Don Levy

The Next Chapter – 10 Most Influential Books I read as a Teenager

Don Levy

The 10 most influential records you listened to as a teenager list was making the rounds last month on Facebook. I loved reading many of the lists that people made. I could kick myself for leaving off my list Carole King’s “Tapestry”. Still, the lists brought me back to my adolescence, back when I would listen to The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” while reading an Agatha Christie mystery and it made me want to list the 10 most influential books that I read as a teenager. Some of these books I have talked about before in my blog, and FYI, I thought of it before the poet Mark Doty did.

1) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My second blog post was about rereading this book, so I’m not going to go in detail about this novel. I know for a long time it was my favorite book. My tastes have changed and it’s no longer my favorite, but it still has a warm spot in my heart. I’m glad that I finally got around to rereading it so I can get a new perspective on it.

2) The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. I think these days this book is more relevant than ever. It is about how Anne and her family hid in an apartment above a bakery to escape the Nazis. I find the book to be an inspiration to me. Despite everything going on in the World at the time, Anne still thought that people were basically good. I’d like to think she’s still right about that.

3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Harper Lee wrote one of the best novels about race. I learned so much from that book: to have empathy for others and how sometimes you have to do something unpopular, even though you may know that it’s the right thing to do. I want to think that there are still men of integrity in the world like Atticus Finch.

4) Crime and Punishment by Feydor Dostevesky. I have also previously blogged about this book, but it was probably the first classic I ever read. Again, thanks to mom for recommending it and giving me an appreciation of classic novels.

5) The Pearl by John Steinbeck. This is a book that I had to read for school. I loved the fable about a pearl diver in Mexico who finds a pearl that could be worth a fortune and the tragic events that come out of his greed. My favorite Steinbeck novel is Cannery Row but The Pearl is a good book about the tragedy of greed.

6) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I can’t remember the name of the girl in my 7th grade class who got me excited about the book, but I want to thank her. She sat in front of me and was very animated when she talked about the book. I read most of Agatha Christie novels in junior high and high school. They were a great way to escape from the bullies in school.I still love reading mystery novels by other masters of the genre like Dorothy Sayers and P.D. James.

7) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I read Slaughterhouse Five before I read all his other novels. I always loved how Vonnegut was funny and serious at the same time. Breakfast of Champions was a fun book to read. Vonnegut drew pictures in the book and it also had my favorite fictional character of all time, Kilgore Trout, who was a science fiction writer and is basically a fictional version of Vonnegut.

8) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I read a lot of Bradbury’s books as a teenager, as another way to escape from the bullies at school. This book is a series of short stories about how America colonized Mars. My friend Jennifer and I said at the same time that this book is one we both want to reread. Hopefully one day soon I will.

9) Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins. Believe it or not, we read this book in class. There’s the 70’s for you. I never saw the film until recently. For those who don’t know, it’s a book about a young man obsessed with death who winds up dating a much older woman. I think you might have to find the book on Amazon.

10) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I’ve never been a fan of the true crime genre but this book was another one my mom recommended to me. It starts off with the murder of the Clutter Family. Capote made you learn a lot about the Clutters. Eventually, the two men who killed the family are caught and eventually hung for their crimes. Capote’ s writing was never better. This book made me form my dislike of capital punishment.

So there you have it. What books influenced you as a teenager? Let me know what you think of my list in the comments below.