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March 22, 2010

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You are a pretty heathen fellow, it seems!

I could probably pick a different list of "ten books that influenced me" ten times over...

1. Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers by John Burningham.
2. The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling.
3. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower; The Diddakoi, by Rumer Godden.
4. The Heroes, by Charles Kingsley.
5. The Bafut Beagles by Gerald Durrell.
6. The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.
7. Bent by Martin Sherman.
8. Don't Bite The Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine by Tanith Lee.
9. Cuckoo's Egg by C. J. Cherryh.
10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

...but for this time, today, that I'm thinking of, right now, that'll do.

(They're all books I'd read many times before I was 20: in fact, mostly, before I was 16.)

Most of my favs are lowbrow: I reread Georgette Heyers until they fall apart and I have been staying up late nights gleefully burrowing my way throught the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series.

But so's to prove I can do intellectual when sufficiently motivated I like to read about history. I have read Bernard De Voto's Across the Wide Missouri so many times that my copy is in shreads. I have even read it as an accompaniment to road trips to the relevant places. I'd have to put my small library of primary resource books (from the press of the University of Oklahoma) in my "books I love" catagory because they let me escape mentally to an era when the western US was all wilderness. Tough Trip Through Paradise by Andrew Garcia is a good time travel book.

I gave away my copy of The Fall fo the Dynasties after reading it until I had it nearly memorised, but I still have a small library of history books about that era. My pattern for history reading is to get infatuated with an era and read all kinds of stuff about it for a couple years before moving on to a new era. So I had a wild west phase, a pre-WWI phase and now I'm in a Tudor phase. The only time period I really don't want to read about is the present.

Or the future.

Coming into the Country by John McPhee made a big impression on me. It did not inspire me to love wilderness-- I think my dad is responsible for that--but it did inpire me with the resolution to get up there and see it for myself. Because of John McPhee I've been to the Arctic Circle twice in Canada and to the Alaska and southern Yukon probably ten or eleven times. I think Coming into the Country is probably the most influential book I have ever read.

Although my stack of books about Buddhism may in the long run be more influential. I am certainly trying to be influenced by them.

So that's me.

We have Things Fall Apart in common although I can't say I remember it very well. I read it a long time ago.

I'm glad to see some "lowbrow" entries.

Having followed this across several blogs, I wondered whether all these people really read all this serious stuff when they were younger. I sure didn't.

The closest I can come is Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth, a remarkably logical and entertaining work on religion, among other things.

10 books that have nothing in common except that I like them all a lot.

1. The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.
2. The Great American Novel, by Philip Roth
3. Leave it to Psmith, by P. G. Wodehouse
4. The Once and Future King, by T. H. White
5. The Phoenix Guard, by Steven Brust
6. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
7. Roughing It, by Mark Twain
8. A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
9. The Three Musketeers/Twenty Years After/The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexander Dumas (pere)
10. Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck

Somewhere along the line, books stopped being all that influential on me. I'm not sure why that is, it just happened that way.

But I will read anything whatsoever by Saul Bellow, anytime. "Henderson" and "Augie March" are kind of touchstones.

The Old Testament prophets are a perennial favorite.

Did you know that Ezekiel was commanded by God to, basically, lay down in front of a brick, every day, for over a year, as a symbolic act of prophesy and judgement?

Then he was told to shave his head and beard, burn one third of it, chop another third to bits, and scatter the last third to the wind.

And his friends and neighbors were supposed to understand from these acts that God was angry with them.

Can you imagine being Ezekiel? I mean seriously, WTF? Do I really have to lay down in front of a brick in the middle of the street, every day, for four hundred and thirty days, in a row?

I think of Ezekiel whenever I see what appear to be crazy people in the street.

You just never know.

So I guess that's kind of an influence.

When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on by Milan Kundera. More of a philosopher than a novelist, perhaps, but when I was about 25 I thought he was the real tip.

Lately I'm finding Kurt Vonnegut to be very congenial. Kind of jocular and lightweight, but then not.

Can we get an open thread on ten musical recordings?

I love The Once and Future King!

The theme of Mother Night--that you are what you pretennd to0 be--is one that has stuck with me from back in the day when I read Vonnegut.

I like his son's book The Eden Express a great deal, too.

Maybe a few dozen philosophy texts,but really In chronological order:

1. Call of the Wild - Jack London
2. Misty of Chincoteague - Marguerite Henry
3. Black Stallion series - Walter Farley
4. Isaac Asimov's Foundation series
5. Robert Heinlein's Future History stories
6. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
7. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
8. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
9. Slaughterhouse-five - Kurt Vonnegut
10.The Urantia Book

This list ranges over fifty years. Except for America's Constitution, at one time of my life or another I read them all multiple times. Some I haven't touched for decades, some I still reread on a regular basis (LOTR, 5th Sacred Thing, Jesuits in space, Horse Heaven).

The Making of the President, 1960, by Theodore H. White

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White

The Hobbit and LOTR

The Universe: From Flat Earth to Quasar, by Isaac Asimov

The Religions of Man, by Huston Smith (hugely influential as a teacher of mine as well)

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki (oddly enough, I have bitterly mixed feelings about the influence this book had on my life)

The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk

The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell (Jesuits in space doesn't seem like it would make for engrossing sci-fi...)

America's Constitution: A Biography, by Akhil Reed Amar

*****

More loved than influential, and over the quota:

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley

OK, I need to second "Fifth Sacred Thing" and "Prodigal Summer".

For different reasons, and maybe not-so-different reasons, both books that loom large in my mind.

JanieM,

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset

I'm glad to see that one, in spite of a few reservations.

"Prodigal Summer" stands out for me (along with "Horse Heaven") as one of the most loving books I have ever read: love for fallible human beings in both cases, and love for the land in the case of "Prodigal Summer," in which the land itself is one of the main "characters" in the story.

"Prodigal Summer" made me start to notice, in any book I read afterwards (and thinking back on many that I had read before), whether the author paid any attention to the land and the landscape, and to feel that when a story, or the characters in it, had no awareness of the land, the vision was somehow impoverished, and less (ironically) human/humane.

I think it's Kingsolver's best by far (though I haven't read the new one yet), and my (glib?) theory is that that's because she had come home.

Wow! Mike Schilling lists TWO of MY favorite books: Leave it to Psmith and Roughing It.

Leave it to Psmith is an absolute masterpiece -- pure, unadulterated, perfectly structured comedy. Some years ago, I had occasion to buy 10 copies of the paperback edition from Amazon. Its sales rank was 300,000-something before, and 98,000-something afterwards. Just an interesting factoid.

Other books that must be my favorites because I reread them every once in a while:

1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Funny thing is, I don't much like any of her other novels.

2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre. I also love The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People, so it's probably George Smiley rather than John LeCarre I really like.

3. I, Claudius and Claudius the God, Robert Graves. They're essentially one book.

4. Lost Horizon, James Hilton. This story of a theocracy in the mountains of Central Asia is way, way better than the execrable Hollywood movie of the same title.

5. The Last Time I Saw Paris, Elliot Paul. A charming, though heartbreaking, account of life in one small Paris neighborhood between the World Wars.

6. Why I Am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell.

7. The First (and Second, and Third) Rumpole Omnibus, John Mortimer. Horace Rumpole is who I'd like to be when I grow up.

8. Washington Goes To War, David Brinkley. A vivid account, partly based on personal recollection, of Washington DC during World War Two. Very funny, very informative, and oddly reassuring in the sense that Washington was just as hapless, self-absorbed, and truculent back then.

--TP

I have very vivid memories of Misty of Chincoteague and the Black Stallion books which I devored during my adolescent horse phase. Now I get my need to nurture animals met through dog rescue altough I am also supportive of horse rescue and donate regularly to a local rescue I can't say tht I actually like any real horses. They scare me.

I love the Smiley books, too, because they are escapist. Books like the Constant Gardener and Absolute Friends make me feel like shooting myself.

Roughing It is a hoot.

I should have mentioned Karen Armstrong since most of what I know about religions other than Buddhism come from reading her books.

Well, I like posting my top-ten list, but then I look at everyone else's list and I think, I've got to catch up.

Like baseball cards when I was kid.

But, Russell, I keep "Augie" and "Henderson" by my bed, along with "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", and I want, I want, I want, and I don't know what it is, but I want.

This week, I'm going over to my best friend's (she's the forever one) house and we're going to watch "Lonely Are The Brave" (Kirk Douglas' finest) and "The Swimmer" the Burt Lancaster movie based on the John Cheever short story, which both break my heart.

Marty, I love "On The Road". I read it every time I'm on the road and someone else is driving. I think I read part of once WHILE I was driving. Truman Capote said famously that Kerouac wasn't a writer, he was a typist, but I'm with Thomas McGuane .. I won't have it.

That I could type like that .. and occasionally I do, which is to say I'm a typist.

No order:

"Ninety-two in the Shade" Thomas McGuane

"Blood Meridian" Cormac McCarthy

"Great Expectations" Dickens

"The Sunlight Dialogues" John Gardner

Cheever/Updike short stories

Chekhov stories

Robinson Crusoe Defoe

Anything by Walker Percy

Lately, Orwell and Wodehouse, an odd couple

Proust, Flaubert, see ya


Oh, can I do lowbrow. Well, I'm not ashamed of what I like to read. In no real order:

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Probably don't need to explain this one. The most complete & original work of world-building ever.

2. The Mars trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson.

Not so much for a literal insight into what Martian colonization might look like as for a look at modern human motivations from the outside.

3. The Armchair Universe, A.K. Dewdney.

My first experience with artificial life, cellular automatons, fractals, the Mandelbrot Set, emergent behavior in simulations, and so on. Unfortunately Dewdney appears to have become a Truther since then. Oh well.

4. The Sprawl trilogy, William Gibson.

A cliche even by the time I read them, but notable for their deviance from the bright & shiny (or scary-alien) futures of most of the science fiction I had read.

5. Programming Perl, Wall et al.

A book (and a language) about the expressive power of programming rather than the technical capabilities or software engineering niceties. A revelation after years of frustration with the existing - dead, mathematical - writing about programming. The book I would recommend to anyone wanting to know what programming is really about.

6. The Narnia series, C.S. Lewis.

Good & evil, life & death, escapism, the idea that the world might be a very strange place filled with mysteries even though everyone pretends hard that it is very ordinary, you know, all that.

7. The World of Tiers series, Philip Jose Farmer.

More escapism; a suffocatingly claustrophobic conspiracy theory; men as gods or gods as men; rip-roaring adventure. Read to death.

8. The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins.

Notable both for the extremely lucid explanation of evolution (which he subsequently refined, and his later books on the subject are as good or better) and for the concept of memes, which - while again a cliche now - continues to give a great insight into how and why people believe the things they believe.

9. The Road to Reality, Roger Penrose.

Fairly recent. An approach to almost all of physics (and a lot of math) that assumes that a reasonably intelligent non-specialist (which I am - well, "reasonably intelligent" is a matter of opinion) can grasp some of the concepts underlying the modern picture of reality without either introducing ridiculous simplifications (like most pop-sci books) or losing you in technical detail (like most serious physics & math books).

10. Feersum Endjinn, Iain Banks.

A story about a wholly original future that is so much fun to read (much of it is phonetic) that my first copy long since fell apart. No grand message. Just fun.

8. Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. I find myself liking this book more and more as I get older. Do not know why.

You may be reacting to the fact that it is perfect.

Second McGuane and Percy.

If we aren't living "Love In The Ruins", I don't know what the hell is going on.

And this thread is going to be hell on my Amazon allowance. Wait, I don't have one. As my wife is fond of noting.

Ever since I got my Kindle I've been hemorhagging money to Amazon.

5. Programming Perl, Wall et al.
Yes, probably the most delightful programming book I've read, although Mastering Regular Expressions, Jeffrey E. F. Friedl tries valiantly to be in the same league, but I think fails due to the subject matter.

And for wonkie: Spotted in France: A Dog's Life...On the Road, Gregory Edmont unfortunately not yet kindled, but my wife read it to me on a recent Seattle to Spokane and back again trip and it made the trip pass extremely fast.

TonyP's first three could be on my list too; in fact I'm listening to the CD of Smiley's People in the car these days.

And Marty, I agree that the original Foundation trilogy is amazing. Right now I'm reading the Benford-Bear-Brin Foundation novels. Meh.

No order

Huckleberry Finn, Twain

Letters From The Earth, Twain

The Nicolo series, Dorothy Dunnett

We Die Alone, Howarth

The Once And Future King, White

Earth Abides, Stewart

Mysterious Island, Verne (bad writing, but probably the reason I'm an engineer)

Brave New World, Huxley

1984, Orwell

The War of the Worlds, Wells (and The First Men In The Moon, which is too little read)

The Source, Michener (not as good a book as the others, but the first book to open my eyes to history as narrative, and to the depth of human history)

Tolkein, of course, of course.
And almost everything Ursula LeGuin ever wrote.

I wouldn't exactly call it influential, but why's (poignant) guide to Ruby is unlike any other programming book I've ever read.

I think every programmer should read Brooks's The Mythical Man Month early in their career, because it's probably that most of their managers will act as if the book was never written.

I think it shows great character to include books on a list of those that influenced you some whose theses you disagree with or that go against the intellectual identity you formed in the course of interacting with the other books on the list -- but which nevertheless you admit the struggle/interaction with informed or helped to influence that identity.

Treasure Island--my mom got it from the library to read to me and my little brother, and says I would read ahead on my own. First novel I ever enjoyed.

The Long Winter, one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Survival story set in a brutal Dakotas winter.

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George.

Watership Down. I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned this one.

The Masters of Solitude by Marvin Kaye and Parke Godwin. Read this one at 14, and got a heaping dose of philosophy. I never looked at reality the same again.

The Hobbit. Mentioned by others.

Conan the Unconquered, by Robert Jordan. Not Robert Howard; but I read this one right about the same time I read the Hobbit. Opened up sword and sorcery to me. A good contrast with Tolkein.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Read it over the course of a weekend in tenth grade for a presentation in English class on Monday. I was totally excited, and spent the whole time calling the Ewells "E-wells" instead of "You-lls." At least it made people laugh.

Three others whose titles are long gone: one was a book of Norse mythology, the second was a short story compilation of science fiction, from some time in the fifties; and the third was a story about glaciers and the Ice Age. All fed the mind of this budding fantasy/science geek.

[smacks forehead]

How could I have forgotten to mention Aldo Leopold ?

The Leopold family and my family had connections, and when A Sand County Almanac was first published (after Aldo's death), Carl Leopold left a copy in my grandparents' summer home. I read it every fall all through adolescence, and no other book has had a more profound effect on my view of the world and our/my place in it.

The spotted dog in france book looks like a good read--I checked out some reviews on Amazon.

Sand Count Almanac--that's one of my childhood books, too. My family was forever going camping in Nebraska. My dad fished and my mom was a birdwatcher and the whole family read the same books. So Sand County Almanac wsas one of our family books along with every thing Mari Sandoz ever wrote.

No special order

1.Die gefesselten Gespenster (The tied-up ghosts) - Werner Hörnemann
A very diverse group of youngsters from Marseille try to get rid the castle of a businessman of its business damaging haunting.
The favorite book of my childhood that almost had me studying physics instead of chemistry

2.Stalky & Co - Rudyard Kipling
He would have deserved the Nobel for this alone.

3.The Hobbit/LotR - Tolkien
Took me a while but hooked me for life

4.Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction - George Bain
It's one thing to admire the complicated ornaments, it's a revelation to learn how to make them yourself

5.About everything by Michael Ende (Momo, Jim Knopf, Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch, ...)

6.Many books by Stanislaw Lem, the Kyberiade maybe on top

7.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
I can still recite long excerpts from memory

8.All of Terry Pratchett, Good Omens a possible favorite

9. The Harry Potter books
During a very depressing time they may have literally kept me alive for I did not want to go without knowing the end

10. Something naval but what?
Moby Dick(Melville), Submarine Design(Gabler, non-fiction), the Hornblower series(Forester), the Golff Children series (Kurowski)?

Well, okay, why not?

1. Koestler: The Sleepwalkers. Yes, I know Eric also picked it, but that's just great minds in harmony. It's galaxies apart from Darkness as Noon, which might also be on the list except that I don't want more than one per author.

2. Heller: Catch-22. The war novel to end all war novels. Funny and depressing as hell, both at the same time. The movie is good, but still just a pale shadow.

3. Pynchon: Gravity's Rainbow. I don't understand it, but I love it anyway. Among many other things, it's probably the greatest collection of trivia between two covers this side of the Guinness book. Everything he's done since is an attempt to recapture the magic of this one.

4. Groff Conklin, ed.: The Best of Science Fiction. I first read this around 1953 (published 1946, as I recall), and it hooked me on the genre. If you want to see what science fiction looked like long before Also Sprach Zarathustra and droids, this is it. Honorable mentions to LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and everything of Heinlein's before Stranger in a Strange Land.

5. Salinger: Seymour, an Introduction. I know, I know. But it works just fine if you accept that the nervous breakdown is Buddy's and not Salinger's. Of course, you also have to read all that came before, starting with Bananafish.

6. Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. Self-explanatory.

7. Cohan: House of Cards. The rise and fall of Bear Stearns. As the subtitle has it: "A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street." A great research job and a grip like a whodunit.

8. Mayer: The Dark Side. Does for Bush-Cheney what Cohan did for Bear Stearns.

9. DeMille: The Gold Coast. This guy writes thrillers of literary quality -- or, if you prefer, literary novels that happen to be thrilles. He has his misfires -- The General's daugher, for one, and what idiot picked that one to film? But at his best, topnotch. Try Word of Honor second. The Gate House, the sequel to The Gold Coast, is amusing but not of the same quality.

10. Shakespeare: Complete works. Reading Shakespeare is nothing compared to seeing a performance (and I've seen many, thank goodness), but it's still good enough to make a top ten.

As Jes said, the list could go on and on, and I'm bemused by the fact that other people's entries keep reminding me of whole phases of my reading/life that have faded into the background of my memories, but that were important at the time. Maybe a few of those later, for conversation's sake, but at the moment:

For Hartmut -- I was too lazy/impatient to make much of George Bain's book, but later I found "Celtic Knotwork Designs," by Sheila Sturrock, and went to town. For a while. (The old dilettante can do one thing for only so long.)

Nixonland - Ron Perlstein

and here are another 9:

Jeff VanderMeer – City Of Saints And Madmen
Mark Helprin – Memoir From Antproof Case
The Lord Of The Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
Jonathan Lethem – Gun With Occasional Music
Edward Gorey – The Ghastlycrumb Tinies
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (series)
Jerzy Kosinski – The Painted Bird
Matt Ridley – The Red Queen

I'm trying to stick with books that I read before I was twenty, because those are the books that shaped the person (I think) I am (and certainly shaped the kind of books I like to read).

So, more or less in order of importance, though the top three were tough to sort out:

1. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
2. The Mars trilogy - Kim Stanley Robinson
3. A Wrinkle In Time - Madeline L'Engle
4.The Gate To Women's Country - Sherry Tepper (this one might be cheating, I might have been twenty when I read it)
5. Island - Aldous Huxley (I read Brave New World in school, but Island stuck with me more)
6. The Hero's Walk - Anita Rau Badami
7. Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
8. Opium Dreams - Margaret Gibson
9. No Logo - Naomi Klein (Klein gets, sometimes deservedly, a bad rap for her political views, but I still think this is an important book, especially for teenagers.)
10. Emergence - David Palmer

If I were to include books I read after I turned twenty, in no particular order Collapse (Jared Diamond), Life, Money and Illusion (Mike Nickerson) and The Geography of Hope (Chris Turner) are pretty directly responsible for my decision to go back to school for a second degree in environmental studies, and for the fact that I'll be starting a graduate degree next year.

JanieM,

Second the love for Barbara K.

In no particular order, and using Von's criteria (not "influenced me" but that I loved):

Guns, Germs and Steel - Diamond

Lord of the Rings - Tolkien

Zorba the Greek/Last Temptation of Christ - Kazantzakis

The Limits of Power - Bacevich

Unbearable Lightness of Being - Kundera

Wuthering Heights/Jane Eyre - Bronte

One Hundred Secret Senses/Joy Luck - Amy Tan

Blood Meridian - McCarthy

Name of the Rose/Foucault's Pendulum - Eco

Portrait of the Artist - Joyce

A pair of wordless novels by Lynd Ward, which are both art and narrative-

Vertigo
Gods'Man

Hiroshima John Hersey

Waking the Dead by Scott Spencer

The aforementioned Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain.

Selected Poems of W.H. Auden

I'd add recommendations for The Once and Future King, and Catch-22. Loved Robert Sheckley short stories as well.

Dune (series) -- Frank Herbert
Nine Princes in Amber (series) -- Roger Zelazny
Lord of Light -- Roger Zelazny
Lord of the Rings (series) -- JRR Tolkien
Grass -- Sherri Tepper
Animal Farm -- George Orwell
The Martian Chronicles -- Ray Bradbury
The Sirens of Titan -- Kurt Vonnegut
Cities in Flight -- James Blish
Half-Past Human -- TJ Bass

I won't play the whole game, mainly because it really depends on what dimension of 'influenced me' you want to talk about.

But I will provide one with an ironic twist. The book "Songmaster" really humanized a gay character for me at a time when I was still very entrenched in Christian fundamentalism, and it helped me when I came out a little bit later. It is strange because the author, Orson Scott Card, has turned into something of a notorious homophobe since then.

What to make of the fact that the one book which probably influenced me most is a really terribly written one? So bad that, when I mentioned it to the author a decade or more later, he cringed, saying "That thing???"

Lee Correy: Starship thru Space

I read it when I was in Jr. High. It was what led me to major in Engineering in college. (Who knows what I might have picked otherwise?)

As literature, it may be terrible, but it gives a glimmer of how much fun creating a new technology can be. The kind of fun where you get to working on something, and suddenly discover that it's midnight and you missed dinner.

There are lots of other books that I like much better these days. But that one doubtless had more overall influence on where my life went than any other.

It is strange because the author, Orson Scott Card, has turned into something of a notorious homophobe since then.

I was a happy Orson Scott Card fan for many years - I think up until 2004 I'd read every word he'd written that was in print, aside from perhaps some Mormon-interest plays - and I had ignored rumors that he was an ugly homophobe, on the basis that if I enjoyed his writing and disagreed with his politics, I should just ignore his politics.

Then of course in 2004 he wrote his ugly response to the marriage of Janis Ian and Patricia Snyder, "Homosexual Marriage and Civilisation" (he'd been a guest at their wedding in Toronto six months earlier) and I ended up reading his 1990 essay on homosexuality too... and while I honestly did not intend to have to stop reading Card, I finally discovered I couldn't bear the viewpoint on his writing that reading his essays and columns were giving me. I don't think he turned into an outrageous homophobe; I think he always was, it's just that now we know.

...I would probably have been happier not knowing. Songmaster was once one of my favorite SF novels, till I noticed that it fell squarely within Card's pattern of either castrating or destroying gay men who are sexually active.

Godel Escher Bach

The Lorax (really!)

Hobbit / Lord of the Rings

Foundation Series

Textbook proof of Godel incompleteness theorem.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Calvin & Hobbes anthology

The Mythical Man Month

The Joy of Sex

And now my list is tainted by reading everybody else's lists.

I have to start with I, Robot. It's the first book I remember reading. I've been partial to SF and mysteries ever since.

I don't recall the title but I had a lovely picture book of the Greek gods and myths. It awoke a love of fantasy and comparative religion.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I try to re-read them every few years.

Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell. It taught me that it was OK not to be a Jew.

The Natural Superiority of Women by Ashley Montagu. I was a feminist from a VERY early age.

Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Donald Westlake. 3 very different styles of mysteries.

Ursula Le Guin -- probably A Wizard of Earth-Sea. Although, I'm sad to say, I totally missed the racial aspects when I was younger.

My mom has always had a large library and I was invited to read anything. I don't read as much as I'd like (too many blogs!), but I still enjoy a good book.

"Influenced"? OK.

In no order:

The Armies of the Night (Mailer)
The Tin Drum (Grass)
Portnoy's Complaint (Roth)
all the Wooster/Jeeves books (Wodehouse)
The Center of the Cyclone (Lilly--don't ask)
all of Raymond Chandler
Lucky Jim (Amis)
Hopscotch (Cortazar)
The End of Faith (Harris)
Capital, vol. 1 (Marx)

My list (previously posted at CT) - to be honest, my reading them dates back quite a while though. I currently seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Did working on a computer all day do this to me? Or is it watching too many films (my passion)? Any suggestions on how to improve the situation?

1.) Henry James: Portrait of a Lady / The Ambassadors

2.) Alasdair Gray: 1982 Janine

3.) Rorty: Art and the Mirror of Nature / Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

4.) Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit

5.) de Man: Aesthetic Ideology

6.) Updike: Rabbit Run

7.) Max Frisch: Stiller

8.) Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks

9.) Musil: Man without Qualities

10.) Hawthorne: Short Stories

OK, one book The Evolution of Civilizations by Carroll Quigley. A bulletproof theory of how and why all societies evolve, and eventually fail. We're pretty close to level 6 out of 8.

Although The Prince is a hell of a read, don't you think the Melian Dialgoue, just a few pages down the street, is a much better counterpoint to the funeral oration for the Athenian dead? I mean, this is the same Republic talking, once the cameras have left the room and it's time to get serious: "The strong do as they please, and the weak suffer what they must."

I'm going to confess that the funeral oration and the Melian Dialogue are virtually the only parts of Thucydides I've read...endless lists of ships and men moving back and forth between endless lists of islads. But those passages stay with you.

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