Personal book canon – a self portrait in books

Glacier

The classics club asks for our personal book canons, which is a topic I love to discuss. I have previously written a bit about my personal book canon and about some of the books that are especially important to me. This time I want to focus not on the best books I have read, but on the ones that I feel have had the greatest influence on me.

These are the books I believe shaped me

Childhood

Growing up in Sweden it is very hard not to be heavily influenced by Astrid Lindgren. If you haven’t read the books yourself, chances are that someone read them for you, or you watched the TV-series or went to Astrid Lindgrens värld, the nice family park dedicated to her characters. In my case it was all of the above. Somewhat later I discovered the Narnia books, which I read and reread until I almost knew them by heart.

  • Findus and the fox (Rävjakten), picture book by Sven Nordqvist.
  • Who will comfort Toffle? (Vem ska trösta knyttet?) picture book by Tove Jansson.
  • All of Astrid Lindgren’s more famous works but especially Brothers Lionheart and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter.
  • Island of the blue dolphins by Scott O’Dell, the first chapter book I read on my own.
  • The Moomin series by Tove Jansson.
  • The chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  • Momo by Michael Ende

Teenager

I read lots of Fantasy as a teenager, but little of it has stayed with me. The Harry Potter books came when I was already a teenager, so they had less influence on me than they might have had, but I still remember them fondly.

What did stay with me though was Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem, which I was a bit obsessed with. I also read all the Arctic and Antarctic literature in the local library, which certainly influenced me.

  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
  • Shackleton’s incredible voyage by Alfred Lansing
  • Antarktisboken describing the Norwegian–British–Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1949–1952, main author John Giæver
  • Mot 90 grader syd by Monica Kristensen
  • Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • City of My Dreams by Per Anders Fogelström
  • Kastanjeallén by Dea Trier Mørch
  • Gaudy night by Dorothy Sayers

Student

As a student by hobby reading was mostly crime fiction, much of it enjoyable but little of it memorable. I did however learn more about glaciers, sang a lot of Bellman songs, and discovered both The Summer Book and Jane Austen. Oh, and I wrote a thesis, I guess that technically counts as a book too.

More recent additions

With more recent reads it is more difficult to identify the ones that made a lasting impact and it was very tempting to just list excellent books I have recently read. However, I have tried to stick to books which I believe have influenced me more than others.

14 thoughts on “Personal book canon – a self portrait in books

  1. Thanks from me too for sharing your canon, some of which you’ve shared before (thanks too for the links here) and which admirably reflects on your tastes as you’ve grown up.

    The Brothers Lionheart is still on my wishlist, recommended by both you and Ola. I can’t remember if, in connection with your Arctic titles, I’ve already suggested a curious A S Byatt title, The Biographer’s Tale to you — I know I mentioned it to someone — see what you think from my review here https://wp.me/p2oNj1-gZ.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronia the Robber’s Daughter was a favourite of mine when I was growing up too (although in English translation), as were the Narnia books – I loved the sense of adventure, and the great friendships between the characters. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting! For Narnia one feature I loved was the wardrobe, or rather that Narnia was not just a magical fantasy land of adventure, but one you could travel to from our world. It made it much easier to imagine myself there 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I love how you divided the influential books according to the phases of your life. It’s a great idea, as we all need different books in different moments of our lives.
    I know Ronja or Emil, and surely Moomins, would find their place in my list of influential books – I still haven’t finished writing that post, which is approximately two years late 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was an interesting post to write, I really enjoyed thinking about all the books that have shaped me. Although I was surprised by how hard it was to write about the current phase, despite all the great books I have read in the last decade. I guess influence is easier seen in hindsight. I look forward to reading your post if you do write it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure! 😀 Oh yes, hindsight seems very important in thinking what, or who, influenced us 🙂
        You’ve given me additional motivation to finish my post, so I will definitely attempt to finish it sooner than later now! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely post! I’ve been hugely influenced by Iris Murdoch since I first read her aged 14, and I’m forever finding snippets of what I think of as my personal philosophy in her novels when I re-read them. I also read a lot of polar and mountaineering books as a teenager and still do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have yet to read Murdoch, but I am regularly reminded of things from my own childhood reads, they have definitely influenced me.

      I recommend Ritter’s “A woman in the polar night” if you haven’t read it yet, I found it a good polar memoir.

      Liked by 1 person

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