Top 10 Most Influential Books

Kevin told me that people on the Interwebz have been drafting up lists of the top 10 books which have most influenced their lives (via Marginal Revolution). Since MR is an economics-based website, it seems natural that his list has a lot of economics and political theory. As a literary blog, and as a largely apolitical person (comparatively speaking, I suppose… I hang around a fairly political crowd), my list ventures more into literary themes and morality and pretty words. I’ve written my list in the order in which I first read them!

  1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: I still have vivid memories of reading this book when I was young and feeling a sense of completion every time. I think the ideas of selflessness and unconditional love were what really spoke to me.
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl: Matilda was my hero for the longest time. She loved reading as much as I did/do and she was more powerful because of it. Also, it’s one of those rare cases where the book and movie are both absolutely fantastic.
  3. The Giver by Lois Lowry: I’ll never forget Miss Hammer, who gave me this book in fourth grade (not for class or anything, but because she knew I loved reading). I remember that this was my first exposure to dystopic fiction, and also paved the way for me for books like 1984 and Brave New World. I also credit it with sowing the seeds of libertarianism, which have only recently come out of dormancy in me. The rest of it I blame on Kevin.
  4. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: This book pretty much taught me all I ever needed to know about love. The part about the fox just gets me every time. Et j’aimerai le bruit du vent dans le blé…
  5. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: I know, CORNY! but I don’t know if I would’ve thought I’d love Shakespeare if I hadn’t read this first when I was thirteen. I remember reading this over and over and writing notes all over my battered copy. I’m pretty sure I had all or most of it memorized all through high school.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I found my sense of justice and uprightness in this book. I know Jem and Scout are kind of annoying, but Atticus Finch is just the most unwaveringly heroic literary figure.
  7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: I credit this book with putting me in the direction of international political affairs. I think in early high school I didn’t know or wonder much about the problems of other countries (strange how ungrateful one might be, immigrating to the United States at a young age) but this book definitely put things in perspective.
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: And thus begins my love for Margaret Atwood! Again with the dystopic fiction – I was very impressed by this theocratic totalitarianism and even more by the subjugation of women. I also distinctly recall the impression Atwood’s writing had on me. She has the most wonderful visual imagery I’ve ever read, and I’ve loved almost every book I’ve read by her.
  9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Jane, Jane, Jane. I’m not sure how to explain what Pride and Prejudice means to me. I acknowledge that while it’s not necessarily the best of her work (I would argue that Persuasion is), I think it has a certain universality that speaks to everyone. Not to mention the verbal banter/foreplay between Elizabeth and Darcy is unparalleled. (Furthermore, P&P fan-fiction is the best!)
  10. Noli me tangere by José Rizal: I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I only read this book last year, and it’s unarguably the most important book about/from the Philippines ever written. Noli is a call to fight the political and religious corruption that so pervasively invades all of Filipino society. It’s still significant because the problems are still there, over two hundred years later, even after Rizal died as a martyr and the Philippine Revolution freed the islands from Spanish control. Except now the corruption occurs among Filipinos, with no need for outsiders to fuel the social injustice.

I’m perfectly aware that the first four books were written for children. I think it speaks more highly of the authors; that these books are so excellent that I read them when I was young and they made such an impression on me that I still consider them major influences in my life. I was telling Kevin that it might simply mean that I was shaped by these amazing books early on in life and I’ve known what type of person I am and what values are important to me for a long time.

I also think it’s interesting that Kevin & I both consider The Little Prince the most succinct explanation of true love. Maybe that’s why we fell in love so easily.

Please, let me know what you think! Write your own and post it on your own blog… or here!

Also, this list reminds me of First Book’s What Book Got You Hooked? campaign, which celebrates the books that first got us interested in reading. A worthy organization, and a worthy cause!

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One response to “Top 10 Most Influential Books

  1. As a young boy dreaming of athletic glory, I read the novels of John R. Tunis and was so caught up in the vicarious experience of the characters that they still rival the intensity of my own real memories of competitive sports. In such novels as “The Duke Decides,” Tunis planted the seeds of my awareness of the importance of making the right ethical choices. I don’t remember the issue, but I will always remember that the Duke resigned from the team, and the sport he loved, to protect his own integrity. A striking first lesson for which I’m still grateful.

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