You’ve probably seen these posts circulating on Facebook: a friend posts ten books that were influential to hir*, then tags more people to make their own top ten lists.

I thought I had escaped from this social media meme unscathed, even as people who commonly tag me in these types of things posted their own.

I did not.

A couple of weeks ago, a former professor challenged me to post my list of ten books that influenced me. But I want to do more than just post an overly long status. That’s not very fun.

Seeing as I haven’t posted here in a while, I thought I would make this list of ten books an opportunity to get back into posting on Cooking and Composition.

Yay! You know you’re this excited.

10. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I don’t love this book. I don’t even like this book. But On Beauty reminded me that I can appreciate the artistic or technical value of something without my liking it. I understand what people applaud this book (and Smith in general).

9. The Uglies Trilogy/Series by Scott Westerfeld. I read these books at the exact right time. I was a freshman/sophomore in high school, coming into my own. I was awkward but confident. As one of the first dystopian/speculative fiction novels I’d ever read, this series definitely got me into one of my favorite genres. But it was much more than that: I started looking around my world and thinking about how and why we should challenge accepted norms. I’m not always good at this because I’m a flawed human being, but there are days when I definitely want to escape to the ruins and avoid civilization.

8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Huxley did everything for me that Westerfeld did, but in a different perspective. I love Brave New World more than I could ever love 1984.

7. What We Really Value: Beyond Rubrics in Teaching and Assessing Writing by Bob Broad. Broad and I disagree to an extent because I’m a hardcore embracer of the term “rubric.” But I wouldn’t be able to articulate why or how without him. This book definitely altered my teaching abilities for the better.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Feminist and religious extremism + government control + interesting, unknown narrator + unexpected ending that alters how I view the entire story = best book ever.

5. College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction by Anne Beaufort. Oh, Anne Beaufort. Where I was intrigued by transfer, Beaufort brought me to a greater understanding of how to teach effectively for transfer.

4. Persons in Process: Four Stories of Writing and Personal Development in College by Anne Herrington and Marcia Curtis. Herrington and Curtis introduced the exact type of study I want to conduct. This book is one of the reasons I am the scholar I am today.

3. MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood. Speculative fiction novel about technology, big pharma, and video games? Yes. Yesyesyes. If you haven’t read this, everyone needs to. I lead a more doubtful yet more informed life because of this book.

2. Agents of Integration: Understanding Transfer as a Rhetorical Act by Rebecca Nowacek. I bought this book my first semester of graduate school for a project. I had never been more engrossed in scholarly research as I had been at that point. Before then, I had struggled to really name what I wanted to study. Thanks, Dr. Nowacek, for helping me get there.

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Harry, Ron, and Hermione taught me to be a kind, understanding person who works hard and tries to make the world a better place. I grew up with them and this series, so it would be inexcusable to call anything else the most influential book I’ve ever read.