book of his short stories with a hunger for more.
|Who: Joseph Conrad
What: Heart of Darkness
Why: The irony is I hate boats but like books taking place on what else? Boats. A lot of Conrad’s nautical tales draw me in, especially Heart of Darkness which follows Charles Marlow up the Congo. I’m a big fan of the book Nostromo as well. Perhaps the theme of anti-hero is what draws me into Conrad’s characters and battle of inner demons.
|Who: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
What: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Why: Here’s the second poet, and his aforementioned lyric of an old gent stopping one of three wedding guests telling him how he killed an albatross and doomed his crew to a fate worse than being adrift in the Sargasso Sea is a favourite. Coleridge has been a big influence on my poetic style with “Kubla Khan”, “Christabel” and the classic “Rime”.
|Who: Elmore Leonard
What: Out of Sight
Why: There’s something about the bizarre tapestry of people that inhabit the state of Florida. Leonard is one of two authors I like that highlight the unsavory and eccentric qualities Floridians have to offer. I personally like Rum Punch, Mr. Paradise and Out of Sight as books. Admittedly I watched Carla Gugino take on the role of Marshall Karen Sisco when the show was on television. Unfortunately it was canned after 10 episodes.
|Who: Hunter S. Thompson
What: Kingdom of Fear
Why: What can I say about the doctor of Gonzo journalism. A man who lived in the realm of his own news reporting, as was evident with his treatment of Edmund Muskie during the 1972 democratic leadership campaign. His diction is phenomenal. Phrases like, “Rabid scum”, “Bad craziness” and “Syphilitic madmen” are a part of my vernacular.
|Who: Stephen King
What: The Shining
Why: I will continue to advocate for King books being used in English curriculum for his themes, his social criticism and his relevance to the modern world. What does Shakespeare offer students other than confusion to those who can barely speak 21st-century English and more adulation opportunities for students who brown-nose?
|Who: Carl Hiaasen
What: Sick Puppy
Why: Funny that the top three writers here are in the reverse order on my biggest influences. Hiaasen is my favourite author mainly for his wry wit as well as his unique and crazy characters from the former politician in the Everglades to a Hooters-obsessed redneck to greasy governors. Hiaasen’s protagonists are typically down-on-their-luck ex-cops, journalists or detectives also known as modern-day Jim Rockfords.