1. C.S. LewisWhile the list is in no particular order, I thought I’d start with C.S. Lewis and his fantastic Chronicles of Narnia series because of obvious comparisons to my debut novel, “The Four Corners”. Not to mention the fact that we share the same first two initials (although, I’m Christopher Scott – not Clive Staples). The Narnia books were staples (pun absolutely intended) in my house when I grew up. “The Screwtape Letters” also blew me away in high school. C.S. Lewis has had as big of an impact on me as a writer and a person as anyone else on the planet. Absolute genius.
2. Harper Lee – “To Kill A Mockingbird”This book (as well as the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck) made me want to write about real people and real problems. It also cemented, in both my writing and me as a person, themes of justice, redemption and truth. This is not only the greatest novel of the 20th century, it’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, novels of all time. Lee’s long-awaited follow up (55 years?!) “Go Set A Watchman” is the next book on my “To Read” list and I simply can’t wait!
3. The Stephen King & Frank Darabont combinationStephen King is a brilliant and prolific writer. No question. But, I would argue that his best work is after it has been polished into a screenplay by Frank Darabont. This is how we got the movies The Green Mile (adapted from King’s serial novel of the same name) and The Shawshank Redemption (adapted from King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”). The latter is a particularly wonderful screenplay to read.
4. Richard Matheson – “Somewhere In Time”Richard Matheson is another excellent writer who has had a lot of his books turned into movies (“Stir Of Echoes”, “I Am Legend”, etc.) including the well thought of “What Dreams May Come” which was both enjoyable and disturbing for me due to it’s distorted view of heaven. But, I first discovered Matheson when I saw the movie “Somewhere In Time” and loved it. It was captivating to me. So, I read the book (originally called “Bid Time Return” but changed for marketing reasons to match the film title) and liked it even better.
5. J.R.R. TolkienThe entire Middle Earth saga (“The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and “The Silmarillion”) is a breathtaking masterpiece. The Peter Jackson films are awesome, too. But, the books the movies come from were a revelation when they were written in the 1950’s. Tolkien made me realize that both the devil and God can be found in the details.
6. H.G. WellsNovels like “The Time Machine, “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” and “War of the Worlds” captivated my imagination when I was growing up. Wells had a brilliant mind and he made me realize the importance of romance in stories that, on the surface, seem to have nothing to do with love but the deeper you dig the more you realize that’s what they’re all about. That’s not just a lesson on writing, but on life.
7. John Grisham – “The Testament”John Grisham is a commercially very successful writer. And, some of his works are excellent and have even been made into good movies (“The Firm,” “A Time To Kill,” “The Client,” “The Pelican Brief”, etc.) but, “The Testament” taught me that you can present Christianity in a real, non-cheesy and non-preachy way. If Hollywood ever lets me adapt another movie from a book that’s not my own, I’m praying this is it.
8. Michael Morris – “A Place Called Wiregrass”I could probably copy/paste elements from my comments for both Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” and John Grisham’s “The Testament” here. “A Place Called Wiregrass” is another novel that made me want to write about real people with real problems and a real God.
9. Shel SilversteinNot only is “The Giving Tree” one of the greatest stories ever written, it is also the first time I can remember a story making me cry when I was a kid. Silverstein’s collections like “Where The Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light In The Attic” also hold a special place in my heart from childhood.
10. Richard Connell – “The Most Dangerous Game”This short story was assigned reading when I was a freshman in high school and I loved it. I have since realized that, not only did Hollywood make the movie back in 1932 and then again in 1945, 1953, 1956, 1972 and 1987, but they’ve also ripped it off without giving it credit too many times to count.
11. William Goldman – “The Princess Bride”Yes, Rob Reiner’s 1987 movie is a modern classic. And, this is another case where the movie got me so excited I then read the book. It was back in high school and I ended up loving the book just as much, if not more. Fun, imaginative, and hilarious.
12. Diane Kinman – “Franca’s Story”This biography marks the first time I was hired to adapt a book into a screenplay and it’s probably my favorite script out of all those I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with. Meeting Franca was a true highlight of my life. Unfortunately, the movie hasn’t been made. But, Hollywood, I’m sitting on a great script and I’m just a phone call away…
13. Dean KoontzThe “Odd Thomas” series is very popular and very fun. Koontz is another prolific writer with great commercial success. One of the more underrated books he’s written is called “Relentless” and may be a compilation of every author’s worst nightmares.
14. John SteinbeckThis is another author who made me want to write about real people and real problems. “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” are simply brilliant. But, too many of his works are. I can’t list them all. “The Pearl,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “East of Eden,” “Cannery Row,” etc. Too many…
15. David BaldacciYes, another prolific and commercially successful author. But, I wanted to end on something that I’ve enjoyed very recently. A few years ago, my parents turned me on to Baldacci’s book “The Winner” and I’ve recommended it to countless others. Just this last year, my mom introduced me to his first foray into the Young Adult Fantasy genre because she knew I was wrapping up “The Four Corners” for publication. I’m so glad she did. I couldn’t put it down. I’m thrilled that Vega Jane is getting her own series and that the sequel, “The Keeper,” will be out in September.
Of course, I could easily go on and make this list a lot larger than 15. The longer list would include the likes of J.K. Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Arthur Miller, Richard Adams, Tennessee Williams, Chaim Potok, Dante Alighieri, Horton Foote, and Nora Ephron to name a few. So, I appreciate the restriction of just 15. I also appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and reflections on some of the superb writers who have influenced me over the years. Happy reading…
Thank you, Chris!
If you'd like to find out more about Chris and his debut novel, Four Corners, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Visit his publisher, Electric Quill Press, for a free classroom literary unit, or free faith-based study.
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