You know those things that are half meme, half chain letter? Where someone tags you and you have to answer a bunch of questions or play a game and then tag a bunch more people? Well, I got tagged in one on Facebook. And normally I don’t play along, because I’m stubborn that way, but this one is about books. Specifically, “name 10 books that have influenced/inspired you throughout different times in your life.”
Well, heck. I do love books. And since I am writing a book, I guess this is as relevant a way to procrastinate as any. I wasn’t going to bother trying to name 10 — I thought, I’ll just name the first books that occur to me, and those will obviously have influenced me enough to be memorable — and before I knew it, there were 10. I’ve tagged each title with an Amazon link, complete with my affiliate code, so if you decide to buy any I’ll consider myself thanked.
So, in roughly the order I originally read them, here are the 10 books that have most influenced or inspired me throughout my life:
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
I must have read it at least 10 times when I was growing up. The level of detail about the rabbit warren, their culture, language, and everything about the story and what it seemed to signify hooked me completely.
- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
Sometime around junior high I graduated from rabbits to cowgirls, but if you know both books you can probably surmise that my preference for longwinded prose remained intact. Still love Tom Robbins, and he’s the author of one of my favorite quotes: “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
- Diet for a New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Your Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth by John Robbins
I can’t remember why I first read it in 1995, but it inspired me to go vegetarian. Then when I re-read it in 1998, it inspired me to go vegan. Possibly no other book has had as profound a direct impact on my life and lifestyle.
- The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck
The “Love” chapter in this book significantly shaped my intentions within my relationships, for example: “…real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking, when we act lovingly despite the fact that we don’t feel loving.” Potent, wise stuff.
- Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
Reinforced the importance of looking beneath the surface of what I consume and questioning the motives, relationships, and context of who created it and why. Also, it wasn’t only because of this book, but I stopped watching TV after reading it in the ’90s and still don’t own a set, although that’s kind of a moot point now that TV content is internet content and internet content is TV content.
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
I don’t remember why I was reluctant to read this, but so many friends suggested it when I was in college that I finally broke down and checked it out from the library, and before I’d even gotten to the end of the first chapter I went and bought my own copy to highlight, dogear, and bookmark. Probably about time for a re-read, too.
- Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by George Lakoff
This book helped me connect the dots between my love and languages and linguistics and how I assess the world as sets of patterns, fluid and overlapping groupings, and context. In a way, I think it helped prepare me for my career in web content and technology.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Often taken as a prescriptivist business book, but it influenced me more toward consulting (which led to launching first [meta]marketer and then KO Insights) because this is a foundational piece of research that turned into remarkably astute insights and frameworks, like the hedgehog concept, the flywheel, and the doom loop, among others.
- Written in My Soul: Conversations with Rock’s Great Songwriters by Bill Flanagan
I’ve always enjoyed reading about how the creative process works for different people, and this was a relatively recent example of a great compilation of stories that prove that the process has remarkable similarities for everyone and yet everyone’s process is remarkably unique.
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This was gifted to me after Karsten died, and I read it slowly, a little at a time, over the following months. My grief process was not always like Joan Didion described, but she was so raw and attuned to her own process that it helped me feel clearer about mine. (Thank you, Joanna.)
I did enjoy compiling that, but I’m not going to tag anyone else; you are all invited to post your own list to your own blog or Facebook page. Happy reading.