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Originally Posted On: https://www.grahamreinbold.com/graham-reinbold-ranks-his-top-5-favorite-books
I was motivated to write “My Uncle Died & All I Got Was This Robot Island” by reading Swartzwelder’s “The Time Machine Did It.” I would say my two biggest creative influences growing up were *obviously* books (specifically audiobooks because it was rare for me to sit still long enough to actually read them) and cartoons. Swartzwelder, the writer of 59 classic episodes of The Simpsons, now writes novels that feel like they are a combination of the two.
I knew that, like his books, his overall style would not be for everyone, and mine isn’t either. Still, I focused on enjoying the writing process and having characters and situations that I found funny over structure and flowery language. I believe I’ve found a happy medium where most people can find themselves and, in turn, find humor in my writing. These are my top five books in no particular order:
“The Grownup” by Gillian Flynn
This thriller first came out under the title “What Do You Do?” in the multi-authored anthology collection edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s “Rogue.”
It’s the story of a fake psychic and sex worker who has accumulated legal and personal problems since childhood. In her work, cleaning auras, reading hands, and predicting fortunes, she meets a millionaire who asks for help in cleansing her new Victorian home of a possible evil spirit.
At the house, the girl becomes aware of the possible veracity of the spirit, especially when Susan’s stepson, Miles, acts increasingly strange and disturbing.
After some revelations and the characters acting increasingly strange and disturbing, it becomes a pretty concise microstory. It is straightforward and flavored with terror, uncertainty, and alienation that’s felt until the end. I loved the simplicity.
“The Time Machine Did It” by Jon Swartzwelder
It’s a brilliant comedy, clever and genuine. I love the cadence of the writing and that the plot unravels in the most subtle and creative ways possible. In just one sitting, reading or listening to it, it makes you feel like you are watching a Simpsons movie.
It helped me understand how to tell a compelling story outside of the established process and inspired me to be completely free with what I was writing. Breaking free from the traditional outlines of novel writing gave me a sense of self that makes my characters come alive, and I owe it to Swartzwelder.
“The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri
This phenomenal piece carries the reader into the world of a first-generation immigrant family in the United States.
Hailing from India, a just-married couple from Calcutta settle in present-day Massachusetts and face the challenges of a life utterly different from the one they had in their native land.
Things get complicated, obviously. With an immersive plot detailing how their children’s path in America is divergent from theirs, we see the family’s assimilation conflicts and the importance of family ties. The depth of these characters and how they relate to one another was very inspiring to me.
“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
This is such a beautifully written modern take on a story that’s been around for thousands of years. Focusing on the events of the Illiad and the years leading up to it through the lens of Patroclus, a friend, battle partner, and lover, this telling is the most refreshing and intimate take on Greek mythology I’ve ever read.
“Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk
Considering Palahniuk’s masterpiece, most people will know the movie before realizing there was a book. No surprise here — I think the book is better. The satire in Palahniuk’s novel is similar to the movie in that it exposes the hypermasculinized American male as weak and ridiculous in the face of the modern society by which he’s confronted. But unlike the movie, the characters are developed much deeper and go on a glorious journey into the unconscious of a modern man.
It may be more relevant now than it was when it was written, given everything our culture and society are experiencing. This book exposes the narrator to the power of a single being within the self, and for me, I saw how compelling a conflicted protagonist could be for readers.
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations. Either way, I’d love to hear about it. I’m a new author building up my reach and love to hear from readers what they think of my book. Please follow me on Instagram and visit my website https://www.grahamreinbold.com/. I might be signing near you soon.