So, inspired by EEK!'s blog, I have decided to shamelessly rip off her idea. As she shamelessly ripped it off from SPIN, I don't feel too bad. As I was composing my list of "Ten Albums That Changed My Life," I was thinking about other bits of pop culture, too. "What about movies?" I thought. Too much, too big - I'll save it for another time. "What about books?"

So...Ten Books That Changed My Life? Maybe. Ten Books That Are Super Important To Me and Mean Something in a Great Big Way? Definitely.

1. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. A comic nerd putting "Watchmen" on a list like this is as predictable as...well, as 20/30-somethings putting Nirvana on a list of ten life-changing albums. I finally got around to reading this when I was seventeen or eighteen, and it happened at the perfect time. I hadn't quite outgrown super-heroes, but I was ready for something bigger and better than the standard-issue monthly soap-operatics of the X-Men. Every single aspect of this book is perfectly rendered, both in terms of story and art. Neither Moore nor Gibbons has ever been better. At least once a month, I pull it off the shelf to leaf through - I still read it cover-to-cover now and then, but I know it by heart.

2. "The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller (with an always underrated assist from Klaus Jannsen and Lynne Varley). Frank Miller shattered forever the image of paunchy Adam West in grey lycra trading campy quips with Burt Ward and spearheaded a revolution in the comics world. It's tempting to call "Dark Knight" the mainstream "graphic novel"* for adults, but in spite of the fact that it's about an older version of Batman, it's just swimming in adolescent angst. This thing rocked my world when I was twelve. "Watchmen" is deeper, more refined, more layered, but "Dark Knight" is the best story about super-heroes at their purest, most ass-kicking level. And it started the cliche of Batman beating Superman in a fight, too.

3. "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. Everything I'd always suspected about comics as a medium but had never been able to express, McCloud summed up and made concrete. It's the place where anyone who wants to understand comics (so to speak) on a more intellectual level should begin. It could be (and should be and probably is) a textbook in any class about creating comics or about analyzing comics as literature. In spite of this, it's an effortless read, every bit as easy and entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

4. "Bone" by Jeff Smith. The story is good, no doubt. It's a not-terribly-original but still well-done Tolkienesque fantasy, involving and entertaining. But for me, this one's all about the art. Book 3, "Eyes of the Storm" stuns me every time I look at it. This is the book that made me want to make comics. Sure, as a kid I'd dreamed of working for Marvel or DC - what comics-reading kid doesn't? But this is the book that made me realize that a comic book could be a finite story and one writer/artist's own personal vision.

5. "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett. Neil Gaiman talks about doing signing events and constantly encountering "those copies" of "Good Omens." The ones that are battered, dog-eared, torn, folded, held together by scotch tape and pure love. Mine is one of those copies. I was absolutely thrilled last year to have the opportunity to have it signed by both authors. This is one of the only books I've ever read that actually made me laugh out loud - moreso even than the much-venerated "Hitchhiker's Guide."

6. "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. High school lit classes are such a bore. Yeah, everyone loves "To Kill a Mockingbird." Alienated teenagers identify with Holden Caulfield. But other than that? "The Great Gatsby." Bleah. "Ethan Frome." Double bleah. "The Red Badge of Courage." Triple bleah with curdled whipped cream and a rancid cherry on top. So imagine my delight when I found myself enjoying Steinbeck. First "Of Mice and Men." Then "The Grapes of Wrath." Finally, senior year, "East of Eden," which just nailed me right between the eyes. That it's primarily about sibling rivalries, a subject of much interest to me at the time as well as today, certainly didn't hurt.

7. "The Twenty-One Balloons" by William Pene DuBois. This was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid. Oz and Alice were beloved by millions. Beverly Cleary's adventures of Ramona Quimby and Judy Blume's adventures of Pee-tah and Fudge were de rigeur for the elementary set in the '80s. But no one else I knew had read this one. No one gave it to me, no one told me to read it. I picked it out myself. It was mine, my own perfect little discovery.

8. "The Book of Three" and its sequels by Lloyd Alexander. Another childhood classic, handily beating out "The Lord of the Rings" for a spot on this list. Don't get me wrong, I love Tolkien, but Alexander's Prydain series captured my imagination first. There just ain't no justice in a world where Christopher Paolini's craptacular "Eragon" is a giant hit and gets adapted into a big movie while Alexander's perfect little world and terrific characters remain unheralded. More than Middle-earth, more than Narnia, I love Prydain.

9. "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I did something with this book I've never done with any other. I read it twice in a row. I was so fascinated by the way Niffenegger constructed an almost impossibly intricate story told through two overlapping POVs, and never misses a single beat. Nothing doesn't work, nothing rings false. It is unquestionably the best time-travel story I've ever read. Beyond that, it's a moving and beautifully written love story and prominently features a Violent Femmes concert, which is always a good thing.

10. "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. This book is just incredible. Campbell's not easy reading, but it's worthwhile. Once I had read it, I felt like I had a key to unlock any story, from "Cinderella" to "Star Wars." It's like a guide to what a story is and why stories are important.

* Remind me sometime to tell you why I despise that term so much.