It’s safe to say I’ve read a lot of books. Some are great, some are less than, but invariably there are stories that stick with me long after I’ve put them down. It’s not always about being the best, but the following ten titles are works that left a lasting impression on me over the years.

Scary Stories To Read In The DarkScary Stories To Tell In The Dark’ by Alvin Schwartz

This was the first book to ever have such a notable effect me. Simply put, I was absolutely terrified by these tales. My grade three teacher read it to us in class, showing us the illustrations in between stories (the unbelievably creepy art of Stephen Gammell). Never in my young life had I been read anything that was so frightening and unnerving. I could feel fear eating at me, the discomfort creeping up my spine as I tried to digest horrors I’d never been presented before. This was the first time I’d ever experienced a book that made me sweat and squirm and hold my breath.

‘IT’ by Stephen King

When I was thirteen, IT was the first book I ever bought for myself with my own money. I took my allowance to a local church sale and found a used copy in a pile of paperbacks. Something about it called to me. Much to my surprise, my mother let me buy it. Looking back, I can see the book’s magnetism was an invitation to start down the path I’m on now. The novel was so adult, so scary, so beyond what I was used to reading. I’m a slow reader, and was even slower at that age. IT took me over six months to read, and all the while I felt like I was slipping into a long relationship with the characters and story. When it finally ended, I felt empty inside and was upset to see it all go. I began filling the void with more books.

Blood Meridian‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy

I discovered Cormac McCarthy in a creative writing class during my first year of university, and was undoubtedly the best thing I got out of the entire course. Up until that point, I’d never read a writer like Cormac. I found his prose an absolute nightmare to navigate, but I simply could not put the book down. The imagery and bleakness was as fresh as it was disconcerting. It was the one of very few books I read as an adult that actually shocked and moved me in equal amounts. The character of The Judge was unlike anything I’d ever come across.

‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ by Raymond Carver

Admittedly, short story collections are featuring prominently in this piece. They often prove to be great vehicles for authors to demonstrate their proficiency in an array of subjects and styles. As well as a master of short stories, Raymond Carver was a master of minimalism with rarely a word wasted. He’s an author whose works should be read by everyone. In all honesty, I didn’t even enjoy some of the stories in this collection, but that doesn’t diminish the skill and craftsmanship contained in each and every one. His ability to floor me with one flawlessly written and perfectly placed sentence still astounds me to this day.

‘On Writing’ by Stephen King

Of all Mr. King’s books, this is the one I praise the most. Part biography, part ‘How-to’ manual, this is a must-read for anyone and everyone. There’s so much for aspiring writers to absorb in these pages. Trials and tribulations, successes and failures, riding on cloud nine and hitting rock bottom; it’s all here. The insights provided while reading about SK’s long and lucrative career are honest and invaluable. While it might not improve your actual writing, per se, it will certainly help with your mentality on the subject. When I finally put this book down, I found myself inspired and newly determined. When people ask me about the most inspiring books I’ve read, I always cite ‘On Writing’ as the book that really lit a fire under my ass to pursue writing as a career.

‘Specimen Days’ by Michael Cunningham

I don’t know what it is about this novel, but there must be some kind of magic weaved into the pages. The book is made up of three different novellas (past, present, and future) that are separated by time. They stand alone as individual stories, but are also connected through plot devices and the poetic works of Walt Whitman. Part literary, part thriller, and part history, Specimen Days covers a lot of ground. I’ve reread this book several times now and found it just as engaging and transformative as the first time. Cunningham’s prose and ideas play on my mind long after I put the book down.

‘The Silence of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris

Hannibal Lecter will stand as one of the greatest villains of all time, and it is all thanks to this book. This most recognizable novel from Harris is a modern commercial classic, and for good reason. The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller done all kinds of right, setting the bar high for other authors of the genre. A hard novel to forget.

The 5 People You Meet In Heaven‘The Five People You Meet In Heaven’ by Mitch Albom

I’m going to get some eye-rolls for this one, no doubt, but I found this to be a sweet little story that was the complete opposite of the usual gritty kinds of material I generally seek out and enjoy. The heart and soul present within the pages really moved me at times, and I’ve always had a soft spot for love and loss and the mysteries of life. Albom’s book definitely had its moments, and those moments stuck with me for a good long while. I don’t have to be a tough guy all the time, and this book proved that.

Emergency by Neil StraussEmergency by Neil Strauss

Hannibal Lecter will stand as one of the greatest villains of all time, and it is all thanks to this book. This most recognizable novel from Harris is a modern commercial classic, and for good reason. The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller done all kinds of right, setting the bar high for other authors of the genre. A hard novel to forget.

Emergency by Neil Strauss

‘The Delivery Man’ by Joe McGinniss Jr.

I stumbled upon this gem completely by accident in a bookstore. I’d never heard of the book or the author before, but I was completely hooked upon reading the first few pages. The sharp, visceral story is set in Las Vegas and focuses on a character trapped between who he once was and who he wants to become. Disturbing and heartbreaking at times, McGinniss’s style and story are exactly what I want to get out of a novel. Whenever someone asks me to recommend a fantastic book written by a talented author that I personally love, I inevitably tell them about this one.

‘Tacones: High Heels’ by Todd Klinck

Winner of the 19th annual ‘3-Day Novel Contest’, Klinck’s Tacones is no horror novel, yet it might be one of the most frightening and effective things you'll ever read. This short, but ambitious, book covers a wide spectrum of characters that come out to play long after the average person has gone to bed. It is dark, depressing, disconnected and delicious. Each of the stories has the ability to shock and awe you in different ways. They get you thinking, and probably about things you’d rather not want to consider. The most terrifying thing is when you eventually realize that this kind of so-called 'fiction' might just be happening a lot closer to home.

Emergency by Neil Strauss

As someone who's always looking to improve his craft, I'd love to hear about the 10 books that stuck with you in the comments below.