My Top 5 Most Influencial Books

Browsing through some other sites this morning, I found the following question:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

I began to think about all the books that I have read throughout my life and have come up with an answer to this question.  Here is the list of the 5 most life-changing books that I have read, given in chronological order.

Ghost Beach (Goosebumps #22) by R. L. Stein

I know what you are thinking.  How does a children’s book make it on the list of the most life-changing books that I have read?  No, it was not life changing content.  No, it did not open my mind to a new style of writing.  To be completely honest, the entire series isn’t even that well written.   To my 7 year old mind, however, this was the coolest book that I had ever read.  I think that it is safe to say that the entire Goosebumps series is what helped to develop both my love for reading as well as my extremely creative imagination.  I remember days when I would wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday and go in to work with my dad just so that I could use a computer and try to write my own scary stories.  For years, I was determined to be a botanist after reading Stay Out Of The Basement.  The first time that I was not yelled at for staying up until 3 a.m. on a school night (I was probably about 9 years old, mind you) was when I read Why I Am Afraid Of Bees. If I had not refused to swim at YMCA camp that summer, forcing my mom to find something else for me to do while I sat by the poolside for 2 hours, I think I would be a much different person that I am today.

1984 by George Orwell

This is a much more typical example of a book that one would expect to find on this kind of list.  I believe I first read this when I was a sophomore in high school and have reread it many times since then.  Orwell’s mastery of language and insight was extremely influential to my 16 year old mind.  I was still in my “FTW” stage, complete with combat boots, dirty clothes and a pack of Camel Turkish Jades.  1984 was the first legitimate book that I had read which resonated with my convoluted and still undeveloped political outlook.  Like I said, I have reread this book at least 8 times, each time finding a new connection or insight.  As many have said before me, Orwell had to have been a genius to put together these ideas and present a distopia of this magnitude while still allowing it to be an extremely quick read.  Without reading this book, I doubt that I would have taken as many poli sci classes in college that I had.

Discourses of Epictetus

Out of all of the books listed here, this one was by far the most influential.  This was the first true philosophy book that I had ever read.  After “borrowing” it from my high school library,* I quickly worked my way through a large portion of it in a very short time.  His writings instilled in me a love for Stoicism which I still hold to this day.  Little did I know, but it would also influence what has so far been the rest of my life by leading me towards a life of philosophy and contemplation.  Without this book, paired with an amazing experience in Latin IV with one of the most influential people in my life (Scott Hicks), I would never have pursued philosophy.  For all I know, I would be in the Navy on a carrier working on the reactor.  Who knows.

Walking With The Wind by John Lewis

This book is an autobiography of congressman John Lewis who, among other things, was an active participant in the civil rights movement.  I had to read it as a required summer reading assignment for my first semester of college.  I started the semester as a nuclear engineering major.  I ended it as a philosophy and political science major.  This book had a lot to do with it.  It tells the story of how one man (John Lewis) went from being a poor black child in the south to being an influential member of one of the biggest social revolutions in U.S. history.  This story largely instilled me with teenage idealism, fueling my desire to help others and change the world.  While I have calmed down a bit since then, this is still a desire that I hold very close to my heart.  Sure, I don’t do as much volunteering as I did in college (partially because I lack the time and partially because my work schedule makes me unavailable 5 days a week) but, the question of “How should we live to best fulfill ourselves and help others fulfill themselves” lies at the crux of my philosophical work, a fact that I only recently recognized.  The other important thing that this book taught me is that opportunities are found in the most unlikely places.  While I used to be an obsessive planner, I have given this up.  Not only does it not work as plans always fall through, but excessive planning tends to hinder spontaneous opportunity occurrences.  If that makes any sense.

Nonviolence in Theory and Practice edited by Barry L. Gan and Robert L. Holmes

I read this book as part of a Philosophy of Non-Violence course my sophomore year in college.  This was my first in-depth exposure to both Buddhism and the animal rights movement.  Up to this point, Buddhists were just a group of meditators with super-human kung fu abilities and vegetarians were just ex-hippies who loved animals almost as much as they loved weed.  After reading this, though, and having both of these schools of though presented to me in an accurate and logical way, I had an extremely different opinion of both.  If you know me at all this is pretty obvious, since I am now working at a Buddhist school and have been a vegetarian (and an on/off vegan) for about 5 years now.

These are my top five, for better or worse.  This was surprisingly not as difficult as I had anticipated and turned out to be quite enlightening.  I suggest that you try this yourself.  And by you, I mean AlexMac and Shaba.  Since you are the only two that read this.

*When I took this, the year was 2002.  The last time it had been checked out? 1974.  I prefer to think that I liberated it from a long, drawn out death.  And, not surprisingly, no one has ever contacted me for it.


~ by sisypheanfeat on 29 May, 2009.

3 Responses to “My Top 5 Most Influencial Books”

  1. I may have to do this… it would be hard for me, but then again… maybe not. Keep bugging me about this.

    As for your asterisk, I have quite a few books from the local library “honor” section, books that didn’t have magnetic strips in them and didn’t have due dates. I brought some back, but those that didn’t get taken out a lot were thrown in the book bin… a terrible place. So I would keep them and love them.

  2. you are forgetting about your silent reader. and I may try it.
    –As for your list, I hated goosebumps. so I guess we can’t be friends. Mostly it’s because I’m afraid of most everything and I didn’t need anyone helping my overly developed imagination along. I can see the imaginary alien about to eat me in my closet without help, thank you.

    P.S. this is Shaba cousin, in case you didn’t know my nickname.

  3. This would be difficult.
    Only five?

    In other news, I’ve missed you muchly lately. Since I”m still a lady of leisure you should give me a call during the day.
    I am really happy that you’re blogging again though.


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