Updated: Jun 17
People sometimes ask which authors have influenced me. I'm not sure how to answer the question other than to list my favorite books and authors. To the extent that I loved these books, I guess you can say that they influenced me, consciously or subconsciously.
As a child, I loved mystery stories such as Franklin Dixon’s series, The Hardy Boys. I haven't written any mystery stories, though, so I can't say that Dixon influenced me, other than to stimulate my interest in reading. Another childhood favorite was Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which I read many times and read again to my own boys when they were young.
In my early and mid-teens, I read a number of historical novels (authors A.B. Guthrie, Thomas Costain, and Kenneth Roberts, among others). While I haven't written any historical novels, these writers certainly showed me how to write a great story.
By my late teens, I had graduated to literary fiction, including novels by the American novelists Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Henry James, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner, among others. In my 20’s, I began reading world literature, including novels by George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll (well, I started reading Dickens and Carroll a little earlier), Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. I have also read half-a-dozen Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth along with many of Shakespeare's sonnets. I mention the tragedies by name because those are the ones I like the most. I don't really get the comedies, and I have not yet read any of the histories. Among his sonnets, number 29 ("When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes...") is far and away my favorite; in fact, at one time, I memorized it. King Lear is the next Shakespeare work on my to-read list.
Readers may be surprised to learn that I read very little science fiction, other than Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, until a few years ago. After retiring in 2018, I read several science-fiction classics from the 20th century including George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (part historical novel and part science fiction, strangely enough), and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.
I have always read a fair amount of non-fiction and enjoy biographies and autobiographies in particular. John Burk's The Life and Works of Beethoven, Arthur Schlesinger's Robert Kennedy and His Times, and Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theordore Roosevelt are my favorite biographies. My favorite autobiographies or memoirs include The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Dr. An Wang's Lessons; Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Volume One; Ansel Adams's Ansel Adams: An Autobiography; Diana Ross's Secrets of a Sparrow ; and Megyn Kelly's Settle for More. I am also a great admirer of Henry David Thoreau and used Civil Disobedience as the basis for my commencement address when I graduated from high school in 1963. Two non-fiction books that inspired me to include the impact of the human population in The First Robot President are The Population Explosion by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, which I read after I retired, and Al Gore's Our Choice, which I read in 2009 or 2010 soon after it was published. I included Paul and Anne Ehrlich in the Dedication of The First Robot President; and I mentioned Our Choice, along with two of Gore's other books, in Chapter 4. I also enjoy poetry, and my favorite poets are A. E. Housman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edwin Arlington Robinson.
I have probably omitted a book or an author from this list that I will think about later and wish I had included, but I believe the list is comprehensive enough to answer the question.