by Cathy Pickens
What books or authors have influenced me? Call me impressionable, but too many to count.
Then there was the obscure school library book that described how the ancient Egyptian mummification process involved pulling the deceased’s brain out through the nose. For some reason, that captivated my 6th grade brain and convinced me I wanted to be an archaeologist. My mom convinced me I lacked the patience for that and I moved on. But I’m still fascinated by mummies and science. I’m still not patient, though.
This desire to try things for myself reinforces the wisdom of school librarians who keep things like The Poor Man’s James Bond off school library shelves. I didn’t discover how to blow up my neighborhood or poison the water supply until I was old enough not to try it for myself.
Margaret Maron’s and Nancy Pickard’s books convinced me I could write about a place I loved, even if it wasn’t a huge city or a Travel & Leisure hot destination. Harper Lee showed me that family and home are treasures and that books can capture special and difficult points in time – and perhaps change the world.
Nancy Drew and her successors V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone told me and others that women could be tough and could make a difference … and kick some fanny when need be.
Some books have made me wisely cautious about walking down dark streets or taking stupid risks. Some have made me laugh at times when my heart might otherwise have broken. And all manner of books kept telling me that true love existed – which I can now confirm, having truly found it.
Books have connected me with other readers of all ages. Anyone who doesn’t believe books connect should conduct her own experiment: Just ask someone about what she’s read recently or about what he’s reading now. Among readers, the conversation will take off in unexpected directions. (If among non-readers, alas, draw on your deep reserves of sympathy.)
I’ve outgrown the need to experiment with everything I read. But books still influence me and still connect me to others. My agent recommended Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I’m still thinking about the messages in that simply complicated story about a retired British major and a Pakistani shop owner. I still delight in Flavia and her sisters in Alan Bradley’s mysteries. I’m finishing an advance copy of The Sherlockian (to be published in December) and liking where it’s taking me.
So, what are you reading now? What’s connected you? What got you up on the horse – and what almost knocked you off? It’s the gift-giving season. Pass those books and book recommendations on!