Today I welcome M. L. Rio to the blog to tell us all about some of her favourite books in this week's edition of The Books That Made Me.
The first book I have distinct memories of is The Hobbit. My mother read it out loud to me and my brother when we were too young to read it ourselves. It was what we did after dinner instead of having dessert, and we looked forward to it the same way other kids probably looked forward to ice cream or Oreos. I still have a soft spot for Tolkien, because he was the first author who really captured my imagination and invited me into a new world. Middle Earth, with all its mythology and all its tangible detail, was where I lived and got lost in the long afternoons of elementary and middle school. Sometimes I still go back to visit.
Around the same time I embarked on The Lord of the Rings on my own, I discovered Shakespeare in my parents’ library. The first play I read was The Comedy of Errors, and though it’s not the best play, I immediately wanted more. I tore through the Complete Works, and by the time I turned thirteen I had read every play and every poem, most more than once. A year later I appeared in my first Shakespeare play—I was Feste in Twelfth Night—which only fueled the fire of Bardolatry. I was captivated by the language. It’s so rich and complex that ten years later I still discover new things hidden between the lines every day. You might say Shakespeare is my muse. His works have not only been the focus of my graduate degree but the inspiration for my first novel, If We Were Villains (which takes its title from my favorite play, King Lear). Miraculously, I’m not any less in love with Shakespeare now than I was when I read him for the first time.
Like Shakespeare, John Knowles had a significant impact on my reading and writing habits. I first read A Separate Peace in a sixth grade English class (I was eleven), and then proceeded to re-read it almost every year that came after. It was my first campus novel, my first war novel (in a way), and the first novel that really upset me. Up until then, I hadn’t realized that fiction could be so unfair. I had grown accustomed to happy endings and moral absolutes and Knowles ripped the rug out from under me. It is a brutally beautiful book, and it will always have a place on my shelf, wherever in the world I may be.
M.L. Rio is the author of the phenomenal thriller that everyone is talking about this summer If We Were Villains, it's been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History and has won widespread critical and popular acclaim. Available now from Titan Books (UK).