Top Ten Books that Inspired Mark Packard
1. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author, and this is his best book. Billy Pilgrim is an American prisoner of war held captive underground in a slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany. The prisoners wake up one morning to find that the entire city had been incinerated by firebombs during the night (Vonnegut was there). The trauma caused Billy to become “unstuck in time,” travelling to and from various parts of his life, unsure of where he will land. I loved this book so much that I named my main character Billy and had him struggle his whole life because of the terror he witnessed as a teenager in a bloody war.
2. “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” (short story) by Ted Chiang
I had been working on my novel for several years when I came across this gem. I had already woven the multiverse and how choices create new parallel worlds into my book when I read this short story. It inspired me and caused me to tweak the narrative a bit. The story is about the anxiety created when people can look into their other lives in parallel worlds and see how different choices created different outcomes. It’s genius.
3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is another book I read as I was approaching the finish line to my book. The main character travels to a library in a mysterious place between life and death and is given the opportunity to open any book and examine other versions of her life where she made alternate choices. It’s a journey of depression and despair, but ultimately about discovering that the only path to happiness is to embrace the life you are living.
4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
This is the first book I read about the multi-universe theory of quantum mechanics and that the possibility exists that we live different lives in other worlds. To quote from the book, “We all live day to day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re part of a much larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.”
5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
This classic vividly describes a painful and harsh part of our history. I wish every teenager had to read it. The poverty that the Jobe family endured on a dusty country farm painted a picture that I used for Billy’s world.
6. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I was inspired by the fantasy world he created—London Underground—and the interconnection between that world and the ordinary world that the main character lived in. His fantasy world is filled with monsters and murderers with religious overtones. It’s a fascinating read.
7. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
A generational story about two families and how we can choose to overcome the badness that we might be born with.
8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A painful story about how our plans go awry. A gentle giant with a big heart who loves to touch and tend to the animals, and it leads to his mercy killing.
9. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book inspired me because it shows that a writer can extend the boundaries as far as possible. Nothing but craziness. A depressed robot and a restaurant where you can watch the end of the universe.
10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
I’m attracted by misfits. Science fiction author Kilgore Trout steals the show in this one. At the end he pleads to his creator, “Make me young again.” I feel his pain.