(Little reminder that you can follow me on Goodreads while you're there.)
1. Harry Potter
Let's go for the obvious. Before Harry Potter, I was not a reader. After Harry Potter, I loved reading and writing. Maybe I would've found my way to both eventually. (I always did like making up stories.) But everything fell into place for me the night nine-year-old Valerie couldn't get to sleep and finally picked up the "strange" wizard book her aunt had gifted her for Christmas.
2. The Princess Diaires
It's a little harder for me to go back to this series now compared to other old favorites. But the books were fun and full of pop culture references, and Mia was an inspiring young activist as well as being a reluctant princess. Book Mia was also a vegetarian, and reading these books at 12-13 is what prompted me to become one, myself. Sixteen years later, and I haven't regretted that choice for a moment.
3. The Mediator
Just hearing about this book from Mallory got my imagination dancing. An attractive teenage ghost hanging around in your room? It was from these thoughts that the original concept of my ghost muse, Morgan, was born. And while most of you will not read Spun of Silver for a very long time, suffice it to say, ghost Morgan was life changing. He made me dream of having a real life soulmate. I didn't actually read the the first Mediator book until almost a year later when Tiffany started talking about it. (Well, the fifth book, actually... blame badly designed covers for the three of us thinking Haunted was a standalone.) But this series had a profound impact on my life in so many ways. It was also my most recommended/loaned out book of my high school days.
No, NANA is not a novel series. It's a series of manga (Japanese comics). However, the impact this story had on me and my writing cannot be denied. Characters' lives tangling so beautifully and painfully. The idea that friendship soulmates could be as powerful as romantic ones. And the beautiful artwork. I still often think in Ai Yaazawa's style. And I am still waiting, hoping, praying that she returns to finish this gorgeous story.
Yes, I know. And no, I don't particularly care. Number 5 on my most influential book list is Twilight. After my panic attacks led to my leaving school, I struggled with a period of depression so bad that I couldn't even bring myself to read. I've always seen stories unfold visually in my head, and that dark period left my head cloudy and disconnected. I could process words, but I couldn't feel them. And that made reading seem pointless. When I was recommended Twilight, I finally found a book I was wrapped enough in to start seeing again. The idea of vampires had always intrigued me, but more than that, I loved the idea of soulmates that was in the Twilight series. No, it's not a perfect story. Some of Edward's more troubling behaviors are a little over-romanticized, even in interviews with Stephenie. (I honestly prefer Carlisle and Esme's love story.) But I love these characters and this world so much. I regret sometimes the popularity this series found, because it led to people to polarize into giggling fangirls and haters. I was neither. But this series was important to me, and I won't hide that fact
6. Guardians of Time
Another recommendation from a friend, this series has time travel and a strong emphasis on soulmates. I read this series around the time I was starting to form solid plans for my The Timeline universe. After playing with the idea of soulmates in my stories for years, they became a main component in my universe as a whole. I've been meaning to reread this series for ages.
7. The Truth About Forever
While I did read a few contemporary/realistic books in my youth, I mostly stuck to fantasy and paranormal. I found the idea of most books without fantasy elements to be "boring". (I even read Sarah Dessen's first two books years before and was not impressed.) But enough people on LiveJournal were recommending Sarah Dessen's books to me that I eventually gave in. When I read The Truth About Forever, it was the attention to characters that I found the most compelling. I loved the book so much that I immediately jumped into Sarah's next book, Just Listen, after finishing. These two books made me realize that I found characters to be the most important part of any story, not the plot or lore. I've probably read as many realistic books as fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal in the years since. And you might notice that in my own books that while magic is an important element, it is only really there to serve as the background to a story about characters and emotions.