The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
I was young when I read this book, but old enough to have had my brain firmly set in Narnia and Redwall, that sort of thing. The Eagle of the Ninth blew me out of the water. Historical fiction was amazing: it was alive! These people, this prose, they took my little frame and shook it. I had never looked at the world the way Sutcliff (in a way reminiscent of Kipling, but I did not know that then) made me look. She made you see and feel and understand things deeply - and that is perhaps why my writing now conjures such vivid responses from people. This is where I first experienced that skill.
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
This was a little less of a wild flinging off course and more of a sudden melting in the crucible the raw materials of my philosophy. When I talk about creativity and God and man, a lot of what I mean can be found summed up within the pages of The Mind of the Maker. Using the pervasively creating aspect of man, Sayers brilliantly makes a case for the three-fold nature of man built upon the same pattern of the three-fold nature of God.
That the eyes of all workers should behold the integrity of the work is the sole means to make that work good in itself and so good for mankind. This is only another way of saying that the work must be measured by the standard of eternity; or that it must be done for God first and foremost; or that the Energy must faithfully manifest forth the Idea; or, theologically, that the Son does the will of the Father.The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison
Here it comes. I got this book because it was said that it really influenced Tolkien. Sounds like a good place to start, hmm? I had no idea what I was in for.
There was a man named Lessingham dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale, set in a gray old garden where yew-trees flourished that had seen Vikings in Copeland in their seedling time.Of course, it helped that I had read Sutcliff's The Shield Ring some months earlier and knew the Vikings of Copeland and all that - so that opening line of Eddison's novel wrenched my heart out of place at once. And I think it helped that I read it at age twenty and not, say, seventeen: it is an odd style of plot, not at all traditional, which fact might throw some people off. And yet the book is so rich and so good that you forgive it that - actually, you forget that. You get caught up in "many-mountained Demonland" and the malicious grace of King Gorice XII, the beauty of Lady Mevrian and Brandoch Daha, the heady thrill of the Battle of Krothering Side... It seemed all the rich emotions of love and hatred, virtue and vice which are found in people like Tolkien and Lewis were almost unbearably condensed in The Worm Ouroboros. I fell in love with it, and I fell hard.
"Don't!" said he. "Oh, Lewis, you don't understand. Take me back to Malacandra? If only he would! I'd give anything I possess..."
Not your usual C.S. Lewis book. I might have mentioned The Screwtape Letters, but Bree already summed up my feelings on that book. The Discarded Image was given to me by my sister for my birthday, and bore the inscription "For Your Birthday, 2011 - Hope It Proves Interesting!" In reply, having finished it, I scrawled underneath, "It Sure Did!" This was his last book, based upon a series of lectures he gave at Oxford, unpacking and explaining the medieval synthesis of the ancients' world views. In his typically engaging way, C.S. Lewis makes sense out of the bulk of medieval literature, as well as Tolkien's Roverandom, E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, and his own Space Trilogy - although, he does that incidentally: he does not actually mention any of those works in his lectures. There is a great deal of history, philosophy, theology, romanticism, and practicality between the covers of this book. I highly recommend it.
This I believe to be a stroke of calculated and wholly successful art. We are made to feel as if we have seen a heap of common materials so completely burnt up that there remains neither ash nor smoke nor even flame, only a quivering of invisible heat.
What are the books that have changed you?