Defining My Personal Canon

Personal Canon

I have read a lot of books. So many excellent, wonderful, marvelous books. But how many of them have had a lasting impact on me? This is the question I began to ponder after reading Lory @ Emerald City Book Review’s post about her personal canon. I have plenty of favourite books that have influenced my reading and writing preferences. Fewer books have made a lasting impression on my personality, my beliefs, my habits, etc.

This list is an attempt to pinpoint the fiction books that have influenced me as person, not just as a reader (non-fiction may get a separate post). I’m trying to be a little more specific than favourite books. These aren’t just favourites. Nor are they necessarily books I would read over and over – they are books I selected because they left a mark on me.

Some of these books I have reviewed here on the blog. Most I read before I started book blogging. I haven’t prioritized or otherwise sorted this list. Links lead to my review or Goodreads. My brief notes are an attempt to give insight into why a book is special me to, but for most books the connection is so personal and so many years old, it’s difficult to describe!

  1. Dear as Salt by Rafe Martin with illustrations by Vladyana Kykorka – picture book from my childhood exquisite illustrations, style of storytelling, fairy tale
  2. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi – personal connection, Gothic atmosphere, inspiring young author
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – my gateway to Tolkien, an enjoyable and re-readable book
  4. The Lord of the Rings (FotR | TTT | RotK) by J.R.R. Tolkien – incredible book, never read anything else like it, so much to absorb, can enjoy for the rest of my life, always expanding
  5. Inkspell by Cornelia Funke – particular kind of fantasy, with adult characters not dumbed down
  6. Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh – introduced me to Zen meditation
  7. Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson – likely planted the seed of my interest in Japan and the idea that I could go there and teach
  8. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami – protagonist and story line I could deeply identify with, a new style of storytelling
  9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – blew me away, unlocked something about stories and memories
  10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – apparently I love a creepy house story apparently, plus dear Eleanor.
  11. The Sight by David Clement-Davies – wolves, dark forest fantasy, always reading when in mountains.
  12. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – first demonstrated to me that I can enjoy storytelling that’s not pure fantasy
  13. Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter by Russell T. Davies – insight into the writing process, how that beloved season of Doctor Who developed
  14. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarity – relatable for teenage me, an epistolary novel I liked
  15. The Southern Reach (Book 1 | Book 3) trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – unique book, making my mind work and engage with the story

I’ve read 800+ books, yet I’ve got only 37 books on my Goodreads favourites shelf, and just 15 books here. I thought I would have come up with more! Perhaps I’m being too strict with my criteria, haha…At least this reminds me to give my favourites shelf a tidy 😛 What books would you include in a personal canon?

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  • I love how individual the lists are!

  • Erica Robyn

    Oooh! I’ve never thought about this before… I’ll have to mull it over! GREAT list!

  • I love reading these lists! I actually haven’t read ANY of these, though I’ve been meaning to read Inkspell for years.

    • Ooh, I definitely recommend it! 😛 Have you read Inkheart? (I think some readers would enjoy Inkspell a lot more than Inkheart.)

      • I was thinking of Inkheart, actually. I know that we have the whole series on one of my kids’ bookshelves… just need to find them. 🙂

        • Inkheart is also great, haha. (It just makes me sad when it discourages some people from reading the other two books, which are pretty different.) It’s one of the books I’ve owned the longest!

  • I love this idea! I haven’t read most of the books you mentioned here, but I really enjoyed reading your reasons for each of them. I’m not sure what would be in my personal canon, I’ll have to think about it now! Great post, Jenna!

  • This is a really great idea! I’d have to think about what books would be my personal canon…Also, great list Jenna! Also reminded me that I have yet to read Kafka on the Shore xD

    • Thank-you Lianne! Read Kafka on the Shore…do itttttt. 😛 (One of my friends actually disliked Kafka but liked his other books. I don’t know what to make of that, haha.)

  • Dragonfly Our Familiarium

    What a great post Jenna! Hummm… I’ll have to think what books I would include in a personal canon! I think it would probably be the classics like Little Women, The Alchemist, The Little Prince, The God Father, Gone with the Wind… I have a post about these books coming up soon! I loved The Ocean at the End of the Lane! Review coming up on my blog soon too!

    • Thank-you 🙂 Those are some great picks. I’m looking forward to your posts about these books!

  • The Hobbit and Inkspell both played a huge role in shaping my childhood/adolescence, though Inkspell didn’t come along until a bit later. Others that have been deeply personal/important to me are Harry Potter, The Westing Game, Harriet the Spy, Ella Enchanted, then as an adult, Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

    • I love reading that The Hobbit and Inkspell were significant influences on you as well. Where would be without those books, hey? Animal Vegetable Miracle is another great pick. I might have to add that to my list. That’s the first book that really got me thinking about what I eat.