What novel was the most influential in your life?

Since the Boothworld Industries Initiation Kit launched, I’ve fielded a fair number of questions from all of you.

When does the next book come out?

What tools do you use to write?

What books most influenced you?

I’ll answer that last one right now and if you receive my newsletter, you’ll be kept up to date on new projects there. Not a member? Click here to become one (you’ll get free stuff).

Probably my favorite time during elementary school was Scholastic Book Order time. Remember these things?


I remember studying each and every book order I ever received, circling books I wanted in pencil and books I would die without in pen. Thankfully, my parents were big fans of keeping me reading. They really only had 3 conditions when it came to book orders.

Order as many books as you like, but:
1) No pop-up books
2) One of the books ordered has to have won a Newbery Award (these were always marked with a shiny seal on the cover).
3) I had to have finished reading all the books bought from a previous order before they would buy anything from a new book order.

Those rules set into motion a love of reading that continues today.

Honorable Mentions

The Wish Giver


Most of the books on my list are ones you’ll probably be at least familiar with to know the title. This one is probably not one of those. As I read, I still remember how excited I was about the prospect of having anything you wished be granted. I still remember how unsettled I was when the wishes started going wrong and that sinking feeling as the book went on that nothing would ever turn out right.

Morale of this book: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Bridge to Terabithia


This book messed me up. I had no idea what I was getting into when I cracked this thing open. If you’ve read this book, you know what I’m talking about.
I even remember exactly where I was when I got to the part of this book that changed several things for me.

My family was on a road trip from Houston to Plainview to visit my grandparents (10 hour car trip). I was in third or fourth grade at the time, sitting in the back of our suburban and had to put the book down. My eyes were full of tears and I didn’t know why. A book had never affected me enough to make me cry, but the gut punch that I hadn’t expected from that book hit home and is something I tend to use in my own writing.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark


If you read this as a kid, you know exactly why this influenced me. The dog hair story left me feeling unsafe for months. Everyone talks about the illustrations, and while they don’t help, they never really got to me. The dog hair though… that got to me.

The full list countdown:


5. The Giver


This one was huge. It taught me that everyone has their own motivations and their actions might not show what those motivations are. It also taught me that adults were fallible and blindly following the instructions of an adult wasn’t always the best idea.

I bet my parents wish I hadn’t read this one.

4. The Firm


This was my first “grown-up” book. I think a lot of my obsession with secret societies and backroom movers and shakers stems from reading this book.

3. Flowers for Algernon


Geez. This was another of those gut punch books. Thinking about what happened to Charlie still makes me sick to my stomach. The story in this one is fantastic.

2. Boy’s Life


There’s only one time I’ve ever been jealous of someone else’s writing. Reading this book made me take a serious look at my own writing and what I could do to improve it. There are so many scenes in this beautiful book that stick out, but the one that sticks out the most for me is this one:

See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

1. On Writing


Around 2011 I was running a t-shirt company. Every shirt came with a little narrative story about the fictitious founder. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I remembered being required to read a section of On Writing for AP English in high school. It was the section about adverbs.

With that vague memory I headed to my local Half-Priced Books and bought a used copy of this book.

I read through it in a few hours, then read it again making notes and highlighting passages. This book is the only one I’ve ever made notes in or highlighted.

The next day I started writing my first novel.