I suspect that the most formative books in my life are ones I've completely forgotten about. They lie face down with outspread wings like dead birds littering my subconscious. But here's a list anyway:
1. A Wrinkle in Time: Neurotic kids. Tesseracts. Children bouncing balls in unison on an alien planet. Disembodied brain of evil. All of it a true story.There. All is explained! Except for all the other titles I've forgotten which were no doubt far more significant and would explain my predilection for cross-dressing in a butler's uniform and frequenting fish markets.
2. The Price of the Phoenix: HoYay discovered at the cusp of adolescence.
3. The Glass Teat: "I am a misunderstood genius sneering at America's capacity for crap. Love me."
4. Lolita: I.e., this is what it means to truly write.
5. Little House in the Big Woods: Life is meant to be cozy and warm! A belief I will spend the next twenty-odd years pursuing to recapture the safety of an imaginary childhood.
6. Sweet Savage Love: Or somesuch title and its mutant offspring, which introduced me to breeding farms for white slavery, brothels of raped innocents, pederasty, blow jobs from the valet, cross-dressing, whipping, and snuff-fucking. From my mother's bedside table, kink travels deep into the psyche, embeds itself there, gestates for fifteen years or so, then spawns a slash ouvre.
7. Daisy Summerfield's Style: Lesson learned: You can run away and have another life. Not entirely untrue, but I still feel insufficiently reinvented.
8. The Snow Queen: Splinter of evil in the eye, frozen heart. That pretty much sums up my inner child in a nutshell.
9. Harriet the Spy: I spent decades of my life not knowing what an egg cream was, but certain that it was the most wonderful thing in the universe.
10. Sybil: The most influential of them all, probably. I was eleven when I read it for the first time. It captured my emotional morbidity and fractured sense of self perfectly. It still resonates. Life really isn't much more than a lengthy, tiresome struggle to overcome your stunted malformities until you reach and sustain a plateau of mundane existence, where you rent a one-bedroom apartment and hold down a boring job, and consider this an actual achievement because at least you aren't wandering the streets tugging out clumps of your hair and talking to a lightbulb.