5+ Books That Changed My Life

The fabulous Michelle Diener challenged us to write about 5 books we love or have recently read or read long ago and still remember. I have many more than 5 books I love, as I’m sure you do 🙂 So here are 10+1 of the first to come to mind, in no particular order.

Sherlock Holmes—Here are all four full-length novels and fifty-six short stories about the colorful adventures of Sherlock Holmes — every word Conan Doyle ever wrote about Baker Street’s most famous resident. So devoted and numerous are the followers of the immortal Holmes … so timeless are his colorful adventures … that this shrewd and lovable amateur detective whom Doyle invented when he was a young doctor is the most popular character in the last one hundred years of fiction. As a lasting tribute to the indestructible detective, whose earliest adventures first appeared in print in 1887, and to his famous creator, Holmes’s entire career has been brought together between the covers of this handsome volume. It is the definitive, authoritative Sherlock Holmes text as originally published in nine separate books. Also included is a delightful preface, “In Memoriam Sherlock Holmes,” written by Christopher Morley, the distinguished author and founder of The Baker Street Irregulars. Here is the whole thrilling and amazing career of Sherlock Holmes, all of his adventures in crime collected in one exciting volume.

I’m not sure what excited me about these stories as a young girl. The adventure, the mystery? The ascetic, brilliant Holmes? His deep and abiding friendship with Dr. Watson?

Bambi—Bambi’s life in the woods begins happily. There are forest animals to play with and Bambi’s twin cousins, Gobo and beautiful Faline.

But winter comes, and Bambi learns that the woods hold danger—and things he doesn’t understand. The first snowfall makes food hard to find. Bambi’s father, a handsome stag, roams the forest, but leaves Bambi and his mother alone.

Then there is Man. He comes to the forest with weapons that can wound an animal. Bambi is scared that Man will hurt him and the ones he loves. But Man can’t keep Bambi from growing into a great stag himself, and becoming the Prince of the Forest.

The non-cartoon version of this story caught my second-grade mind. Adventure, romance, the mystery of the deep forest, and that sense of living in a social structure unlike our own (though I didn’t know that was a hook at the time lol).

Carbonel: The King of Cats—Rosemary’s plan to clean houses during her summer break and surprise her mother with the money hits a snag when an old lady at the market talks her into buying a second-rate broom and a cat she can’t even afford to keep. But appearances can be deceiving. Some old ladies are witches, some brooms can fly, and some ordinary-looking cats are Princes of the Royal Blood. Rosemary’s cat (“You may call me Carbonel. That is my name.”) soon enlists her help in an adventure to free him from a hideous spell and return him to his rightful throne. But along the way Rosemary and her friend John must do some clever sleuthing, work a little magic of their own, and—not least— put up with the demands of a very haughty cat.

Magic, an intrepid heroine, and a cat who is all alpha male snagged my young imagination.

The Nameless RomanceThe first actual adult romance that grabbed me was a regency-era about a tomboy who was supposed to be a lady. Different than the usual bluestocking or masquerading as a man. I vaguely remember a scene where she escapes in a tree. It turned me on to romances. Wish I could remember the title or author!

Bridge to Terabithia—This Newbery Medal-winning novel by bestselling author Katherine Paterson is a modern classic of friendship and loss.

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

A children’s book I read as an adult. My then-middle-school child recommended this to me. I wept. Seriously good if a kid’s book has that much power.

Crocodile on the Sandbank—Set in 1884, this is the first installment in what has become a beloved bestselling series. At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn’t need a woman’s help — or so he thinks. First book in an excellent series.

Romance, mystery, and 19th-century snark at its finest. I adore whatever Elizabeth Peters wrote, but Amelia Peabody is my favorite. This series is summed up best by Ms. Peters herself. “Another dead body. Every year it is the same. Every year, another dead body…” – Abdullah, p. 151, Lion in the Valley

Black Orchids—Not much can get Wolfe to leave his comfortable brownstone, but the showing of a rare black orchid lures him to a flower show. Unfortunately, the much-anticipated event is soon overshadowed by a murder as daring as it is sudden. It’s a case of weeding out a cunning killer who can turn up anywhere—and Wolfe must do it quickly. Because a second case awaits his urgent attention: a society widow on a mailing list of poison-pen letters leading to a plot as dark as any orchid Wolfe has ever encountered.

I recently reread the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe mysteries. Considering other stories often don’t stand the test of time wow, is Stout’s writing energetic and fresh. Still.

Changes—Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover-until she was attacked and left struggling with the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Now, she needs Harry’s help. Harry’s enemies have found the secret she has hidden for so long, and he will have to unleash the full fury of his untapped power.

Because this time, he’s fighting to save his child.

I always liked Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, but around this book, I began to love it.

If anyone asks, I’m Team Murphy.

The Atrocity Archives—Bob Howard is a computer-hacker desk jockey, who has more than enough trouble keeping up with the endless paperwork he has to do on a daily basis. He should never be called on to do anything remotely heroic. But for some reason, he is.

Charlie Stross’s Laundry series is fabulous. Geeks meet demonology, a writing style that sings, and a take on bureaucracy that is both funny and dead on. Add in Bob’s romantic interest Mo, a violinist (musician yay!) who gets her own story later on, and I’m hooked.


Borderline—A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

I’m reading this now, so I can’t tell if the ending will throw off my take on it. But it’s so insightful on its own that it almost doesn’t matter. Add in the gritty reality of the fantasy elements, and the book becomes one I quote endlessly at my husband.

About Mary Hughes

Who am I? A lover of stories that crackle with action and love. A mother, a flutist, a binge-TV-watcher of NCIS, Sherlock, and Agents of SHIELD. Most of all, a believer in grand passion. Mary's online and would love to hear from you! Website http://www.maryhughesbooks.com/ Blog http://maryhughesbooks.blogspot.com/ Group Blog http://www.lustwithalaugh.com/ Group Blog http://magicalmusings.com/ Facebook http://www.facebook.com/MaryHughesAuthor Twitter http://www.twitter.com/MaryHughesBooks Newsletter signup http://www.maryhughesbooks.com/index.html#MHNewsletter
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9 Responses to 5+ Books That Changed My Life

  1. Great choices! 🙂

    Did you ever see the Nero Wolfe TV show? It didn’t last that long, but it was pretty cool. I always meant to go back and read some of the original books but just never got around to it.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Bright Blaze of Magic, Black Blade #3, released today …

    • Mary Hughes says:

      Thanks, Jennifer! I loved your picks too <3

      We have the Nero Wolfe Mysteries on DVD! Adored Tim Hutton as Archie and Maury Chaykin as Wolfe. The ensemble cast was great.

      Our library has many of the original Stout stories–I think the short novellas make quick, fun reads!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Great list, Mary! I see that I’ll be in the children’s section on my next trip to the library, picking up at least two books. I don’t recall reading Bambi, but I saw the movie.

    And in answer to Jennifer’s question, I did watch the Nero Wolfe TV show. I was sorry when it wasn’t renewed. I think I read all of the Nero Wolfe books.

    • Mary Hughes says:

      Edie, thanks!

      The full Felix Salten novel has some of the same action as the Disney version, but the tone is very different. Let me know what you think!

      Another Stout fan, yay! I was amazed at how well the language survived the test of time. And wasn’t Tim Hutton’s Archie just perfect?

      • Edie Ramer says:

        I forgot that Tim Hutton played Archie. He was great as Archie! The man who played Nero was great, too.

        I just had a thought that I should have a character named Nero in one of my books. I’ll have to wait until I find the right character to fit the name, which isn’t in this book.

  3. Mary, I LOVED the Amelia Peabody books. Just ate them up! And I’m a huge fan of Bridge to Terabithia as well. Poignant, imaginative and so well written. Loved it, and the movie.

    • Mary Hughes says:

      I haven’t seen the movie! I wish it was on Netflix, though I’d have to wait for a sunny day to watch it, I cried so bad reading the book, lol. Exactly what you said, poignant and imaginative and well written.

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