A novel of historical fiction, Jane Porter’s “Scottish Chiefs,” and an otherworldly romance set in the rainforest, W.H. Hudson’s “Green Mansions,” were the most influential books of Mary Lynn Bensen’s adolescence. In adulthood, Bensen, a librarian at SUNY Oneonta, took to 19th-century writer Thomas Hardy for the richness of his language, she said.
Robert Bensen, professor of English at Hartwick College, was most influenced by a book of poetry written by a friend of his youth, he said — “Letters to a Stranger” by Thomas James.
“It’s the first book that was written by someone I knew,” Bensen, a poet, said. “We were students together. That book, when it came out, led me to think that this is possible to do. Maybe I could make a book.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, Tom Heitz, of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, read many novels. Heitz said the most influential on him was Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
“(Conrad) made me a better writer,” Heitz said. “Good readers can become good writers.”
City of Oneonta historian Mark Simonson’s choice was Eugene D. Milener’s “Oneonta — The Development of a Railroad Town.” (1983)
“I was living in Massachusetts at the time and reading about my old hometown. It captured me,” Simonson said. “Little did I realize that I’d be back here doing this.”
Wayne McWilliams of Laurens’s wrote, “I decided to go back to books I read in high school but which I still enjoy re-reading today — some 40 years later!”
They are J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic “The Hobbit,” with Harper Lee’s novel of racial injustice and coming of age in the segregated South, “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1960) coming in “a very close second.”
Lydia J. Mahoney of Schuyler Lake wrote, “With the beautiful, yet simplistic writing style of Avi, and vibrant illustrations by Marjorie Priceman, ‘Things That Sometimes Happen,’ is one of my favorite books.”