The first book that made an indelible impression on me was called 'Linegan and the Ants'. I'm sorry but I don't remember the author's name because I was in grade three at the time and such things weren't that important. At any rate, my wonderful grade 3-4 teacher, Miss Knectel, read a little bit of the book to us every day. It was about killer red ants in Africa - later made into a Hollywood movie called 'The Naked Jungle' - and I thought it was terrific. Very, very exciting. I couldn't wait to get to school and hear the reading for the day. I think it was instrumental in teaching me to love books, and in some ways, despite how young I was, how to shape a story to hold a reader's attention.
Another book that I loved that also taught me a lot about how to shape a story and build suspense was'Rosemary's Baby' by Ira Levin. I have to confess that I love horror stories, and this one is great. First of all, it's a wonderful idea. At the time it came out there'd been nothing else like it. Since then there have been many imitations, but nothing compares to the original. By no stretch of the imagination can it be considered "literary", but it's very well done and a great blueprint for anyone interested in writing suspense.
Another book that made a profound impression on me was Joan Didion's 'Play It As It Lays.' Joan Didion is a wonderful writer who can say more with a few words than most writers can say with chapters. 'Play It As It Lays' isn't the happiest of stories - in fact, it's quite depressing - but the writing is so fabulous, the observations so acute, the characters so memorable, that it's almost impossible to put down. While I've since read all her other books, none of them touched me in this same way. She's always brilliant, but in 'Play It As It Lays', she's also very accessible.
Any list of favorite books has to include Pat Conroy's 'The Prince of Tides'. This book has it all - good writing, a great, sweeping story, interesting characters, a wonderful plot, suspense, romance, humor. I loved it. It's by far Conroy's best book, and whenever anyone asks me to recommend a book, it's first on my list.
Any discussion of books that have made an indelible impression has to include Philip Roth, whom I consider to be the world's greatest living writer. It's hard to single out just one of his novels because they're all so good. Naurally when you produce such a prodigious amount of work, some books are bound to be better than others, but the one thing they all have in common is superlative writing. He takes comlicated ideas - sometimes extremely complicated - and expresses them so simply you don't realize how complex the idea actually is. He is extremely literary and yet extremely accessible, not an easy feat. Plus, he's always original in both his ideas and his approach to those
ideas. He can be serious and laugh-out-loud funny, often in the same sentence. He challenges you and makes you think. If I had to choose one book of his to select, it would be a toss-up between 'The Ghost Writer' and'American Pastoral.' Both made an equally indelible impression.