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What Books have Influenced Your Life?

By Kasreyn in Culture
Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 07:20:46 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

What books have you read that deeply influenced your way of living, thinking, or viewpoints about the world around you?

My own list follows.

My own list, a very minor and incomplete one, might include some of the following books. The list is in as close to the order in which I first read them that I can remember.

"The Holy Bible", by various authors. This book, more than anything by Voltaire, is primarily responsible for putting an end to my faith in god. This despite the fact that I attended a Roman Catholic private elementary school. The beauty of the poetry of the King James edition fills me with wonder, but the rawness of its self-contradictions fill me with worry when I contemplate the hundreds of generations of readers that have failed to decry them. I am forced, reluctantly, to conclude that the vast majority of Christendom has never read it in full.

"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", by J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm placing both in the same paragraph here, though of course they are not the same book. "The Hobbit" is one of the three or four earliest books I can remember, and the only one my father ever read to me, which gave it special significance. The imaginative qualities of these tales spawned a lifelong obsession with fantasy and science fiction, which probably is one of the root causes of my becoming a writer.

"Ender's Game", by Orson Scott Card. Yes, it's certainly not "high literature", as Card is the first to admit. Yet when I was a child, it was the first thing outside my immediate family that ever hinted to me that it could be OK to be different, to be a too-smart wimp who liked books and didn't like sports; that it was possible to find comradeship with others like myself. And it spoke to my deep feeling that my rate of maturation was grossly underestimated by the adults surrounding me. At the time I couldn't have put it in words like that, though, so I merely adored the story without really knowing why.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", by Mark Twain. No one, in my young life, went out of their way to teach me either that racism was wrong or that it was right. I ended up formulating my own opinion, and it was largely based on this book's thinly veiled critique of prejudice and slavery. I have never been able to fathom how anyone who has read this book could imagine that it deserved banning. There were other things that ended up influencing me deeply, such as the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but my early formative influence was the easy friendship of Huck and Jim, and their (and my) bewilderment that anything should come between that friendship.

"1984", by George Orwell. By far, this is the most terrifying book I have ever read. I would not characterize myself, previous to having read this, as having had any political thoughts or worries. I won't claim to have fully understood it the first time I read it, being then only 14, but I have never since been able to listen to any authoritative figure, in government, religion, science, or culture, without suspicion. I would say the shock of this book taught me a great deal of my cynicism.

"The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever", by Stephen R. Donaldson. This obscure epic fantasy cycle, composing six books in two trilogies (the second conveniently titled "The Second Chronicles" etc., etc.), happened to me my senior year of High School. At a time in my life when I was a bitter social outcast, in danger of becoming a true misanthrope, I chanced upon a story which, on later reflection, I believe saved me from a fall. The anti-hero, Thomas Covenant, is a leper and outcast, whom I identified with strongly, and still do; but he is also a human, flawed and weak, and capable of crime and evil. He is not a sterling, unrealistic pillar of righteousness, an Aragorn, but an adult's modern hero. But most importantly, he learns, tortuously slowly, that he does not deserve special treatment or forgiveness because of his pariah-hood. Instead he learns personal responsibility and the will to stand up to evil, even when it is overpowering and there is no reasonable hope of victory. His experiences saved him from bitterness and self-hatred, and reading the story of it helped me avoid them as well.

Another book was a biography of Mohandas Gandhi. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title and do not have a copy. Until I read it, I had only had a vague glimpse of his name in a history book, and no inkling of what a truly incredible man he was. Overnight, I became a convert to his way of thinking. I don't claim to have applied it with any success to my life, but I am trying in my flawed way. At first I did not believe that the biography was not falsifying and mythologizing Gandhi's life, because I did not believe one person could have such strength of will. His life story gave me hope proportionate to that which "1984" destroyed.

"East of Eden", by John Steinbeck. Perhaps merely by an accident of time, I picked this book up at the time that I now look back on as the approximate moment that I feel I became an adult emotionally, to match the intellectual adulthood I had achieved earlier. I found myself identifying both with the impulsive, flawed Cal and with the sad and mature Lee. I felt like I was Cal, trying to figure out how to become Lee. I feel that I learned from it how to finally let go of my guilt at having lost my faith. At the same time, I think I learned from it some of what man really is and how to live. Clearly I can't put it into words very well, but I was never the same again after reading it, and so it qualifies. The other works of Steinbeck are also wonderful and influenced me, but I consider "East of Eden" to be his magnum opus.

My list is rather too long to be a short list and too short to be a long one, but I think it's time to stop. There have been other influences, and not only books, but these were the major ones.

And you, gentle kuro5hin reader? I'd like to know what books have been influences on each of you, so I can go check them out.


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The books I have read have influenced my personality:
o Almost to the exclusion of other influences 4%
o A great deal 38%
o To some extent 29%
o About as much as other influences 14%
o Not very much 6%
o Not at all; I draw my inspiration from other sources 2%
o Not at all; I am illiterate or do not read 2%

Votes: 134
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Also by Kasreyn

Display: Sort:
What Books have Influenced Your Life? | 418 comments (369 topical, 49 editorial, 2 hidden)
I'd like to claim LOTR and scifi and whateverelse (1.80 / 5) (#4)
by dimaq on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 04:45:30 AM EST

the truth is, when someone takes a goo objective look at me, books like "ABC" and "native toungue 1" probably influenced my life the most. that is not to say they influenced my life [much], rather that everything else is [mostly] meaningless procrastination.

pretty sad, isn't it?

My two cents (3.00 / 7) (#5)
by FishBait on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 05:39:05 AM EST

Oddly enough, I am in total agreement with your first two choices. I read both the Hobbit and LotR when I was about 9. This got me into fantasy in a big way, which lead to DnD in high school and the causal Magic the Gathering tournament I have just returned from.

As for the Bible, buoyed by my success at reading LotR I vowed to read each book in the Bible over the course of a summer holiday (I was rather earnest as 10 year old). Totally by random I picked the book of Job ... and that was the end of that. Along with another book on comparative religion(put out by some Church group ironically, although I can't remember anything else about it) lead to me becoming an unbeliever by my teens.

I read Ender's Game in my late teens, and although I enjoyed it, it has always struck me as a little unpleasant. You are not the first to list it as a formative reading experience, but I always am a little wary of people who identify with Ender too much. I never much cared for the Thomas Covenant books either.

For myself, I was greatly influenced in my thinking by "Life on Earth" by David Attenborough and "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. Both of these gave a solid understanding of natural history and I found the chapters on computer simulation in The Selfish Gene fascinating. This lead to me getting part way through a degree in Zoology before bouncing to computer sciece. Speaking of computers, there was a series of books on programming 8-bit micros for children put out by Osborne. During my childhood I had nearly all of them, and they kindled my lifelong love of computers. They covered everything from writing games in BASIC, to quite complex assembler .There doesn't seem to be anything like them for children today, which is a shame.

You skipped the best part (3.00 / 7) (#26)
by unknownlamer on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:31:18 PM EST

Maybe you should go back and read Ecclesiastes. It is, in my opinion, the best book in the entire Bible. It presents a rather interesting view of the world (essentially: life is fleeting and it would have been better if none of us had ever been born).

Look up the Hebrew world "Hebel" before you read it so you can understand it more clearly (if you read it). Hebel is generally translated as "vanity" or "futility" (and the noun forms of both) but it has a much wider meaning (remember the name of Cain's brother?), but really carries a meaning of fleetingness that is hard to describe while maintaining the readability of a translation. A guy who loves the Tanakh to death (his nick is Qohelet of all things) told me about this wonderful word that really makes the book make a lot more sense.

<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the recomendation (none / 0) (#134)
by FishBait on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:07:06 AM EST

I'll check it out.

[ Parent ]
Ender's game as a deep influence (none / 3) (#55)
by Baldrson Neutralizer on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 04:18:10 PM EST

I am also wary. It is unfortunate that some kids are picked on and ostracized, however I believe it is extremely dangerous for these people to resort to what Kasreyn suggests in his little summary there.

The way to get over being bullied, excluded, and shat on as a youth is to try to come to terms with yourself  and who you really are, not to think of yourself as smarter and better than everybody else, or as a misunderstood genius. If you want to go down that road, then fine, but there are many, many implications that you will have to deal with (or more probably just ignore) as you get older and your problems will only get worse with age.

It's a dangerous path filled with cynicism and hate and the reason why I get nervous when kids read it, because it's so easy to jump to those conclusions.

Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
[ Parent ]

That wasn't Ender's lesson (none / 0) (#92)
by Gully Foyle on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:53:37 AM EST

I was picking up a lot of social skills and realising why I was being bullied at the time when I read it. The lesson I ended up taking from Ender's Game was that those social skills aren't enough by themselves. If you're already in the bullying cycle, and getting hit most days, the only way out is to beat the living fuck out of someone in front of his friends. Then you can apply your social skills.

At that point I was just becoming big enough that I could do that; I'd been holding back because I'd been taught that violence *never* works. Needless to say, sometimes it does, especially amongst bastard teenagers. Not a good lesson for later life, but very valuable for a bullied kid.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

That's one lesson... (none / 1) (#114)
by Baldrson Neutralizer on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 06:02:56 PM EST

and it sounds like for you it was a good one. But you also say you learned that it's not really how adults do things. It's a bit easier for adults to realize that fighting is bad because it is an external thing that will get them in trouble if they continue to do it, and at some point, if you haven't learned the lesson, our society (for better or for worse) will give you overt signs that fighting is not a way to solve problems.

I maintain that there are other lessons that people take from the book. The problem I see is that Ender is a character that is smarter and better than everybody else, and has no problem proving this time and time again. He doesn't need to interact with other people. It's ok for Ender to be a pathological animal with an incredible ego because he is that good. You don't like me? It's because you are threatened by me, or because you are an inferior person. And in the end, people will love me because they will realize how great I truly am, or because of my innate goodness, that people will perceive and adore.

It's one way to look at the world, but I insist that it is very dangerous. Most people are not that smart and gifted, even though they might think that they are. And most people will never get that kind of attention from the people around you. And it is an internal effect, so those around you that do care about you have no idea what you might be thinking, so you could age 5, 10, or 15 years with that attitude, never questioning that it might be wrong. And honestly, a 10 year old kid doesn't have all the tools to handle these problems by themselves. And I'm not speaking about this as a parent or guardian, or as a psychologist , or primary school teacher (none of which apply to me), but as somebody who has had to come to terms with a lot of things I thought as a child that turned out to be completely wrong (which I am sure everybody has the opportunity to experience).  Things that I can't help but wonder if somebody older and wiser had picked up on them, I could have realized that things didn't have to be the way I thought they were in my own little mind.

You want to be a megalomaniac hermit unable to communicate with people, ostracized from society, firmly convinced of your own superiority? That's fine. You might even be right, but embark on that path with an accurate picture of what you are doing. The time to do that is when you are old enough and wise enough to make that decision, not when you are 10 years old after reading about Ender Wiggin and getting spit on and having your shorts pulled down in gym class.

You and I are proof that it doesn't have to be the case and it is just a book, I realize that. However this type of thinking does go on, and without the proper mental tools, the book can serve to reaffirm the conclusion that they are smarter and better than everybody else and give them false promises about what life is going to be like as they get older.

I talk about this because I have had personal encounters with this. It has happened; I've seen it several times. I actually think it is an important book for this reason, just one to be respected. I am not trying to judge, just trying to expose an idea for discussion.

Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 1) (#228)
by ZorbaTHut on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:08:54 PM EST

I didn't get that from Ender's Game. The big thing I got from it is that even if you're smarter, even if you're better in every measurable way than the people around you, you're still not a better person. You're still just a human, along with everyone else, and you still need to respect the people around you as human beings.

You're just going to run into some trouble doing so, because they're not going to think of you as a "human being", they're going to think of you as "that smart guy".

[ Parent ]

why do you have to be smarter than everyone else? (none / 0) (#298)
by Baldrson Neutralizer on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:01:59 PM EST

Ok, so despite being smarter than everybody else, I still have my own flaws. I therefore shouldn't judge other people as inferior people because they aren't perfect. ok, fair enough.

But why resort to "I'm smarter than they are" at all? Some people will recognize that you have good ideas, a quick wit, whatever, and some people won't. I honestly don't get why this is a necessary thought process and anything but a way to feel good about oneself by putting oneself above others.

Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
[ Parent ]

Because it's true? (none / 0) (#360)
by ZorbaTHut on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 01:32:45 PM EST

I'm not about to say "I'm smarter than everyone in everything." I am going to say "I'm a better coder than virtually everyone I know." And I am going to say "in a certain field of coding, I'm one of the best in the world". (Look in the Top 10 list if you don't believe me. If you still don't believe me, compete.)

Is it humble? No. Is it true? Yes. Why should I pretend it isn't? I don't look down on people because they can't code Dijkstra's in forty seconds flat. I don't consider anyone inferior because they didn't invent inclusion-exclusion on the spot. (Some people consider themselves inferior because they didn't do these things, but I try to talk them out of it. I usually fail.)

What's the harm in it?

[ Parent ]

awareness of ones abilities (none / 0) (#389)
by Baldrson Neutralizer on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 02:26:17 AM EST

is good. but I personally feel that it isn't healthy to have your self-worth built out of what you think your abilities are... I can't really explain why I think it's bad right now, it is just a feeling.

But I agree, it makes no sense to disguise what you are good at and are interested in out of humility. To throw in a biblical reference, that sounds like burying your talents to me.

Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
[ Parent ]

How very well put <nt> (none / 0) (#271)
by GenerationY on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 10:00:27 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Entry point in the series... (none / 1) (#315)
by Gooba42 on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:57:49 PM EST

I started the Ender's Game series with "Speaker For The Dead" and backtracked to "Ender's Game" before jumping back to "Xenocide".

I think this really affected my impression of Ender. He was peculiarly alone because of his impressive skills and intellect and I did identify with this in the "dangerous" way but I also recognized the other facets.

In particular what stuck with me the most was the incredible responsibility that had been heaped upon Ender by circumstance and intent. The destruction of the Buggers was so earthshaking for him specifically because of his greater insight and his heightened sense of personal accountability, partly owing to his ego.

As the Speaker For The Dead he takes on another enormous responsibility but this time in the microcosm of interpersonal relationships. His job is to determine the objective truth to the best of his ability and it is his ego that allows him to even attempt the task. He knows what he's doing and he knows he might be wrong, but he would rather try to be right than accept what is wrong.

He struck me as a very strong and honorable figure in this respect. He's given over his very conscience to the service of others. For weal or woe he's taking full responsibility for his actions and acting fully on behalf of others.

[ Parent ]

LOTR at 9 (none / 1) (#69)
by jongleur on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:47:02 PM EST

Damn, and I was pleased with myself for having read it at 10 :)

As for "Ender's Game", I agree.  I think it's sick, impotent fantasy.  "I'm poor Ender, put upon, but I FUCK everyone who messes with me and I'm smarter and winninger than them all in the end.  And I'm still poor Ender".  Maybe it was just my projection at the time.  But the little more I've read of / by Orson Scott Card has never made it seem impossible he'd write out of that.

"If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
[ Parent ]

RE: LOTR at 9 (none / 1) (#83)
by FishBait on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 12:57:27 AM EST

Well if it makes you feel better, it did take me a long time. A lot of it went over my head, but I liked the way it started off nice and easy, not much harder than The Hobbit, then ramped up both the action and the required reading comprehension level over the course of the book. It's an education in novel form. I did skip most of the poetry though.

I don't know what it is about Orson Scott Card, the Ender's Game sequals aren't as objectionable, but also aren't as good. The short stories of his I have read struck me to be very much like EG in tone. His writing in general seems to be aimed at very intense, very introverted people - I bet he gets some weird fan mail.

I wonder what Ender's Game the movie is going to be like.

[ Parent ]
I read it at 9, too. (none / 0) (#98)
by fn0rd on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 11:23:21 AM EST

The first time I read the Hobbit I was 6(!), though. My first novel. Way over my head, but I enjoyed the story enough that it didn't matter. I must have read it about 10 times since then as a kid, trying to plow through it as fast as I could. Got down to 10 hours when I was 12 or so.

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
[ Parent ]

Read it at 4 (none / 2) (#260)
by lordDogma on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 03:08:42 AM EST

I realise this is going to sound like a flat faced lie (or like I'm an arrogant jerk boasting about what a genius I am) but I read the Hobbit at age 3-1/2.

I happen to be very gifted academically. I earned my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at age 16. If you look in the December 01 issue of the Journal of Interconnect Research you will find my article, "Heavy Metal Shear Stresses in High Temperature Environments".

For what its worth, I think George Bush is an idiot. George Bush's sanctimonious doctrine of pre-emptive attack is without doubt the most shortsighted foreign policy ever pursued by a president of the United States. It is the pandalogical equivalent to Hitler's invasion of Poland, differing only in that the US has the excuse of 9-11 and the War on Terror (How can you fight a war against a noun?), both of which are essentially fraudulent attempts to scare the American people so that the de haute-style corporate elites of Haliburton and Enron can exercise more power over their ardigidous "useful idiots", namely those of the neo-con stripe.

[ Parent ]

OSC's writing style... (none / 1) (#310)
by curunir on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:58:38 PM EST

I've personally never really liked OSC's way of writing characters.

He tends to confuse knowledge with intelligence, thinking he can make a character seem smarter to the reader simply by having them arrive at some piece of information inexplicably quickly. This surprised me immensely since the forward to Ender's Game specifically mentioned that many gifted children had written to commend him on his ability to write genius characters.

He also confuses intellectual maturity with emotional maturity. Too often his characters are supposed to be very intellectually mature and end up being too emotionally mature as well.

Oh, and his writing of female characters is pretty pathetic.

That said, I think he comes up with very interesting story ideas that make his books very easily readable and nice mental escapes in between reading better things. Also, the "I'm poor Ender..." mentality that you brought up makes much more sense when you read the short story "Polish Boy" (Part of First Meetings: In The Enderverse.) From it, we learn that Ender and his siblings were bred to fill the role he ended up filling and his mood becomes somewhat understandable when you realize that, on some level, he was aware throughout his life that he'd been tasked to do something important.

[ Parent ]
Osborne computer books (none / 0) (#239)
by styrotech on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:19:05 PM EST

Speaking of computers, there was a series of books on programming 8-bit micros for children put out by Osborne. During my childhood I had nearly all of them, and they kindled my lifelong love of computers. They covered everything from writing games in BASIC, to quite complex assembler .There doesn't seem to be anything like them for children today, which is a shame.
Hmmm, now that you mention those books... I suppose they were very influential to me also. I never would've thought of them otherwise :)

[ Parent ]
+1, Huck Finn (2.33 / 6) (#6)
by bob6 on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:30:34 AM EST

I suspect most people and unfortunately most Americans don't realize how good writer, storyteller and humorist was Mark Twain. Huck Finn is truly an international classic, for the quality of the composition and the relevance of the testimony of his culture and his time.

agreed (as a non American) (none / 0) (#411)
by Attercop on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 07:36:13 AM EST

I find his writing very agreeable, wise, and humerous.
One of the many people I can think of when the world gets me down and I wonder if all Americans are idiots!

[ Parent ]
Some books (2.62 / 8) (#7)
by Scrymarch on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:59:51 AM EST

Firstly, A Previous Round Of This, from 2002.  Via K4.

These aren't the best books I've ever read, or even necessarily the favourite books, but after I read them they would invade my memories and change my thoughts; I couldn't think the same after I read them.

Journey To The Centre of the Earth, Verne.  Not only a fantastic adventure story, but I remember being struck at the time and afterwards by how Verne bothered to base it on a alternative theory of geology, and that made it feel real, even or especially if the theory had since been exploded.

The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Adams.  It's not obvious, because it's so easy to read, but the first book has such a flippant intensity of ideas, jokes and disasters that it infected me; this was the filter through which I saw almost my entire adolescence.

The Road To Wigan Pier, Orwell.  It was at some point during this book that I asked myself the question - where do we see these living conditions and this disparity today?  Between the rich and poor parts of the world, not within rich nations.  (Orwell might not agree; he was much more radical than the people that these days quote him.  Homage to Catalonia is a better book.)

Dialling up the pretension,

Nostromo, Conrad.  Not exactly an enjoyable read, but I've never read a truer work of fiction.  Again, Costaguana annexed my head.

Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein.  Context, meaning as an emergent property of language-games played between people, the ease of forming meaningless questions, and buried in there somewhere, an obliquely stated theory of the mind, which I don't understand.

Orwell (none / 0) (#43)
by wiredog on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 02:48:10 PM EST

Have you read the book on Orwell that Hitchens recently did? It's interesting.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Orwell's Victory? (none / 0) (#46)
by Scrymarch on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 03:11:05 PM EST

I haven't read it, but Christopher Hitchens, Trotskyist-turned-liberal hawk, seems an interesting guy.

I did read this review though: No Bullshit Bullshit.

[ Parent ]

Why Orwell Matters (none / 0) (#63)
by wiredog on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 06:46:47 PM EST

That's the title in the US, anyway.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
For me... (2.60 / 5) (#13)
by skyknight on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:42:26 AM EST

in no particular order...

  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Catch 22
  • 1984
  • Brave New World
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Billions and Billions
  • Consilience
  • Several of P. J. O'Rourke's books, including Parliament of Whores, Eat the Rich, and All the Trouble in the World

If my memory serves me, Carl Sagan's Billions and Billions was to me what the Holy Bible was to you. His refusal to accept the existence of a God, and his acceptance of the coming obliteration of his consciousness, even while facing certain death as cancer ravaged his body, spoke a great deal to me.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
ack! (none / 0) (#48)
by banffbug on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 03:18:50 PM EST

I can't believe i left Zen and the Art off my list. there's just too many great books out there, i don't think my 68 expected years are enough.

[ Parent ]
Kinda puts a price on... (none / 2) (#60)
by skyknight on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 05:08:18 PM EST

wasting time, doesn't it?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
off the top of my head (2.66 / 6) (#21)
by banffbug on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 11:43:51 AM EST

The origin of conciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, julian jaynes: what a grade A mindfuck. The history he constructs is near irrefutable, his facts and research deep (I don't think he's cropping his findings, only subjectively). His predictions flop for me, not reaching far enough into our future, claiming the 'voices of the gods' are fading, and going away for good. To me they play an important role in humanity's future, the dreaming and imagining powers beyond logic and reason we possess shouldn't be underestimated; a unity of the two chambers of the brain will be the next epoch, an antithesis to the 'analog I'. Only if you've read the book will this possibly make sense, but hopefully I've interested you.

The Koran, Prophet Mohammad: While islam bases itself on one book by one author, giving it a false fishy mormon smell, the descriptions of god are vivid, teaching meditation upon His divine creation. At the core it embraces all relgions previous (as the book was written 600 ADish) teaching a way of coexistance and compatibility, pointing out it's the same god everyone worships. despite all the emphasized wrath onto unbelievers, love is of course the central message. Many contradictions and surprises with my orthodox /roman catholic uprbringing present themselves, A god who i stopped taking seriously around the time of my confirmation. The history surrounding islam's conception, and it's societal development is also facinating. When rome fell, western science and knowledge seemingly lost was preserved in the middle east, furthered, and returned to europe as she emerges from the dark ages.

The people of the deer, Farley Mowat: Huh? what book is that? It's a first hand account of a man's travels to the edge of the tundra lands where he meets up with a native tribe who's chief sustenance are an enormous herd of caribou. Mowat lives amoung them for two years in the late forties, spinning a tale of raw uncomprimising human survival, motivated by an urgent cry for help through truer understanding, mainly as retribution for ignorance and ill-treatment by white men in the past, which sadly never comes.

worth mentioning:
The Book of Disquiet, a collection of Fernando Pessoa's disturbing musings, translated from spanish (i'm sure the mother-tounge version steamrolls it's counterpart). His insanely nilistic worldview is so exteme it prompts you to consider cheering the fuck up.

and Self, Yann Martel. Also the author of Life of Pi which won the Man Booker Prize, Self is his first published work. I've only recently finished reading the book, so it's hard to say how lasting an impression it will leave on me, Martel's style blows me away, I was unaware you could tell a story in such a fashion. Emotional, at times you feel like a vouyer in the protagonist's life. If Pi floated your boat, don't hesitate in picking up Self.

corrections (none / 0) (#51)
by banffbug on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 03:43:47 PM EST

Sorry, Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios is Yann's first published work in '93, self in '96, and The Life of Pi during october '02.

another, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig: sent me into a stage of wacked-out poetry writing, most which remains unintellegible today. I've also resorted to this book as a quick gift before.

And it's a herd of migrating caribou

[ Parent ]

irrefutable (none / 0) (#61)
by abeyer on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 06:26:36 PM EST

The history he constructs is near irrefutable
That was really my problem with the book. It's history was mostly logical and consistent, but difficult to test or prove in any meaningful way. Yah, you can't really refute it, but you can't really prove it either. It kind of struck me as armchair science, sitting back and theorizing on things that Jaynes knew no one could really demonstrate one way or the other. That said, though, it was still a fascinating read.

[ Parent ]
Being picky... (none / 0) (#222)
by Vesperto on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:32:32 AM EST

...Pessoa was a portuguese poet, as i think you know. Why did someone translate a translation instead of translating directly from the original into english? Oh well, it's been on my list of "must-reads" for a while.

If you disagree post, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]
My wankage. (2.83 / 6) (#27)
by fn0rd on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:35:50 PM EST

An incomplete list, in no particular order:
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach. Doug Hofstadter.
  • The Illuminatis Trilogy. R. Shea and RA Wilson.
  • 1984. George Orwell.
  • Sirens of Titan. Kurt Vonnegut.
  • Watership Down. Richard Adams. (c'mon, I was fricken 7 years old, alright?)
  • The Hobbit/LOTR. Tolkein
  • VALIS/Radio Free Albemuth. Phil Dick.
  • Les Chants de Maldoror. Comte de Lautréamont (Isidore Ducasse).
  • Ulysses. James Joyce.
  • The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster. Richard Brautigan.
  • Cities of the Red Night/The Place of Dead Roads/The Western Lands. William Burroughs.
  • The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. Charles Bukowski.
  • Dhalgren. Samuel R. Delaney
  • Scamp "The Adventures of a Little Puppy". Author lost to the mists of time. The first book I ever read.

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad

Watership Down Rocks [nt] (none / 2) (#30)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:39:47 PM EST

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I'll probably read it again in a few years, (none / 2) (#31)
by fn0rd on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:47:13 PM EST

after I've read the Hobbit to/with my daughter.

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
[ Parent ]

Shit, how could I forget (none / 2) (#37)
by fn0rd on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 02:14:31 PM EST


Every time you make a decision, ask yourself, What Would Xenu Do?

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
[ Parent ]

Count his money and laugh? (none / 1) (#54)
by godix on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 04:17:54 PM EST

It's dawned on me that Zero Tolerance only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.
- Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]
Fnord! [n/t] (none / 0) (#150)
by roybean on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:12:10 PM EST

[ Parent ]
This Is A Topical Comment (2.40 / 10) (#29)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:37:29 PM EST

Something Happened, by Joseph Heller

The Stars, My Destination (a.k.a. Tiger, Tiger!) by Alfred Bester

Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

The Brothers Karamazov, by Dead Russian Pretentious Name-Dropping Fyodor Ivannatinkle Dostoevsky

Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de St. Exupery

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday! by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence

The Lorax, by Dr Seuss

Penthouse Letters, by Xaviera Hollander

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
The Happy Hooker (none / 1) (#72)
by johnny on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:15:18 PM EST

By Xavieria. She only admitted to writing a few of the letters herself.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che
[ Parent ]
Gully Foyle is my name (none / 2) (#95)
by Gully Foyle on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:10:14 AM EST

And Terra is my nation,
Deep space is my dwelling place,
And death my destination.

PS I think James Gandolfini should play me in the movie.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

My List (2.25 / 4) (#41)
by virg on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 02:42:47 PM EST

The list of influential books, eh? A tough one, but not too tough.

Watership Down by Richard Adams. I read this when I was young, and even then I knew it was literature. By the time I got to the end of it I didn't give a damn that the protagonists were rabbits. I cared about them like I did my friends in real life.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Another book from my youth that still stands out now that I'm old enough to really appreciate it.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins. This was my first exposure to a book that was serious and yet written in a readable fashion. This one precipitated my ability and desire to read The Catcher in the Rye and Slaughterhouse Five, but since it was the first and drove me to those others, I figure it's higher on my list of influential books.

The Bible. Like a surprising number of others, actually reading the Bible was the event that made me an atheist.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan. While I enjoyed reading The Demon Haunted World more, this first foray into Sagan's mind was the reason I became interested in science and math to begin with. As long as you remember that its best audience is 13-year-olds, it stands out as one of the best science primers ever written.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Reading this book caused me, for the first time in my life, to look at Jim and wonder, "why do they treat him differently because of his color?" My mom told me years later that the proudest moment in raising me was when I asked her, in all innocence, "why do they call Jim a nigger when they like him so much?"

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This saga is the reason I got into fantasy and sci-fi.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. When I read this, I expected a rousing sci-fi story. What I got was an eye-opening look at what patriotism is really about. Shortly after reading this, I watched my first political debate, and actually cared about what was being said.

That's the short list. This isn't meant to be a list of favorite readings, which would be MUCH larger, but a list of books that actually changed my views of the world in some way.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
My List (2.75 / 4) (#49)
by virg on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 03:35:25 PM EST

The list of influential books, eh? A tough one, but not too tough.

Watership Down by Richard Adams. I read this when I was young, and even then I knew it was literature. By the time I got to the end of it I didn't give a damn that the protagonists were rabbits. I cared about them like I did my friends in real life.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Another book from my youth that still stands out now that I'm old enough to really appreciate it.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins. This was my first exposure to a book that was serious and yet written in a readable fashion. This one precipitated my ability and desire to read The Catcher in the Rye and Slaughterhouse Five, but since it was the first and drove me to those others, I figure it's higher on my list of influential books.

The Bible. Like a surprising number of others, actually reading the Bible was the event that made me an atheist.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan. While I enjoyed reading The Demon Haunted World more, this first foray into Sagan's mind was the reason I became interested in science and math to begin with. As long as you remember that its best audience is 13-year-olds, it stands out as one of the best science primers ever written.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Reading this book caused me, for the first time in my life, to look at Jim and wonder, "why do they treat him differently because of his color?" My mom told me years later that one of the proudest moments in raising me was when I asked her, in all innocence, "why do they call Jim a nigger when they like him so much?"

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This saga is the reason I got into fantasy and sci-fi.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. I learned about this book by playing the Avalon Hill game of the same name, and when I read this, I expected a rousing sci-fi story. What I got was an eye-opening look at what patriotism is really about. Shortly after reading this, I watched my first political debate, and actually cared about what was being said.

That's the short list. This isn't meant to be a list of favorite readings, which would be MUCH larger, but a list of books that actually changed my views of the world in some way.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
Hey Virg (none / 2) (#68)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:45:22 PM EST

Just a heads up, I'm fixin to drop a big 'ol 0 on your comment here old buddy, bein's it's a dupe. This article is jus' too important to let that slide, ya know? We can't have our readers thinkin' we're all just a big bunch of hicks here, right? Nothin' personal - just tryin' t' maintain appearances. Not a bad list, btw. You may have potential.

[ Parent ]
Tintin, don't laugh (2.75 / 4) (#67)
by jongleur on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:28:19 PM EST

I realized awhile ago how much I internalized Tintin and I swear, he's still there.

Chronicles of Narnia
Farther up and further in baby

Lots of other good books helped lay out a point of view, sharpen a sensibility, underlined the value of something else but, as for being detectably still with you they fade out fast in comparison to the above.  The younger you read them the more they influence you, probably.

"If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil

Chronicles of Narnia, agreed [nt] (none / 0) (#412)
by Attercop on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 07:40:48 AM EST

[ Parent ]
My List (none / 3) (#70)
by 123456789 on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:53:39 PM EST

In no particular order:

The Fabric of Reality by David Duetch (nonfiction)

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Metapatterns by Tyler Volk (nonfiction)

Data Structures and Algorithms (textbook)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson

Some biography of Van Gogh

All of the books by Richard Fineman (nonfiction)

Oh, and all the people who said "Ender's Game" are lame... /troll

People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.
- Soren Kierkegaard
Richard P Feynman, was a Fine-man :) n/t (none / 1) (#206)
by aperick on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 01:47:58 AM EST

Beside the obvious need for them to possess certain qualities, only those who know me well can understand or love me -- and no one knows me well.

[ Parent ]

Hey! (none / 1) (#71)
by johnny on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:13:03 PM EST

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che
Tolkien:Lewis::Heinlein: (1.62 / 8) (#73)
by Lode Runner on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:49:44 PM EST


Dianetics, by Elrond Hubbard, set me on the path to becoming a clear. Once I got rid of those body thetans, my mind stopped reacting and started acting. Who says good science doesn't come out of soft sci-fi?

To help others, I've been removing copies of Dianetics from public libraries and used bookstores. Sometime authorities reprimand me for "theft", but the Church's legal team has always come through for me. If people won't make the initial monetary commitment, they'll never discipline themselves to engage the text.

p.s. - Kasreyn, I find it difficult to believe you weren't moved by C.S. Lewis, whose Screwtape Letters are the first revelation of Christ, Scientician.

p.p.s. - runner-up: State of the Art by Iain "the future is bright red" Embanks because it supports my position that communism the highest form of naturalism.

Bite, munch munch, gulp, buuuurp. (none / 3) (#82)
by Kasreyn on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 12:55:28 AM EST

Au contraire, mon ami, I love C.S. Lewis. My boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia are among the very oldest books in my collection.

I even have one book by Hubbard on dead-tree - "Mission: Earth" volume one, "The Invaders' Plan", which is hilarious. I also have an e-text of The Brainwashing Manual, which is equally hilarious.

Much like everything else that deranged madman ever wrote.

Btw, kudos on removing the copies of Dianetics! I, too, feel you are doing a public service. Please, I invite you to make sure not a single copy remains publically available. :-)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
If you're familiar with Lewis, (none / 0) (#246)
by Lode Runner on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 08:50:08 PM EST

then you'll know that he was fond of placing his friends in his novels. Ransom represented Tolkien (philologist, Somme vet, etc), while Reepicheep represented Hubbard (diminutive hero, only major character not to die, etc). Christ (A[r]slan), snuffs it, but the clear is immortal. With apologies to MJ Engh!

Anyway, I submit the first and last books of the Narnia series as evidence that Lewis was in on Heinlein and Hubbard's "Brainwashing" wager.

[ Parent ]

yes (nt) (none / 0) (#74)
by mami on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 09:29:41 PM EST

My book list (2.66 / 9) (#75)
by SaintPort on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:28:33 PM EST

Some of these texts were mind expanding at the time of reading. I felt my perception changing. Others were more subtle.

The House at Pooh Corner by Milne, Shepard
Happiness Is A Warm Puppy by Charles M. Schulz
Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph
Wolf Cub Scout Book by Boy Scouts of America Staff
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Faith: (all recommended)
NIV Holy Bible by Zondervan Bible Publishers
The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Where Is God When It Hurts? and Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey
The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
The Source by James A. Michener
The Apocrapha
In His Steps by Charles Sheldon

Tech Beginnings:
The Principle of Relativity by Albert Einstein
Mix Power C manual and the Microsoft BASIC manual

Birth of a cynic: (all recommended)
Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World and Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley
Lord of the Flies by William Gerald Golding
The Unseen Hand by A. Ralph Epperson
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Money and capitalism:
Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens
The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley, Danko
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Kiyosaki, Lechter
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (recommended)

Expanded Philosophy:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill - not recommended
Necronomicon by Ed Simon  - not recommended
Games People Play : The basic handbook of transactional analysis by M.D. Eric Berne
The Republic by Plato

Touched my thinking:
The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
The Stand by Stephen King (read most of his stuff, and am affected by all of it, but this one stands out as the beginning of my King addiction)
The Day the Universe Changed by James Burke
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Billions & Billions by Carl Sagan
The One Minute Manager by Blanchard
Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Covey
How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Fisher, Ury, Patton
Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack

...yeah, I listed a lot, but I'm quite impressionable. I feel sure I've left off some very important titles (I did last time!). Many of the above are repeats for this story, but the links provide added value. While dwelling on this I realized just what a debt I owe to authors. Unmentioned here are countless short stories, articles, etc.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants -- Sir Isaac Newton

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

That evil Plato (none / 1) (#140)
by nyri on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 09:15:48 AM EST

I must say, you have picked very good books. But The Republic by Plato should be in the cynicism section. Read for example Open Society and it's Enemies 1: Spell of Plato and Open Society and it's Enemies 2: Hegel and Marx by Karl Popper.

Jari Mustonen

[ Parent ]

or a blind spot (none / 0) (#299)
by Norwegian Blue on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:02:25 PM EST

I just reread 'Open Society'.  Did you ever notice that in America, nazism is usually considered a form of communism? So focus on communism, and the variations come later(when pressed upon). That's a very different approach from Popper.

[ Parent ]
Star Fleet Technical Manual? (none / 1) (#227)
by ZorbaTHut on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:05:28 PM EST

I have to ask - why? I'm not going to look down on you for being a nerd or anything - I've got a copy myself, actually :) - but I can't come up with how it could be a life-changing event.

I'm really curious, actually ;)

[ Parent ]

Actually this is very personal (none / 0) (#288)
by SaintPort on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 02:41:24 PM EST

but I'll try to share...
at a certain point in my childhood, I became somewhat obsessed with Star Trek. I remember studying the Tech Manual and daydreaming...
and then one day, me and Dad had a little talk about Star Trek...
I soon changed hobbies...
I went out and bought a very loud electric guitar and amp system with my paper route earnings...
my hair grew much longer...
I'm not sure this was the change Dad had in mind...

So it was an object of focus during a transitionary period... but also I think it influenced me to have an interest and slight knack for drafting, which I utilize often at work.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

*nods* (none / 1) (#290)
by ZorbaTHut on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 03:11:54 PM EST

That makes sense. Thanks for sharing. :)

[ Parent ]
Rand and the Bible? (none / 2) (#344)
by crayz on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 12:01:50 PM EST

How do you reconcile the two? This is an honest question

[ Parent ]
Rand and the Bible - cognitive dissonance to go (none / 1) (#384)
by SaintPort on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 10:35:59 PM EST

Rand has some major gripes with Christianity that she articulates loudly in Atlus Shrugged. I was surprised that I was not offended while reading it. And I asked myself, am I experiencing cognitive dissonance or just being tolerant or just digesting?

Problem was, she made some good points, but her solutions were not wise.

Her take on living for the sake of others bugged me... her take on sexuality seemed like an adolescent's take on free-love... etc...

What actually struck a nerve with me is I've seen too many supposedly good Christian folk who take very little responsibility for their own lives. This is a good read for inspiring the self to pull up its own bootstraps.

I realize this is too vague. When I have a more complete response I'll probably post a diary about it.

Thanks for asking, this is a fairly large issue to me.


Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

subject to change without notice (2.92 / 14) (#76)
by johnny on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:42:18 PM EST

and including periodicals, asterisks ** marking most influential as it seems to me tonight but guaranteed to change by tomorrow:

Childhood (before age 6)

  • ** Weekly Reader
  • Childrend' Digest

Grade School

  • Fun With Dick and Jane
  • Mad Magazine
  • ** Peanuts (various books; Charles Schulz)
  • The Colt of the Alacan Road (??)
  • Animal Farm (Orwell)
  • various books, mostly about dogs, by Jim Kyelgarrd (sp?) most notably Big Red.
  • 1984 (Orwell)
  • Hell on Ice (?? author ?? story of arctic mission gone bad)
  • The Great Escape (??author??)
  • Maneaters of Kumayon (?? author ?? about hunting tigers in India)

High School

  • Lord of the Rings -- Tolkein; Read it over a week when sick & feverish.
  • Catch 22 -- Joseph Heller
  • ** Gospels -- various
  • Life magazine
  • Popular Science magazine
  • Popular Mechanics magazine
  • Autobiograhy of Mohandus Ghandi
  • National Geographic magazine
  • Paris Match magazine


    • ** Howl -- Allan Ginsberg
    • Collected Plays -- Shakespeare
    • Collected Poems -- Ezra pound
    • American Economic History -- (??author?? )-- a textbook
    • Tristes Tropiques -- Claude Levi-Strauss
    • Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman
    • Magic, Science and Religion -- Bronislaw Malinowski
    • Cultural Anthropology -- (??authors- husband and wife ??) textbook
    • Heart of Darkness -- Joseph Conrad
    • Pentagon Papers -- various
    • In His Own Write & A Spaniard in the Works -- John Lennon

    Peace Corps

    • Malay Trilogy (The Long Day Wanes) -- Anthony Burgess
    • Collected Stories -- Turgenev
    • Collected Stories -- Checkov
    • L'Aventure Ambigue -- (??Author??)
    • Brothers Karamazov -- Doestoyevsky
    • The Voice that is Great Within Us: 20th Century American Poetry --Randall Jarrell, ed.
    • **Naked Lunch -- William Burroughs
    • Gravity's Rainbow -- Thomas Pynchon

    Grad School

    • Theory of Interest -- Fischer
    • Price Theory -- Milton Friedman
    • A la Recherche du Temps Passe -- Proust
    • **The Unexpurgated Code -- J.P. Donleavy
    • Operations Analysis -- (??author??) textbook about linear and quadratic programming
    • Under the Volcano -- Malcom Lowry
    • Statistics -- (??author??) Graduate level statistics text
    • Penthouse Letters -- magazine
    • American Journal of Agricultural Economics

    Early Married Life/Parenthood

    • Goodnight Moon -- Margaret Wise Brown
    • The Runaway Bunny -- Margaret Wise Brown
    • Goodnight Richard Rabbit -- Robert Kraus
    • **Peter Rabbit and other tales -- Beatrix Potter
    • Dozens more, lost in foggy mists of time, like Nicole Kidman in "The Others". . .
    • Byte magazine
    • Datamation

    Ten Years Married

    • Number the Stars- Lois Lowry
    • The Diary of Anne Frank -- Anne Frank
    • Neuromancer- William Gibson
    • The Stupids -- ??I forget??
    • **Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding -- Arnold Schwarzenegger
    • Several dozen other books that I seem to have gone blank on right now. . .

    Twenty Years Married

    • Jump Start Your Book Sales -- Ross & Ross
    • The Self-Publishing Manual -- Poynter
    • Don Quixote -- (translated) Cervantes

    And in conclusion

    The book that had the biggest influence on my life, or in any event my day-to-day life over the last ten years or so, is Acts of the Apostles, by John F.X. Sundman. If I weren't so lazy, and the time so late, I would provide a link to the essay I wrote about how that novel nearly ruined my life. But, etc. Cheap Complex Devices, by John Compton Sundman, had a big influence on me as well: Its publication occasioned my self-identification as a writer.

    But of all the hundreds --more than a thousand, closer to two thousand, I figure -- of books I've ever read, the most profound book that I've read in nearly fifty years of reading is Maus (parts I & II), by Art Spiegelman.

    yr frn,
    Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che

  • Gandhi's autobiography (none / 1) (#107)
    by crushinghellhammer on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 03:17:53 PM EST

    is titled "The Story of My Experiments with Truth"

    [ Parent ]
    right you are, and (none / 0) (#112)
    by johnny on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 05:39:40 PM EST

    I believe that Jim Corbett was the author of the tiger hunting book. Over time, if I think about it, I'll bet a bunch of stuff comes back. For example, I'm pretty sure the Cultural Anthropology text was by Kaplan and Kaplan. Whatever. Thanks,.

    yr frn,
    Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che
    [ Parent ]
    Corbett (none / 0) (#117)
    by crushinghellhammer on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 07:16:53 PM EST

    Did you mean "The Man Eaters of Kumaon". I read that when I was a kid. It was even more special after visiting the jungles of Kumaon. I love Corbett's books. It's been ages since I've read them. Thank you for bringing back the memories :)

    [ Parent ]
    What influenced me (2.00 / 4) (#77)
    by strlen on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:49:15 PM EST

    Lot of Jules Vernes and other books of similar genre, similar age books: got me interested in science.
    Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman - Richard Feynman
    Ender's Game - Orscot Scott Card
    Brave New World - Huxley
    Anything by Leo Tolstoy
    Some of Pushkin's prose

    And of course K&R's C book and the Perl Cookbook, and earlier (some years before I moved to UNIX/C land) some Russian language Pascal books (which provided examples that dealt with graphics, sound and the like, which really sparked my interest in programming and led me to move beyond hello world).

    [T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.

    pushkin's prose? (none / 0) (#131)
    by sesquiped on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:29:36 AM EST

    I'm curious what of Pushkin's prose you've read that would make this list. I've read a little myself, and while it was very good and enjoyable, I don't see any of it making my list.

    [ Parent ]
    Well (none / 0) (#191)
    by strlen on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 07:36:35 PM EST

    I'm a native Russian speaker, thus (unless you're a Russian speaker), far more was accessible to me. Captain's daughter, Caucasian (refferng to the Caucasus mountains, not the skin color) prisoner (Lermontov had his own version of that as well), some others I can't recall right now.

    Caucasian prisoner was especially insightful for me considering the current Middle Eastern situation (the story is set in what is now Chechnya) (there's also some sort of a weird pattern of 19th century Russian authors/poets and dealing and Islamic terror, both Pushkin and Lermonotov were stationed in Chechnya. Griboedov was a diplomat in Iran, who was yanked out of the Russian embassy and lynched (de ja vu "embassy hostage crsis"?))

    [T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
    [ Parent ]

    thanks (none / 0) (#264)
    by sesquiped on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:37:59 AM EST

    Your assumption is correct: I can only read Pushkin in translation.

    I'm pretty sure The Captain's Daughter is in the book I have (which also has the Belkin Tales and the Queen of Spades), so I'll add that one to my list of stuff to read.

    [ Parent ]

    Ender's Game - Orscot Scott Card - link (none / 1) (#78)
    by SaintPort on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 11:53:31 PM EST

    Thanks for the tip, enjoyed it, here it is online...

    Search the Scriptures
    Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

    what you read... (none / 0) (#88)
    by jacoplane on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 07:02:32 AM EST

    is actually only the short story version of Ender's Game. I think Kasreyn was referring to the novel.

    [ Parent ]
    k3wl (none / 0) (#106)
    by SaintPort on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 02:46:25 PM EST

    I could see it being fleshed-out.

    Search the Scriptures
    Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

    [ Parent ]
    Some... (2.66 / 6) (#80)
    by enterfornone on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 12:24:18 AM EST

    The Bible for the same reasons you give. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for ending my faith in capitalism - it might work in the fantasy world of her novels, pity we don't live there. Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin, not that I agree with everything she has to say but it certainly made me look at a lot of things differently. As a (wanabee) writer, Poetics by Aristotle. Probably others but that's all I can think about right now.

    efn 26/m/syd
    Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
    Ayn Rand (none / 0) (#113)
    by JyZude on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 05:53:02 PM EST

    Have you read The Fountainhead? I just finished reading that one, and it completely blew me away. But that one wasn't about capitalism, rather it was about human ability and progress. It seemed so right to me...

    k5 is not the new Adequacy k thnx bye

    [ Parent ]
    Atlas Shrugged (none / 2) (#137)
    by bluebox on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:44:33 AM EST

    > Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for ending my faith in capitalism

    I'd be interested in understanding why it ended your faith in capitalism.

    It generally bolstered my faith in capitalism as a system that is mostly fair. It's not always a kind system. But if left to it's own it can be mostly a fair system and the closest to natural law/"survival of the fittest" I think.

    The book has made me a lot more critical of the anti-capitalistic things governments do such as creating/legally supporting monopolies, anti-trust actions ( which often penalize natural monopolies ), market protectionism, and a lot of labor laws.

    In my opinion Capitalism is probably the best system humans are capable of working under pragmatically. Everything else that's been tried gets too easily corrupted by corrupt humans.


    [ Parent ]

    Depends (none / 1) (#84)
    by Kasreyn on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 12:58:31 AM EST

    Was it one of those lame-o radio style productions, where they have cheesy third-rate music and take out all the "he said" and "she said"'s and have different actors reading the lines?

    Or is it just a single very good reader, usually with a slight British accent, reading the words exactly as printed with no music?

    In case of the former, no, it doesn't count. In case of the latter, I don't see why it shouldn't.


    P.S. "Books on Tape" is a good publisher of these. At least, the ones I have heard.

    "Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
    We never asked to be born in the first place."

    R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
    My list (2.75 / 3) (#85)
    by adiffer on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 01:32:38 AM EST

    In no particular order...
    1. Dune (whole series) [Frank Herbert]
    2. A number of science fact books by Isaac Asimov (hard to put my finger on just one)
    3. Megatrends [John Naisbitt]
    4. Time Enough for Love [Robert Heinlein]
    5. Godel, Escher, Bach [Douglas Hofstadter]
    6. 2001: A Space Odyssey [Arthur C Clarke]
    7. Classical Electrodynamics [J D Jackson]
    8. New Foundations for Classical Mechanics [David Hestenes] (1986 edition only)
    I could go on with the physics and math text books as they each had a definite impact on me and how I think.  However, I've been stuffing my shelves with other books lately.  I'm less into fiction and physics nowadays and more into economics and other dynamical systems studies.  

    I find it very interesting that once a mathematical tool is developed, we begin to translate the evidence around us into predictive models.  Math development is proceeding at a good clip right now, so it is very absorbing.
    -Dream Big. --Grow Up.

    Jackson?! (none / 0) (#220)
    by bunsen on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:22:39 AM EST

    Is that there because you actually liked it, or because it introduced you to entire worlds of previously undiscovered pain?

    (OK, so I'm a bit biased, what with an electrodynamics midterm on Tuesday. But it's still a book that only a 19th century French mathematician could love.)

    Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
    [ Parent ]

    a bit of both (none / 0) (#407)
    by adiffer on Fri Mar 19, 2004 at 12:35:58 AM EST

    At first it was mostly pain and confusion.  That influenced me heavily.

    Later when I got a grasp of electromagnetism from other sources, I shifted to actually liking it.  If you can do the problems, there is no doubt you know your stuff.

    I don't consider Jackson's book to be right for beginning grad students.  It is too tough in many ways and goes about teaching electromagnetism bassackwards.  What it IS good for is making sure you actually know anything when it comes time to pass qualifying or oral exams.
    -Dream Big. --Grow Up.
    [ Parent ]

    I'm surprised (none / 3) (#86)
    by enthalpyX on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 01:47:04 AM EST

    I haven't seen anyone mention Ishamel.

    I met Daniel Quinn before he got famous. (none / 1) (#100)
    by waxmop on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 11:48:36 AM EST

    In 1993, he came to my college and spoke to my english class. The guy is clever, but not a genius.

    I just don't buy the idea that we should return to the pre-agricultural revolution era. I asked him if after writing the book, if he was going to start living the leaver lifestyle, and he said that with the book deal, he went out and bought a sportscar.

    It almost seemed to be a gimmick. I don't think he really cares about what he writes about, but he knows people want to buy.
    We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
    [ Parent ]

    That's disappointing (none / 0) (#270)
    by enthalpyX on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 09:19:30 AM EST

    I read it at the same time as Wisdom from a Rainforest. Never underestimate the power of selfishness, I suppose.

    [ Parent ]
    Late reply (none / 1) (#424)
    by kitten on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 09:31:43 PM EST

    Did you ever read My Ishmael? He does address precisely that -- the idea that in order to get things done we'd need to give up our cool shiny stuff (like sportscars). "Mother Culture", of course, tells us that being a Leaver means losing all our video games and cool cars and DSL and stuff, but it probably doesn't mean any of that at all.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    No I never read it. (none / 0) (#425)
    by waxmop on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 10:16:17 PM EST

    I guess as I've gotten older, protecting the environment by drastically altering civilization just doesn't seem interesting anymore. Maybe it's because on some subconscious level I feel like we're doomed, or maybe I believe that top-down solutions where we impose a new way of life on everyone are worse than the status quo. I'm not sure. Anyway, thanks for the response. Maybe I'll pick up My Ishmael if I see it at the library.
    The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --Parent ]
    What book (none / 2) (#87)
    by OldCoder on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 01:54:37 AM EST

    What is the name of this book. Out of print, but worth it if you can find it. Smullyan has several similar books out.

    See this amazon page for info.

    By reading this signature, you have agreed.
    Copyright © 2003 OldCoder

    mine: (2.25 / 4) (#89)
    by llimllib on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:40:56 AM EST

    In something resembling an order:
    • Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu
    • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
    • The Bible
    • the Bourne Series - Robert Ludlum (cheesy? yeah. But being a kid wouldn't have been the same without them for me)

    llibllik's (none / 0) (#93)
    by bob6 on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:03:11 AM EST

    I realize by the comments in this story that Zen and the Art has infuenced a lot of people around here. While I enjoyed it, I couldnt say it has changed many things in my life or my way of thinking. Could anyone give more context about the influence of this book?

    [ Parent ]
    THHGTTG? (none / 0) (#138)
    by Psychopath on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:53:51 AM EST

    I mean yes, it's a nice book, but I can't really imagine how it influences my life :-?
    The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
    [ Parent ]
    42 (none / 0) (#172)
    by llimllib on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:20:16 PM EST

    "What is the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything" was like the first zen koan I ever understood, really understood.

    [ Parent ]
    My checkbook (2.45 / 11) (#96)
    by godix on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 10:42:27 AM EST

    Without a doubt that's the most influencial book in my life.

    It's dawned on me that Zero Tolerance only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.
    - Terry Pratchett
    Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille (2.00 / 4) (#97)
    by Nigga on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 10:54:06 AM EST

    available in its entirety here

    The fuck happened to Nigga?

    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. (3.00 / 5) (#99)
    by waxmop on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 11:44:20 AM EST

    I read it in sixth grade, and I probably didn't understand half of it, but it was the first book I had read that laid out the horrible things that people* do to each other without trying to put a spin that it was all for the best in the long run. By the end of that book, I had a pretty low opinion of humanity.

    [*]Not just whiteys, either; inter-tribal warfare didn't always tend to follow the Geneva convention (yeah, I know it didn't exist yet).
    We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar

    Poll too narrow: what about ... (none / 3) (#102)
    by marinel on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 01:16:39 PM EST

    Although the post is about books, the poll does not have to be limited to books, especially if the topic is things that "have influenced my personality." For example, for some people, more than books, life experiences, ideas and people have more influence than books.

    My past in an Eastern-European country in the '80s as a teen, my teachers, my parents and a thirst for knowledge impacted my life more than any particular book I've read.

    As to books that influenced my life (to a smaller extent than the above mentioned), they are the Greek myths, Arabian Nights and other fairy/folk tales. There is more wisdom in them about the true nature of man (i.e. wankerosophy) than all the philosophical musings of the past two millenia. The Schmoly Babble and its history only reinforced this view.

    Proud supporter of Students for an Orwellian Society

    Books (2.50 / 4) (#104)
    by Kenoubi on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 02:18:39 PM EST

    I can't say I'm all that surprised that no one has listed The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas yet, but I am slightly disappointed.  I think I can say at this point that the book has had a major effect on my life, but even aside from that, it's just an absolutely amazing story.

    From my childhood there are the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  Somewhat after that, I read 1984 by George Orwell, and later Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; these both echoed and reinforced a deep suspicion of authority on my part.

    I know Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand has its critics, but in my opinion it's a tour de force, and I can't deny that it's had a significant effect on my life.  The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse definitely did something for me.

    Then there are some books that, while possessing the requisite quality to be life-changing experiences, did not really do that for me because I didn't need the lessons they taught quite as badly at the times I read them.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson would fall into this category.

    Damn right Magister Ludi! (nt) (none / 0) (#163)
    by mister slim on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:53:17 PM EST


    "Fucking sheep, the lot of you. Yeah, and your little dogs too." -Rogerborg
    [ Parent ]

    I have given this a lot of thought. (2.50 / 8) (#105)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 02:45:32 PM EST

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter
    Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
    Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
    Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
    I Robot, Isaac Asimov
    Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein


    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

    Ah, there. (none / 0) (#110)
    by gyan on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 04:54:08 PM EST


     Knew it. Hofstadter didn't fit in there.


    [ Parent ]

    Neal Stephenson (none / 1) (#153)
    by jup on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:52:35 PM EST

    Yeah, I'd like to read Cryptonomicon, but where I live I wasn't able to get my hands on it. However, Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age was one of the few books that really influenced me recently. Not only it's an excelent sci-fi, but it's sci-fi that actually made me think very much about rather poor state of education in today's world.

    Maybe it's just because in struck something it me, because at that time I was rather dissapointed by my University studies, and it made me believe that maybe not all is my fault, but I just loved that book. Highly recommended.
    Two beers or not two beers. That's the question.
    [ Parent ]

    heh (none / 1) (#282)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:03:07 PM EST

    +1 FP
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    How to Want What You Have (none / 3) (#111)
    by MichaelCrawford on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 05:28:55 PM EST

    Most people aren't satisfied with what they have, and perpetually want More.

    How to Want What You Have: Discovering the Magic and Grandeur of Ordinary Existence explains that the quest for more comes from our genetics as produced by evolution, and shows a way that one can be happy with what one already has.


    Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

    Potentially disastrous, please elaborate (none / 0) (#116)
    by Baldrson Neutralizer on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 06:48:22 PM EST

    Could you give a bit more info about what it's about? By "have", do you mean material needs? How to settle with yourself and your own limitations? Finding your bliss? What do you mean? I read the summary and some user reviews, but they gave only a slight hint at what the book is about. Is it a howto manual for living in a society of crass materialism?

    We come into this world as man juice uniting with a she-egg. Everything we "get" has to be worked for. Why would you settle for what you have (which is nothing)? If happiness comes by accepting the status quo, I am curious what will happen to us sapiens sapiens. When a species loses it's vitality, it stagnates and dies out. Is that what he is talking about?

    Wow, you have really got me agitated. I will have to read this book. Any more information you would care to share would be appreciated.

    Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
    [ Parent ]

    Tomorrow... (none / 1) (#124)
    by MichaelCrawford on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:10:50 AM EST

    I'm happy to write more about it but I have to go to bed now. I'll write more tomorrow.


    Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

    [ Parent ]

    Acceptance? (none / 1) (#142)
    by mindstrm on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:32:29 AM EST

    Why do you have to see it so black and white?

    Far too many people are consumed with what they don't have.. they feel they will be happy once they get a bigger, better house, better car, better job, better life.. they fail to actually LIVE.

    Being happy with what you have is not about becoming stationary in life, or about not achievin anything new.. it's about enjoying the journey itself. You can still have tons of ambition and quest for bigger and greater things in life while still being CONTENT with what you have!  Striving for more does not mean hating what you have.. but so many people do dislike what they have.

    [ Parent ]

    I don't see it black and white (none / 0) (#303)
    by Baldrson Neutralizer on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:51:08 PM EST

    where'd you get that from?

    I agree with enjoying the journey, sort of. Life is a journey, you can savour the moment. You aren't always going to be happy, but life is not about being happy, life is about the journey. When I said sort of, I mean that it is a choice you can make. People can choose not to be content, or to be content some of the time. I agree, it is all very grey, very little white or black.

    Anyways, back to your point. Being content with things you don't have could mean either of two things:
    a) I don't have that, I will never have that, I might as well be satisfied lacking that
    b) I don't have that but I would like to have that someday, so I will work towards that goal.

    You are advocating the second, I agree. I was trying to determine if the book was describing some type of the first, and what sort of "stuff" was being discussed.

    Modern life, in EVERY ASPECT, is a cult of mediocrity.-trhurler
    [ Parent ]

    Conquerer vs. Defeated (none / 1) (#169)
    by cdguru on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:59:32 PM EST

    Unfortunately, the reality of existance is that you live in place of something else. The space that you occupy could just as well be occupied by a tree. Some would say that a tree is better than a person, and in some cases this might be true. But, that's not why we're here...

    Man's position at the top of the food chain puts us in a position where we can choose to be a "conquerer" or "defeated" by others, our environment, our life situation, anything. We can choose to be happy with what we have and strive for nothing else - or we can go forth and strive for more. More what? Anything - the key is not being content with stagnation.

    Yes, stagnation - the opposite of the attitude of a conquerer. While it is no longer in vogue to be the leader of a band of raiders, raping and pillaging, it is difficult to confuse such a person with someone that is happy with their lot in life and content to exist with nothing more.

    There is no question that we are at or near a cusp whereby we can either "make do with less" or move outward from the constraints of Earth. Less in this case certainly means fewer people - there is no question that a substantial amount of the current problems we face are due to population growth. We can "solve" many problems as quickly as we can decide to winnow the population of Earth - say to 25% of current levels. This would bring pollution down, would reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, etc. It would solve so many problems at once. The response to this is a key differentiating factor between "conquerer" and "defeated" attitudes and even cultures. The "defeated" will accept that we must not fight against those that would limit resources, energy use and even accept population reductions. The "conquerer" mindset is not going to accept that, no matter what. If there isn't space for more people on Earth, let's start moving outward.

    Many have used other words to describe this mindset, and conquerer is perhaps a very strong word to use. However, this is a time when it is important to realize that we can either peacefully coexist with our situation, our lives, our environment, or we can move forward and achieve more. More what? More space, resources, challanges - exploration. More energy, more utilization - better living for everyone. More people, more achievement - it is all within our grasp.

    The alternatives to this are to exist in a world where everyone is content to watch stagnation. Yesterday I listened as someone said that the dinosaurs were the most successful life form on Earth and yet they could not prevent their own extinction. Their extinction made room for humans. That human extinction was inevitable and would be a good thing as it would make room for the next life form - our successors. Obviously a defeatist attitude. I do not agree that human extinction is invitable or that it would be a good thing. The opposite of adopting a defeated attitude will ensure that humans do not become extinct.

    [ Parent ]

    -1, limp-wristed diary material (1.28 / 14) (#118)
    by Hide The Hamster on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 07:18:40 PM EST

    hi! how are you? whats ur fav. color? ror. have any cats?!

    Free spirits are a liability.

    August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

    my choices (2.66 / 6) (#119)
    by sesquiped on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 07:20:36 PM EST

    I'm tempted to say "all of them", because if any one particular book hadn't been written, even if I personally haven't read it yet, my life would almost certainly be different in some way or other (due to chaos theory and related ideas). But that's a cop-out, so I'll make a list like the rest of you. First stuff that I haven't seen mentioned:

    Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilych,
    Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man -
    The last especially is an incredibly powerful short story. But all are quite powerful and shook up my somewhat-materialistic worldview at the time a bit.

    Gogol: The Nose, Diary of a Madman -
    I'm not sure what to say here. You just have to read them.

    Vonnegut: Cat's Cradle, Harrison Bergeron -
    Another incredible short story, and the novella is pretty good too. There'd probably be more if I had read more Vonnegut.

    Sartre: No Exit,
    Camus: The Stranger,
    Dostoevesky: The Grand Inquisitor,
    Becket: Waiting for Godot -
    I'm only grouping these because I read them for the same class, not because I got the same thing out of each of them. The're all "existential", I suppose, but quite different, and all worth reading.

    Miller: Death of a Salesman -
    There might be another one or too here if I had read more Miller, too.

    Borges: assorted short stories -
    I can't name any particular influence here, but the mind-bending I've gotten from some of these has surely had some effect.

    Asimov: The Foundation Series -
    While the whole thing was great, the parts that had the most lasting influence on my thinking, particularly about life, was the bits at the end about Gaia.

    Now some more popular choices, mostly academic:

    Dune - Yeah, another popular choice. Influenced my thinking on time and space, the body and the mind, drugs, politics, and probably more.

    The Selfish Gene - A slightly different but very convincing way of looking at evolution.

    The Fabric of Reality - Interesting connections among fields like physics and computer science.

    The Language Instinct - An incredible book discussing most of what we currently know about linguistics and how language works in the brain very clearly, plus his position on some current controversies.

    GEB - A bunch of people have listed this. I'll just add that in addition to giving me a consistent and convincing picture of how the mind works, and how we might begin to build artificial intelligences, it also started my interest in Zen, which I'm now pursuing slowly and sporadically. I say it influenced my life because it made me interested in AI for a while, and although I didn't go on to study AI at all, I at least did end up studying computer science.

    And since we're on academic interests, I should mention these:

    Mathematical Puzzlements, and a bunch of books by Ivars Peterson - for keeping me interested in math through years of boring math classes in school.

    Some random book on programming in BASIC that came with our Apple IIgs, for teaching me to program. Probably one of the worst possible introductions to the topic, but I think I turned out pretty well.

    Didn't we discuss this already? (1.00 / 4) (#120)
    by sudog on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:16:14 PM EST

    I thought we already went over your objections to the Bible itself and concluded it was the people teaching it to you that turned you off it, not the material itself?

    I can't really remember. (none / 1) (#125)
    by Kasreyn on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:05:56 AM EST

    Are you sure it was me?

    If so: the teachers WERE indeed part of it, but I think when you depart from believing in the Bible as literal truth you suddenly wind up with a lot of reasons why it all seems ridiculous. Then the real test is of faith. See, fundamentalists cling to scripture because they are afraid to test their faith by living as Christians (or whatevers) in the real world. I didn't really lose my faith so much as discover that I never had any.


    "Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
    We never asked to be born in the first place."

    R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
    [ Parent ]
    Yep, it was you. (none / 2) (#130)
    by sudog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:31:50 AM EST

    .. and blanket statements about why it's ridiculous when you read it, without actually describing the why's, don't cut it. Too many people are seeing the negative impact of Christian fundamentalism, the Crusades, etc and think the Bible is somehow responsible and thus, evil.

    Or, they'll read something about a woman turning into a pillar of salt and sit back and think, "That's impossible. What a crock."

    Or, they'll think there's a contradiction between two passages, forget that the various books were written by different human beings, forget that perspective has been warped by literalism which was beaten into them by insane Baptist parents, and think, "What? Why would God give Adam and Eve curiosity and then punish them for it? And why does he need to test us? What a crock."

    Everyone has some form of faith in the world around them. Except maybe some kinds of crazy people. But when you sit down in a chair without looking at it, you're having faith that the chair is 1. there, and 2. not going to buckle on you. You have faith that you won't be killed and robbed in the night, and so you sleep peacefully. You have faith that the elevator you use to travel to the top floors is well-maintained, so you feel comfortable taking it to the top floor of a skyscraper.

    You even have faith in your fellow citizens: you have faith that the grocer didn't poison your apples and that your mechanic is competent enough to keep you safe in your hurtling two-tonnes of poorly-engineered steel, aluminum, and rubber.

    You talk of faith as though faith is required to reconcile seeming contradictions between the main books of the bible and modern scientific fact, when in reality there are no contradictions that can't be easily reconciled with even a slight conception of the context within which the bible was written and the knowledge that most of the bible is filled with symbolism and literary device.

    [ Parent ]

    Theology 101 (none / 2) (#151)
    by cribcage on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:27:09 PM EST

    But when you sit down in a chair without looking at it, you're having faith that the chair is 1. there, and 2. not going to buckle on you. You have faith that you won't be killed and robbed in the night, and so you sleep peacefully. You have faith that the elevator you use to travel to the top floors is well-maintained, so you feel comfortable taking it to the top floor of a skyscraper.
    One surefire way to prove your inadequacy in any debate is to wheel out some "classic argument" that gets debunked every semester in a freshman seminar. Your opponents instantly recognize your line of thinking; and by the time you finish your sentence they're already rolling their eyes, asking, "Do we really have to have this discussion again?"

    Belief is not faith. Expectation is not faith. Rational understanding is not faith. And the failure to consider certain possibilities does not equate to faith that they won't occur.

    No offense, but you've disqualified yourself from intelligent discourse. Find some books and learn what faith means, and maybe you'll be taken seriously next time.


    Please don't read my journal.
    [ Parent ]

    More elitism, but fine, let's discuss. (none / 2) (#183)
    by sudog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:11:58 PM EST

    That's fine to attack the line of reasoning, but why waste your time writing such an attack without offering anything in return? You provide volume without substance, with the objective of... what? Selfish, mental masturbation? Do you like feeling superior from what you think is a better-educated position?

    Why even post if you aren't going to contribute in a useful, constructive fashion?

    Allow me to explain in more depth my point, because for all your high-fluting poo-poo'ing, you seem to have missed it entirely. Also, let me use a clearer context, Speech Writer, so even you can understand.

    By an actual, English definition of the term "faith," the poster I was replying to does, in fact, have faith. While he was referring to the One God, Christ-as-Saviour religious faith, I was referring to faith in the sense of every-day acts of simple trust. The two definitions are related, and while he claimed he never had faith, I was demonstrating that, in fact, he does have a kind of faith and was simply lacking one particular form of it.

    Let's first define the term in the context of what I meant (since you apparently don't have access to a dictionary):

    faith: 1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

    Belief in the trustworthiness of a comfortable chair seems to fit that definition to me. Belief in the trustworthiness of a friend seems to also.

    I'm perfectly aware reams and reams have been written on the theological definition of the term; but was I writing about the One God? Was I writing about Chrstian, religious faith? I was not. In fact, and this is a quote of myself here because I think you read about two paragraphs and ignored the rest--typical for someone like you: "Everyone has some form of faith in the world around them."

    Was that not enough of a context to show that I wasn't talking about religious faith? Do you presume to dictate how other people should use words, as though your speech writing somehow gives you providence? As though you, from your ivory tower of writing-hood, are somehow more qualified than someone you know nothing about and can presume to tell him that there is only one true sense of the simple English word "faith?" What arrogance. What selfishness.

    You didn't even bother to probe first, to request or demand further explanation. You blindly assumed on the basis of 330 words written at night that you knew instantly what was meant and conveyed, and then decided, arrogantly, to proclaim your superiority in one great, mighty spooge of righteousness--indeed, decided based on these 330 words that I was as uneducated as the masses of unwashed people over whom you pridefully crow your surpassing worthiness.

    You, sir, need more help I ever will, regardless of how many snob-worthy books you've decided to read, that education you think you're the only privileged one to enjoy, and that incredible egotism that forces you to write even when you're too fucking lazy to do it usefully.

    [ Parent ]

    Duh! (none / 0) (#170)
    by asdf 101 on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:06:59 PM EST

    I think you've gone out of your way to make a point that you are clueless on the concept, essence and implication of faith.

    The elevator_rides, the chair_sit_downs, the sleep_with_no_worry_tendecies and the good_grocer analogies you mentioned, are all clearly a reflection more on one's knowledge of these entities and activities and a corollary of one's past experience with them.  Have one bad experience with any of these instances and you'll surely aproach them with skepticism the next time round -- think of your "faithful" chair buckling under you and you know what I mean.

    Firstly, faith is belief in an intagible, not the positive experiences with tangibles that you speak of.  Secondly, faith is hard to quantify and it manifests itself in different forms with different individuals.  And that is one of the reasons for conflict -- people agree to disagree as the root of any one persons faith way very well be at an opposite pole to the root of another.

    What you talked about imples not even the faintest shadow of faith and it has no link to the concept of faith.

    [ Parent ]

    Nice of you to chime in.. (none / 1) (#178)
    by sudog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 05:20:11 PM EST

    You appear to be ignoring my point and arguing what you seem to think the definition of the word "faith" entails.

    Faith is not just one static thing; if I had defined it as specific, Christian, religious faith in the One God and the Christ saviour, then fine. Else, we're talking about a term which includes many meanings, and they're all related and referred to by the word "faith." The original poster said he'd never had any faith, and I was pointing out to him that he still has many kinds of faith. That's all.

    When you buy a brand new chair, do you sit gingerly in it, expecting it to buckle? When you visit a friend's house, with chairs you aren't familiar with, don't you trust that your friend isn't going to let you sit on a chair you might be injured by sitting in? That is having faith in your friend, even though there's no direct experience with the items you're having faith in.

    All acts of faith require a certain degree of trust in a good outcome when experiencing the unknown. Religious faith is just a few more steps removed from that. The Bible is simply a book, written in such a way that the authors hoped people would find truth within it, and thus inspire people to believe in what it says and follow its moral code. Is it so far removed from trusting a stranger you've never met before to lend you a hand on the road when your car is broken down, to taking the time to read and then believe in, (or even appreciate the symbolism in,) one of the most important books in the recent history of Western Man (in terms of the effects it's had on history?)

    Course not. Sure, one talks about places you'll never see during your lifetime, and the other is offering to drive you to a payphone, but both require that you take an act of faith--put your future and well-being--in the hands of someone else.

    Either the good samaritan who helps you, or the spiritual guidance of someone who defines Sin, says it's a Bad Thing, and says it'll put your "soul" in peril in an afterlife you may or may not ever know, both are very similar acts of pure, blind faith.

    So, while you sit there nattering on about the semantics of the word "faith" and act like an elitist word-gatekeeper who thinks he's a theologian, fundamentally the trust in the unknown and unknowable is what we're talking about here.

    Whether that's in terms of religious experience, or in terms of the real here-and-now is irrelevant to my original point.

    [ Parent ]

    Big pimpin' (none / 2) (#247)
    by fenix down on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 09:30:14 PM EST

    Or, they'll read something about a woman turning into a pillar of salt and sit back and think, "That's impossible. What a crock."

    Well, what I usually sit back and think whenever somebody mentions that bit is, "Goddamn!  I wish I could kill my wife, move to a new town, start having sex with my daughters, get caught, and then explain it away with such phenomonal audacity that in 5,000 years my bullshit is part of the foundation for the religious beliefs of billions."

    I mean, read it!  Angels come and have lunch at this guy Lot's house.  Ok, so his wife makes good sandwiches or something, I can see it.  Then a roving gang of gay guys show up and demand to fuck any glowing inhuman supernatural beings in his house, so he offers to let them have sex with his virgin daughters.  From that, the angels are so impressed by how good and noble he is that they tell him to get out of town, and then burn down the city, "accidentally" killing his wife in the process.  He moves on, gets a new house in a new city, until "one" day his "virgin" daughters get him drunk and gang-rape him.

    And the cops aparently bought that shit!  And he didn't just leave it at that either, he sells that story, sells it to every motherfucker he sees, and sells it so damn well that we still know his name!  Seriously, if I could meet anybody from the Bible it would totally be Lot.  That motherfucker has to have the steeliest fucking nuts in the galaxy.

    [ Parent ]

    Nice try but no cigar for you.. (none / 1) (#255)
    by sudog on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:57:33 PM EST

    ..come back when you're not being such a twit.

    [ Parent ]
    What? (none / 0) (#259)
    by fenix down on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 02:10:24 AM EST

    Where the hell am I wrong?  That's what Genesis 19 says.  I think it's pretty clear that it's not relating any useful moral message, it's comic relief.  It's either fabricated out of whole cloth for pacing purposes or coming from something more or less along the lines of what I propose, and my way is funnier.

    The overall plot of the Sodom and Gomorrah is useful.  It's telling you that God will punish a group if the individuals are overwhelmingly deserving.  That's useful to know.

    Then you have this little eye-witness (well, not really) account from a man who is supposedly Abraham's nephew.  His only distinguishing accomplishments are having come from a city where it is popularly known, thanks to Abraham's communication with God, that everyone capable of verifying his presence there is dead, having his wife transformed into salt, and having impregnated his own daughters.

    Does it not seem reasonable that the only true parts of this story are the parts that are varifiable by someone outside the Lot family?  Namely, that he moved to a cave outside Zoar with two daughters, who became pregnant, and clearly, as they lived in a cave, alone, beyond smiting-distance from the city, Lot was the father.

    I tend to be of the opinion that this is a slightly crude comic interlude in an otherwise grim story.  Looking at the story outside of the context, it seems blatantly obvious that Lot is making up a comically ridiculous story to explain the pregnancy of the girls.  It seems to me that a contemporary reader would view it in much the same way, like a SNL commercial parody among genuine ads.

    I suspect that it also may be the case that to someone steeped in the culture in which the story was written, and with the story in original context, it would be clear that Lot was simply trying to get away with living with two girls who were far too young for him.  He shows up, explains the girls away as his daughters, concocts the salt-pillar story to explain the absence of a wife and the trauma of Sodom to explain living in a cave away from prying eyes, impregnates the girls, is then forced to create an even more absurd story to satisfy the midwife who delivers the children, who doesn't believe a word of it and winks and whispers a comically crude (coming from an old woman) joke about incest to Lot on her way out, leaving a shocked Lot and an entertained audience primed for more draining fire-and-brimstone preaching about God.

    [ Parent ]

    get a grip (none / 1) (#281)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:01:51 PM EST

    Lot never existed, obviously. Any sensible Christian knows that.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    ... sigh ... (none / 0) (#284)
    by sudog on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:24:31 PM EST

    "[...] I wish I could kill my wife, move to a new town, start having sex with my daughters [...]"

    Lot didn't kill his wife, and his daughters slept with him while he was drunk senseless on wine.

    "[...]so he offers to let them have sex with his virgin daughters.[...]"

    ... knowing full well that the angels were endowed with God-given, supernatural powers and that his defense of them was completely unnecessary.

    "[...]the angels are so impressed [...] they tell him to get out of town, and then burn down the city, 'accidentally' killing his wife in the process."

    His wife disobeyed their command not to look back after leaving the city, even though their warning was clear: Genesis 19:17 "...look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."

    "He moves on, gets a new house in a new city, until 'one' day his 'virgin' daughters get him drunk and gang-rape him."

    ... which isn't what you said at the beginning. And this is before the time when Moses brought the law and commandments which forbade these acts anyway, so Lot and his daughters were lawless idiots who didn't know any better but still managed to find some small measure of righteousness enough that God spared them.

    "And the cops aparently bought that shit! [...ramble natter natter, ramble ramble ...]"

    Read: You're being a twit about it because most people aren't clear on the story of Lot.

    [ Parent ]

    ... still wrong. (none / 0) (#286)
    by sudog on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:31:14 PM EST

    "I suspect that it also may be the case that to someone steeped in the culture in which the story was written, and with the story in original context, it would be clear that Lot was simply trying to get away with living with two girls who were far too young for him."

    And you suspect this based on..  what? What you think someone now would do and lie about in the same circumstances? That's pretty egotistical--you thinking you know what's in the mind of someone who may or may not have lived thousands and thousands of years ago.

    The whole Bible is filled with symbolism and literary device. The story of Lot has a point, as most of the Old Testament does, and that point seems to be lost on you.

    Thus, you're being a twit, and now I'm done wasting my time answering you.

    [ Parent ]

    Anne Coulter's wonderful "Treason" (1.75 / 12) (#121)
    by sellison on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:26:23 PM EST

    I found this book to be a wealth of knowledge of historical perspectives that I had never heard in school, certainly not the liberal university I attended. If you want to learn about what REALLY happened to Joe McCarthy, what he himself went through, and the validation of his work this is a good book for you.

    Ann writes with a high degree of intellectualism, yet her style is enjoyably witty.

    Basing on the simple merits of the book it is a valuable addition to any library of those who really seek the truth and seek to understand how society is teetering toward entropy as it is now. I read the whole book, I did not speed read it, flip through it, but I studied it. It is well documented, everything is backed up, and it is an important sociological commentary.

    Some of the last two paragraphs of the book are the most important and critical to understanding just why our Country is falling under extreme liberal and anarchic assault, as they state what the fundamental flaw is concerning liberty, our constitution, and the way it was supposed to work.

    Additionally, she has a great sense of humor that I find not only refreshing but rewarding.

    Liberals, nihilists, anarchists, or socialist apparatchiks will not like this book. It sheds light down on their dark little holes that they dwell in and effectively blunts many of their arguments.

    Coulter's amazingly well written and researched book is filled with nothing but fact after fact about McCarthyism (and how he was right about everyone he accused of being a spy. They really were spies and Coulter can prove it), and how Liberal failures led to the expansion of the Soviet Union during nearly every Democratic presidency (on the other hand, the Soviet Union did not expand at all during Republican presidencies, and in fact, collapsed due to Ronald Reagan's policies of one-upism on building up our nuclear arsenal. He drove them to ruin when they attempted to keep up with us). I'm sure the liberals who scour this sight to knock down every review praising the book will do the same to mine, but trust me...if you're looking for an enlightening book about the little dark secrets of liberalism, this is it.

    What many people fail to realize about communism is that the modus operandi of the party was to infiltrate key positions within governments and other political parties and then take over from within. In Russia, the overthrow of the Tzar was done not by the bolsheviks but the mensheviks. In the Spanish civil war, the communists usurped Republic control with Stalinist aid. In America, it is entirely plausible, and probible that members of our government and press were communists or even KGB agents.

    Even today, the stated foreign policy objectives of many countries include breaking American power. Yet this is rarely if ever discussed in the mainstream media. Why is that? Why is this so hard to believe for many people? Elia Kazan was told by many people in Hollywood that they were communists and he is still hated by many in Hollywood to this day for trying to help his country. People need to understand that being a communist didn't just mean that you were some idealogue. It meant that you were either in contact with Soviet agents, or someone you knew was.

    The truth of the matter is that communists had infiltrated many levels of our government. Henry Wallace, Vice President under Roosevelt, once said that if he had been Vice President at the time of Roosevelt's death, he would have named Laurence Duggan Secretary of State, and Harry Dexter White the Secretary of the Treasury. Both of these men were Soviet agents.

    For those of you who think I'm some right-wing whack-job, do some research on Mitrokhin. I think you'll find some interesting facts.

    Fortunatly, Saint Anne has done alot of this work for you, you just have to read her and try to open your liberal media infected mind!

    And of course, the Bible!

    "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

    The bible fucking sucks (none / 0) (#197)
    by aphex on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 09:48:24 PM EST

    I was almost going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt until he ends his rant with the bible. wtf? The fact that I find a bunch of "the bible is one of the most inspiring books ever", but not a single "the *any other religion's holy book* is one of the most inspiring books ever" is a strong signal that k5'ers need to expand their horizons. How many times can people say that LOTR is the greatest fucking book they've ever read? How about anything by Jorge Luis Borges, or Edgar Allan Poe, or The Varieties of Religous Experience by William James, or Alice in Wonderland, or What is Life by Schrodinger.

    [ Parent ]
    Wow, U R the rock star's rock star. (none / 0) (#212)
    by tkatchev on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 04:25:50 AM EST

    You sure showed your rebellious need for rebelling by thumbing your nose at the Father Figure in the Sky.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    do you support a theocracy? (nt) (none / 0) (#362)
    by phred on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 05:29:47 PM EST

    [ Parent ]
    yes. /nt (none / 2) (#375)
    by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 11:07:02 AM EST

    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    "conservtive" is a bad word (none / 0) (#313)
    by davros4269 on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:14:46 PM EST

    Liberals don't want to turn America into a communist nation, but conservatives seem to have 2 goals in mind these days - they want to turn America slowly but surely into either, or both, of these:

    • A theocracy
    • An aristocracy
    Liberals, nihilists, anarchists, or socialist apparatchiks will not like this book. It sheds light down on their dark little holes that they dwell in and effectively blunts many of their arguments.

    As a liberal, there isn't an agrument that I've ever heard for many of my views on politics from conservatives that make any sense. Many conservative arguments are based on a fake, yet nostalgic view of, "how it used to be".

    Still others require the pre-assumption of God and the immortal soul. Poppy-cock, the lot of it.

    Finally, conservatives do not understand that pure capatalism is as fake and non-working of a concept as pure communism is. Some socialist ideas are good, and I'm glad the West has incorporated them.
    Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
    [ Parent ]

    Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" (2.20 / 5) (#122)
    by lvogel on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 10:05:49 PM EST

    Put it all into proper perspective. Long live capitalism!
    -- ----------------------
    "When you're on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog!"

    -a dog
    fuck capitalism (none / 1) (#166)
    by Resident Geek on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:43:14 PM EST

    but Atlas Shrugged was a powerful story in its own right even if you reject the basic premise that greed is good. :)

    Fighting the War on the War On Drugs

    [ Parent ]
    My Ten Cents (3.00 / 6) (#123)
    by cribcage on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 10:57:49 PM EST

    Here are my ten suggestions:

    • Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith. This book, along with its successors The Invisible Touch and What Clients Love, profoundly affected my ideas about business and customer service. From understanding clients' psychology, to identifying your target audience, to simply naming your business, Beckwith writes with authority and insight gained from years of direct experience. All three books are heavily laced with fascinating anecdotes. If you own your business, you need these books.

    • The New Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha, Third Edition. Folks below have suggested the Bible for a variety of reasons. In my case, it wasn't until my twenties (years after my Catholic schooling) that I discovered inspiration in the Bible. It's a tremendous work of Man. Putting all religion aside, there are countless Biblical passages that offer wisdom and beauty unmatched elsewhere in literature. And I'm repeating this suggestion that others have made specifically because, as a speechwriter, it's important that I keep onhand a good version of the Bible. So if you're going to buy one: The New Oxford edition is excellent, and includes the Apocryphal books which are absent from most versions.

    • Dressing the Man, by Alan Flusser. As a musician, I spent a decade wearing black clothes and no one noticed. But when I decided to grow up and act professional, I needed to learn how to dress. This book was an excellent guide. Its principles are classic and timeless, and the writing avoids fashion jargon and metaphor. Flusser distinguishes between styles of dress for different settings, and provides plenty of history. It's a straightforward book for straight guys who want to learn how to dress well without watching Bravo.

    • Two Worlds, One People, by Ammiel Hirsch and Yosef Reinman. This book is subtitled, "A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them." I found this book engaging, both for the volatile disagreements and the articulate defense of their principles. The authors address a variety of topics, always with intelligence and remarkable insight. There were a few points where the rhetoric adopted an air of superiority -- not over each other, but with regard to Gentiles -- but for the most part, it was a thought-provoking book which holds relevance to anyone of principle, Jewish or otherwise.

    • The Shaping Forces In Music, by Ernst Toch. This book may not interest non-musicians, but it certainly affected my life. In simple terms, it helped give my music direction, and helped me to codify my ideas as a composer. Today I'm a speechwriter, and my musical concepts of cadence, rhythm and counterpoint give me a unique advantage over my peers.

    • The Ten Commandments, by William Barclay. This book offers an interesting, scholastic approach to the Ten Commandments. Barclay examines each commandment from various perspectives, including its relevance to modern society. Whether or not you're a religious person, you'll find Barclay's analysis is more concerned with practical morality than with religious principles. The Ten Commandments are fundamental to our society, and this book provides a unique look at them.

    • A People's History of the Supreme Court, by Peter Irons. The first section of this book includes the best history of the Constitution that I've read. Then, from the Court's first cases, Irons addresses various decisions the Court has made. He delves into the Court's history with power and detail. Far beyond a cursory examination of the Court, this book will give you a poignant understanding of our country's Constitutional authority. Irons has also edited three volumes of collected oral arguments from landmark Supreme Court cases, which were published as the May It Please the Court series.

    • A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander. This is an architecture book for everyone. It details 253 "patterns," principles of architecture that Alexander and his co-authors lay out for rooms, houses, buildings, towns and cities. Whether you read it cover to cover, or flip through a few pages every month, you'll find fascinating bits of advice and food for thought. You don't have to be an architect to appreciate this book; it will help you choose a house, plan a room, or even decide where you want to live.

    • Fire in the Streets: America in the 1960's, by Milton Viorst. My favorite high school teacher used this book to teach her classes about the Civil Rights Movement. Though it was out-of-print, she photocopied chapters for each student every semester, at her own expense. It was worth it, though, because it had a real impact on all of us. To this day, every so often, I'll buy a copy for a friend or relative. If you're looking for a single book that covers this era, read this one. You can buy a copy on Amazon for less than a dollar.

    • The Lost Art of the Great Speech, by Richard Dowis. I'm a professional speechwriter, and I've read dozens of books instructing readers how to write and how to deliver speeches. In my opinion, this is the best. Dowis offers concrete advice rather than ethereal generalizations. He walks you step-by-step through the process of preparing your speech, and he addresses nearly every scenario, message or audience. I hate to say it, but: If you want to save yourself the expense of hiring someone like me, read this book.

    Those aren't necessarily my Top Ten suggestions, but it's as good a place as any to stop. They're all books that have impacted my life, and each is a book that I would recommend to someone else.

    I look forward to reading through other folks' responses to this thread over the coming weekend.


    Please don't read my journal.

    Er.... (1.40 / 5) (#127)
    by bigchris on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:52:52 AM EST

    I doubt "illiterate" people will be voting in your poll... unless someone is reading the latest K5 poll out to them.

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
    a biology textbook (3.00 / 5) (#128)
    by danny on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:22:40 AM EST

    When I was ten, friends of the family (both academics in the biological sciences) gave me a copy of the textbook Life: Cells, Organisms, Populations (E.O. Wilson et al.) for Christmas. That book was a major influence on me. Not only did it leave me with a life-long fascination with biology, but I acquired my basic sex education from it.

    [900 book reviews and other stuff]

    Books that influenced my life (2.00 / 5) (#129)
    by bigchris on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:25:07 AM EST

    The Bible (mainly the NIV translation) - so much profound truth in one book! amazing.

    The Book of Heroic Failures, and The Return of Heroic Failures - Stephen Pile. An absolute gem of a book - left me in stitches!

    C Pointers & Dynamic Memory Management, Michael Daconta. - Ah, the mysteries of pointer all cleared up for me in one book. Fantastic.

    What's So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey - excellent exposition on one of the most important themes of the Bible.

    Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky - such a dark and unrelenting book! left me feeling very odd for a week after reading it.

    Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - Fantastic book, read it and you'll see how great it is.

    Cisco CCNA Examination Certification Guide, Wendell Odom - yep, an examination book for cert junkies. Except this one actually helped me understand networking properly, not just helped me pass the exam!

    The Linux Pocketbook - very slim, superficial overview of how to install RedHat Linux 5.2, but got me into the new O/S and it's possibilities!

    High Fidelity, Nick Hornby - great book, exposes the way that guys relate to the world. Enjoyed every word of it, and suprisingly the movie was pretty accurate!

    The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien - rip-roaring yarn and the best fantasy series I've ever read.

    He Died With a Felafel in His Hand, John Birmingham - an expedition into flatting squalor while living at Uni. I hope to never get to this level in my life!

    To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - changed my understanding of racism - quite literally made me look very carefully at my views of race and changed me. This book made me a better person - not too many secular books I can say that about!

    Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfield, compiled and edited by Hart Seely

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]

    I should read more (none / 2) (#132)
    by elvstone on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 07:30:19 AM EST

    But this is my list, in no special order:
    • The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Vingt mille lieues sous les mers by Jules Verne
    • Crime and Punishment by Fjodor Dostojevskij
    • Der process by Franz Kafka
    • The lives of animals by John Maxwell Coetzee
    I probably forgot a bunch.

    For fuck's sake, people... (1.62 / 8) (#133)
    by James A C Joyce on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 07:48:11 AM EST

    ...there is one and I do mean only one classic fiction book which is worth reading. All others are shitty and dull by comparison.

    This book is Something Happened by Joseph Heller. When you've read it, you might see what I mean.

    I bought this account on eBay

    NOT (none / 0) (#149)
    by tkatchev on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:08:19 PM EST

    Very formulaic, very manufactured, very fake. Tries to pull on emotianal "strings" and fails, since most of these "strings" are of the Hollywood variety.

    I enjoyed reading it once and forgetting, though.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    What? (none / 0) (#188)
    by MrHanky on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:43:41 PM EST

    That book bored me to death. After I woke up from the dead, I abandoned the book, and declared that the only book Joseph Heller ever wrote was Catch 22.

    Alright, IHBT.

    "This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
    [ Parent ]

    I Beg to Differ (none / 0) (#193)
    by dcm266 on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:08:36 PM EST


    One and only one classic fiction book that is worth reading? All others are shitty and dull by comparison?

    I beg to differ. Here's a list of great books.

    Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
    War and Peace (Tolstoy)
    The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)
    The Idiot (Dostoevsky)
    Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky)
    The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
    Notes From Underground (Dostoevsky)

    That's just my short list of favorites. Each of those books, if read and truly appreciated, is a wonderful teacher of life, philosophy, and many other valuable and important lessons. If you look, assuming you has some depth as a person, you can see yourself reflected in the characters. They are, as are many other classics that went unlisted here, well worth reading. Cheers.


    [ Parent ]

    by James A C Joyce on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:09:03 PM EST


    I bought this account on eBay
    [ Parent ]

    I agree. (none / 0) (#266)
    by tkatchev on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:15:54 AM EST

    He's a pulp-fiction writer of detective stories of his time.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    Not True (none / 1) (#322)
    by dcm266 on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 12:09:04 AM EST


    I have to disagree with this. Pulp fiction does not feature philosophical conversations and reflection, subtle intrigue, and all of the things that Dostoevsky is famous for. If you're reading the book and not getting anything more than the story, then I'm going to be so bold as to say that your mind just isn't capable of grasping the things Dostoevsky talks about. If you have a real reason for disliking him, that might be interesting, but a one sentence blanket generalization with no support suggests you either missed the point or perhaps once picked up the Cliff's notes of Crime in Punishment for a school reading assignment. If you want to insult one of the greatest writers ever to live, give some evidence and thought. Otherwise, stick to reading crap since you can't appreciate works of subtance and quality. Cheers.


    [ Parent ]

    Simmer down, slavophile (none / 1) (#331)
    by antichrist stormtrooper on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:36:14 AM EST

    Dostoevsky was a deranged anti-semite with a gambling problem. Nabokov thought he was second-rate and Auden found his work to be a bore.

    If you really want psychological insight, subtlety, and philosophical speculation that probes the murkier spaces edging the "here there be dragons" regions of our collective, (frayed, ink-splotched) map of human understandage, I suggest you wrap your head around some Philip K Dick. That is, if your "mind" can "grasp" what he like, talks about.

    "I hate cats almost as much as I hate Italians" -Albert Einstein
    [ Parent ]
    Hmmmm (none / 0) (#341)
    by dcm266 on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:09:17 AM EST

    Does anyone have a real critique of Dostoevsky? Something more than a one sentence blanket generalization would be nice, as it might show some actual thought. If you must knock my taste in literature, you might try backing it up. One sentence rebuttals are a big pet peave of mine, since they're almost never meant to be helpful or worthwhile. Also, they make it nearly impossible to tell if the person writing it is an ignorant fool, or someone of intelligence who might be worth listening too.

    A one sentence post claiming that a man who is often regarded as one of the greatest writers in history wrote crappy "pulp fiction" is just a waste of space. If you don't like Dostoevksy, don't put him on your list. Simple. Now, if anyone has legitimate grievances with Dostoevksy, that might be worth discussing in detail, but if your idea of a contribution is a one sentence generalization that amounts to "Dostoevksy sucks," don't waste your time or mine. Cheers, and thank you.


    [ Parent ]

    boggle (none / 0) (#363)
    by Battle Troll on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 05:32:26 PM EST

    Pulp fiction does not feature philosophical conversations and reflection [or] subtle intrigue...

    By extending this argument, NIN and Raymond Chandler are great writers.

    Russians generally consider Dostoevsky important only for the philosophical issues he raised, not his writing, his plots, or even the way in which he raised the issues themselves. As for me, I'm torn - I think that Dostoevsky has potentially great scenes, but they are often clumsily written and the books containing them aren't of even quality.

    Let me dig out my copy of Idiot and I'll get back to you with my comments on the first section.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Thank God. (none / 0) (#272)
    by Kenoubi on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 10:58:52 AM EST

    The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)

    It's about time someone else listed this.

    The fact that you included it has inspired me to add Dostoevsky to my “when I get around to it” reading list. Anyone who thinks The Count of Monte Cristo is great can't have awful taste.

    I tried reading War and Peace once, but I only got around 200 or 300 pages in and found it so dull that I couldn't keep going. Then again, the first time I read The Count of Monte Cristo, I did the same thing... the part in Rome seemed so unrelated to the main story that it was hard to maintain my interest, since it seemed to take so much energy to keep reading at that point in my life. (Although I now realize that it wasn't, and knowing who the characters were and how they related to the main plot this time through, I didn't have trouble with this part on my most recent read.) So maybe I should consider giving War and Peace another try.

    [ Parent ]
    What did you think of it? (none / 1) (#241)
    by GenerationY on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:35:53 PM EST

    It depressed the hell out of me. The bits about his son hating gym class for example. I regard it as very dark indeed. Darker in its way than, say, American Psycho and books of that ilk. It certainly made an impression on me, but I'd be interested to know what you got out of it.

    [ Parent ]
    Taleb: Fooled by Randomness (none / 2) (#135)
    by levsen on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:26:02 AM EST

    This book is superficially about stock markets and why some people get rich on them (... and most don't), but implicity it's about the media that uncritically always celebrate the 'successful guy' while most of the time he got his money buy chance. You'll never look at TV or the paper the same way.

    This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
    Not Just Books (none / 3) (#139)
    by holdfast on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:56:53 AM EST

    The Merchant of Venice - Shakespere.
    A nice story, but that anti-racist speech by Shylock predates all the facist/Communist cr4p of the 19th an 20th centuries. If an Elizibethan could write that, why do we still get the KKK, apartheid and all the other filth?

    Star Trek - well somebody had to mention it.
    A positive view of the future, technology and society. Yes, there will be problems, wars and all the problems we have now but it's good to think that there is hope...

    Aesops Fables
    I like small stories with morals. Some of them might seem trite nowadays. They are still valid reminders of some basics.

    Narnia - an entire set of books.
    Written by a friend of Tolkien so from a similar cutlural background. Good is Good and is opposed to bad. People can be brought back from wrong (forgiveness/redemption). Love is a good thing. I first came accross these when I was 6 and have now read them to my children. Brilliant!

    The whole Bible, but I have some favourite bits.

    Psalm 23 - A lot of the OT is hard going to modern Christians but this is a fine piece and easy (for me anyway) to understand.
    Sermon on the mount - pretty much sums it all up!
    Ressurection Narratives - this was not just a nice story, there are some serious facts in here. If you don't consider yourself a Christian, ask yourself how all that happened.

    Heinlein Asimov & Clarke - all full of interesting social concepts, what ifs and imagery. Also a lot of really good stories. I find Heinleins politics a bit iffy now but I suppose he was a child of his time.

    "Holy war is an oxymoron."
    Lazarus Long
    My list (3.00 / 5) (#141)
    by localroger on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:07:39 AM EST

    It's a bit different.

    At Work in the Fields of the Bomb by Robert Del Tredici. I bought this book off the remainder table at Walden's for $1.00 on impulse about 15 years ago.

    AWITFOTB is a photo essay about the nuclear industry. The photos are almost clinical artsy B&W images of factories, structures, and individual people. My father is a nuclear scientist himself so I didn't expect this book to surprise me much. Then, about half-way through, I encountered the picture of Sadako Sasaki's parents. The next plate was of a handful of origami paper cranes, and was accompanied by the story of how Sadako had tried to fulfill an ancient Japanese legend that if you folded 1,000 of these cranes, you would be granted a wish. Her wish would be for her Little Boy-triggered leukemia to be cured. Trying to force her to concentrate on her treatment her parents and doctors tried to deny her paper for this project so she used discarded cigarette wrappers and other garbage. She folded about 600 of them before she died.

    Today there is a statue of Sadako at the Hiroshima Peace Park and every year schoolchildren send the park paper cranes, which are strung in garlands of 1000 in her honor.

    I was unable to finish reading the book that night, but starting the next day I proceeded to devour everything I could find about nuclear energy and the relationship between people and technology in general. Which brings us to...

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes. In microcosm the story of atomic energy is the story of technology itself -- and if you haven't read these books you don't know anything about either atomic energy or where technology comes from.

    These books forced me into an epiphany of doubt about the relationship between humans and technology comparable to the eipiphany that had destroyed my faith in Christianity around the age of 15. Which led to...

    A Criminal History of Mankind by Colin Wilson, a thorough and mammoth exploration of the question "Why do humans kill one another?" by a lifelong writer of true crime nonfiction. Some of Wilson's ideas seem odd especially by scientific standards, but he puts his theories across with an authority that demands serious consideration if not absolute acceptance.

    Those are the books that had the greatest sudden effect on my world-view. One other deserves mention. Around the age of 10 or 11 I formed the idea (probably from reading too much science fiction) that the most worthwhile things to invent would be faster than light travel and artificial intelligence. I gradually realized I was never going to be deep enough into fundamental physics to go after FTL travel, and over the years I convinced myself that AI probably wasn't within our grasp either.

    The Creative Loop: How The Brain Makes a Mind by Dr. Erich Harth is the book that convinced me that AI is almost certainly possible after all. (Oddly, just like Del Tredici's book, this one called out to me inexplicably from a bargain bin.) Although Harth draws exactly the opposite conclusion in the final chapters, it was obvious from his opening arguments that relatively simple algorithms could explain some of the most puzzling and highly abstract human behaviors -- as emergent properties, not highly engineered responses. This has shaped much of my thinking in the last 10 years, and as computers get more powerful and cheaper the itch to code a couple of algorithms gets ever stronger.

    (I am aware that if I were to happen to be right about this, and if I were to actually be the first to build something that works, this arm of the galaxy would probably collapse into an irony quasar. But those are the risks you take when you push the envelope :-)

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

    Under the Cloud (none / 2) (#152)
    by cribcage on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:38:26 PM EST

    if you haven't read these books you don't know anything about either atomic energy or where technology comes from.
    There's nothing wrong with hyperbole, but it needn't be accompanied by condescension. Consider that constructive criticism.

    Havind said that, I'll add another excellent book for people learning about the development of nuclear technology: Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing, by Richard L. Miller. This book was recently reprinted in paperback edition. It's an eye-opening account of the testing done on American soil, and the radiation effects on the entire country. If you think nuclear bomb testing was limited to a small area in Nevada, you should read this book.


    Please don't read my journal.
    [ Parent ]

    Not meant to be condescending (none / 1) (#179)
    by localroger on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 05:20:32 PM EST

    Those two books simply offer an overview of the scientific process which I've never seen so skilfully condensed and presented anywhere else. It's all there -- the human motivations, the random chances, the twists of fate, and the ominous implication that the mere desires of human actors have little effect on the answers waiting to be unearthed. You get bits and pieces of that in other works, but not the whole picture in its awful gorgeous magnificent entirety.

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
    [ Parent ]
    mmm.. (none / 2) (#186)
    by sudog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:26:28 PM EST

    "Judge not, that ye be not judged?

    For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

    So, uh cribcage.. There's nothing wrong with criticism, but it needn't be accompanied by condescension. Consider that constructive criticism.

    [ Parent ]

    Lovely. (none / 0) (#216)
    by sudog on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 05:38:34 AM EST

    What a hypocrite. Your response is a "0" comment rating--which means my note is a message fit to be hidden along with all the other necrophilia/child porn/goatse.cx comments that are in the hidden queue. Not (1) for Discourage, but (0) for hide.

    Suppress the truth of your own hypocrisy all you like, it won't make one whit of difference.

    [ Parent ]

    He looks like Spencer Tracy now (none / 0) (#417)
    by treefrog on Fri Mar 26, 2004 at 09:36:08 AM EST

    ... if I am not mistaken.

    regards, treefrog
    Twin fin swallowtail fish. You don't see many of those these days - rare as gold dust Customs officer to Treefrog
    [ Parent ]

    On the Beach, The Fountainhead /nt (none / 2) (#143)
    by claes on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:41:06 AM EST

    In what order I remember having red them (none / 2) (#144)
    by artis on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:46:13 AM EST

    I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

    Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren.

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

    The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne.

    White Fang by Jack London.

    The Magellan Nebula by Stanislaw Lem

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

    Deathworld by Harry Harrison.

    The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

    A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

    Mūris by Alberts Bels.

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

    Can you know that you are omniscient?
    Oh and... (none / 0) (#145)
    by artis on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:51:52 AM EST

    Somewhere in there should also be Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft by Thor Heyerdahl.
    Can you know that you are omniscient?
    [ Parent ]
    The Little Prince online... (none / 2) (#230)
    by dmw on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:45:19 PM EST

    I would happily recommend The Little Prince to anyone.
    [ Parent ]
    My little contribution (3.00 / 5) (#146)
    by nyri on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:18:23 AM EST

    Demian by Herman Hesse
    Hesses message is: respect yourself, know your responsibilites.

    Der Prozess (The trial) by Franz Kafka
    How much do you know all the things, peoples and their motives affecting your life? Not much. Your life is "Der Prozess" in a way.

    Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev
    An extremely impressive introspection from an unknown author. It's no wonder that the author is unknown: the book is very personal. If only I could analyze myself like him...

    Yes, Minister by BBC I have to add this TV series. Yes, Minister makes so much sense that I have to believe in every character and to the way it portraits political decisions making.

    Il barone rambarte (The Baron in the Trees) by Italo Calvino
    A guy spending his whole life in trees. You know, it's your life and you can choose to use it as you like.

    Het achterhuis by Anne Frank
    Some Existentialist philosophy from a hole with some very bright insights. She deserved to live, not to die by scarlet feaver. Maybe people should not judge others so easily. Live and let live.

    Media control (or something else) by Noam Chomsky
    Mr. Chosky shows the state of the world's most powerful propaganda and military body and the general ease of moral relativism.

    Jonathan Livigstone Seagull by Richard Bard
    A Children's book. There's no limit what you can do, if you only belive to yourself and be brave.

    Education of a Felony by Edward Bunker and A Million Jockers by Stephen Donaldson and Surveiller et punir by Michel Foucault
    So what is it really like in prisons? These writings tell it to you: prisons are bad places. Nobody should be put in a place like that. Realizing the futility of prisons and revenge was a major ethical leap for me.

    Animal Farm by Orwell
    Beats the 1984 hand down. 1984 is a bit heavy and is tangled with showing methods of totalitarian society, while Animal Farm is readable by children and shows the general property of power: it corrupts. It also contains the best sound bite I have red so far: "All animals are equal; some animals are more equal than others." Orwell was interested about language as a political weapon (see for example Politics and the English Language) and the sound bite is a prime example of how to bend words (BTW, I'm not from US and I have always wondered what happened to word "liberal"?; Disclaimer I'm not bashing America. We also have our own word games here in Finland and Europe).

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    While reading this master piece I realized the limits of knowledge. It also coined the word "paradigma".

    Here is my favorite entertainment in no particular order: LOTR, Hyperion, Peter Hoeg's short stories, Dumas' books, Bugagov's Master i Margarita, Mika Valtari's historical novels, Philip K. Dick's novels, Asimov's novels, Russian short stories, Catch Me if You Can.

    Jari Mustonen

    P.S. Holy Bible has influenced my life. It's only because some jerk has hit me to head with it. But I think it doesn't count in this kind of lists.

    Liberalism in America (none / 2) (#192)
    by dcm266 on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:01:48 PM EST


    I'm glad you asked about the term liberal in the United States, as it has become so poluted and destroyed, that it is basically useless.

    Liberal in the 19th century used to mean one who favored the freedom and dignity of the individual to make individual choices, provided of course that these choices did not prevent the other members of society from living in freedom. The idea was pretty basic, and Adam Smith understood it, as did the early economists, John Locke in the 17th century, and Johh Stuart Mill in the mid-1800s. The message was about freedom, toleration, and the dignity of life.

    It is said that all good things must come to an end, and this idea of liberalism is no different. While liberalism held great sway in an age of monarchs and absolute government, it never had the same impact in America. We were divided early on into Federalists and Republicans, also known as Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. Since then, things have broken further down and we now have "Democrats" and "Republicans."

    The main difference is that "Conservative" Republicans favor limiting individual freedoms in the personal realm, in things such as drug use, gay marriage and the like, while "Liberal" Democrats favor allowing those personal freedoms, but putting restrictions on economic activity, having a welfare system, and taxing the wealthy at higher tax rates.

    Now, I'm glad this was brought up, since I can no longer say that I am a liberal, since the word has been stolen by the Democratic Party. The word has been perverted and destroyed, and I am quite angry about this. The economic policies of some democrats seem pratically to nostalgically long for the age of mercantilist economic principles, which have been proven to be obsolete and stupid, but that is another topic. I must now proclaim myself a "libertarian," which carries with it the reputation of being way out there, whacked, and being a crazy radical. Since when is respecting the freedom and dignity of the individual crazy? But I digress. The classical economists, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill, among others must be rolling in their graves. Cheers.


    [ Parent ]

    Italo Calvino (none / 0) (#252)
    by fsh on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:05:44 PM EST

    An excellent author, but I feel the need to mention If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, which is simply an incredible piece of writing, in addition to Cosmicomics (Qfwfq is the man!) and his collection of Italian Myths - simply necessary to a student of Italian History.
    [ Parent ]
    My list (none / 3) (#147)
    by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:25:09 AM EST

    2001: A Space Odessy
    Animal farm
    Black Holes and Time Warps
    A Breif History of Time

    most have already been listed. (none / 3) (#148)
    by Garc on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:54:03 AM EST

    I've read tons of books, but the ones above affected me much more than most. Don't think I could really explain why

    Tomorrow is going to be wonderful because tonight I do not understand anything. -- Niels Bohr
    Father Kurt (2.00 / 5) (#154)
    by AnimalChin on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 12:59:34 PM EST

    I read 'Breakfast of Champions' when I was fourteen, and realized I wasn't the only person in the world that thought this was all sad and ridiculous.

    The fact that 'The Hobbit' (which I also read as a child) is in so many of the lists here is...sad and ridiculous. I still don't get the allure of fantasy/sci-fi for the sake of fantasy.

    Have you seen him?

    Kids books (none / 2) (#155)
    by cooldev on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:03:46 PM EST

    The most influential would have to be the ones I read as a kid:

    The Great Brain and sequels

    The Mad Scientists' Club series

    The Three Investigators series

    Many, Many More Kids Books... (none / 0) (#173)
    by cribcage on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:30:40 PM EST

    I usually forget The Great Brain when I'm suggesting kids' books, and I always kick myself. That was a wonderful series, particularly inspiring to the young geek.

    Other kids' books I recommend:

    Don't forget the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Brothes Grimm, Aesop, Mother Goose, and of course all Greek mythology. That list ought to carry your child through a week or two. ;-)


    Please don't read my journal.
    [ Parent ]

    Spooky! (none / 1) (#175)
    by Polverone on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 04:04:15 PM EST

    All those books also had a great effect on me. Others: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives by Tenney L. Davis, and many of the original Tom Swift books.

    Much later, Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick stunned me. I felt as if I were reading the writings of a madman/prophet for the first time.
    It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
    [ Parent ]

    important books (none / 2) (#156)
    by Goldstein on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:25:22 PM EST

    The True Believer - Eric Hoffer

    A book that has gained in relevance in rececent years

    1984 - George Orwell

    Animal Farm - George Orwell

    Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler

    (Although I later found that the author was not without serious faults)

    The Gulag Archipelego - A. Solzhenitsyn

    Inside the Third Reich - Albert Speer

    Wonderful Life - Stephen Jay Gould

    My System - Aron Nimzovich

    A classsic book on the game of Chess

    The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder
    Radio Amateurs Handbook
    Radiotron Designeers Handbook
    RCA Tube Manual
    The Ascent of Man - Jacob Bronowski

    I was hooked on science and technology by the last four or five books

    The True Believer was great. (none / 1) (#157)
    by waxmop on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:29:47 PM EST

    The True Believer was a book that took all the noisy incoherent ideas that a lot of us already had and then organized them and strained out the crap from the stuff that really made sense.
    We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
    [ Parent ]
    agree with waxmop (none / 0) (#209)
    by bankind on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 03:13:54 AM EST

    True Believer is one of the best. I heard one story that Hoffer didn't attend university. But bloody hell, I read that book while I was in the MArine Corps and it was a real mindfuck.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Emphasis and addition (none / 3) (#158)
    by tetsuwan on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:35:10 PM EST

    Maus I & II by Art Spiegelmann
    Labyrinths (a collection of short stories) by Jorge Luis Borges. As was said: mindbending!

    GAS by Joakim Pirinen. It's a comic book for grown-ups and very brilliant. I've read it tens of times. Unfortunately, I don't know if there's an English version, the original is in Swedish.
    We by Evgenij Zamjatin. The ancestor of 1984.
    The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. An inversion of the history of the US of A.
    The book of the new sun by Gene Wolfe

    sing along in the choir
    LOTR by JRR Tolkien
    1984 by George Orwell
    Siddharta by Hermann Hesse

    excellent read, actually
    Disgrace by J M Coetzee

    Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

    I'm Suprised (none / 2) (#159)
    by virtualjay222 on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:37:38 PM EST

    No one has mentioned Slaughterhouse Five yet.


    I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.

    -Calvin and Hobbes

    hmmphh (none / 1) (#161)
    by mister slim on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:40:49 PM EST


    I forgot Cat's Cradle.

    "Fucking sheep, the lot of you. Yeah, and your little dogs too." -Rogerborg
    [ Parent ]

    My list (3.00 / 4) (#160)
    by mister slim on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:39:10 PM EST

    I've been mostly lurking for quite some time, but I can't pass this topic up. I wrote a reply to the "favorite SF books" story from the other day, but the story didn't survive the que. No worries this time. This is a similar list, but with some key changes.

    I have to start with the Dune series, by Frank Herbert. The influence of these books on me is immeasurable. I still reread them periodically. Especially the last two, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, which I consider among the best written books ever published. Both are incredibly woven and layered together, setting up for a final book that Frank Herbert tragically did not live to write. I am still enraged by the thought of Kevin J. Anderson attempting to write Dune 7.

    Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game, by Herman Hesse, and The Player of Games, by Ian M. Banks. These two books take games, a subject near to my heart, and construct vast complex metaphors from that topic. Magister Ludi was to be Hermann Hesse's masterwork, which it was not, but it is still a tremendous achievement. The Player of Games also revolves around a game that encodes an entire society, taking as a pivot point when such metaphor use is valid, and when it fails. Both are also very well written.

    Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen took the comic form and, to make a poor analogy, achieved similar results to taking an blueprint and converting it into a 3-D object. It demonstrated clearly how words and pictures working together could produce results neither words or pictures alone could create.

    Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. A brutal and angry yet honest and optimistic story, in comic form. Politics, journalism and science, hate, hope, and humanity fed into a meatgrinder and splattered onto the page, able to make you laugh and put you into deep shock (three dollars spent on issue 40 could be the best 3 bucks you've ever spent. I couldn't talk after I finished that story. I would compare it to Apocalypse Now or Requiem For A Dream or any other work that completely shatters your view of the world and forces you to rebuild).

    As a kid, Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein, opened my eyes a lot. One of his juveniles, it's written well and is an exciting read, but also contains a lot of depth, with a nuanced ending.

    The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, by Judd Winick. One of the funniest things you could possibly read, puking up laughter everywhere, with a brilliant suckerpunch in book four.

    Hunter S. Thompson, most anything by him, with my favorite being The Great Shark Hunt, for having the largest range of any of his books. From the Fearing and Loathing in Las Vegas style of the title story to some of the straightest journalism HST ever produced.

    Tenacity of the Cockroach, collected interviews from The Onion's AVClub. Within are excellent, educational interviews from some of the most interesting "fringe" personalities of our time.

    You've Got to Read This, edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shephard. A collection of classic and less known short stories, selected by a variety of good authors, each with a introduction from the selecting author. The best are stories I might never have found otherwise, with illuminating introductions. It introduced me to some great authors and changed how I see several stories.

    The Love Affair as a Work of Art, by Dan Hofstadter. I didn't read this until well after taking one of his classes at Bennington College, but it's a book I can go back to and find something new every time, after countless readings. It looks at French literary personalities from the 1790's up to the 1920's, camparing and contrasting their love lives, their love letters, and their work. Brilliantly written, never taking itself too seriously, and filled with insight and information.

    Finally, Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. A large and often messy book, filled with information, action, character and just the right amount of humor. I can only say this is the book I most often try to force upon people and the book of which I have given away the most copies.

    That ran a little long, my apologies. Now I must read through the replies and see what I should go pick up.

    "Fucking sheep, the lot of you. Yeah, and your little dogs too." -Rogerborg

    I don't read books (2.25 / 3) (#162)
    by Worker Bee on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 01:43:36 PM EST

    But reading Kuro5hin has taught me, among other things, never to trust some random dude's promises in exchange for my hard-earned money.


    A couple additions (none / 2) (#164)
    by straw dog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:33:30 PM EST

    Most of my choices are already listed somewhere here, but a couple more worth looking at:


    • The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    • also The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Murakami, although Windup bird is better.
    • Ecstacy Club, by Douglas Rushkoff.
    • Skin, by Kathe Koja
    • And as for Ender's Game i recommend strongly you read the whole 6 books. I think the later books are very important to the whole story.
    • oh, yeah, have people really not mentioned Gibson's Neuromancer yet? or did i just miss it
    • Dreaming the Dark by Starhawk (yeah, the Spiral Dance is more significant, but this one really gripped me.)
    • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat: and other clinical tales - Oliver Sacks
    • Consciousness Explained - Daniel Dennett
    • The Vygotsky Reader (well really, just anything by Vygotsky)
    • Codebreakers - David Kahn

      er, the obligatory computery type books, i guess...

    • Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming by Peter Norvig
    • Inverse Problem Theory by Albert Tarantola

    Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system. --P. J. O'Rourke
    Murakami (none / 1) (#177)
    by kitten on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 04:27:25 PM EST

    Is it just me, or are his books impossible to explain? I have read most of them, and don't have enough good things to say of his writing, but when asked, I find I'm completely unable to justify my position. With the possible exception of Hard-Boiled Wonderland, when I am asked what the books are about, all I can come up with is "Well, there's a middle-aged Japanese guy, and he does stuff."

    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    murakami (none / 1) (#180)
    by straw dog on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 05:39:26 PM EST

    Yeah. Trying to explain Wind-up bird is pretty amusing. "Its about a guy who sits in a well with a baseball bat... well not quite...."

    Part of the attraction for me is his very poetic and rhythmic writing style. At least i think its his style, or maybe the translator was particularly eloquent.

    Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system. --P. J. O'Rourke
    [ Parent ]

    Laugh all you will (2.66 / 6) (#165)
    by Resident Geek on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:39:17 PM EST

    But Atlas Shrugged hit me at a very low point in my life, and I have been a better person for reading it. Not that I hold to Objectivist ideals by any stretch of imagination, but the story itself was quite parallel in many ways to my own life at the time, and caused me to look at things in a different way. There is a time for selfishness. Just can't let it turn into greed, or let it go away so much that you're simply another's tool.

    I really liked the story. It was cool. :) Say what you will about Ayn Rand, I'm no follower, but she wrote some neat stuff.

    Fighting the War on the War On Drugs

    Mindfulness in Plain English (none / 1) (#167)
    by alevin on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:50:27 PM EST

    most important books (none / 3) (#168)
    by decon recon on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 02:56:03 PM EST

    Many books have been very meaningful to me.
    The older ya get, the more important books there can be.

    Following are a list of books about spirituality, social science, philosophy, and science fiction that have been important to me.  

    Key books on integral spirituality, most recently important to me:

    Integral Psychology by Ken Wilber
    Anything else by Wilber. The best summary of this work is by Wilber himself, available online:  Outline of An Integral Psychology. Or: Waves, Streams, States, and Self--A Summary of My Psychological Model.

    The Crystal and the Way of Light by Namkhai Norbu
    Dzogchen is the innermost yoga of the Nyingmapa lineage of vajrayana Buddhism, where the direct experience of nondual freedom is the path. Norbu Rinpoche is a gifted scholar and teacher, skilled at explanation and at inviting people to be liberated in their experience. There are a number of books on Dzogchen by realized lamas.  This is a very good one.

    Luminous Night's Journey, by A.H. Almaas
    This is one of the richest accounts I have read of a journey in enlightenment. The book evokes, for the reader, a feeling for the experience of enlightenment as it unfolds. Almaas founded the Diamond Approach, which is a wonderful synthesis of western depth psychology and Sufi, Gurdjieff, Tibetan Buddhist and other teachings. I am not currently doing this work, but I find the ideas very helpful. Here is an introductory passage from the book, online: http://ridhwan.org/lnj_intr.html

    "Elixir of Enlightenment" by A.H. Almaas
    This is the best essay I've read on spiritual teacher-student relationships. The essay is especially helpful on an important type of problem in spiritual relationships. In a nutshell, there a number of archetypal spiritual qualities or essences. Most spiritual teachers only manifest one or a few of these qualities. Skilled teachers know how to direct students to people with whom they need to work. Other important books by Almaas are: The Void, the Diamond Heart series.

    Other key books on spirituality in last 25 years:

    The Bhagavad Gita
    The Gita is rich in essential teachings about different types of yogic paths: karma, bhakti, jnana, meditative yoga, etc. Been reading this since 1980. Also enduring rich resources for inspiration and contemplation and insight for me are:  Patanjali's Yoga sutras, Narada's bhakti sutras and the Srimad Bhagavatam.

    Tao Te Ching, translation by Stephen Mitchell
    I really like Mitchell's translation.  Read this over and over during a time when Qi gong in mid-90s.

    Zen in America, by Helen Tworkov
    I converted to Mahayana Buddhism in 1990 based in part on the tales in this book. Tworkov writes about the adapting and expression of Buddhist teachings in western social contexts and processes.

    Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahamsa Yogananda
    This inspired me deeply when I read it around 1983. I decided to study Kriya yoga of Yogananda at the time and eventually was initiated into the system.

    The Seth Material, by Jane Roberts
    This book opened up possibility of exploring spiritual reality through direct experience.  Read this around 1977. Roberts later books offer various explorations of and teachings about consciousness realms and phenomena.  Roberts aspect psychology (across time, simultaneous, multi-life incarnation processes and developments) is a necessary topic of study as an alternative and perhaps corrective to traditional western and eastern metaphysics.

    The Magic of Findhorn, by Paul Hawken
    Ishmael, Daniel Quinn
    And dozens more.

    Some key social science and philosophy texts:

    Alternative Modernities; Transforming Technology, by Andrew Feenberg
    Monopoly Capital, by Harry Braverman
    CyberMarx, by Nick Dyer-Witheford
    From Margin to Center, by Bell Hooks
    Science in Action, by Bruno Latour
    The Philosophy of Social Ecology, by Murray Bookchin
    A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn
    No Logo, Naomi Klein
    Social Construction of Reality, by Berger and Luckmann
    The End of Work, Jeremy Rifkin
    Communities Directory: A Guide to Intentional Communities and Cooperative Living
    Green Politics,  Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra
    The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey  
    Postmodern theory series, by Stephen Best and Doug Kellner
    One Dimensional Man, Marcuse
    Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno & Horkheimer
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Meditations, Descartes

    Favorite science fiction works.

    Science fiction was my first love and has shaped my multi-dimensional view of reality.

    For ten of my favorite writers, I made brief summaries of works and website link. A number of this works shaped the way I see the world and/or my hopes and imaginings about our future:

    Ursula K. Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness; Earthsea series; The Dispossessed
    Leguin weaves beautiful worlds. Her soft scifi is good fiction, period. The ambi-sexuality (persons able to be either sex based on hormones floating in air) in Left Hand of Darkness was formative in my wide-open gender concept in mid teens. The early books in Earthsea series are quite magical; the stories drag on a bit as series goes along. The anarchic society portrayed in The Dispossessed informed my political ideals.

    Greg Egan, Diaspora
    Brilliant, hard scifi: starts with development of an AI and then a cosmic AI romp. Best to read this for ideas more than for coherence as many sub-plots/ideas go off in various directions. Some think his Permutation City, a story about a code copy of a person trying to find way back to a body, is his best novel. But, I love cosmic AI.

    William Gibson, Neuromancer series
    Classic cyberpunk and very good fiction: techno-scientific intrigue, advanced AIs, gritty realism. http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/

    Kim Stanley Robinson
    Red Mars; Green Mars; and Blue Mars
    Best multi-dimensional near future hard sci-fi that I've read. Looks at development of human society on Mars and in solar system in geological, biological, political, and various social domains. Ponderous at first and at times, but great integral extrapolations.

    J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Hobbit
    Grand fantasy and myth making. http://www.tolkiensociety.org ; http://www.tolkien-archives.com

    Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land; The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; etc.
    Heinlein's best works are inspirations. To grok this, one must read. http://www.wegrokit.com/

    Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age; Snow Crash
    Stephenson creates zesty, colorful worlds, interlacing virtual reality, social permutations, and edgy science. Action-packed. http://www.nealstephenson.com/ ; http://www.well.com/user/neal/

    Zenna Henderson, pilgrimage: The Book of the People; Holding Wonder; etc.
    Well spun tales of human-like species with psi powers trying to blend into human society. http://www.adherents.com/lit/bk_Zenna.html

    Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
    Lyrical read. Small groups of human clones are raised to repopulate a world once destroyed. http://www.hycyber.com/SF/wilhelm_kate.html

    Robert Silverberg,  Son of Man; the Stochastic Man
    Psychedelic sci-fi. I like his 70s novels best. http://www.majipoor.com/

    I made a list of my favorite 60 authors, but will skip including that. For more science fiction reading ideas, see...

    This site lists award wining science fiction works:

    Best reads of the year at SF Site:
    See bottom of page for previous years.

    These sites have lists of best sci-fi works:
    http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/6113/top100.html (based on votes by over 3000 people)
    http://home.austarnet.com.au/petersykes/topscifi/ (various lists)

    Gardner Dozois, Editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, has been editing the Year's Best Science Fiction annual collections for many years. Each volume has an introduction with a review the year's best science fiction.

    Science and Sanity: (none / 2) (#171)
    by fhotg on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:19:39 PM EST

    An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. (Alfred Korzybski) That book, I believe, is also purposefully designed to change your thinking. The change seems to be unreversible for me and others. You have been warned.
    Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

    Apologia pro Lolita (3.00 / 12) (#174)
    by anonymous cowerd on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 03:49:12 PM EST

    Oh, man. Books, oldest and best friends I ever had.

    When I was eight, for some odd reason I never understood my father gave me Essays and Sketches, three volumes hardcover, by Cardinal John Henry Newman as a Christmas gift. He told me that this was very good and I should read it right away. It was utterly incomprehensible to me; I made it halfway through one essay, about some far-off momentous historical event... here's one paragraph snipped out of it, for the flavor:

    Ambrose was eminently a popular bishop, as every one knows who has read ever so little of his history. His very promotion to the sacred office was owing to an unexpected movement of the populace. Auxentius, his Arian predecessor in the see of Milan, died, A.D. 374, upon which the bishops of the province wrote to the then Emperor, Valentinian the First, who was in Gaul, requesting him to name the person who was to succeed him. This was a prudent step on their part, Arianism having introduced such matter for discord and faction {343} among the Milanese, that it was dangerous to submit the election to the people at large, though the majority of them were orthodox. Valentinian, however, declined to avail himself of the permission thus given him; the choice was thrown upon the voices of the people, and the cathedral, which was the place of assembling, was soon a scene of disgraceful uproar, as the bishops had anticipated. Ambrose was at that time civil governor of the province of which Milan was the capital: and, the tumult increasing, he was obliged to interfere in person, with a view of preventing its ending in open sedition. He was a man of grave character, and had been in youth brought up with a sister, who had devoted herself to the service of God in a single life; but as yet was only a catechumen, though he was half way between thirty and forty. Arrived at the scene of tumult, he addressed the assembled crowds, exhorting them to peace and order. While he was speaking, a child's voice, as is reported, was heard in the midst of the crowd to say, "Ambrose is bishop;" the populace took up the cry, and both parties in the Church, Catholic and Arian, whether influenced by a sudden enthusiasm, or willing to take a man who was unconnected with party, voted unanimously for the election of Ambrose.

    Not only was the vocabulary out of reach and the length of the sentences pushed my attention span to the edge, but I had no background for any of this. (On top of which my family and I were not Catholics.) Nevertheless I learned a terrific and lasting lesson for a kid that age, which is that there exist Matters which are Way Over Your Head and that there exist People who are Much, Much Smarter than you will be for Decades to Come if Ever so no matter how smart a kid you may be, you have A Long, Long Way to Go. Eight year old kids raised on TV these days seem to think the ceiling's just a bit over their heads. My Dad made me look at vast mountains with crests behind fog, lifetime of training if you'd ever have a chance to climb them. This did me a world of good.

    That same year I found copies of Willy Ley's Rockets and Space Travel, and Isaac Asimov's The Stars Like Dust in the elementary school library. Boy, I understood those! The one is cool hard facts, the other romance, between them they bracketed all my dreams for the next few years.

    When I was about ten or so I read my father's paperback of H. L. Mencken's Prejudices, Sixth Series, which taught me the proper posture for considering eminent public figures, that is, looking down and laughing. I still love his music and his Olympian attitude. About that age, I used to read my mother's Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine every month. One day on the detective-story tip, I got hold of her paperback copy of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (the cover represented it as a murder mystery, you see). Again like Newman it went right over my head. (This, now, may be the only occasion in history anyone's had reason to compare the author of Apologia pro Vita Sua and Humbert Humbert's creator.) O the depth of the riches! I understood less than half of it (by contemporary standards, for a ten-year-old I was blankly ignorant about sex, too, though a bit less so once I'd finished it), but I sure knew by page thirty "this is what really excellent writing is," so I read it again several times.

    When I was twelve or thirteen (this would be 1966 or so) I stumbled on Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers. That's one of my vividest memories, and one of the few happy ones, from that age. Every day after school I'd walk down Highland Avenue to downtown Clearwater. I had checked Vipers out from the school library and was reading it as I walked, tripping over all the out-of-level sidewalk cracks. About a quarter of the way through the book I actually yelled "yeah" out loud and jumped up in the air. It's hard to explain how good it felt, what a sense of pressure released it was, those days I had a sense that there was something grossly wrong with the world around me, or was it? it seemed I was the only one who felt that sense of pervading fucked-up-ness. Reading Vipers it clicked in, to my great relief, that no, I'm not nuts, that yes, this place is nuts.

    Back in Hi-skool Dayz, I went to a bookstore to buy a copy of one poem for a report I had to turn in in order not to flunk English. This salesman there forced me to purchase the entire Oxford Book of English Verse. It's embarrassing to confess before I read it, I thought poetry was strictly for wussies. Boy oh boy I got karmic payback right away, when as I carried it around for the next three weeks all my classmates who read the title off the spine addressed me as, "Hey fag! Hey, hey, you queer!" Ah, Happy Days!

    Other later memorable book moments: The first time I re-read Philip Dick's Martian Time-Slip. That great moment while wading through Gibbon's Decline and Fall - when I felt for the first time I had the picture of overall history big enough that all those atomic historical events could occupy a stable place and order and meaning. All those hours poring into Schaum's Outline Series Matrices, and Calculus by Ayers; Topics in Algebra, Professor I. N. Hernstein, University of Chicago; Surveying, Davis, Foote and Kelly. A cheery stroll down the beach at Treasure Island one fine day reading a collection of Arthur Schopenhauer's essays. On the lookout for stuff on the Great Depression, picking up Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation in a storefront used book shop in Palm Harbor. One night in Tallahassee standing in the ticket line at a club, killing time reading a paperback Don Quixote, when this girl comes walking up from nowhere and tells me "Oh you like that, you should go read Jorge Luis Borges." "Boor hays?" sez I? She spelled it out for me.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@ij.net

    Give me a woman that loves beer and I'll conquer the world - Kaiser Wilhelm

    Wow (none / 1) (#207)
    by jubal3 on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:01:46 AM EST

    What a well written, moving little piece of writing. I greatly enjoyed reading about your experiences. Thanks for a great comment:)

    ***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
    [ Parent ]
    Dhalgren (none / 3) (#176)
    by Meatbomb on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 04:26:59 PM EST

    I first wanted to read it as a nine year old, scouring grandpa's scifi shelf in the library. He wouldn't let me, and just as well... When I finally got my hands on it at 15 or so, the sex and epistemology were still too heavy, but I knew this was a good book.

    I'm part way through my fifth sojourn in Belonna, and I thank Samuel R Delany for taking me there. It has been one of the most meaningful places I have visited in my life.


    Good News for Liberal Democracy!

    the giver (none / 3) (#181)
    by auraslip on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 05:56:17 PM EST

    The Reciever (none / 1) (#317)
    by Death Denied on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 10:13:37 PM EST

    The Reciever

    [ Parent ]
    re: The Giver (none / 0) (#401)
    by amcox on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 04:38:10 AM EST

    No one mentioned this book yet, but it was definetly one of the most influential books on my childhood. I must have read the thing fifteen times in two or three years. It sort of got banned at my elementary school, which only increased my interest, but the hope that it had for society and people in general was what really spoke to me. Maybe it's just that I was much older when I read it, but the sequel to the Giver was a big dissapointment. The orgiinla, however, will always be one of my favorite books.

    Others include:

    Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison) - An awesome novel both in technical skill and social commentary.

    Assorted works of Ralph Waldo Emmerson - Ever since the unit on Transcedentalism in high school, his focus on nature has been comforting. And the Oversoul is probably as close to religion as I come.

    1984 - This book is absolutely necessary to understand modern politics. The parallels with what is happening today are scary, and even acknowledging that the society in the novel is an exaggeration, Big Brother's way of thinking is very much alive and influential now.

    The Stranger (Albert Camus) - While I wouldn't consider myself an existentialist, there were passages--mostly passing observations of the simple beauty of life passing by the narrator--in the book that made me try hard at times to be as focused on the moment of life as the condemned narrator was.

    Poems by Billy Collins - Collins is my favorite poet. His work is very simple, but at once playful and deep. I strive to see the beauty and find the satisfaction in everyday things that he does, and if it were to write, I could only hope that my verse flowed as smoothly as his.

    [ Parent ]
    Good list (none / 2) (#182)
    by sanketh on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:11:32 PM EST

    I liked this piece, mostly because of the descriptions of the effect of the books on you.

    The Gandhi book is - My Experiments With Truth - I admire the willpower he shows, but I don't pretty much see the point, I think.

    You should try All The King's Men - the character of Jack Burden is a delightful exercise in cynicism (and the lack of purpose in life and so on and so forth)

    == Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

    My most influencial books. (none / 2) (#184)
    by firefox on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:14:10 PM EST

    In no particular order: red/blue/green mars trilogy, K.S.Robinson Plutarchs lives, Plutarch Thus spake zarathustra, Nietzsche 1984, George Orwell LOTR books, JRR Tolkien Some Biology series of books that I read as a young kid. Dune I've read many other books of coarse, these are just the ones that stuck the most.

    barf (none / 2) (#190)
    by tkatchev on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:55:06 PM EST


    quite the shit-list here u got.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    Could you be any more (none / 0) (#248)
    by firefox on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 09:34:35 PM EST


    [ Parent ]
    no (none / 0) (#267)
    by tkatchev on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:16:21 AM EST

    i mean yes

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    quick! (none / 1) (#278)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 12:45:31 PM EST

    Summarize your impressions of Nietzsche's philosophy!
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    Kundera (none / 3) (#185)
    by city light on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:25:26 PM EST

    Slightly pretentious title I admit, but 'the unbearable lightness of being' by Milan Kundera... I first read it at 16 or 17 on the advice of some girl I had a stupid crush on at the time.. while that didn't stay with me the book did and seemed to carry new revelations about life and relationships every time I re-read it (which I have a lot of times). Kind of a growing-up book for me. Also seems to speak a lot more directly than some of his other books which I've found a little too clever-clever in their structure at times.

    Excellent choice (none / 0) (#240)
    by GenerationY on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:31:41 PM EST

    I first read it at 16 or 17 on the advice of some girl I had a stupid crush on at the time.. Same here. Presumably not the same girl though. Heh. The irony was that it basically explained to me exactly why it was such a stupid crush. And as you say, it speaks to you more as get older. I couldn't think of anything to post, but now you've reminded me, this would definitely get my vote.

    [ Parent ]
    My books ... (none / 3) (#187)
    by Vilim on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:29:44 PM EST

    Childhoods End - This book although probably the best sci fi book that I have ever read gets me really depressed each time I read it at the impotency of the human race. Our steps to Mars, and the Moon are mere glimpses of the world outside our playpen. What gets me depressed is the fact that I will most likely not live long enough to experiance interstellar flight, to be able to see the light of a star other than Sol from a reasonable distance. This was a top knotch piece of Sci Fi and shows that no matter how great the human races achievements are they still amount to little

    Enders Game - Although not a work of high level fiction I still found it to be a great book. The companion/sequel/whatever to it, Enders Shadow is a very intersting literary experiment, it tells the same story from another person. Overlapping in some places and forging a story of its own in others

    The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - I first read this in grade 7 or so and have been enthralled with it ever since. That being said it is really the only work of Fantasy which I really enjoyed. I am much more a Science Fiction person.

    1984 - The obligitory great book it fills me with a renewed sense of terror each time I reread it at the amount the world has progress to the world of 1984 in the time that passed since the last reread

    Brave New World - Still a good book in its own right however not as haunting as 1984. It makes me notice the superfluousness of our culture, one day we may end up like this (the way Hollywood is churning out movies we may wind up with "Feelies" bu late 2008 ;) )

    Cities in Flight - For the same reasons as Childhoods End this makes me really depressed. A very interesting concept though

    three books (none / 2) (#189)
    by il on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 06:51:07 PM EST

    The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    Debate in Tibetan Buddhism - Daniel Perdue
    Meditation on Emptiness - Jeffrey Hopkins

    3 Fisted Tales of Bob (2.50 / 4) (#194)
    by chupacabra on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:12:09 PM EST

    And everything else from the Church of the Subgenius.

    Too many skeletons in other peoples closets..

    Where did that baby goat go?

    Darkly Funny (none / 2) (#195)
    by gt384u on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:21:38 PM EST

    The following are my absolute favorites for their bitingly subversive and on point humor while maintaining a uniformly excellent quality of prose. If I could write like any of the following authors, I'd be a very happy man.
    • The World According To Garp - John Irving
    • American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis
    • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

    My Three (none / 3) (#196)
    by manifest void on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 08:54:05 PM EST

    -"Demian", Herman Hesse

    I just read this recently, but even at first reading was amazed to find that it neatly summed up all my thinking on the world, in much more elonquent language than I could ever have used. A beautiful tale of self-discovery on the edge of WWI, and so much more.

    -"Parable of the Sower", Octavia Butler

    Ok, so admitedly not "high literature"... :) It's the only book I've found of Butler's that was worth-while, but was amazingly beautiful, and continues to influence my daily thinking. A tale of a woman who shares other people's pain, living in a near post-apocolyptic world.

    And finally, the top book on my list...

    -"Earth Abides", George Stewart

    I first read this book about three years ago. Since then, I've read it four times, generally something I never, ever do. Written in the 1940s by a professor of English at, I believe, UC Berkeley, this is the only one of his books still in print. He was best known for his nonfiction, in books like "The Donner Party" and "Interstate 40", but has also written some fiction... I love this book mainly because I identify so strongly with the main character, an Isherwood Williams. "Ish" is a rather intellectual, nerdy type (at least for the '40s), often fearful of social interaction. The story begins when he comes back from a long stay in the wilderness studying ecology for this thesis to find that in the last three weeks, nearly all of mankind has been wiped out by a plague. The story continues through his life in this desolate world. Even when I first read this, I could picture myself making the same choices as he does in the book, for good or for bad... I strongly recomend all of these books to all of you all.
    --Her palm was split with a flower, with a flame.--

    ah, childhood books (none / 2) (#198)
    by blisspix on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 09:56:56 PM EST

    My favourite books are pretty much all from my childhood, from long days of sitting on my bunk looking out the window on some rainy day.

    As the Waltz Was Ending - The first book I read about war. Not a great book, but it struck me hard when I was 10 reading about rations, rape, and bombs.

    Alice in Wonderland - I adored this book, absolutely treasured it. My parents gave me a copy after a dancing concert I performed in, I remember the drive home from the theatre, still in my tap shoes, opening up the magical package with this book in it.

    Magic Faraway Tree - I read it over and over again. I wished the tree was real so many times!

    Little Women - Made me wish I was born in another century.

    Microserfs - Helped me to accept my inner geek, ha. I can't help but LOL when I read certain sections of this book. :)

    The Great Gasby - My dad's ex-girlfriend gave this to me for Christmas one year. She had the best taste in everything. I love this book.

    Tibetan Book of Living and Dying - I'm not big on spiritual stuff, but this book was very helpful to me when my father-in-law died. I had read it several years earlier and it stuck with me until I needed it.

    Richard Powers! (none / 2) (#199)
    by johnhollenbeck on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:12:35 PM EST

    Wonderful books here. I'll add the author Richard Powers, a master of tales encompasing technology, music, current life, etc.

    My favorite is Plowing The Dark, which is a study of the many forms virtual realities can take. I still think a lot about this tale; moving and generative.

    Am currently reading The Time of our Singing. So far its haunting enough to make me reluctant to continue. Galatea 2.2 is a romp through AI and the humanities. Gain not as good, but moving.

    Aw heck, it didn't change my life, but The Horned Man by James Lasdun is a great break from your project of reading the whole Bible.

    Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had the single biggest effect on me at that time of my live. Maybe it's time to read it again...
    -- "Stay close to your desks, never go to sea, and soon you'll be rulers of the queen's navy" - G&S

    Read ZATAOMM online (none / 3) (#200)
    by MichaelCrawford on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 10:44:44 PM EST

    A couple of people have mentioned Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance early in my career as a programmer. It helped me in many ways, both to lift me from a depression I was experiencing, and to help me enjoy my work as a programmer.

    I've been thinking I should read it again soon.

    You can read it online. I've found a couple copies of the book around the web.


    Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

    I'll second that (none / 0) (#210)
    by fleece on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 03:15:49 AM EST

    worth the read

    I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
    [ Parent ]
    Love-hate (none / 0) (#214)
    by MOblongata on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 04:46:58 AM EST

    Zen and the Art of Motorcylce Maintenance... That's a tough one... I was so irritated and pissed of at the guy's self-righteousness and patting himself on the back the whole way through... but then, I got to the end and was stunned... and glad I made it all the way through... It was some time ago that I read it... but like "2001", amazing as it was, it's something I never intend to put myself through again.
    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
    [ Parent ]
    Lately (2.75 / 4) (#201)
    by mikepence on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:13:13 PM EST

    I find myself largely in line with John Sundaman's recommendations, which is interesting because I am at least 10 years -- probably 15 -- his junior. However, I would like to focus on the books that have influenced me lately, since we all loved Agatha Christie and Peanuts back in the 70's.

    (LOTR and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are assumed. My wedding ring is white gold for a reason.)

    I am taking this list from those items that I have taken the time to rate on Amazon. I am a big fan of their recommendation engine.

    In no particular order...

    The Catcher in the Rye
    Fight Club
    Desert Solitaire
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    The Four Agreements
    Leaves of Grass
    The Future of Life
    On the Road
    On Human Nature

    Yet Another List (none / 3) (#202)
    by slashcart on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:32:02 PM EST

    My own list doesn't seem to overlap too much with the others.

    The Revolt of the Masses, Jose Ortega y Gassett. An analysis of social and political trends in the 1920's and 30's. Predicts the rise of fascism and socialism and explains the causes. Very forcefully argued.

    Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt. The title is misleading: this book is a defense of laissez-faire capitalism, written in an era when it was disbelieved. A witty, short, and entertaining read.

    The Primal Scream, Arthur Janov. This book is largely forgotten, which is regrettable since it's incredibly important. It lays out (perfectly clearly) the causes of neurosis and its sole cure. I'm quite confident this book will eventually be rediscovered.

    The Elimination of Metaphysics, Rudolph Carnap. This is actually an essay which can be found in a number of books, notably "Logical Positivism."

    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein. The greatest work in the analytic tradition in philosophy. Not obscure in the least; presents clear & definitive solutions to various confusions and problems in philosophy.

    what? (none / 2) (#280)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 12:59:33 PM EST

    You're putting Wittgenstein (the Investigations at that) and Positivism in the same post? Would you care to elucidate?
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    Sure... (none / 0) (#398)
    by slashcart on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 07:29:52 PM EST

    IMO, the positivists were not mistaken about everything, nor does PI show that they were. Positivism was correct in stating that some philosophical problems are actually problems of language; and that metaphysical problems (a la Heidegger) are examples of this. Carnap's essay was excellent as a "paradigm case" of positivism, and was excellent as an application of a philosophical method.

    Even if the positivists were not correct in assuming that all philosophical problems could be resolved with the method, nevertheless, their work is critical to an understanding of contemporary philosophy. Philosophical Investigations cannot be profitably read without having first read something about positivism.

    [ Parent ]

    Nobody mentioned (none / 3) (#203)
    by Peaker on Sat Mar 06, 2004 at 11:44:33 PM EST

    Lord of the Flies. A pretty damn good book.

    For a sense of perspective about everything. (none / 2) (#204)
    by Apuleius on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 12:20:32 AM EST

    Nicholas Monsarrat's book The Cruel Sea. It's an unpretentious account of the Battle of the Atlantic that makes every sling and arrow outrageous fortune shoots at you look like the nerf dart it really is.

    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    Book Experiences (none / 2) (#205)
    by zx4u on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 12:35:08 AM EST

    Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography is " My Experiences with Truth." Some how I think people have stopped reading books and watching movies. I personally haven't read a complete book in a long time. Some of my favorite books for reading pleasure would be: Midnights Children By Salman Rushdie and The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingslover.

    Writing is an expression of one's beliefs and prohibiting the sale of certain books is crazy. Maybe its ok to ban Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler. However, a nation issuing a "fatwa" against a writer like Rushdie for a book like Satanic Verses should be condemned.

    okay, why not (2.25 / 4) (#208)
    by livus on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:35:32 AM EST

    Here's mine, though I must add, the books that influenced me are not necessarily the books I would have wanted to influence me.

    Emmanuel Levinas Entre Nous
    Patrick White The Vivisector
    Laurence Goldstein, ed The Male Body: Features, Destinies, Exposures
    anonymous The Thousand Nights and One Night
    Michel Foucault The Order of Things
    Naomi Wolf The Beauty Myth
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward
    Giles Deleuze Coldness and Cruelty

    HIREZ substitute.
    be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
    I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
    I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
    I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

    Charybdis, I'm disturbed by your rating (none / 1) (#249)
    by livus on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 09:43:42 PM EST

    and find it confusing. Do you mean to discourage my having been influenced, to discourage the books, or discourage me from reading per se?

    HIREZ substitute.
    be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
    I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
    I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
    I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

    [ Parent ]
    I like book (2.75 / 4) (#211)
    by bankind on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 04:12:03 AM EST

    The book I think about everyday of my life:
    Pimp: the story of my life by Iceberg Slim

    International Economics by Krugman and Obstfeld
    International Money by Paul De Grauwe
    Great Debates in Economics by Richard T Gill (all the unfinished debates in economics from Malthus v. Ricardo (on business cycles) to Solow v. Galbraith (on growth)
    Globalizing Capital by Barry Eichengreen
    The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner (introduced me to Veblen).
    Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblem

    Other non-fiction
    History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (watch schools of philosophy destroyed with time)
    Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgrim
    True Believer by Eric Hoffer
    Brother Enemy by Nayan Chanda
    The Origins of the Cultural Revolution (3 vol.) by Roderick MacFarquhar
    Governing China by Kenneth Lieberthal
    China: A history by John King Fairbank, Merle Goldman
    Anything by David Chandler
    The Mongols by Jeremieh Curtain
    Huey P. Long by T Harry Williams
    The Earl of Louisiana by Abbott Liebling
    Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk
    Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Dark by Milton Osborn
    The LBJ Biographies by Robert Caro
    The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand
    Alexander of Macedon by Peter Green

    Ham on Rye, Post Office, Factotum, and Women by Charles Bukowski
    Chinese classics: Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh (aka Water Margin
    The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
    Collect works of Ho Xuan Huong
    Catch 22 by what's his face
    Confederacy of Dunces by what's his face
    Bill: the Galactic Hero and Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison

    The tentative list:
    1945 by David Marr
    The Aubrey/Maurtin series by Patrick O'Brian
    The Elusive Quest for Growth by William Easterly

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

    I'm crippled by my inability to read Chinese (none / 2) (#279)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 12:58:08 PM EST

    Can you recommend good translations for the aforementioned Chinese classics? Thanks in advance.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    I'm no expert (none / 0) (#316)
    by bankind on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 09:58:56 PM EST

    but I read the Moss Roberts Translation of Three Kingdoms, which my former Chinese history professor said was the best version--does a good bit with the one hero taking the arrow to the eye muzzle, ripping out his eye with the arrow, then eating his own eyeball to show his Confucianism.

    My copy of Outlaws of the Marsh (the better of the two) is from the PRC and I can't recall the translator, any would do (there aren't many. Just make sure it IS NOT the Pearl Buck translation and the violence is full-bore--or if Sagacious Wu (while disguised as a monk after tap dancing on some fool's dome) doesn't puke dog meat on his meditation pillow, in the first half of vol. 1, you're reading the wrong version.

    Fuck, I think I'll have to read the books yet again...

    The other 2 classics: Story of the Stone and Journey to the West are good but didn't have the impact (on me) as the other two. But the Monkey King (from Journey) is pretty fresh.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    My wee list (3.00 / 4) (#213)
    by MOblongata on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 04:34:20 AM EST

    1984 That's a good one, but will have to add Aldous Huxley's Brave New World also... the granddaddy of the dystopias.
    Peoples, Genes, and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza. A summary of all the cool genetic and linguistic research that has gone into tracing the migration of our species. Long live the Homo! Plus it's a good foundation for explaining very succinctly why all racists are jackasses.
    Apes, Language, and the Human Mind and Kanzi: An Ape on the Brink of the Human Mind both by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh... really cool stuff on primate cognition.
    The World I Live In by Helen Keller... just fascinates me--trying to grasp what that world might be like.
    Catch 22 -Joseph Heller... funny and clever.
    Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, both by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Twisted, funny, perverse..., and on that note...
    The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. And finally, one more dork one:
    The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain by Terrence W. Deacon. Lots of great stuff on neuroanatomy that linguists have uh... ignored?
    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
    Bridge to Terabithia (none / 2) (#215)
    by Delirium on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 05:27:33 AM EST

    Is a very good book.

    My influential books list (2.50 / 4) (#217)
    by The Rizz on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 05:40:03 AM EST

    Here is a short list of books I found to be influencing, and the reasons behind these choices:

    Jude the Obscure: This is a book I was made to read in a high school english class. It is widely touted as a classic of literature. Simply put, reading this book was the single most important event to making me realize that just because someone decides something's a classic, doesn't mean it's good, interesting, fun to read, or anything else of the sort. It taught me that just because someone is supposedly an expert, doesn't mean they're right. This was cemented even further when my teacher said she was "so, so sorry" for making us read it. (She had not read the book - she assigned the book only because other teachers at the school did.)

    The Sandman series of graphic novels, by Neil Gaiman: Oddly enough, I was introduced to this series by the pastor at my church. An excellent series all-around, this made me realize that graphic novels can be so much more than just superheros. If you have not read this series, you definitely should: it is one of the best pieces of fantasy written in the last century (rivaling Tolkien, IMHO).

    V for Vendetta by Alan Moore: Another graphic novel, this time a post-WWIII look at a dystopian, big-brother fascist England. Filled with social and political commentary, this book was very influential in the formation of my current political ideology.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein: Another good social/political book, this one also was important in forming the way I look at politics.

    There any many more novels that had more minor effects on my life, such as some books starting reading trends for me (such as The Sandman, Book of Dreams causing me to get into reading short stories, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy compelling me to start reading scifi). I have not listed them all here, as that would be a very long list, indeed.

    --The Rizz

    "Everything is true. Everything anybody has ever thought." --Philip K. Dick

    -1 Philistine (none / 0) (#234)
    by r0b on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 04:29:11 PM EST

    I think you'll find Jude The Obscure is rightly classed as "a classic". To dispute Hardy's genius only brings shame upon you. SHAME.
    ..........and he did.
    [ Parent ]
    V for vendetta (none / 0) (#347)
    by pik on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 05:18:13 PM EST

    is trully amazing. Have you read "Watchmen"? Is fantastic as well. Alan Moore is a genius.

    [ Parent ]
    My favorite books are... (none / 2) (#218)
    by Lockle on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 06:55:05 AM EST

    Bridge to Terabithia - This book meant a lot to me and still does.

    The Little Prince also taught me a lot about the nature of adults and why I should try to be a child forever.

    Of course, Enders Game was important too.

    Those are the only books that come to the top of my head when I am asked the question.

    my top 3 (none / 2) (#219)
    by pakje on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:01:03 AM EST

    - Atlas shrugged by Ayn Rand
    Not that I agree with ayn rands thoughts, but it did change my view on the world a lot.

    - Calculus, early transcendentals
    It really learns you to create mathematical equations on real life situations, if you like it or not.

    - The world according to Sophie
    It's written for girls I think, but still, the first book which really got my attention on the history of philosophy.

    The World According To.... (none / 1) (#233)
    by aude sapere on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 03:51:36 PM EST

    We actually had this book as our text for an intro to philosophy class. The book was great, the class sucked. It was an intro class taught by a professor with 4 doctorates. He was clueless as to how to approach a beginning class. Good thing the book was interesting.

    [ Parent ]
    Only one (none / 2) (#221)
    by Journeyman on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:28:59 AM EST

    "Gödel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas R. Hofstadter

    short list (none / 2) (#223)
    by kalin on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:44:04 AM EST

    I just know I'm going to leave something out but here is a quick intoxicated list before I go to bed.  The stuff that I can see from my desk is probably going to be privileged over that which is boxed somewhere.

    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - The LoC did a polla  few years back where people rated this the second most influential book in America after the bible.  No apologies from me on this one, it simply inspires you to get out and get shit done.

    The Real Frank Zappa by Frank Zappa - Fatanstic autobiography by one fo the great artists of the 20th century.  His rise to fame and glory is great as are the last few chapters detailing his views on economics, censorship, art, and life.  A great read in High School.

    The Future and its Enemies by Virginia Postrel - Former editor of Reason and current NYT columnist this recent but classic book tosses aside the false left-right dichotomy in favour of stasist vs dynamist.  A refreshing reorientation and a great base for a liberty-oriented decentralized political philosophy.

    Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski - I was reading about Scientology around the time of the original USENET scandal and read that L. Ron Hubbard had bastardized and ripped off loads of the interesting aspects of Dianetics from this book.  A subsequent  BA in Linguistics years later lead me back to this book and I wrote my honors thesis on it.  Dense and outdated in its science, I still find it unsurpassed as a guide to more rational thought.

    The Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison - I don't know if all of this has been republished as graphic novels but I happened into a collection of it in a $0.25 bin.  The first great surreal comic book.  Still most of Grant Morrison's best work.

    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - After randomly finding Breakfast of Champions in high school I soon moved on to what i consider to be Vonnegut's perfect novel.  No damn cat, and no damn cradle.

    The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin - This book had awful editing and even worse pictures.  All the same Poliquin taught me that going to the gym and planning workouts could be mentally stimulating and that being smart about it reaped big rewards.  I hadn't read a bodybuilding book previously that came with so much practical information and insight.

    The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto - Why had Capitalism failed in the third world?  Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto introduced the notion that previous attempts to institute free markets had failed because there was too much focus placed on big picture items such as fiscal and monetary policy while ignoring the fact that most of the economy and property rights were informal and extra-legal.  A recognition that widespread and centralized property title took hundreds of years to develop in the West.

    The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S Raymond - A lot of people like to diss ESR, but when all this Linux stuff was starting to make noise he provided a nice roadmap for someone trying to figure out how all this free software got made and fit together.  The essay's in the book get better as he gets more serious about it, and the Magic Cauldron at then end which examines the economics of open source has a part that so concisely explains why OSS is inevitable.  Inspiring enough to have me now running Debian as my primary Desktop OS for the last 5 years.

    Piles more; these are off the top of my head.  This list is long enough though.

    5 years? (none / 1) (#229)
    by Richey on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:19:05 PM EST

    Inspiring enough to have me now running Debian as my primary Desktop OS for the last 5 years.

    Didn't TCATB come out in 2000?

    [ Parent ]

    1997 (none / 0) (#232)
    by Garc on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 03:16:55 PM EST

    Here is the history of the book on ESR's homepage. It was an online book before it was released by O'Reilly.

    Tomorrow is going to be wonderful because tonight I do not understand anything. -- Niels Bohr
    [ Parent ]
    Well, I was muddling a long for a while too (none / 0) (#333)
    by kalin on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 05:20:26 AM EST

    As the other reply pointed out the online version of the talk was available long before O'Reilly optioned the book rights.  Recall that catb was responsible for inspiring the creation of mozilla, which celebrated its 5 year anniversary last fall.

    Though it was also a case of muddling along for some time without a compass--mostly for the fun of it.  Realizing something exciting was going on, but not quite beginning to grasp it all quite yet.  The FSF writings on the subject were inspiring when I was first finding my way around, but a little too unnuanced for my taste.

    [ Parent ]

    Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" (3.00 / 7) (#224)
    by cpghost on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 10:42:53 AM EST

    One the books that influenced my way of thinking more than any other was Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority. Stanley's experiment explains nicely the mechanisms of totalitarian regimes, and why people get to torture political opponents, mainly because "they were ordered to do so" by a higher authority.

    Stanley's experiment doesn't apply merely to torture camps though. In our day to day life, we often do despectable things to others, things we would never have dreamt of by ourselves. We do them, because our boss, police, courts or "the society" is expecting it. Very few people have the courage to stand up against authority, and bail out of the mainstream.

    Truly, a remarkable book.

    cpghost at Cordula's Web
    My List (none / 3) (#225)
    by invis on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 01:16:36 PM EST

    Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse, about independent thought.
    100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The entire history of humanity in a novel.
    The Wretched of the Earth (the Appendix) - Frantz Fanon
    Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx
    ABC of Anarchism - Alexander Berkmann
    Foucault -- just the gist of his work.

    Others previously mentioned: 1984, Crime and Punishment, Borges, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche)

    Books others mentioned that I've read and DIDN'T find influential/interesting: The Bible, Huckleberry Finn, The Hobbit/LOTR, Plato's Republic, No Exit, Cat's Cradle, The Catcher in the Rye

    Sorry for so many negatives mentioned, but I think it's important to understand that the amount of truly influential books is small, and is different for each person. A lot of the "classics" in my opinion are crap or irrelevant -- again, this does and should vary by person.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez summarizes what I'm trying to say best: "I learned and never forgot that we should only read those books that FORCE US to reread them."

    My Reponse to Your Philosophical End (none / 0) (#294)
    by virg on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:54:39 PM EST

    > Gabriel Garcia Marquez summarizes what I'm trying to say best: "I learned and never forgot that we should only read those books that FORCE US to reread them."

    This does beg the question of how one would ever find such books. "Only read stuff worth rereading"? Go figure. I guess you don't read much.

    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    okay... (none / 3) (#226)
    by Wain on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 01:23:56 PM EST

    "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and "Flow my tears, the Policeman said" - Philip K. Dick

    "Beyond Good and Evil" - Neitzsche

    "Neuromancer" - William Gibson

    "House of Leaves" - Mark Z. Danielewski

    "and the Ass saw the Angel" - Nick Cave

    My own additions (3.00 / 4) (#231)
    by DaChesserCat on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:55:08 PM EST

    What else could I add to this list, which hasn't been added before?

    I tend to look forward to a world where the things we currently describe as paranormal are "normal." Consequently, I love reading books by Anne McCaffrey. While some of her novels are just plain fantasy, some of them are an interesting mix of fantasy and Sci-Fi. For example, The Ship Who Sang provides an example of how technology could allow someone who is otherwise ill equipped to deal with our modern society, an opportunity to do so. IIRC, she was dealing with a father or other close relative who was dying from Lou Gehrig's Disease when she wrote this. This caused me to see possible roles for technology in a completely different light.

    Another earth-shaker in this category was Beyond Biofeedback. This one is definitely non-fiction, and it is NOT light reading. As mentioned, I've always had a fascination for the paranormal, and this book was one of the first scientific investigations of certain paranormal phenomena. Among other things, they used EEG machines to investigate possible ESP phenomena. The put someone who claimed to be able to move things with his mind in a controlled environment and put him to the test. For me, it was an exporation of just what we DON'T know about the human mind, a glimpse into what might actually be possible (given the right amount of research) and a validation of the fact that such paranormal things truly can exist.

    Yes, I've read Neuromancer, Burning Chrome, Count Zero, The Differnce Engine, Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. I particularly like the Snow Crash idea of creating a language-based "virus" which could crash a human mind. The technology in all of these books is intriguing, but none of them really inspired a mindf**k.

    1984 and Brave New World were both mindf**k books, although I really didn't grasp the full impact of 1984 until I was in my 20's (I read it in high school, but privacy and manipulation wasn't such a big deal to me, at the time).

    Last, but not least, Critical Path by R. Buckminster Fuller. More than a few reviewers have stated this book gets overly technical, and shouldn't be an introduction to the legendary thinker. Well, I tend to be overly technical, so it was perfect for me. This book was a definite mindf**k, in terms of
    • the way we do things, "because that's how it's done"
    • the fact that these things can often be improved on, drastically
    The book is largely biographical, but covers many of his ideas, which are mind-blowing (but COMPLETELY logical and practical) when you really think about them.

    References to Amazon are NOT to be considered an endorsement of them. At one time, I'd have referenced the Library of Congress for such things, but their website isn't what is used to be. For now, Amazon's website seems to be a decent reference when it comes to books. Get 'em from the local library, borrow 'em from friends, buy 'em from wherever you want.

    Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
    A Short list (none / 3) (#235)
    by njmc on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 06:21:58 PM EST

    The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins - for answering the question 'Why are we here?'.

    Three Men and a Boat (To say nothing of the dog) - by Jerome K. Jerome for introducing me to the joys of idling.

    Critical Path by R.Buckminster Fuller - for provoking thought.

    number9dream by David Mitchell - for simply being superb.

    some of those already mentioned... (none / 3) (#236)
    by keelerbeez on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 06:43:38 PM EST

    ...and one i feel is important enough to add: The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? How can you expect a man who's warm to understand one who's cold?

    GAT d? s++:+ a- C++++$ UBS*++++$ P--- L+>++ E--- W- !N !o !K w+++(---)$ M+ PS+++ PE(--) Y+ PGP t++@ 5++ X+ R* tv(+) b+++ DI++ !G !e h* r*% y++++**
    ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
    Just one out of many (none / 3) (#238)
    by phnk on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:09:48 PM EST

    If I had to recommend just one book out of the huge list of books which have influenced my life one way or the other, I'd choose the following one : The Second World War, by Anthony Kemp (French edition: Gallimard coll. Découvertes). This book is not a novel. It is the work of a historian about something that I have not lived (I'm 20) and hence, which I can only imagine. As a fiction. History is the longest book, may I humbly recommend those Kemp pages to anyone here who lives in France (costs 12€). I hope there's an English edition.

    A few more (none / 2) (#242)
    by GenerationY on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 07:47:46 PM EST

    I must confess that the books that have influenced me aren't necessarily the best books I've read.

    A case in point is:
    The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (Robert Tressel, 1914).

    I can't really defend the style and I'm not sure I agree with it as much as I used to, but it was an eye-opener for me at the time. Tony Benn called it "a light that should be handed down from generation to generation". But then, he would...

    Just for the sake of curiosity, any US readers heard of it? Or was it last seen on a bonfire around the time of McCarthyism?

    Link (none / 0) (#243)
    by GenerationY on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 08:00:22 PM EST

    Just found this:
    The original manuscript.

    http://www.unionhistory.info/ragged/browse.php?Page=1&Book=The+Ragged+Trouse red+Philanthropists

    [ Parent ]

    Oooh, and if I can add a comic book... (none / 2) (#244)
    by MOblongata on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 08:23:57 PM EST

    Eightball Comics by Daniel Clowes... especially the "Like an Iron Glove Cast in Velvet" story... Just my kinda wierd, I guess.
    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
    I've seen this mentioned before, (none / 3) (#245)
    by bunsen on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 08:36:14 PM EST

    But "A Brief History of Time" has had a more significant effect on my life than anything else I've read. Not because it changed the way I think (though it did help me figure out how to visualize spaces with N>3 dimensions), but because it got me interested in physics. After reading that, I went and found some other books on the topic - I can remember "In Search of the Big Bang" by John Gribbin and "Relativity: The Special and General Theories" by Albert Einstein being important. I've been a complete physics geek ever since, and I'm now starting in on a Ph.D. (no research yet - just classes and TA work (damned undergrads)).

    So as I spend tonight grading piles of intro physics homework, and tomorrow cramming for an electrodynamics midterm, I can curse^Wthank^Wcurse Dr. Hawking the whole time.

    Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)

    For everyone that likes Vonnegut (none / 3) (#250)
    by fsh on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 10:43:20 PM EST

    I see a lot of people recommending Vonnegut,
    but only one reference to Italo Calvino.

    So here's a quick list from an incredibly well written author (especially if you read Italian, although all are available in English):

    Italo Calvino:
    If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
    The Cloven Viscount


    Joseph Campbell & Robert Graves (none / 2) (#251)
    by fsh on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:00:22 PM EST

    Joseph Campbell is an incredible author for anyone interested in mythology of any flavor. A great intro to Campbell is The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which discusses the similarity of the hero in mythology from all cultures; a truly important work.

    Robert Graves' works the The Greek Myths and The White Goddess are simply profound. The first traces the roots of Greek myhtology through the skein of time. It has a reading of a particular myth, with a breakdown of historical notes following; often the notes are longer than the myth.

    The White Goddess is a profound mix of many things, including a foray into pre-historic mythology as well as late Druidic/Bardic poetic encryption.


    The Bible (none / 3) (#253)
    by fsh on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:09:17 PM EST

    Totally agree, despite a little disparagement in the comments I've read, for no other reason than that a great deal of incredibly important literature is heavily influenced, if not flat out based, on The Bible, specifically New Testament.


    Rand (none / 2) (#254)
    by santosdouglas on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:19:32 PM EST

    It's already been mentioned a number of times, but Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is still the most influential book for me. It truly is a master work, integrating an intruiging story with a complete philosophical system. I find many comments about how 'it contains many nice ideals, but aren't practical in reality' comments amusing, considering how well it worked in America up until the early 1900's. Even I once felt like many others that her story, while interesting, often felt like a sort of capitalist parable - particularly her government officials and their programs seemed almost cartoonish (The Anti Dog Eat Dog law for example). Then recently I read Jim Powell's excellent FDR's Folley: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. I almost felt like I was rereading whole sections of Atlas Shrugged. To read about how FDR and his stacked Surpreme Court essentially rewrote the constitution to further his socialist beliefs is truly infuriating. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the roots of our current overgrown government.

    A Review of Atlas Shrugged. (none / 0) (#269)
    by GuillaumeLeblanc on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:55:41 AM EST

    This is a review of Atlas Shrugged by the estimable and apparently indefatiguable reviewer Rob Slade.

    I used to write and argue about Atlas Shrugged, about it's wretched and tedious prose style, and about the woodenness of its characters. Even Ed Wood could create more lifelike people. You expect them to fall over, and to see that they are just painted on to cardboard boxes originally used to ship refrigerators. But Slade does a much better job than I ever did. Go read it, it's worth it.

    Then read the Non-Libertarian FAQ.

    Codex gratia Codici.
    [ Parent ]

    On FDR's folly (none / 0) (#378)
    by hugues on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 10:33:34 PM EST

    I haven't read this book unfortunately, it sounds interesting, if only because there are always two sides of a story. FDR is considered by many as the finest US president of the 20th century, but what did he do wrong? Probably much, as any person in his position would.

    However I do not think it is fair to judge a person with 50 years of hindsight and be appalled at what he did wrong. The fact is under FDR the US eventually got over the recession, eschewed fascism which was rampant almost everywhere else in the world, won WWII, emerged as a superpower and got on track to become what it is now. None of those are exactly trivial achievements, and it is not clear to me that anybody in FDR's position, knowing only what he did know himself at the time, would have done any better. Certainly at the time there were no contender, so there you go.

    For example people always rail about FDR's lack of trust in his own people, they accuse him with some reason of deceiving the US people to enter WW-II. Some people even contend that he knew of the Pearl Harbor attack beforehand, but chose to sacrifice a few "unimportant" ships (and sailors!) in return for a consensus for entering war. Even if this is true, you have to remember that at the time the majority of people in the US wanted no part in this European war. The "America First" movement was the big thing, with people like Charles Lindbergh lending their powerful voice for peace, a deal with Hitler, etc. Exactly what the European governments had been doing to their utmost detriment.

    A lot of US people don't want to be reminded of this bit of history because they are fond of reminding the British, French and all the others how they "saved them from fascism", how their courageous, decisive action saved everybody, etc.

    The fact is the US entered WW-II in 1941 largely as a result of FDR desperately wanting to enter it, not as the result of wanting to save European democracies (that would have been an acceptable side effect, nothing more), but as a matter of control. If the US had not done so, it is not unlikely that Russia would have eventually won over Germany, and that the whole of Europe would be speaking Russian now. Alternatively, a warlike, Germany-controlled Europe was not exactly an ideal partner for the US either.

    The least you can say is that FDR saw that, that it was not the majority opinion in the US then, but that he managed to turn it around for the better. Compared to that, maybe he did some wrong things with the economy or even disastrous things, I don't know, but it is still small beer.

    Maybe in 50 years time we will have a look at what JFK, Reagan, GWB or whoever is your favourite president is, if any, and find similar flaws and errors. Hopefully Reagan will still be credited with helping dealing the Soviet Union a crucial blow.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    [ Parent ]

    it certainly is (none / 2) (#256)
    by myrspace on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:19:28 AM EST

    Alex and Jane - the first book I could ever read by myself. Enid Blyton books and Nancy Drew ones - reigned my childhood and kept me interested in reading. Alfred Hitchcock's The Green Ghost - my first horror story. I had to sum courage to read it The Golden Fleece - taught me greek mythology and the one main reason why I fell in love with fantasy and strayed from fiction there on. The Lord of the Flies - showed me the concept of human survival and the first book to ever portray voilence so vividly in mine eyes. I actually felt sick after finishing the book. Salvatore's Exile (of Dark Elf Triology, which followed with Sojourn. Have yet to get hold of Menzo) - Actually revamped my writing style to Salvatore's more dramatic and short clauses. Piers Anthony, The Color Of Her Panties - the first book I ever read that taught me to think in the non-conformist way. that, and introduced to me the concept of naked women strutting around with half-horses and young nymphic girls. Dune series - Completely changed the way I think, see and feel. Life altering book. Do not consume Dune during puberty. Robot City Book 1 - The first book to ever pull me deeply into the world it etched as though I were in the shoes of the main character myself. Also, painfully agonizing when I realized there was a second book to conclude the story, and I could not find it. Anywhere. IF you have info on this, please provide. I cannot thank you enough Asimov's Foundation series - which makes one of the far and few books to ever have the most endearing experience ever, and still conclude in the most satisfying way. Few stories have ever started out great, stayed chock full of content and goodness, before ending like you've just had a climax after some hot loving. Taught me what quality really was. Terry Pratchets books most of them - Showed me that you don't need to follow a proper format to write. Drivel it like the old folks do and you can still make fantastically funny stories. The Harry Potters - the 2nd book to ever draw me so deeply into the story after Robot City, and relighting the sparks of my burnt out imagination.

    this is the reason why u should always preview(nt) (none / 0) (#257)
    by myrspace on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:23:50 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    Robot City, Book 2... (none / 0) (#336)
    by bigchris on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:17:15 AM EST

    Is this what you're looking for??

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
    [ Parent ]
    omg i cannot thank you enough sir! THANK YOU (nt) (none / 0) (#354)
    by myrspace on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 09:51:37 PM EST

    [ Parent ]
    Wow. I suddenly love everybody here. I'm stunned. (none / 2) (#258)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:40:47 AM EST

    Each book we share is a common piece of mind, and yet look how different we all are! This is really cool.

    The wise old grandmother of a friend of mine would tell small children. . , "Go run and look at the Ocean. Count all the waves from the shore all the way to the horizon, and come back to tell me how many."

    This was of course impossible; waves are countless, constantly moving, stretching back for hundreds of miles. Grandmother would lean back and laugh.

    "Yes. Yes! And that is how many different perspectives there are in the world. That is how many ways of seeing the same things!"

    My list by semantic grouping. . .

    -The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by The Man.
    -The Color of Magic Terry Pratchet

    -Black Holes and Warped Spacetime by some very compelling science guy
    -National Geographic 1986-1990
    -The Bible.
    (for the same reasons as stated in the article)
    -Tales of Power
    by Carlos Castaneda. "How 'magic' works."
    -UFOs and the National Security State
    Richard M. Dolan
    -Cross Currents
    Robert O. Becker
    -Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes
    Theodora Lau

    -War & Peace Leo Tolstoy
    -Mutiny on the Bounty
    -The Three Musketeers
    Alexandre Dumas
    -Don Quixote
    -The Odyssey
    Homer. -I was STUNNED at how exciting and accessible this book was!
    -Sherlock Holmes
    "The Final Problem" (the single Moriarty story Conan Doyle wrote. Only 12 pages long, was one of the most mind-blowing stories I have ever, ever read.)

    -Peanuts Charles Schulz
    -Calvin & Hobbes
    Bill Waterson.
    Dave Sim. "The earlier, funnier ones."
    Hayo Miyazaki -This comic series drove me mad! Neck hairs stood on end.
    Masemune Shirow
    -Thieves & Kings
    Mark Oakley
    -Secret Wars
    "Coolest Marvel comics story EVER!"
    -X-Men, Death of Phoenix
    ten issues of Claremont and Byrne

    -Dandelion Wine Ray Bradbury
    Stephen King. --Yeah, a badly written book; but when I was 18, it still blew me away.
    -A Prayer for Owen Meany
    John Irving (weirdly linked to "IT". Irving and King fed off each other!)

    -Choose Your Own Adventure, "Cave of Time"
    -The Narnia series
    C.S. Lewis
    -The Black Cauldron series
    -Lloyd Alexander
    -The Belgariad
    -David Eddings
    -Dragon Drums, Dragon Song, Dragon Singer
    Anne Mccaffrey

    And guess what?

    -The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever The first 'Adult' pulp fantasy series I ever read.

    You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a man by his books.


    My list (none / 2) (#261)
    by yokomo on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:08:40 AM EST

    In no particular order:
    See a Grown Man Die/ Now Watch Him Die by Henry Rollins
    The Right Man For The Job by Mike Magnuson
    Hamlet by Billy-Bob Shakespeare (not sure if plays count)
    Into The Great Wide Open by Kevin Canty
    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
    Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
    Niebla and San Manuel Bueno, mártir by Miguel de Unamuno
    Surely Mr. Feynman, You Must Be Joking by Richard P Feynman
    Black Summer by Henry Miller
    The Ronin by William Dale Jennings
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
    The Hacker Ethic by Pekka Himanem

    Niebla (none / 0) (#348)
    by pik on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 05:20:44 PM EST

    I read it long ago but I think I quite liked it. Unamuno was trully a postmodern genius, and he was from my city, Bilbao!Where did you get the book? I feel curious now :-)

    [ Parent ]
    Where I "found" niebla (none / 0) (#361)
    by yokomo on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 03:21:33 PM EST

    I got it when I had an assignment to read San Manuel Bueno, Mártir. I liked the short story very much and was persuaded by my teacher to try niebla. I read it at a time in my life when I was meeting all the wrong girls (still am) and wanted to talk to whoever was writing the story of my life so I could tell him/her I quit!

    [ Parent ]
    Books that have had some or profound influence (3.00 / 4) (#262)
    by dbronaugh on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:19:57 AM EST

    The following books I have found particularly influential/interesting:

     - Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: great fun with Christianity
     - Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger: One of the better, and more powerful, stories I have ever read
     - Mark Twain, Pudd'n Head Wilson: A favourite; a book about an outcast. An outcast reading about another outcast feels a sense of belonging... how strange
     - Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang: Definitely one of the most influential books I have read. I read it for the first time when I was about sixteen; I've probably read it 20 times since then. What a book.
     - Tao Teh Ching: My current work-in-progress. Many insightful things
     - Thor Heyerdal, Kon-Tiki/The Ra Expeditions/Fatu-Hiva/Aku-Aku etc: I don't know if he's right in his science or not, but in my opinion these are some of the better (true) adventure stories ever written. I love them.
     - Michael Chrichton, all his books: A crappy writer with good ideas. It's a shame he can't write better.
     - Herge, Tintin: Yes, fine friend way up in the comments, you aren't the only one to be influenced by Tintin :) I particularly enjoy "The Calculus Affair" (note lack of past tense)
     - Kurt Vonnegut jr, many books: Influential on me at a fairly early age. Smacked some good ole cynicism into me.
     - James Herriot, many books: Plays to my animal-loving side... many a time has warmed my heart or made me laugh uproariously with his stories. Influential? Most certainly -- as a view into one possible outcome of life... a road down which one could travel
     - Forevermore -- A History of Nuclear Waste in America: Opened my eyes to the gross abuses of the nuclear industry. The sad thing is that they pale in proportion to the combined abuses of other industries...
     - James Clavell, King Rat: Very influential earlier on in my life. Put money, power, and influence into sharp perspective; they only matter within your tiny domain.

    That's what I can think of right now... I know I've listed some things others haven't at least.

    David Bronaugh

    Thor Heyerdal wasn't right (none / 0) (#328)
    by kaffiene on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:10:22 AM EST

    Genetics show that Polynesians came out of Asia, not South America (it is a good story thou, as you said)

    [ Parent ]
    One missed (none / 3) (#263)
    by Unfocused on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:34:21 AM EST

    Nice to see a few works from Harry Harrison in the list.
    As well as Dune, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc...

    However, I don't see "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (by Richard Bach, I think) mentioned anywhere. A short, inspirational piece that I've never had trouble rereading over again. Freely avaliable online also, with a little searching.
    Don't lick something unless you really mean it.

    Seagulls. . . (none / 0) (#295)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 05:52:56 PM EST

    However, I don't see "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (by Richard Bach, I think) mentioned anywhere.

    Came close to mentioning that one, but I read it at a point where none of it was news to me. 'Influential' is a bit of a filter, I guess.

    My 'On-Ramp' (via literature) was Castaneda, and a bit of Dan Millman. Richard Bach was a stepping stone I missed.


    [ Parent ]

    Right. Also, forgot 'Siddhartha' (none / 0) (#297)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:00:04 PM EST

    Hermann Hesse was a solid guy as well. There are a number of good 'on-ramps'.


    [ Parent ]

    Harry Harrison, great writer (none / 0) (#335)
    by bigchris on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:11:31 AM EST

    I was considering putting the Stainless Steel Rat series into my list (see my post below), but I can't actually say that it influenced my life that much. I just enjoyed it thoroughly - not too much thinking and I found it funny, not to mention a rollicking good yarn!

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
    [ Parent ]
    A Spontaneous List (3.00 / 7) (#265)
    by fluxion on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 05:11:04 AM EST

    OK. This is just off the top of my head. No order. Probably will miss some of my all time favourites as well. Just consider this as a list of books that had a deep influence at the time I read them, they may or may not be genuinely great books.

    • The Star Maker -- by Olaf Stapledon: this is in my opinion the best science fiction story (errr it isnt really a novel) ever written. Personal bias here probably. The sort of book that if you are depressed or whatever, just pick it up and open it at any page and it restores something deep inside you.
    • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu -- various translations ... the more the better. and ..
    • The I Ching by anonymous. This has had a profound effect on me. Here is a book that seems to evoke something in the reader/user that feels like you are dealing with an AI agent. Which prompts the question ... how on Earth was it written?
    • The Epic of Gilgamesh A strangely engaging story from 5,000 years ago that is universal even while realising this describes a world that almost alien. And...
    • The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The first decent analysis of a major war around 2,500 years ago between Athens and Sparta. The story seems particularly modern with modern lessons about war and its unpredictable nature and the nature of human frailty. It also taught me that the Middle East isn't going to change, because it was always like the way it is now.
    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. An interesting exploration of philosophical ideas and their history in an intriguing context.
    • Dune by Frank Herbert. An amazing book I happened to read at a critical age at a critical time. Life changing. Not so the sequels.
    • Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. An intellectual adventure and obstacle course that will leave you stronger and refreshed, and with the opinion that you have actually learned something important ... but not knowing quite what.
    • Chthon by Piers Anthony. Yeah, I know you're thinking of Xanth. But this is something very different. Strange and intense.
    • Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin.
    • Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Taught me that other civilisations may have motivations that are beyond our experience. Others here have said it is depressing. I find it both sad and uplifting. Sad for the Overlords, and uplifting for humanity ... but it could easily be the other way around for other people.
    • The Psychology of Computer Programming by ???. I don't remember the author of this but this book written about 20 years ago introduced me to the idea of 'egoless programming' which finds its current expression in concepts like code reviews and some parts of extreme programming. Very insightful.
    • The Critique of Pure Reason by Kant. A clear insight into reason, and a glimpse of the origin of the modern mind.
    • Classical Electrodynamics Jackson. A beautiful combination of physics and mathematics. Perhaps I should also add in here Crawford's Waves. Maybe it was just the time I read these.
    • Bhagavad Gita The excerpt from the Mahabharatta about the dialog between Arjuna and Krishna about the use of yoga and meditation and transcendence.
    • In the Ocean of Night by Gregory Benford
    • On Growth and Form by Darcy Thompson. Classic work on the relationship between mathematics and biology.

    And lots and lots of others. This is a random selection. I can think of others I could swap in, but I'm sure other readers feel the same about their lists too.

    Psychology of Computer Programming (none / 0) (#339)
    by c4miles on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 08:44:07 AM EST

    Was written by Gerald M Weinberg. Now a 'Silver Anniversary' edition updated with the author's comments after 25 years of programming. Still an excellent read, but now with added relevance!
    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
    [ Parent ]
    Thucydides (none / 0) (#416)
    by treefrog on Fri Mar 26, 2004 at 08:50:42 AM EST

    Completely agree.

    The chapter on The Revolt at Corcyra is one of the most incisive analyses I have ever read, albeit one of the most depressing....2500 years later and we havn't moved on

    regards, treeforg

    Twin fin swallowtail fish. You don't see many of those these days - rare as gold dust Customs officer to Treefrog
    [ Parent ]

    biography of Mohandas Gandhi (none / 2) (#268)
    by makash on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:34:46 AM EST

    If you mean the auto biography of M K Gandhi, its My Experiments with truth.

    Umberto Eco (none / 2) (#273)
    by chalito on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:18:19 AM EST

    I'd like to add a couple of titles: * The name of the rose (Umberto Eco) * Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco) * Death (Neil Gaiman) * The Death Gate Cycle (Weiss & Hickman)
    my list,... (none / 2) (#274)
    by jforan on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:53:51 AM EST

    Introduction to the Theory of Computation , Michael Sipser
    This stuff is taught as a grad class where I went to school. I think it should be an introductory course. Computer science would have been so much more straight forward had I learned this first.

    1984, George Orwell

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Douglas R. Hofstadler
    Metamagical themas was just as good and important as GEB.

    The Great Brain (series), John D. Fitzgerald
    It can be cool to be smart.

    Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus
    Helped put me into my period of doubt and dreary in high school.

    The Crystal Shard, (and multi-series) R. A. Salvatore
    Got me out of my period of doubt and dreary in high school. Lifts me up any time I read them. Especially the Dark Elf trilogy.

    I am sure there are others, but I have to do some work now.


    I hops to be barley workin'.
    The Selfish Gene (none / 3) (#275)
    by Sloppy on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:55:02 AM EST

    The book that most changed how I look at things is "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. Once you get it, almost every animal behavior in life, including most human behavior, becomes less mysterious. Many apparent complexities of even society itself, are suddenly exposed.

    (While there are, of course, many books that I have enjoyed, I think it's really strange that some people are listing books such as "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett, Tolkein stuff, or Star Trek "technical manuals". If these types of books changed how you see the world, you either came from or more likely, went to a truly weird place.)
    "RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."

    Influence is More Subtle Than Change (none / 1) (#293)
    by virg on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 04:20:13 PM EST

    > While there are, of course, many books that I have enjoyed, I think it's really strange that some people are listing books such as "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett, Tolkein stuff, or Star Trek "technical manuals".

    Influence can be a subtle thing. In my case, I mentioned The Lord of the Rings not because it changed the way I viewed the world, but because it introduced me to a style of storytelling and a genre with which I was unfamiliar until then. It didn't change my thinking fundamentally, but it did raise my expectations for literature a few notches, and suddenly all of the stories written for tweenies just didn't measure up any more. At that point, I began actively looking for more mature stories, which in its turn allowed me to find and appreciate authors I hadn't been driven to read when Encyclopedia Brown was my thing.

    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Mind expanders (none / 1) (#276)
    by p944 on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 12:09:38 PM EST

    Many of the above mentioned, but a couple that noone seems to have got yet that I think have some of the biggest SF ideas I've ever come across in them.

    A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge : Amazingly complex and far reaching ideas.
    Also check out A Deepness in the Sky and Across Realtime, same author.

    Vurt - Jeff Noon : Very psycadelic, makes you feel like you're on acid (not that I'd know).

    Otherwise, I think it's all been said already.


    This sig deliberately left blank.

    A few of mine (none / 3) (#277)
    by clasher on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 12:17:40 PM EST

    Ender's Game (& series): by Orson Scott Card. Not so much because I though I could relate to Ender as an underestimated child, but for it's ideas on war, love, and domesticity.

    Orthodoxy: G. K. Chesterton's argument for orthodox Catholicism and against various modern philosophies. A must read for those who assume they understand the catholic church enough to reject it.

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: by Douglas Adams. Always a good boook to go to for a laugh.

    In the Beginning Was the Command Line: By Neal Stephenson.  A great book of analogies for understanding the philosophical differences between a command line interface and graphical user interfaces.

    Kahil Gibran!! (none / 1) (#283)
    by lemonhead on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:06:03 PM EST

    I can't believe no one has mentioned Kahil Gibran. His little book The Prophet is beautiful and had a profound effect on how I view life.

    Another wonderful short book from the east is the Rubayait of Omar Khayyam (online at: http://classics.mit.edu/Khayyam/rubaiyat.html)

    The first half of the book No More Prisons by William Upski Wimsatt is also a real eye opener with regards to social change and attitudes.

    Influential Books (none / 1) (#285)
    by thoennes on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 01:24:37 PM EST

    Hardy Boys Series (orignal) - my mom used to read chapters to my brother and I when I was 4 years old.  If we were good, she read us 2 chapters.  This was my motivator to learn to read since I didn't want to have to be "good" to enjoy stories.  By the time I was 5 I had read all of the hardy boys, nancy drew, and nearly everything in our schools library.  Montessori school helps.  Later I liked "The Three Investigators" better

    The Hobbit. - 4th grade.  My first exposure to fantasy as literature.  Within a couple of years, I had read all of Tolkiens books.  Took 3 tries for the Silmarillion.

    Jonathan Livingston Seagull. - 9th grade. First exposure to "alternative" philosophies.  Read it between two classes.  "Illusions" came a day later.  Illusions is my favorite happy book.

    Godel Escher Bach.  10th grade.  I had a cool Honors Chemistry teacher.  Anyone who's read it knows.

    Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.  Same year, same prof.  Best funny book every written.  Always makes me feel that the universe is one crazy fun place and I'm stuck in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable spiral arm of the milky way galaxy.  Douglass Adams will be missed...

    Carl (none / 1) (#287)
    by davros4269 on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 02:39:28 PM EST

    My list goes a little something like this:


    Dragons of Eden, Cosmos, Demon Haunted World, Pale Blue Dot: Carl Sagan

    A brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell: Stephen Hawking


    The Dune series, except the new books released after his death: Frank Herbert

    The Foundation Series (and releated - the other series he merged in): Asimov

    I, Robot (I guess he sorta merged that into Foundation as well though): Asimov

    2001,2010,2061,3001, The Rama series: Clarke

    Hitchiker series: Adams

    These have helped to give me my current secular philosophy on life and exposed me to new possibilities. Dune especially showed me the potential for religion to be a politician's dream tool - Republicans, anyone??!
    Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.

    Adding to the list.... (none / 2) (#289)
    by nne3jxc on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 03:01:51 PM EST

    In addition to many of the works listed here, I would add:

    A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. This one really made me think about both the stupidity of humanity in pursuit of science and power along with the place that written history has in our view of the world.

    The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. (this is my "fun" entry.) Starting with Nine Princes in Amber This series to me, is more "approachable" than LOTR. (though admittedly, it's not as "deep.") Don't bother with the 2nd series though, it's not as good as the first 5 novels.

    The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. I read this before Cosmos came out. It really made me think about some of the motivations behind human intelligence. It does seem a little dated now, but still a good read.

    Dragons of Eden (none / 0) (#292)
    by nne3jxc on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 03:22:00 PM EST

    Just noticed that davros4269 added Dragons of Edne immediately before I did. Interesting that we both added the same book almost simultaneously. I didn't notice that it had been mentioned before......

    [ Parent ]
    cool (none / 0) (#307)
    by davros4269 on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:52:20 PM EST

    I'm actually surprised that Sagan isn't mentioned more in this topic...

    I just finished watching Cosmos episode 8, the re-release. Good stuff.
    Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
    [ Parent ]

    My turn. (none / 2) (#291)
    by Pig Hogger on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 03:14:58 PM EST

    • Dolphin Island, A.C. Clarke
      This one made me want to run away from home (but I didn't do it).
    • 1984, Eric Blair
      I read that when I was about 10 or 11. It made me wonder how could someone imagine so bleak a future; it also started to make me wonder why anglo-saxons are so distrustful of government (I'm NOT anglo-saxon). It ultimately took me 20 years to understand why.
    • Foundation, Isaac Asimov
      A revelation. It deeply rooted my belief that the past should be rigorously preserved through proper documentation if not conservation (but, of course, I arrived to that conclusion before learning that the encyclopedia was a scam).
    • Dagon, H.P. Lovecraft
      I read Lovecraft when I was 11 or 12. It didn't scare me at all. This is significant (see next).
    • Faut ętre logique ("Let's be logical"), San-Antonio (Frédéric Dard)
      "San-Antonio" was one of France's most prolific authors. His main character, San-Antonio, is the french version of James Bond, but funnier, raunchier and wierdier (there are close to 200 S.A. novels). After reading some 40 of his novels, I found that EVERY ONE of his stories, however crazy, had a least a logical (if not scientific) explanation. So, you can imagine my surprise when I picked up "Faut ętre logique", and finding myself scared beyond belief!!! I was reading Lovecraft at 12 and found it ho-hum, yet I read this at 30 and I almost shit in my pants! The story was about a haunted house, and what caused the "ghost effect" turned out to be one of the grossest thing I ever heard about, yet while remaining plausible (this is why it was gross, just like Hannibal snacking on someone's brain).
    • The Weapon Shops of Isher & The Weapon Makers, A.E. Van Vogt
      Those two books changed a lot my outlook on life, making me much more cynical. They helped me understand the anglo-saxon's distrust of the State a bit more (but not completely), yet they enhanced my belief that the State should be there to look after you in case you're somehow wronged or just been plain unlucky.
    • The mote in god's eye, Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle
      This one gave me a good insight into the military mind; it made me change my outlook on things, in addition of being a thoroughly good read.
    • Dune Frank Herbert
      Made me wonder even more why people want so much to be religious. So did the ending of the three sequels to "Rendez-vous with Rama".


    Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it's idiot

    Watership Down fyi (none / 2) (#296)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 05:57:33 PM EST

    For those of you who liked Watership Down, you should be aware that several passages in The Plague Dogs establish that Richard Adams was a Christian.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    Adams is Christian, but WD is not. (none / 1) (#301)
    by vorfeed on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:28:25 PM EST

    The Plague Dogs? Hell, try Nature Day and Night, or his autobiography. It is quite clear that he's a Christian.

    This said, so what? I'm about as anti-Christianity as a person gets, and Watership Down was the most important book of my childhood. I re-read it often, and find very little in the way of Christian thought within it.

    Lapine religion is much closer to paganism than Christianity. The values espoused by the rabbits (and by the book itself) are comradeship, courage, strength, and most of all trickery; the latter three are not Christian values. Most of all, at the book's core is a sense of natural connectedness that is anathema to the Christian notion of dominion over nature.

    In short, Adams may be a Christian, but Watership Down is not a particularly Christian book.

    Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
    [ Parent ]

    heh (none / 2) (#302)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:43:54 PM EST

    The values espoused by the rabbits (and by the book itself) are comradeship, courage, strength, and most of all trickery; the latter three are not Christian values.

    Who says? It's quite obvious that Hazel's moral strength is to be contrasted favourably with Woundwort's physical strength, so I don't see that 'strength' per se is virtuous at all in that book. You're implying that Christian values include cowardice, weakness, and stupidity; am I understanding you correctly?

    Lapine religion is much closer to paganism than Christianity.

    Look at El-ahrairah's attempts to sacrifice his life for his people.

    Most of all, at the book's core is a sense of natural connectedness that is anathema to the Christian notion of dominion over nature.

    Look, no offense, but your understanding of Christianity appears to be based on odd misconceptions. Please have a look at the most recent Patriarchal encyclical.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Re: heh (none / 2) (#305)
    by vorfeed on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:49:58 PM EST

    You're implying that Christian values include cowardice, weakness, and stupidity; am I understanding you correctly?

    This is not precisely what I had in mind. Christian values include deep humility and honesty, two things that are rather incompatible with Lapine-style courage and especially trickery. How is a value system based upon deception and cunning tricks compatible with Christianity?

    Look at El-ahrairah's attempts to sacrifice his life for his people.

    And then look at how they were rejected. The book outright states that such sacrifices cannot be. In the end, even El-ahrairah sees that his sufferings with the Black Rabbit had gone unnoticed by his people, and in the retelling of the story it is El-ahrairah's cleverness and persistence that saves his people, not his suffering. Besides, "sacrifice for one's people" is a general ideal that one can find in many philosophies and religions, not just Christianity.

    Look, no offense, but your understanding of Christianity appears to be based on odd misconceptions. Please have a look at the most recent Patriarchal encyclical.

    I would say that the Patriarchal encyclical has nothing on one of the verses of Genesis. There is quite a bit of question about this verse today, but there was no question over the last 1900 years. These years saw unprecedented disrespect for nature in Christian philosophy and behavior. Even if this were not so, Christian nature/God dualism is far from the nature-based religion of the Watership Down rabbits.

    I do not doubt that one can find Christian themes in this book; chances are that you can find them in almost every book in Western literature. This said, I stand by my earlier statement that Watership Down is not a particularly Christian work. If the Lapine ideal has a model, it is British resourcefulness during WWII, not Christianity. Adams has said as much. You ought to read his autobiography. While you're at it, if you want to read an overtly Christian book about animals, go read Duncton Wood.

    Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
    [ Parent ]

    it's rare to read an honest post on k5 (none / 2) (#312)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:13:00 PM EST

    Thank you for your candour.

    Christian values include deep humility and honesty, two things that are rather incompatible with Lapine-style courage and especially trickery.

    I read it differently: Hazel becomes a great leader by his humility, not his pride. Pride at its worst makes a rabbit like Vervain, a bullying coward; I cannot find any proud character in the book who is strengthened by it. It's quite clear to me that Bigwig starts off proud but finds his greatest resource in acknowledging Hazel as the Chief in his final battle with Woundwort.

    As for trickery, St Paul urges Christians to be as meek as doves but as crafty as serpents and also encourages them to be all things to all men that some might be saved. There are certainly many fundamentalists in the USA who rely heavily on "tell the truth and shame the devil," but there are many more worldwide who would sympathize with Father Brown's comment, upon confounding the thief Flambeau, that the Cross "was saved [by a trick,] as it will always be saved." The thing is, Hazel is not merely an exponent of Lapine culture but a living transfiguration of it, because his humour never drives out his good sense, and his caution strikes a sensible balance, neither blustering nor cowardly.

    The book outright states that such sacrifices cannot be. In the end, even El-ahrairah sees that his sufferings with the Black Rabbit had gone unnoticed by his people, and in the retelling of the story it is El-ahrairah's cleverness and persistence that saves his people, not his suffering.

    If El-ahrairah had not attempted to courageously sacrifice himself, all his cleverness and persistence would have been useless. It cost him his ears and whiskers even so. I think that the Black Rabbit sent him away because he was obviously going to try tricks, no matter how futile, until he died from poor food, cold, and discouragement, and the Black Rabbit couldn't stand for El-ahrairah to die of his own will in the Black Rabbit's den.

    These years saw unprecedented disrespect for nature in Christian philosophy and behavior. Even if this were not so, Christian nature/God dualism is far from the nature-based religion of the Watership Down rabbits.

    I think that you're missing the point on nature; Christian rejection of pagan nature-worship goes a lot deeper than a verse of Genesis. The issue was that paganism was intolerable to the Christian mind, not that the early Christian were Puritans before Luther.

    Even if this were not so, Christian nature/God dualism is far from the nature-based religion of the Watership Down rabbits.

    Obviously so; Watership Down is an allegory of primitive human society, not of the world after the death-knell of antiquity. That said, Hazel doesn't melt into the ground and become part of the etenal cycle when he dies; he doesn't have a Queen to whom he is a subsidiary consort; he reveres the god Frith and the culture-hero El-arairah, not a pantheon of rocks, trees, and giant animals; Frith is an uncreated creator, not born of a giant egg or disinterred from melting snow or the issue from the coupling of two proto-Gods. I'd say the rabbits' religion is more Christian than not.

    If the Lapine ideal has a model, it is British resourcefulness during WWII, not Christianity.

    Are the two so easily separable?

    You ought to read his autobiography.

    I've read almost all of his books (even the horrible Maia,, but I have to admit I've never read that.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Watership Down *MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* (none / 1) (#325)
    by vorfeed on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 02:27:14 AM EST

    It's quite clear to me that Bigwig starts off proud but finds his greatest resource in acknowledging Hazel as the Chief in his final battle with Woundwort.

    Then again, Bigwig acknowledged The Threarah as Chief, too. I think Bigwig was just as proud in the end as in the beginning... the change in him is not a loss of pride, but of fearlessness. He is simply someone who needs to follow as much as he needs to lead, though. He is a strong lieutenant rather than a captain - more of a Rabscuttle than an El-ahrairah.

    There are certainly many fundamentalists in the USA who rely heavily on "tell the truth and shame the devil," but there are many more worldwide who would sympathize with Father Brown's comment, upon confounding the thief Flambeau, that the Cross "was saved [by a trick,] as it will always be saved."

    Chesterton! Now there is a Christian author worth reading!

    I think that the Black Rabbit sent him away because he was obviously going to try tricks, no matter how futile, until he died from poor food, cold, and discouragement, and the Black Rabbit couldn't stand for El-ahrairah to die of his own will in the Black Rabbit's den.

    Precisely. I have always thought that this has more to do with persistence in trickery than suffering, though. Keep in mind the agreement between Frith and El-ahrairah: "Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people shall never be destroyed." Given this, I don't think it was possible for the Black Rabbit to allow El-ahrairah to die, so long as he continued with trickery.

    That said, Hazel doesn't melt into the ground and become part of the etenal cycle when he dies; he doesn't have a Queen to whom he is a subsidiary consort; he reveres the god Frith and the culture-hero El-arairah, not a pantheon of rocks, trees, and giant animals; Frith is an uncreated creator, not born of a giant egg or disinterred from melting snow or the issue from the coupling of two proto-Gods. I'd say the rabbits' religion is more Christian than not.

    Hazel joins El-ahrairah's Owsla* when he dies, and the eternal cycle is in fact mentioned: "It seemed to Hazel that he would not need his body any more, so he left it lying at the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses." [pg. 475 in the old red-edged Avon paperback edition].

    Also, keep in mind that Frith is literally the disc of the sun - the two are one in the same in Lapine theology. The rabbits worship the sun, and their stories include the minor gods Prince Rainbow, the Black Rabbit of Inle, and possibly even Yona. I would say that the sun, the rainbow, a shadow rabbit and a giant hedgehog make a rather nice pagan pantheon. :)

    Are the two so easily separable?

    By the late 1930's, in England? In so much as one can separate Christian thought from Western thought, I would say so. The difference in piousness between even the two wars is quite great, especially when one examines the Sunday School numbers. I believe that the Church's hold on England was already waning, at this point. All of which is somewhat moot, since Adams himself is Christian... but still, I would think that Adams would have mentioned Christianity as the drive behind the book's ideals, rather than the RAF, if such had indeed been his inspiration.

    I've read almost all of his books (even the horrible Maia,, but I have to admit I've never read that.

    It's quite good, chock-full of war stories and tales of growing up in England in that time. Plus, there is a picture of the fellow Adams based Hazel on. He even looks like Hazel might look, were he a practical sort of Major. :) The book is called "The Day Gone By", and it can be had in used hardback for about $2 on Amazon.

    *There has been a bit of controversy over this on the Watership Down mailing list, as to whether the visitor at the end of the book is El-ahrairah or the Black Rabbit. For me, the mention of starlight in the ears closes the question in favor of El-ahrairah.
    ...wow, I am such a nerd.

    Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
    [ Parent ]

    more (none / 0) (#346)
    by Battle Troll on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 05:15:22 PM EST

    Then again, Bigwig acknowledged The Threarah as Chief, too. I think Bigwig was just as proud in the end as in the beginning... the change in him is not a loss of pride, but of fearlessness.

    I disagree that Bigwig acknowledged the Threarah's authority except for pragmatic purposes; he wasn't loyal to the Threarah at the beginning the way he became loyal to Hazel at the end. This is clearly established, in my opinion, by the way that Bigwig abandoned the Threarah after being called on the carpet. Hazel earned his loyalty, which, freely given, became for him an inexhaustible source of strength, allowing him both to outsmart and outfight Woundwort.

    The only instance in which I can recall Bigwig being afraid is on the night of Holly's arrival. In my opinion, he was never afraid of elil or of normal rabbits. It's true that he was very nervous before going into Efrafa, but I don't see that he was afraid the same way that, say, Blackberry might have been afraid under the same circumstances.

    As I make it, Bigwig starts out the book a likeable knockabout, confident in his own strength and seeking his own best interests. By the end, he's come to terms with his ambition and brought it to bear on its proper object.

    On the subject of pagan elements in the death of Hazel. While not denying that a rabbit's heaven would have to be out of doors and rooted in a vivid experience of plants, dirt, smells, rain, and animals, my point is that Hazel retains his individuality; his immortality is much more like the 'glorified body' of Christianity than like the Elysian Fields, earlier Greek abodes of the dead, or Sheol, or the afterlives as I understand them to have been imagined in the Far East and pre-Columbian America. Hazel isn't carried off to Valhalla to feast forever, nor placed into the sky as a constellation, nor does he go into the Egyptian paradise, a happy country severed from the normal world. Rather, he lives an embodied but invisible life in the world as a patron and beneficiary to his people; much like a member of what we Easterners call the Invisible Church.

    Got to run, more later.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Re: more (none / 0) (#350)
    by vorfeed on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 06:29:33 PM EST

    I disagree that Bigwig acknowledged the Threarah's authority except for pragmatic purposes; he wasn't loyal to the Threarah at the beginning the way he became loyal to Hazel at the end.

    True, Bigwig's loyalty to Hazel is much deeper than his earlier loyalties. This does suggest a question: if Hazel had led the warren into disaster, as the Threarah and Holly did, would Bigwig abandon him? By the end of the book, I would say not. This is a true indication of the change in the nature of Bigwig's loyalty.

    The only instance in which I can recall Bigwig being afraid is on the night of Holly's arrival. In my opinion, he was never afraid of elil or of normal rabbits. It's true that he was very nervous before going into Efrafa, but I don't see that he was afraid the same way that, say, Blackberry might have been afraid under the same circumstances.

    The fight with Woundwort in the burrow was what made Bigwig lose his utter fearlessness. Bigwig won the battle, but it was a close thing, and if Woundwort had pressed the matter, he might have lost. There is foreshadowing for this in the British editions of the book - early on, Bigwig says that the day he calls Hazel Chief will be the day he stops fighting forever. He acknowledges Hazel as Chief during the battle in the burrow, and in doing so, he defeats Woundwort. Afterward, the epilogue to the book mentions that Bigwig doesn't fight anymore. Instead, he trains the kittens as Captain of Owsla... the rabbit equivalent of a military desk job, I suppose. I don't think that Bigwig loses his courage at all, but I do think that he has come to terms with his mortality.

    my point is that Hazel retains his individuality [...] Hazel isn't carried off to Valhalla to feast forever, nor placed into the sky as a constellation, nor does he go into the Egyptian paradise, a happy country severed from the normal world. Rather, he lives an embodied but invisible life in the world as a patron and beneficiary to his people

    I think we are reading this passage very differently. Hazel goes off to join El-ahrairah's Owsla. This is a happy country severed from the normal world. There is certainly no indication otherwise, and somehow I doubt that El-ahrairah's Owsla is an ordinary one that steals lettuces out of people's gardens. As for being a "patron and beneficiary" to his people, when Hazel worries about them, El-ahrairah tells him that they'll be fine, "them and thousands like them. If you'll come with me, you'll see what I mean". This seems to imply that a role as an active beneficiary is not needed, since the rabbits will thrive under the agreement with Frith. Also, note that one of the "El-ahrairah" stories told in the warren at the end of the book is actually a story of the Watership rabbits, with El-ahrairah written into the role. This suggests that the immortal role for Hazel's rabbits is as folk heroes.

    I believe that the ending implies closure for Hazel - he leaves the living world entirely, but is accepted into an honored role in the next world, a role that mirrors his own role in life. The Chief of the Watership rabbits becomes an Owsla officer of El-ahrairah's rabbits. I'd say this is actually quite close to Valhalla, a place where only the honored in battle could go, to continue fighting for Odin as they did in life.

    I really don't see anything in the Epilogue that implies an active role for Hazel. Everything is passive. Hazel will see why the rabbits will be all right, but he will not ensure it. His life-energy flows into the younger rabbits, but this is for them to use, not for Hazel. Everything here implies separation.

    Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
    [ Parent ]

    I don't have time to give this the reply it (none / 0) (#359)
    by Battle Troll on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 12:01:32 PM EST

    warrants, but I'll write a diary soon and link it to your comment.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    Shardik, too (SLIGHT SPOILERS) (none / 0) (#304)
    by sesquiped on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:20:48 PM EST

    Shardik is pretty Christian too (the central character is obviously a Jesus figure), but it's the kind of Christianity I don't mind too much: all about being nice to each other, without any focus on organized religion (the cult of Shardik established in the middle of the book turns out to be a complete disaster). I suppose you can find some Christian allegories hidden in there, too, but on the whole it didn't bother me (as an atheist). What did bother me was Kelderek's sudden revelation and the subsequent happy ending that seemed to come out of nowhere.

    [ Parent ]
    I must have read Shardik differently (none / 1) (#306)
    by Battle Troll on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:51:50 PM EST

    the central character is obviously a Jesus figure...

    If Kelderek is a Christian figure, he's much more a Peter or an Augustine. Shardik is the Jesus figure (specifically, his death is directly brought about by Kelderek's tainted love; cf Till We Have Faces.)

    the cult of Shardik established in the middle of the book turns out to be a complete disaster...

    Yes, but the religion of Shardik established at the very end is the fulfillment and redemption of what was established as a horrific tribal blood cult.

    What did bother me was Kelderek's sudden revelation and the subsequent happy ending that seemed to come out of nowhere.

    I didn't see the revelation as sudden. By suffering along with Genshed's slaves, Kelderek partook in enormous suffering and ruin that he had helped bring to several nations. Still, unlike the other Ortelgan generals, he was more than a coarse adventurer. His religious views, which were at first perverted into selfish, worldly ones, were redeemed in the death of Shardik. Shardik's final act was to kill Genshed - an act which cost Shardik his life, and which had become necessary because a) Kelderek's evil actions had put Shardik in harm's way, starved and wounded in the wilderness; and b) Kelderek's evil actions had lifted Genshed from being a nonentity into being a powerful force for evil. Kelderek therefore decided to consecrate his life to the betterment of society, especially the welfare of children.

    Like all of Adams's novels, Shardik ends with a deus ex machina (cf chapter 48 Watership Down, the coda to The Plague Dogs.) Still, I suggest that you have another look at the last few pages, when the foreign philosopher comments that he is witnessing firsthand the evolution of barbaric superstition into a shockingly visionary humanitarianism. This is shocking to him because, unlike Kelderek, he didn't experience an abrupt moral rejuvenation, and so has no way to understand the inner profundity of Kelderek's experience.
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    i think we agree (none / 0) (#319)
    by sesquiped on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:27:29 PM EST

    I did mean Shardik when I mentioned Jesus; I thought "central character" instead of "main character" indicated that.

    I could have been more specific about what bothered me also: It wasn't so much that he had a revelation as that it was so intensely focused on children. I think it would have been more believable if it was more general, like "Wow, look at what a jerk I've been. I'm going to start acting better now," instead of "Look at what a jerk I've been. I'm now going to dedicate my life to saving the children."

    Regarding the deus ex machina, I can't comment as I read Watership Down too long ago to remember anything, and I've only read these two of Adams' novels. In general, my background in Christianity is very small (I was raised Jewish), and I've never had a personal experience that's caused a sudden change in my beliefs, so revelations like Kelderek's are somewhat foreign to me.

    [ Parent ]

    My List... (none / 2) (#300)
    by marcmengel on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 06:03:18 PM EST

    There are many, many books that I'm sure have had a minor influence on me, but the ones that I can think of off-hand that had a more major one are:
    • Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne -- singing a little cloud song... The stories I remember best from my childhood, by far.
    • The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter -- Having grown up pretty much on the banks of the Susquehanna river, this really hit home to me when I read it in Jr. High School. It made me think of all those places with Native American names -- but no Native Americans -- quite differently.
    • The Shockwave Rider, James Brunner -- smart people saving the world, truth vs. power, etc.
    • The Adolesence of P1, Thomas Ryan --This is why none of this virus stuff surprizes me.
    • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu -- Just too many neat concepts to enumerate.
    • I Take Thee, Serenity, Daisy Newman -- So maybe being a Quaker is pretty cool, after all.
    • The Hundredth Monkey, Ken Keyes, Jr. -- sometimes ideas only seem to be catching on slowly
    • One Hundred Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, Isaac Asimov(Ed.) -- Wow. That Feeling of Power; The 10,000 Names of God; "who would give a loaded gun to a mentally retarded child?"...
    • Godel, Escher, Bach,Hofstadter -- okay so it's on everybodys list :-)
    • Time is the Simplest Thing, Clifford D. Simak -- this was for me what I think the original Matrix or The X Men stuff was for a lot of people; people outcast/separate because of their power; realizing reality is sort of an illusion...
    • Doorways in the Sand, Eye of Cat, Last Exit to Babylon, Rodger Zelazny -- okay, so I like Zelazny; interesting concepts, unusual characters, multiple universes via approachable analogies.

    There's a lotta them... (none / 1) (#308)
    by lithos on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:52:59 PM EST

    ...but here's an shortlist: _ Neuromancer, William Gibson: For those who wait and dream for the day we surf cyberspace - "...a consensual hallucination.." - through our minds. Henry Dorsett Case is one of the best anti-heroes ever, up there with Yossarian. Gibson's influence me because whenever I read his work, he inspires me to write. And, Cyberpunk r0x0rs my b0x0rs. Gibson writes lyrically and beautifully. It's probably the closest thing to decent modern poetry. _ Catch-22, Joseph Heller: Definitely one that's helped me live my life; ie, that sometimes it's not worth trying. And personal survival is your only priority, because most of the time the people around you aren't worth worrying about. Every character is almost impossibly human. It pokes massive amounts of fun at life in the twentieth and 21st centuries - our ceaseless pursuit of capitalism and greed, bureacracy, personal glory at the expense of others, that war is hell no matter how much the idiots back at HQ think it's great (*cough* George W *cough*) because that haven't seen the Snowdens of yesteryear. It's told with a tone that go from frivolity to deep seriousness. It's also where I got my sig from, and made me weary of Italian prostitutes, and people named Milo. I read it at least once a year. _ The Bible, by a bunch of pricks seeking to create a lie to control the masses: Cause it's so freakin' funny. What, no steak on fridays? What, women are only good for cooking and having kids, cause "god" sez? What, "god" will protect us all, 'cept those he smites? You wanna know why the world's so screwed up, the answers are in here, amigo. That people actually believe this BS is funny. It helps make bunches of ultra-conservative wankers, though, and those guys are occasionally good for a laugh. And, the pages make the best rolling paper for those giant cigarettes. ("nothin' makes a smoother smoke than Corinthians 4") _ The Hitchhikers trilogy of Five, Douglas Adams: For something funny, light and extremely deep in certain places, plus the recipe for the best cocktail in the universe, read this. Two-headed alien thieves, triple-breasted whores with erogenous zones that start five miles away. I can definitely identify with world- and galaxy-weary Arthur Dent. Sometimes I feel like my life's been erased to make way for an interstellar bypass. _ The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway: The best ever "one that got away" fishing story. Or one that got eaten by sharks on the way back. Shows that a single man may triumph against the world for a momnent, but the world always fixes that. _ Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh: Ah, the ascerbic wit and searing language of those down and out and addicted. Sometimes, in order to succeed, you have to stab your "friends" in the back, and twist the knife. But it's all in good fun, and the movie was awesome. And if you thought a waiter spitting in your food is bad, wait till you read what one of the waitresses in this book does. _ Almost any Discworld novel, Terry Pratchett: Because I can really identify with Death - his existence sucks, people hate him and he it's impossible for him to act human, no matter how hard he tries. And sometimes I like to think I can do THE VOICE, and sharpen a sickle on sunlight. _ The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: A great book, magical and engaging. And that sometimes, it's better to eschew education for adventure. _ Well, that's it. All these books rock. :)
    "Live forever, or die in the attempt." -Joseph Heller, Catch-22
    I'd have to say (none / 1) (#309)
    by Sesquipundalian on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 07:58:04 PM EST

    the original Destroyer series by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir.

    Excellent political satire and a clever if slightly twisted look at American internal/foreign relation. The story is about the classic uprooted man who must make his own peace with the confusing times he finds himself living in. It stops being cool aroung issue 100 or so because the writing got farmed out to wannabes, but the original series is excellent.

    I have often thought that a television series that stayed totally true to the original stories (we're talking EXACT dialog and scene sequence here), and spent the big bucks on special effects duplicating the protagonists martial arts moves and personality quirks to engaging effect, would be worth watching in an X-files sort of way ~ heh.

    Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
    My List (none / 2) (#311)
    by MyrddinE on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:11:41 PM EST

    In no particular order:

    Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter: I am reading it now, got it for my birthday a month back... I had never heard of it before, but I wish I had. This book assumes that you know nothing about math, logic, or formal proofs... and then proceeds to teach it to you, in a fun way, so that he can explain his theory that intelligence, and more importantly conciousness and creativity, is not a magical thing only humans have but something that is attainable by computers as well. The work is fascinating, and thoroughly deserves its Pulitzer Prize.

    Data Structures in Pascal: That's not the actual name, but that textbook whatever its real name taught me more about programming than any previous or since. It formed the mental basis by which I look at programming problems.

    Ring, by Stephen Baxter: He is not much of a writer, but Baxter's books (of which I have only just started reading) gave me a better concept of the vastness of time and space than any other treatise on it prior. His characters are kinda shallow, there are better writers... but his ideas and imagination are immense, rivaling that of greats like Niven. It is these ideas that I love... despite his sometimes plodding plots. :-)

    The Last Unicorn, by Peter S Beagle: This tale, more than any other, left me with such a sense of sadness and loss at the end I was literally sobbing for hours. And the thing is, it does not even end sadly. It was not till this book that I understood what made me sad... and it is stagnation, lack of change, entropy. In this case, it was the endless search by Maggie and Shmendrick for the Unicorn. This is also related to why Baxter's works, mostly lacking in good emotion tugging lines, evoke emotion in me... infinity, for me, is a very emotional thing.

    The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkein: I believed.

    Collected Early Works of Robert Heinlein: His later stuff is often good... including the very popular Stranger in a Strange Land. But when I was young and impressionable, I was devouring his earlier stuff. "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel", "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", and "Starship Troopers" to name a few... these stories, more than any others in the pulp paperback era, filled me with the sense of wonder and optimism about the future of humanity. His later works, though good, bother me with their preachy moralizing on sex and humanism.

    Bah, Forgot One (none / 0) (#314)
    by MyrddinE on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:19:52 PM EST

    The Crystal Caves, by Mary Stewart: Silly of me to forget. This book is the source of my name. I was born with a very boring, plain name... that I despised. I hated my name. When I was 12, I read this book, and found out that I was almost named Myrddin... except my Father had objected, thinking I would be beat up because of my name.

    Little did he know that I would be beat up regardless. :-)

    I liked the book very much, and I identified with young Myrddin in the book... more than I usually identify with characters. To find out that I could have had that name... it was a thunderstroke. I got my name legally changed only a year ago, but for over half my life, I have been Myrddin to my family, friends, coworkers... everyone. And I have the reading of this book to thank.

    [ Parent ]

    I don't remember anymore the author (3.00 / 4) (#318)
    by mami on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 10:54:04 PM EST

    but the first autobiographical diary of a holocaust surviver I read at age 13 influenced me a lot. I started to read almost any diary of any surviver I could find over the next years. That was around 1962. And at that time there weren't yet a lot of documentaries on TV about it and the issue was not talked about in Germany.

    It felt like reading about this big skeleton hidden in the closets of the German's mind. I remember that I couldn't stop thinking about how someone my age would have dealt with a discovery that his/her own father or mother had been an SS man/woman in the KZs. I just couldn't figure out what that would do to a teenager like myself.

    I don't know if those biographies influenced my life, but they kept me captured for a long time.

    My List (none / 2) (#320)
    by Khafre on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:31:26 PM EST

    Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison. Highly under-read, underrated, masterpiece of a work. 1984 - Orwell. Duh. More like 2004... Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Erasure - Percival Everett. If you've not read this, please do, it's amazing "fiction". Tao te Ching I Ching The Tao of Pooh Yep, I love taoism <3 Ender's Game...Hitchiker's Guide...Dune...AND Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess :P That book ownz. ;)
    "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." - Malcolm X
    Ken Kesey (none / 1) (#321)
    by SLTrigger on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:34:56 PM EST

    A quick search fails to find his name on the page, so I thought I'd mention Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Both powerful stories and critiques of American culture.

    It's only gonna get weirder, so let's get on with the show!
    Interactive article, good for recommendations! (3.00 / 4) (#323)
    by purephase on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 12:19:48 AM EST

    After reading through (and keeping Amazon open) I decided to post a few of my favourites.

    Tops of the list:

    For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway

    Contrary to the "unpopular" nature of Hemingway's politics, For Whom the Bell Tolls is (IMO) one of the best novels ever written. I've read it 10-20 times and it never gets old.

    Fifth Business (Deptford Trilogy #1) - Robertson Davies

    Popular in high school (well, in Canada anyway) Robertson Davies is a phenomenal author who's wit is charming and barbed in just the right amounts.

    The Tin Drum - Gunther Grass

    Just read it.

    Voltaire's Bastards - John Ralston Saul

    More Canadian content, but perhaps one of the best critiques and/or acclaimations of rational thought in the modern/western world.

    Lamb - Christopher Moore

    With all the mention of the Bible, this satirical take on the early life of Jesus is not only hilarious, but sacriligious in every respect.

    Honourable mentions:
    Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Tom Wolfe, Greg Bear, Naomi Klein, Douglas Coupland, Noam Chomsky, and Katherine Dunn.

    For whom the bell tolls (none / 0) (#345)
    by pik on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:28:00 PM EST

    Apart of being a brilliant novel, what you can notice while you read it is that Hemmingway perfectly understood the Spanish mentality/sociology/contradictions/passion/etc..., and that makes it even better and more surprising for a Spaniard like myself ;-)

    [ Parent ]
    Z for Zacharia (none / 2) (#324)
    by gdanjo on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 12:22:39 AM EST

    Sure, there have been better books written, but they didn't affect me until I understood them much later in life. Z was the first book I ever read cover-to-cover and showed me the gift of imagination.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"

    What's with all the hobbit novels? (none / 3) (#326)
    by antichrist stormtrooper on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 03:14:18 AM EST

    Do people actually make real life decisions based on some 800 page tome about the elf-dwarves and their valiant quest throught the bramble-wood in search of the magic snergle?

    I mean what the hell, when you go to dinner or whatever and can't decide what to order do you sit there going "What would Fizzlefozz the Sorcerer do"?

    There's only one book anyone needs to read to see how things really, and I do mean really are, and that's Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger.

    "I hate cats almost as much as I hate Italians" -Albert Einstein
    Shallow (none / 1) (#327)
    by kaffiene on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 03:51:34 AM EST

    Human endevour and crisis is the same whether your novel is set in Middle Earth or Harlem.

    Grow an imagination.

    [ Parent ]

    unless... (none / 1) (#329)
    by mulescent on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:22:14 AM EST

    you think that maybe sartre was really right and you dont buy heidegger's particular brand of self-inflicted suffering....

    You better stop that laser game, or you'll smell my mule
    [ Parent ]
    Ha! (none / 1) (#334)
    by bigchris on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 06:50:52 AM EST

    And this from a man who spends so much time on Kuro5hin...

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
    [ Parent ]
    Books that have opened my eyes by category (none / 3) (#330)
    by skallas on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:25:12 AM EST

    Let see, for general mind-fuckness/expansion I'm going to nominate The Man in the High Castle and mention A Scanner Darkly both by PKD. I could really go on for days about ASD as it echoes my own time in a drug sub-culture and the characters are just too perfect and its one of the best sci-fi stories you can get your hands on.

    I have to also mention Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger for this category too. The guy chronicles his life and seemed to be everywhere that mattered in the 60s and 70s. He is also a springboard to things you normally wouldn't come across like general semantics, quantum physics, conspiracies, postmodern philosophy, atheism/agnosticism, life extension, etc.

    For science it has to be The Selfish Gene. Dawkins makes evolution easy to digest and understand. Amazing book, it will change everyone who reads it, at least for a little while. Anything by Bucky Fuller deserves mention here too. I think Critical Path is a good one to start with. Its been a while.

    For my thoughts on government and dyspotia there's Orwell's 1984 and Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. Anything by Chomsky or Howard Zinn will get you out of your cable TV reality tunnel too.

    Them: Adventures with Extremists has to be one of the better books I've ever read. Essentially an english writer finds and hangs out with all sorts of famous extremists. The chapter on Ruby Ridge is truly heartbreaking.

    Neil Postman really opened my eyes regarding media with his Amusing Ourselves to Death and his collection of essays in Consciountious Objections.

    For me... (none / 1) (#332)
    by mulescent on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 04:42:58 AM EST

    • Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar
    • Guevara, Also Known As Che - Paco Ignacio Taibo
    • Nausea - Jean Paul Sartre
    • Meditations on the First Philosophy - Renee Descartes
    • Fear and Trembling - Soren Kierkegaard
    • Chemistry - Zumdahl (this is a textbook, but im a chemist...)
    • Candide - Voltaire
    • Miles - Miles Davis
    • Descartes Error - Damasio
    • The Republic - Plato (basically 1984, but explained and argued for)
    • Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
    Thats the first ten big ones to come to my mind... all good, and in no particular order.

    You better stop that laser game, or you'll smell my mule
    Richard Dawkins (none / 2) (#337)
    by KlausBreuer on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:20:57 AM EST

    I read a lot, but for pure concentrated influence, little can beat "River out of Eden" by Richard Dawkins. A truly excellent explanation of the source of life on earth, which I recommend to religious people knocking at my door and wanting to talk to me about Their God/The God/Another God/Money/The Joy of Servitude/etc.

    Also, there's "Röde Orm" by Frans Bengtsson. An excellent viking-story which influenced me mainly because our father used to read it to us on while on board, a chapter at a time. My brother and I were so interested in continuing ahead of time that we learned to read very early just for this reason :)

    Finally, may I recommend the history books by Joachim Fernau. He writes in a very alive style, easy and fun to read, and you really gain a lot better understanding of our past, having a lot of fun at the same time.

    "What, I need a *reason* for everything?" -- Calvin
    "Should I or shouldn't I? Too late, I did!" -- Hobbes

    Can't resist adding a short story (none / 3) (#338)
    by bigchris on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:25:40 AM EST

    It would have to be "Flowers for Algernon" - I guess it made me feel glad I got through the first bit!

    I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
    kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
    My list (none / 2) (#340)
    by 1967 Ferrari 312 on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 10:00:04 AM EST

    In no particular order...
    • The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
    • The Princess Bride - William Goldman
    • Weaveworld - Clive Barker
    • Gödel, Escher & Bach - Douglas Hofstadter
    • Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
    A bit heclectic, maybe, but that's just how it goes.

    ditto on Rand (none / 0) (#394)
    by emmons on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 02:35:45 AM EST

    Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is awesome. It took me a while to really grasp what it was saying, but damn..

    As for the rest of those, I really can't say. I'd have to add 1984 to my personal list. I'm not really much of a reader though... nystagmus makes it difficult to sit and read for extended periods of time sometimes.

    In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
    -Douglas Adams

    [ Parent ]

    Books (none / 2) (#342)
    by beatbox32 on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:36:41 AM EST

    • Ten Philosophical Mistakes - Mortimer J. Adler - This book (and it's author) has really made me see why so much of "modern" philosophy, from Hobbes on forward, is untenable.
    • Internetworking with TCP/IP Vol. 1 - Douglas E. Comer - Helped me to truly understand what's going on behind the scenes of networks and the Internet

    A few of mine (none / 2) (#343)
    by twh270 on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:53:45 AM EST

    My Side of the Mountain. A fascinating story of survival and adventure: a young boy runs away from his city home to live in the Adirondack (or was it Catskill) mountains. Any boy of 9-12 years should enjoy this one greatly.

    Friday, The Number of the Beast, Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. I enjoyed much of Heinlein's material, but these hold a special place in my heart for various reasons. I identified with Friday because, like its title character, I too felt like an outcast. The Number of the Beast introduced me to the idea that sexuality was not shameful, to be hidden in dark rooms behind closed doors. Starship Troopers I identified with politically/socially, though today I would probably disagree with much of its philosophy. (Don't bother seeing the movie; it's truly awful.)

    The Dune series, by Frank Herbert. A rich, sometimes bizarre universe, filled with intrigue, complex political machinations, and a grand scope covering thousands of years.

    The Holy Bible. What amazes me about the Bible is that what I get out of it is in direct relation to my spiritual awareness and growth. The first time I read (or rather, skimmed) it, I got very little out of it. The last time I read it, I got so much more from it. I don't consider myself a practicing Christian -- I don't attend church regularly and don't buy into much of church 'doctrine' -- but I do believe in God and the Bible. One could do a lot worse than to live by the principles and morals set forth by Jesus and his disciples.

    A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. Powerful, sometimes tragic, yet leaves one with a sense of hope about the future.

    Various Al-Anon books and literature. Al-Anon was created for those who have lived or are living with an alcoholic in their lives; whether or not s/he is drinking actively, whether or not they have recovered, whether or not they are in AA. However, its principles and slogans are something everyone can benefit from. They amount to a system for having spiritual/emotional/mental peace and calm while dealing with difficult situations or people.

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Showed me how those who desire power can manipulate, deceive and subjugate the weak. Lessons learned: never put yourself under another's power, and be very careful with your own power.

    The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. The kids are tragically and believably human. Neither "all-good" nor "all-bad", but capable of both good and bad, love and hate, kindness and cruelty, greed and sacrifice.

    All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. A powerful story of war and its effects on soldiers.

    Okay, there are more, but that's what I can remember at the moment.


    My List (none / 3) (#349)
    by Mr Badger on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 05:24:17 PM EST

    Strangely, the books that have influenced me are not necessarily the books I would recommend as "great" books. I assumed that two such lists would have more cross over. Regardless, here is the fairly unimpressive list of books that have influenced me.

    Whatever "style" I may lay claim to in my writing has been shaped (or warped, depending on your point of view) by Hawthorne - particularly his "The Blithedale Romance."

    I wear a watch because of line from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

    My taste in clothes was most likely formed by my high school encounters with the works of William S. Burroughs.

    I try never to claim ideas or clever phrases as my own - a habit picked up from "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." I always say "I read somewhere . . ." or cite "People better in the know than I . . ." From the same, I never volunteer for leadership positions, but never turn one down if appointed by others.

    I bet the list goes on, but I can't think of any others right now.

    So...? (none / 1) (#356)
    by cribcage on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 01:27:17 AM EST

    I wear a watch because of line from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."
    Don't keep us in suspense. What's the line?


    Please don't read my journal.
    [ Parent ]

    Don't Remember the Exact Quotation (none / 1) (#357)
    by Mr Badger on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 09:16:53 AM EST

    I'm afraid that I can't quote the line verbatim, but he writes something along the lines of "don't trust a man who doesn't wear a watch; if he can't be interested in something as necessary as the time of day, he won't be interested enough in helping you to do any good."

    [ Parent ]
    Many, Many Good books... (none / 2) (#351)
    by warriorpostman on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:52:33 PM EST

    I'm impressed with the numerous lists I've read through. And I was really excited to post my own list of books to prove just how damn smart I really am!

    I think The Screwtape Letters should have been cited more than I saw in the above comments. I, like many people, am cynical about organized religion, but it's pretty much one of the most accessible and brilliant works of spiritual morality I've ever read, and unfortunately, I feel it maybe swept away in deference to people's bad attitudes toward Christianity. I'm scheduled to read it at least 5 more times before I die.

    I would also throw William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying into the mix. It was the first unconventional classic literature that blew me away in high-school.

    My Top Three (none / 2) (#352)
    by tbc on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 08:29:53 PM EST

    The Bible. I've read through it several times. This book continues to deepen my faith in God. The power of the ideas and principles transcends translation -- I find it equally approachable in both King James English and the New International Version. Its unity of theme -- with the Messiah at its core -- and its consistency of message reinforces my belief in its divine origin.

    Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy by Michael Polanyi. Definitely the most difficult book I've ever read. Convinced me that it's legitimate to reject the myth of the "objectivity of science." Explained to me how fallible humans are still capable of advancing science.

    First Things First by Stephen Covey. A friend recommended that I "stop whatever I'm reading and read this book instead." He said it was that important. Once I finished reading it, I decided he was right. It makes a well-reasoned argument for finding balance in one's life and for striving to achieve one's full potential.

    The Absolute Best Books to Read... (none / 1) (#353)
    by tbc on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 08:33:27 PM EST

    ... have been discussed previously on K5. Still relevant.

    Odd books for me... (none / 2) (#355)
    by RadiantMatrix on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:29:02 PM EST

    I know it sounds trite, but I read Snow Crash at a critical moment; it helped shape my views of religion as a system, and has (IMHO) the best fictional representation of where our world is headed in the future -- a world of corporation-states.

    Also formative was the Earthsea series, by Ursula Le Guin.  This series got me interested in fantasy and magic; and thereby led me to seek my own philosophy.  Ms. Le Guin also wrote The Telling, which was the only book I've read that was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes; an easy read, but a vibrant world within.

    Of course, the classics 1984 and Animal Farm (George Orwell) were influential, as was The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien).

    I don't like spam -

    Let me add mine too (none / 1) (#358)
    by blufox on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 11:29:32 AM EST

    [Mandukya Upanisad with Gaudapada Karika] (author ???) An explanation about the mandukya upanishad and its karika - [which means explanation].
    /*With eyes that speak of the Stars, and magick my very soul, A Dragon I am Eternal.*/
    Incredible Books (none / 3) (#364)
    by MetallicBurgundy on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 05:59:25 PM EST

    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards - This is an incredible book, even if you can already draw or have no desire to. I stumbled across it in the library. I had tried to use many different books to learn to draw to no avail. This one, however, not only taught me to draw but changed the way I look at the world. I highly recomend it to all.

    Everything I could ever find by Douglas Adams - No other single person had more influence over my sense of humor, my vocabulary, or my speach paterns. I very often find my self proof reading an email I have written and noticing all sorts of Douglas Adams influenced phrasing, etc.

    Lilith, George MacDonald - This and another George MacDonald book, Phantastes, taught me things I doubt I could ever put into words.

    The Holy Bible - Specifically, the Gospel of John. To this day, I find the opening verse to be the most poetic and most profound thing I have ever read:

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis - C.S. Lewis has always amazed me. This is my favorite of his works.

    Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton - To be honest, I am still reading it... I stumbled upon it due to the this very discussion. But in reading just the first few chapters, a hope was restored in my that was all but lost. It is well worth reading.

    Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What ALice Found There, Lewis Carroll (with the original John Tenniel illustrations) - I have an great love of the surreal. I suspect these books had something to do with that. Or maybe it is just a desire for wonder and mystery in a world where even are fantasies have become banal.

    The works of Dr. Seuss - Everything that I said about Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll Applies to Dr. Suess.

    books (none / 1) (#365)
    by dtothek on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 08:15:48 PM EST

    elizabeth willey:

    a well-favored man

    a sorcerer and a gentleman

    the price of blood and honor.

    genre: fantasy

    this trilogy is so well-spun it enthralls me yet.  if you love zelazny and amber this series must sit on your shelf as well.  a treat for those who relish, at the least, the written word.

    out of print

    random acts of senseless violence (none / 1) (#366)
    by tuj on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 11:27:53 PM EST

    by Jack Womack.

    The modern version of Ann Frank.  The timeless style remains as relevant as it was in 1994.  Maybe its a world that seems far away, but after Oaklahoma city and Waco, I certainly didn't think so.

    Also: The Turner Diaries.  Yes this book is pretty controversial so you won't likely find it at your library.  I found the text online a few years ago, but couldn't locate it again now.  As filled with hate and propaganda as it is, the book is remarkable in many ways, including a very interesting look into the psychology of these types of individuals (including the author).

    Atlas Shrugged:  Yes, its Ayn Rand; Yes its like 1200 pages.  But its a very interesting philosophical prespective especially on economics.  If you've ever thought that the majority of people ride on the accomplishments of a few, this is a book for you.  This is the first book that ever really made me think about the way our world is organized, and what system of beliefs should be the foundation of our morality.  Plus, Fed. Reserve Chairman Greenspan was a student of her's, so you might take note.

    And of course: 1984.  It remains to this day the only book that I both:
    -read in one day
    -and prompty vomitted after finishing.

    Yes, it really was that powerful to me at the time I read it (15).  Read it in one sitting uninterrupted if you can.  I was disturbed by images from this book for years.

    oh and four more (none / 0) (#367)
    by tuj on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 11:42:17 PM EST

    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  I don't care if you seen the amazing Kubrick movie with the cool Walter/Wendy Carlos score.  The international version of the novel contained an additional final chapter that didn't appear in the American version or in the movie.  The use of language is perhaps the best ever by an author.

    Naked Lunch by William Burroughs.  If you've ever taken a psychadelic drug or had a psychotic episode, this book might feel uncomfortably familiar.  A novel that somehow puts shape to its insanity, it begs the reader to let his mind drift towards unorthadox interpetations.

    The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.  I prefer this over the Kerouac staple On The Road.  His approach to living life and his encounters have a sense of modern day romanticsm to them; kind of like a 1950's On Walden with a couple joints and a bottle of whisky.

    Zen Flesh Zen Bones by Paul Reps.  One of the best immediate and useful introductions to Zen.  No handholding, and short on explaination, it requires deep consideration and concentration.  And while it probably should be supplemented with at least one text covering explainations of the various koans, this book remains one of my favorites for its ability to pick up and read again at any time starting on any page.  Perfect if you're short on time for actual reading, but want something to turn over in your head throughout the day.

    [ Parent ]

    Heh (none / 0) (#397)
    by FantocheDoSock on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 04:44:02 PM EST

    Plus, Fed. Reserve Chairman Greenspan was a student of [Ayn Rand's], so you might take note.

    Hysterical. Just like Rand, no one can ever seem to agree about what Greenspan means by anything he says, or whether or not he's just blowing smoke up our collective asses. Maybe what Greenspan really learned from Rand was how to land himself his very own little cult of personality.

    [ Parent ]

    these books haunt me (none / 1) (#368)
    by limivore on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 01:07:39 AM EST

    the chronicles of narnia a wrinkle in time yoga aphorisms of patanjali tao te ching lord of the rings everything by roger zelazney (except his last couple and the last few amber books) most of larry niven all of jim woodring(comic books) the zombie survival guide

    Strangely enough (none / 1) (#369)
    by ragnarok on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 04:21:40 AM EST

    one of the first books to seriously influence me, I can't remember the title! But it had something about Father Damien of Molokai'i fame, and I lapped that up, mostly because there were sufferers from Hansen's Disease within a day's walk from where we were in the West Sepik District. And the strange thing about this book was that it was published by a Protestant publishing house, but it honoured Father Damien.

    The Bible of course. My parents were not atheists.

    Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson's supposed to be some distant relative of my father's mother's family.

    Thor Heyerdahl's Kontiki, of course. He Tangata Pasifika au.

    The Hobbit and then, The Lord of the Rings.

    Raise your hands, anyone who with courage to admit to reading "The Chariot of the Gods"? And being influenced by it, in some manner or other? It taught me a lot about gullibility and bad science.

    Rendevous With Rama and a heap of other Arthur C. Clarke stories and novels.

    Olaf Stapledon and his First and Last Men, his Nebula Maker, Star Maker and others.

    A Life for the Stars, and heaps of other James Blish stuff, in particular his pantropy stories.

    Dozens of Ray Bradbury's stories. He was a compulsive writer, and I was his compulsive reader.

    Dune, of course. And the other books in the trilogy.

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

    Doris Lessing's first three Shikasta novels. I found her more mainstream stuff unreadable.

    And then we find ourselves in Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

    A.R. Luria's The Working Brain.

    Heaps and piles of technical books about astronomy and science, books about language and languages, and the mandatory aviation and naval architecture stuff when I was adolescent.

    God I'm boring! No wonder I'm still single! Or is it just that when I hear the word "commitment" I think of straightjackets?

    "And it came to healed until all the gift and pow, I, the Lord, to divide; wherefore behold, all yea, I was left alone....", Joseph Smith's evil twin sister's prophecies

    I have to add another Gem (none / 1) (#370)
    by Baracuda on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 06:56:17 AM EST

    Although i don't think with the great many Books mentioned anybody will scroll down this far to read my wimpy attempt to bring attention to this book, i'll try anyways:

    "Earthly Powers" by Anthony Burgess
    ("Der Fürst der Phantome" in Deutsch)

    is a great reading, you maybe have to dig through the first 30 - 40 pages, but if you catch fire, you'll love it. It's simply great, read the amazon reviews if you are interested.

    Amazon link, phear my leet HTML skillz

    It's the story of a author born around 189x or st and his life through the 20th century. He sees and hears a lot, meets interesting historical and not so historical people and brings interesting perspectives. The story is great, it's wonderful written - just read it. YOU! READ IT!

    First Post (none / 0) (#371)
    by Baracuda on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 06:59:29 AM EST

    My first post here, so i just now see the comment's are ordered "newest first" by default... so there goes my first sentence. Read the book anyway!

    [ Parent ]
    Welcome to K5! :-) (nt) (none / 1) (#374)
    by cribcage on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 10:47:29 AM EST

    Please don't read my journal.
    [ Parent ]
    Here's a few (none / 1) (#372)
    by skankmofo on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 07:06:52 AM EST

    This is one of the best topics I've seen on here in awhile. I've really enjoyed all the suggestions and will probably be buying quite a few books after reading through. Here is a short list of some of my favorites... 100 Years of Solitude - Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, had to read for high school and loved it, probably one of the most symbolic books I've ever read...i think the author just won the nobel prize too. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad, this book is short but very dense...some of the images in the book still stick with me (the battleship firing into the jungle...), and Apocalypse Now (loosely based on this book) is one of my favorite movies. Crime and Punishment - Dostoeyevsky, i think this needs to be read in some kind of class to be fully appreciated Doors of Perception - Aldous Huxley - ever done psychodelic drugs and tried to explain what it is like to someone who's never done it? Tell them to read this... Clockwork Orange - Ian Malcolm - affected me at the time i read it Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - no explaination needed, if you haven't read it, you must "Siddhartha" and "Steppenwolf" by Hermann Hesse - on the more spiritual side, great books

    Not a book, s tv series (none / 1) (#373)
    by startxxx on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 07:12:39 AM EST

    HBO's Oz... what a masterpiece!
    I try to correct myself because I always wildly exaggerate, well, I sometimes exaggerate a bit..
    Good topic (none / 1) (#376)
    by asym on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 11:20:42 AM EST

    First one that prompted me to post, which prompted me to register.  Got a few friends who are readers as well, one in particular may recognize a few he's loaned me.

    - Anything by Nietzsche.  I've worked my way through nearly all of his works, "Human, All Too Human" is the only one I haven't read.  Just finishing "The Will To Power."  Several of the others I've read many times, Zarathustra though spoke the loudest and longest.  Nietzsche put to words a lot of my own thoughts, and gave me some new ones along the way.  Can't agree with him 100% but doing so would be doing him a disservice anyway.

    - "Thinking Straight" by Antony Flew.  This is a lightweight book that I highly recommend everyone read, several times.  Not to absorb the content, but to help train the critical reasoning part of your brain.

    - "The Devils Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce.  It took me a looooong time to finally read this, but I just had to as quote after quote popped up upon login to my many FreeBSD boxes.  Life without humor isn't life at all. Wry humor firmly born of truth is on the other hand, essential to sanity.

    - "The Moon and Sixpence" by W. Somerset Maugham.  I just finished this one, I can't say it's had a "huge" impact on my life yet, but I identified so much with Strickland that like "Enders Game" did for a previous poster, it felt somehow empowering for lack of a better word.

    - "Desert Solitaire" by an author I cannot presently remember.  This one for the same reasons as the one just prior.

    - Various poetry and prose by "Ragnar Redbeard"  aka Arthur Desmond.  Yes, he was a racist and worse, but if you have an open mind and a good mental filter in place, then he is well worth reading.  To ramble a bit of a quote here..

    Hate for hate and ruth for ruth
    Eye for eye and tooth for tooth
    Scorn for scorn and smile for smile
    Love for love and guile for guile
    War for war and woe for woe
    Blood for blood and blow for blow

    He was a blatant racist and "social darwinist" as the saying goes, not merely misunderstood, twisted, and misquoted like Neitzsche, but as I said -- filter the garbage out and it's really interesting reading that can alter your perceptions.

    "Tertium Organum" by P.D. Ouspensky.  This was the first real book on philosophy that I ever read, and it turned me on to the subject.  In that way, I'd have to say it has the singular distinction of being the book that most affected my life.  An odd man with odd ideas.  A true Philosopher.

    "Snow Crash" by.. duh.. Neal Stephenson.  If you haven't read this, or his other two great works Zodiac and Diamond Age.. Well honestly, I think people who haven't read these will be hard to find in this crowd.  Do yourself a favor and read them all again.

    There are of course, tons more, but that's a long enough list for now.. hah.

    Author (none / 0) (#380)
    by nazhuret on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 12:03:58 PM EST

    Desert Solitaire is by Edward Abbey.

    [ Parent ]
    Credo: A book for the very few (none / 2) (#377)
    by Melita on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 05:58:45 PM EST

    I am Just finishing Credo by Maltese aurthor Norman Lowell. He dedicated the book to Nietzsche and seems fond of his work. visit www.imperium-europa.com for more info. Very few books are worth reading these days but this one was to me. A true future leader.

    Here's some of mine (none / 1) (#379)
    by MikeGale on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 04:20:35 AM EST

    Battle for the Mind. Sargent. Canticle for St Liebowitz. Most stuff by David Brin. Most stuff by Greg Bear. Snowflake. The Final Encyclopaedia. G R Dickson. The Algol 68 Manual. LOTR. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Null A stories. Van Vogt. Today we choose faces. Stranger in a strange land. Heinlein. Hicks. (A level Chemistry Text.)

    my list (none / 1) (#381)
    by tealeaf on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 04:06:02 PM EST

    Buddhist Sutras and Suttas, too many to list individually, but I'll put a special mention for Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra (you can Google it) and Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika.  Pali suttas are, of course, classic.  And I also recommend many Dzogchen tantras like "Enlightenment without Meditation" (English name, and Tibetan name is "Nang-jang").

    Bhagavad Gita

    Avadhuta Gita (most translations suck tho, and I don't have time to tell you the author of the non-sucking one).

    Tao Te Ching

    Chuang Tzu

    Lieh Tzu

    Hua Hu Ching

    Wen Tzu

    And the only non-classic, life affecting book that's worthy to put in this list, in my opinion:


    'Nuff said.

    Interesting topic... (none / 1) (#382)
    by UmarOMC on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 04:37:25 PM EST

    The top books for me that have changed my view/outlooks on life entirely (as of this writing):

    The Qur'an

    Niccolo Machiavelli's The Discourses (of Tidus Livy)

    Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Vol. I

    Michael Moore's Stupid White Men


    my signature shouldn't be important... i'm not fond of the non-malleable- which is now a catch-22, no?

    Mine. (none / 1) (#383)
    by Kiyooka on Fri Mar 12, 2004 at 06:27:56 PM EST

    1) White Fang.
    My first novel. Bought and read it in elementary school, didn't always understand it.  It gave me an acute loneliness by teaching me the dispassion of the universe to the fleeting littleness that is "life".  Doesn't help when you're a little boy, but it sure makes you grow up quickly.  Still love it.
    2) "Chronicles of Tao" and "365 Tao" by Deng-Ming Dao.
    Read it in 1st year university.  Was dangerously obsessed for years.  Wanted to leave the crap of "civilization" to live a more truthful, serene and happy life.  Took me years to realize more of what he was teaching; namely, the little monk lives in the mountains, the great monk lives in the city.

    3) Tao Te Ching.
    Deepest book I have ever read in my life.  Am still having minor enlightenments now and then, and it's been like 6 years or so since first reading it?  Man, the first 2 years were intense: realizations non-stop, it was like a spiritual trance overload (too young?)...  Still can't believe how a few pages can hold so much depth and sheer millenia of non-biased wisdom.  I don't understand how anyone can read this and NOT treasure this?

    4) Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey, poem by William Wordsworth.
    Helped me not feel quite so lost and out of place in society, since it showed that others also felt the same way I did about nature and life and the shittiness that is work/eat/sleep/work/eat/sleep/etc.../DIE.

    5)"Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit", and "The Passion", by Jeannette Winterson.
    Her words made me understand what it means to completely give your love-person-HEART-MOMENT-LIFE-NOW-EVERYTHING to someone.  I've never experienced that myself, I have to say.  But it gave me a glimpse.

    6) I Ching.
    Helped me see how the path of purity, truthfulness, integrity and wisdom can be applied to society, business, work or even politics without seeming like a naive dreamy-eyed philosopher.

    can't think of anymore right now...
    oh yeah:

    7)the poetry of Li Po.
    Beautiful.  Fleeting.  Life as everyday magic.  Romantic.  His life was more beautiful and moving than any fantasy out there, and he was real!

    Books that influenced my life (none / 1) (#385)
    by nanofish on Sat Mar 13, 2004 at 11:49:37 AM EST

    I'm sure my life has been shaped in large part by all the books I've read. These are the ones that stand out a shaping my thoughts.
    Starship Troopers. Heinlein. Not the fascist politics but the notion of responsiblity to civic society.
    Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein. Hmmm, I feel strongly that this influenced me but I'm not sure how. Perhaps the reaction of society to an unconventional character.
    The Left Hand of Darkness. LeGuin. Tolerance, understanding that there may be other ways that are valid.
    The Tao of Pooh.
    The Message version of the New Testament.

    Gandhi's Biography (none / 1) (#388)
    by yashman on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 02:10:35 AM EST

    Gandhiji's (the ji indictes respect for Gandhi in Hindi) autobiography is called 'My Experiments with Truth'

    House of Leaves (none / 1) (#390)
    by OniDavin on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 02:34:31 AM EST

    Rather than any sweeping philosophical books or something overly political, "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski made me re-evaluate how I thought about living life and considering people. The rather bizarre, inter-weaving stories of all the characters in the book go a long way for showing how precious life and love are. Read it sometime, fantastic book! Damned frightening, to boot.

    Books (none / 1) (#391)
    by ShiftyStoner on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 04:55:35 PM EST

     First book I read was some lame goosbumps book. Wich helped me get a candy bar with my AR points at schools. If not for reading that book I would not have realized I could pass any of the AR book tests without reading any book. I think it taught me a few valuable lessons. People are stupid. People want me to waste my time doing something I hate when it should be none of their buisnes. They made a test that a 3rd grader could outsmart repeatadly, their stupid.
    They act like I'm a geniuse, give me rewards, and treat me like a human when I act like a zombie, or they think I acting like a zombie complying with their bullshit.

     Next, a few years later. Genesis. Just reading five pages of genises made me realize how fucking rediculouse the bible is. I finished just for the sake of mawking christians. Then I read revelations, obviosly somones acid trip. I read it because I found it interesting, and also, so I could poke fun at christians.

     Anarchist cookbook. Decided I'm not an anarchist, and anarchists are unrealistis retards, most everything the book was unusable garbage.

     Then, I went to jail. I read the first 3 books in the wheel of time series. First time I ever enjoyed redon. Loved the bookes acctualy. I learned that I could enjoy reading.

     Later Just read biogrophies. Hitler, joseph stalen, somone cant remember right now.

     And some psychology book I don't remember.

     And thats every book I have ever read.

     Those wheel of time books man. Good read.
    ( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler

    AR is the work of the devil! (none / 0) (#419)
    by uflanh on Sat Apr 03, 2004 at 12:43:21 PM EST

    AR! ACK!!! That stupid reading program was the sum of everything that was wrong within my elementary school. I lived and died by those stupid tests, only to realize I hadn't learned anything at all. At least I "grew out" of it and moved on to reading books for the pleasure of reading and learning and forgot about the horrible AR point system until you just remind me of it. Happy reading! -ANH

    [ Parent ]
    J.D. Salinger (none / 2) (#392)
    by jongleur on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 09:13:10 PM EST

    He's got to be here somewhere.
    "If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
    Print is dead ~ (none / 1) (#395)
    by Cardenio on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 04:48:55 AM EST

    It's interesting to see the same titles coming up over and over here. Tin Tin was the most influental books I read growing up I think. It's the reason I'm not a baseball hat wearing moron maybe. I certainly didn't have any ' role models ' so Tin Tin became my role model of how a young man should act. You could do worse. But, then one terrible day I realised that Tin Tin was the GAYEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I think I was 10. I almost lost my little mind ! But then I recovered and moved on.

    Why do you say Tintin is gay? (none / 0) (#406)
    by jongleur on Wed Mar 17, 2004 at 02:43:51 PM EST

    You mean it non-literally of course;  but, what's 'ghey' about it, if you can articulate it?
    "If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
    [ Parent ]
    Influenced my life, eh? (none / 2) (#396)
    by transient0 on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 04:33:37 PM EST

    Time Enough For Love - Robert Heinlein

    Certainly not the best science fiction book, not even Sir RAH's best, but I was eleven years old when I read it and the book exposed me to so many ideas and images that I hadn't even known existed (probably because we in general go to great lengths to shield eleven year old children from such things). If I were to read it for the first time now it wouldn't even come close to making this list, but by having found me at such an opportune age it gets a spot.

    1984 - George Orwell

    By the time I read this for a high school english class I had already begun to develop my angst and distrust of grown-ups. It is 1984 however which I blame for my continuing uneasiness about any form of authority or concentrated power, especially when that authority seeks to control communication.

    A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

    It's funny, but this piece of terrifying and essentially anti-drug literature was what really piqued my interest in psychotropic drugs as something more than just a tool for partying.

    In the Skin of a Lion - Michael Ondaatje

    This is the hardest one to classify. I can't put my finger on exactly how it influenced me. Perhaps I simply read it at a time when internal change was imminent anyway. Regardless, I read it in a single evening, and when I put it down some important part of me was different than it had been when I started.

    Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

    Thank God I have never had to fight in a war. Yet even so, I knew instinctively that every war movie I had ever seen was a lie of the most horrible and obscene sort. This book was what made me finally feel like I had gotten a glimpse into what "War" meant.

    Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger

    This book had two effects on me. Firstly it made me reconsider my relationship with my family. Secondly it drove me to reopen my relationship with the religious and spiritual.

    Dao De Jing - Lao Tzu

    There is no point in me saying anything about this book.

    Angry Young Spaceman - Jim Munroe

    This science fiction book was self-published by a man I know. I say it influenced my life, but it was not so much the content as the medium. The sheer professionalism of the independent book made me realize that fiction was still something that could happen on the grass roots level. If I hadn't read this book, I am quite sure that Lysergically Yours wouldn't exist. And LY has definitely become an important factor in my life.

    On Human Nature and Understanding - David Hume
    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions - Thomas Kuhn
    Philosophical Investigations - Ludwig Wittgenstein

    In another life I considered myself a scientist and a philosopher. These three books were the biggest influences on my feelings towards both of those pursuits.

    There. Feel like you know me any better?
    lysergically yours

    My book list (none / 1) (#399)
    by klaatu on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 11:12:00 PM EST

    Human Action by Ludwig von Mises Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Frankenstein by Mary Shelly 1984 by George Orwell Animal Farm by George Orwell The Autobiography of Malcolm X The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx The Social Contract by Russeau Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand Economics for Real People by Gene Callahan Democracy in America by Tocqueville Civilization of the Middle Ages by Cantor Paradise Lost by Milton The Prince and The Discourses by Machiavelli

    Atlas Shrugged (none / 2) (#400)
    by austusross on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 02:34:15 AM EST

    #1 Atlas Shrugged.  I used to be an insomniac.  I've never completely gotten through the book, but I've had a hell of a lot of good night sleeps since I discovered this book.  Thank you Ayne Rand!

    #2 Stranger in a strange land and others of Heinlein's polyamory books.  Because of him, I discovered that even though polyamory is a wonderful concept, some people aren't wired for it: "me".  I explored polyamory and found that I'm simply too busy and don't have the resources for it.  It was a valuable discovery that has allowed me to conserve a lot of energy.  I came to the conclusion that if I was to pursue polyamory, I'd have to flush all my intellectual pursuits.

    #3 the KJV bible.  I'm convinced that the bible is the biggest "liability" of christianity.  After reading the bible with my brain open and not trying to interpret it to say things I wanted it to say, I disovered two things: 1. A vast majority of Christians haven't read the bible.  2.  Religious people use religion to be the person they want to be.  Religion doesn't make people into good people.  Bad people use the bible to do bad things.  Good people use the bible for good things.  If it wasn't such a contradictory piece of dung, this wouldn't be possible: End of story.  Which demands the question, why not skip the religion altogether?  Wouldn't it save a lot of TIME and ENERGY?   3.  Religion is a waste of time and energy.  If you need social interaction, join a book club ;)  4. If there's a god, the Christians are worshipping the wrong one.  Theirs needs Zoloft and a rubber room due to its multiple personality disorder demonstrated by differences in personality between the OT to the NT.

    #4 The adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  I could relate to both characters on so many levels.    Samuel Clemens truly turned me on to reading.  Actually, if logic is to dominate these books should be number one as the other ones might not have been read otherwise.  This may or may not be true.  I'm just thankful the bible wasn't the first book I ever read otherwise my brain might have gotten fried or locked shut tigher than a well oiled bear trap.  Anyways, having faith in the accuracy of a book that I could use to wipe my ass with or revise annually (like the mormons do) is simply retarded.

    #5 Science as a candle in the dark by Carl Sagan.  What can I say?  I loved the book.  This book started down the road to re-educating myself so that I could truly understand science and truly understand that the products of scientific methodology don't produce merely opinions.  And that layman theories are not remotely related to scientific theories.  And damn the Christian right for corrupting the word "theory" in their silly efforts to debunk or diminish the theories of evolution.  This book is my favorite "critical thinking" book.

    #6  My High School Geometry book.  It was the first book I ever had to do proofs with.  It gave me a clue that I was somehow getting screwed in my Algebra classes in high school in California.  It was the first satisfying math class that didn't make me feel like a trained monkey manipulating equations.

    #7 The Prince and the Pauper by Charles Dickens.  This book made me meditate on the full possibilities in life i.e. I could have been born in some poor country and lived life as a pauper.  If you can believe it, I think I gained a bit more compassion for people and maybe some depth of character by reading this book.

    #8 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Unlike most people, it hasn't made me paranoid.  It just made me realize the value of books.  But it also made me think about how many crappy fuzzy books out there that line the shelves of our book stores.  Have you noticed how small the math and science section is?  If you really want to see the state of affairs of the world, just visit the book stores.  To judge from the books we read, we are a species obsessed with fiction.  You might say that over all we're living lives fixated on fiction (religious books included).  As a species, we can no longer discern fiction from non-fiction.  Look up two words: oblivious, extinction.  Upon examination of the world, you may conclude that we are an oblivious species determined to achieve extinction by our own hands.  On the upside, as long as we're content to be trapped and die on our little rock, we're not fscking up the rest of the universe.  Zaphod, where are ya man?

    my list (none / 1) (#402)
    by efflux on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 05:14:20 PM EST

    Pale Fire -- Vladimir Nabakov
    Forget Lolita, this is Nabakov's magnum opus.

    Of Grammatology -- Jacques Derrida
    (I know, this book has gotten *a lot* of flak, but it has really really opened up a new perspective for me)

    Letters From the Earth -- Mark Twain
    Clemmens' satire at it's best

    The Sound and the Fury -- William Faulker
    who else can capture dysfunction so well and come across so *unpresumming*?

    Pederson Kid -- William Gass
    More of a novella, but I damn near died reading this one

    the Bedford Introduction to Drama

    And I suppose Human, All too Human -- Nietzsche
    but only because it challenged me to flesh out my thoughts on personal responsibility.

    Political, not spiritual (none / 3) (#403)
    by Another AnonymousCoward on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 06:36:40 PM EST

    Free to Choose, Milton Friedman. Epiphany moment. If you've ever read a book that articulated what you felt and believed but that was so far removed from your vocabulary that you couldn't previously begin to express it, then you know how I felt reading this.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers, not really because of the content, but because of the circumstances in which I read them. I had recently been converted to libertarianism, with all the zeal of a recent convert (see above), and was happily devouring Heinlein's later works. A friend of mine, an avowed authoritarian, recommended Starship Troopers because "it makes an excellent case for a strong civil society". This led us to discussing Heinlein's politics: I was sure he was a libertarian, having read Moon but not Troopers; my friend insisted he was a crypto-fascist, having read Troopers but not Moon. When I read Starship Troopers I not only realised that those who buy one extreme viewpoint could easily buy into its opposite (a trite and juvenile thing to learn) but also recognised that tendency in myself.

    Lord of the Rings introduced me the fantasy genre; it "changed my life" only inasmuch as I've spent quite a lot of it reading fantasy novels. Which has been fun, if not terribly worthy. Also Gods, Men and Monsters, a book about Greek Mythology that a Greek great-aunt gave me (I'm British) when I was about five; this paved the way. It's an introduction, and it is illustrated, but it is not a children's book. I've still got it.

    Dracula and the E. E. Doc Smith  novels taught me that my father was a person, not a personage. An important thing to learn as a kid. How? Oh, just because they were his books, lying unread for years on a shelf, which I picked up and enjoyed. I never knew before that he liked things that were fun. It's good to learn something about your parents that makes you think you'd like them if you met them as strangers.

    Equity and Trusts. Not only the most dull book I've ever read, but so shockingly and randomly counter-intuitive that I found it impossible to do more than learn to recite chunks from it. This book taught me that the law, my career plan from about the age of seven, wasn't just a lot of work (though it was), nor was I merely lazy  (though I was), but that there was no way I was ever going to do this for the rest of my life. Time for a big, painful rethink.

    Neuromancer. Just another lightweight sci-fi read, at the time; no big deal. But when I saw gopher in a college computer room, and later found NCSA Mosaic on a real XTerm, it was thanks to Neuromancer I recognised their true potential, long before anyone I knew (or even came to meet) could even comprehend their likely impact when I explained it to them. Which gave me the solution to what to do about hating the law, and a new career and life plan.

    The Cathedral and the Bazaar (OK, not a book, so what?) which I found when installing fetchmail, before reading this was compulsory: "perhaps there's a real connection between these hacker types and libertarianism, not just me transferring my own world view on my other favourite subculture?"

    The GNU Public License So there is value in the law after all, if properly applied. Now where did I put those lecture notes?

    Living Marxism magazine. Marxists who are libertarians? What's all that about? Ah.

    The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1st Ed. Later editions purged way too much of the really good stuff in favour of "contemporary relevence". I'm a sucker for encyclopaedias and dictionaries of quotations and etymology; this one started it, and can still pull me in for hours at a time. Avoid little books of trite epigrams: a true tome like this has real thought fodder.

    The Space Merchants and The Merchants' War, Frederik Pohl. Avoid hubris.

    Books that changed my life (none / 2) (#404)
    by gulch on Wed Mar 17, 2004 at 05:46:48 AM EST

    • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter was an optional book on my university psychology reading list. I'm so glad I took the trouble to borrow it from the library and work my way through it's spiralling arguments and diversions. It fundamentally changed my view of the world, from a fairly wishy-washy neo-pagan god-is-something-somewhere kind of unfocussed mysticism to a strong (devout?) atheistic rationalism. This book more than any other made me what I am today (and a bit of subsequent Richard Dawkins didn't go amiss).
    • Viriconium Nights by M John Harrison (now published as part of the Viriconium collection by Fantasy Masterworks). Having ploughed through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in early childhood, then spent an adolescence sucking up reams fantasy and sci-fi regardless of its merits, I picked this book up almost by accident. I was seventeen, at Kings Cross station on my way to Amsterdam for a week of indulgence, my first holiday without parents. I read through the book's short stories as I lazed in tents, coffee shops and squats around Amsterdam, and somehow the timeless locationless city of the title came into phase with the Amsterdam I was inhabiting. But more than that: it was a rite of passage into more adult literature. Most of the stories had no obvious point, and seemed to end without reaching a conclusion, but despite that they were beautiful, and more compelling than most the fantasy pulp I was used to. They made me realise that real life is rarely made up of well-defined quests, full of hardship but ultimately ending in a happy ever after. They taught me that god is in the details.
    • The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter blew my brain wide open and made me realise that literature can be a mind-altering drug.
    Of course, there are many more that I've read and enjoyed very, very much, but I think these three (and perhaps a few others I can't call to mind right now) have had the biggest affect on my life.

    these are them (none / 1) (#405)
    by xirdneh on Wed Mar 17, 2004 at 02:05:21 PM EST

    "A Wrinkle in Time" Got me started reading in seventh grade.

    "Never Cry Wolf" High school but was disappointed later in life to find out Farley Mowat made most of it up.

    "Animal Farm" Orwell, They made me read it in high school. Glad they did.

    "The Old Man and the Sea" I like to fish, so did Hemingway.

    "Perelandra" C.S. Lewis The battle between good and evil was great once you got past the first third of the book.

    "Einstein's Universe" Nigel Calder, Every time I read it, I grasp just a little bit more. Still a long ways to go.

    "Discovery of Freedom" Rose Wilder Lane The daughter of the "Little House on the Prairie" author. Who'd of thought?

    Perelandra :-) (none / 0) (#410)
    by Attercop on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 07:25:14 AM EST

    That's an excellent book! "That Hideous Strength" (the third in the series) was kind of Orwellian, and actually show HOW it could happen.

    [ Parent ]
    Here's a few (none / 1) (#408)
    by jeberle on Fri Mar 19, 2004 at 12:27:19 PM EST

    Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, Carla Stevens. Things are not always what they appear to be.

    The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Abelson, Sussman. Note to GEB fans, these ideas compile. SICP explains how.

    The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins. Who's driving this ship anyway?

    Chaos, James Gleick. The world is littered w/ self-symetry.

    The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Green. Mean-spirited to be sure, but important to know to avoid being caught on the receiving end. Also good for reducing ones career-limiting moves.

    a couple of mine in no particular order. (none / 1) (#409)
    by unstable on Fri Mar 19, 2004 at 03:35:14 PM EST

    Douglas Adams Hitchhikers trilogy.
    Taught me to laugh at life and all its stupidity.  this has helped me keep (relativly) sane in this fscked up world.

    Life on the Mississippi, and other Mark Twain Books.
    Lots and Lots of lessons for life in his works. from how to be a cynical bastard to how to be a Prankster and get in as much trouble as possible. :) If I had the oportunity to meet one man from history it would be him.

    Moon is a harsh mistress, The man who sold the moon.
    these are the two that got me into Sci-Fi (thanks Dad)

    Anything By Terry Pratchet.(read most of his stuff)
    Again Laugh, dont cry.

    Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero series.
    Yes even bad jokes can be funny.

    Harry Harrison's Stainless Steal Rat.
    If you are going to be bad, be so good at being bad that the good guys hire you to stop the bad.

    Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills by Charles Henderson.
    Story of Carlos Hathcock, one of the most deadliest men during vietnam, But also one that held the Highest reguards for life. A hero of the greatest degree.

    just a few.. there are more but those are the one from the top of my head.

    Reverend Unstable
    all praise the almighty Bob
    and be filled with slack

    interesting (none / 1) (#413)
    by Attercop on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 08:16:53 AM EST

    If you look at the lists, the amount of influence these people had: Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.
    What I find interesting is that they all knew each other (to varying degrees), shared colleges and unis. Three of those four wrote "Orwellian" books (Huxley with "Brave new world", CS Lewis with "That Hideous Strength"), and some might argue Tolkiens books had related themes.
    I just find it interesting that four people from one country, one period, who were friends or "associates" have had such an influence. The sub-culture they were a part of must have been bursting with ideas and ability.

    Books influencing me include:
    • Naomi Klein - No Logo
    • Henry Lawsons poems and short stories
    • Rudyard Kipling - there seemed to be something more to the Jungle Books than just the stories to me.
    • Dickens - Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens shows compassion, but not in a "lily-livered" way
    • CS Lewis - Narnia series, The Cosmic Trilogy
    • LOTR, The Hobbit, Tree and Lead, Smith of Wooton Major, Farmergiles of Ham. Lewis and Tolkien made me want to believe in something. Even if I struggle to, I still want their ideals to be right.
    • George MacDonald - a lot of books...
    • Huxley "brave new world", Orwell 1984 and Animal Farm. As with many others here, awoke a cynicism I feel always existed under the surface.
    • The Tandy TRS80 BASIC manual
    • The Bible - the old testemant discouraged me like many here. But the new testament didn't, so I still hold onto that (foolishly I'm sure many here will say)
    • Lord of the flies affected me a lot when I was about 12 or 13...

    Qur'an and others (none / 2) (#414)
    by MicroX on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 06:31:07 PM EST

    The Qur'an (literally "The Recital") has to be the only book I would never get bored of reading over and over again. It is fascinatingly influential, day after day, this book shapes who I am. Each time I read a verse again in a new situation, it has a new meaning which I hadn't pondered before, and seems to relax me and be a perfect answer to whatever the issue or problem I am involved in. The Qur'an is what the Bible was meant to be, if people hadn't tampered with it. It clears up a lot of the issues that have become confused in the Bible over time by the authors' bias and through repeated rewriting and translation. And of course, it is the only book that shaped a nation that lived 1000 years as the largest, most influential and most peaceful empire in history! If the Bible influenced you, but you find something missing or contradictory, try the Qur'an, the final message from God, perfectly conserved (and checksummed :-)).

    Other books that influenced my personality are "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey, and "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.

    My favorite and most inspiring novel has to be "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. Some others are "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the rest of the series by Arthur Clarke, and "1984" by George Orwell. I'm still reading "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card, seems quite good too.

    MicroX - Power & Passion

    Walden (none / 2) (#415)
    by GreenYoda on Sun Mar 21, 2004 at 08:06:25 PM EST

    If I had to pick the single book that has most influenced my life, it would be Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Although it was written in 1854, its observations about how we squander our precious time to earn money to purchase the trappings of a materialistic culture are just as relevant today. And it's the origin of several immortal passages that everyone would recognize, such as: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." (I'm actually surprised that no other kuro5hin reader has mentioned it so far.)

    You can read Walden for free at: http://eserver.org/thoreau/walden00.html

    A few more (none / 2) (#418)
    by treefrog on Fri Mar 26, 2004 at 10:38:42 AM EST

    There are lots of great books already mentioned. Here are a few more that I havn't seen mentioned, and which have particular resonance for me. The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgarkov. The power of this book blows me away every time I read it. Manuscripts don't burn, indeed.

    Kim Rudyard Kipling. I picked it up because I was bored and it was available. I keep returning to it. It is a great story, well told, and very different (much gentler) than I had expected.

    I Choose to Climb Chris Bonnington. It is on the list because it did change my life. I discovered climbing in my mid-teens thanks to this book. I made friends, met my wife, chose where I lived and how I spent my time due to reading this book. However, for a read, I much prefer...

    Always a Little Further Alistair Borthwick. A tale of climbing in the 1930s in Sctotland,written by an average Joe, not one of the great climbers. Highly readable and utterly recommended.

    Enjoy, treefrog
    Twin fin swallowtail fish. You don't see many of those these days - rare as gold dust Customs officer to Treefrog

    My list (none / 0) (#420)
    by uflanh on Sat Apr 03, 2004 at 12:47:50 PM EST

    Holy Bible I know that I differ from most who post on this website, but the Bible has influenced me to grow more in my faith, rather than deter it away from me. Save me the comments of my being an idiot. I've heard it all. I've ignored it all.

    Brave New World Taught me to question everything I thought I knew about how the world works. Gotta love that. I really do have a sort list. Oh well. I read constantly, but not many books really influence me, they may teach me but don't, per say, influence me. That and I'm not a college student who doesn't really have time to read anything other than what I'm required to read. And, of course, I'm bitter about anything I'm told I have to read. Maybe someday I'll be able to read for pleasure again. Perhaps this summer.

    Oh, Hello! (none / 0) (#421)
    by blacksunrise on Wed Apr 07, 2004 at 01:59:08 AM EST

    What a wonderful place to find myself!
    To start: The Rosy Crucifiction, by Henry Miller.
    Ten years ago I read it with a lovely girl named Jennifer. (Insannifer)
    The Man in the High Tower, by Phillip K dick.
    I do not recall what it was even about, just that it kicked ass.
    Anything by Charles Bukowski!
    Or Hank Chinaski, if you Prefer. (May he rot in peace).
    The Books of Blood (parts 1-3), by Clive Barker.
    Clever, Chilling short stories. (IF YOU CAN FIND THEM!)
    Hell's Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson.
    Politics, porn and parties!

    "He who angers you conquers you."~Elizabeth Kenny

    "The Holy Bible" (none / 0) (#422)
    by The Devil on Sun Apr 11, 2004 at 03:25:57 AM EST

    Try reading "The Holy Bible" as if you were a programmer. It'll open yer eyes!

    My list (none / 0) (#423)
    by fr2ty on Tue Apr 20, 2004 at 12:26:55 PM EST

    The Grimm Brothers' Collection of folk tales (learned to read by myself using these books)

    The Holy Bible (Luther-based translations)

    Sten Nadolny: "The Discovery of Slowness"

    Brigitte Hamann: "Hitler's Vienna" Probably my favourite book about Nazi Germany ever - even if the review linked here sees it differently

    Ian Kershaw: "Hitler"

    Jacques Lusseyran: "And There Was Light" (the title sounds like esoteric bullshit, but this book is not)

    About 12 books by Rudolf Steiner that influenced my not to read another one of his again.

    Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov: Principles of Orchestration" Forget Berlioz/Strauss. This is the real shit.

    Umberto Eco: "A Theory of Semiotics" (Chewing on this one since years...)

    Paul Bekker: "The Story of the Orchestra", New York 1936 (you might also want to read his Beethoven biography)

    Ach so, and of course the 20 volume Brockhaus Encyclopedia, various man page printouts, web pages. I like to read a lot - greetings to all the other insomniacs in the house =)
    Please note that are neither capitals nor numbers in my mail adress.

    What Books have Influenced Your Life? | 418 comments (369 topical, 49 editorial, 2 hidden)
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