Books·My Life in Books

3 books that inspired the experimental fiction of Jeff VanderMeer

The author talks about the works that shaped his life and career.
Jeff VanderMeer is a writer, editor and critic. (Kyle Cassidy)

Jeff VanderMeer is an American author, editor and literary critic. The experimental fantasy author won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2015 for his book Annihilation — part of his bestselling Southern Reach trilogy — and his latest book, Borne, is a brilliant and surreal work that explores questions around biotechnology and non-human sentience.

Jeff VanderMeer will join John Irving and Rupi Kaur onstage in a conversation about books to celebrate the Cooke Agency's 25th year in the Canadian publishing industry on Sept. 6, 2017 in Toronto. The event is also a fundraiser for First Book Canada.

Here are three books that are meaningful to Jeff VanderMeer.

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

James Thurber's classic is a whimsical fairy tale. (Thurber House/Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

What it's about: James Thurber's sublimely whimsical fairy tale of love forestalled features a mysterious stranger named Golux, a gloomy castle,13 frozen clocks and an equally cold Duke.

VanderMeer says: ​"The combination of the uncanny, the mysterious Golux and an odd sense of humour really entranced me."

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome's novel is a children's classic. (Penguin Random House/Wikimedia Commons)

What it's about: The Walker children, also known as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty and Ship's Boy Roger, set sail on the Swallow and head for adventure on the open seas on their way to Wild Cat Island. 

VanderMeer says: "The realistic yet exciting adventures of kids on boats along with an endless sense of summer and unexpected danger."

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The classic book established the fantasy novel template for generations. (Wikimedia Commons/Mariner)

What it's about: This classic, epic high fantasy novel continues to inspire and inform today's popular culture.

VanderMeer says: "The idea of things valuable enough to be worth being hard-won, coupled with the revelation you could combine horror with fantasy in a story about sacrifice and doing the right thing."


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