Personally influential books


in Books and literature

I am curious which books readers have found personally convincing and influential, when it comes to important aspects of their understanding of the world.

In particular, it would be interesting to hear about books that were first read during childhood and which immediately provoked a great deal of thought.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan April 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

“The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Edwards. I loved the adventure narrative, but the aspect that provoked thought was its emphasis on perception as a learned skill, not something you simply “do”. In the book the children have to repeatedly learn how to see in order to attain some goal. This distinction between “simply looking” and learning how to look by looking, and thereby transcending the initial model that you bring to the world – it catapulted me into philosophy and later phenomenology.

Ryan Nassichuk April 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

As a child –

“Roots” by Alex Haley

As an Adult –

“The Revolution will not Be Microwaved” and “Wild Fermentation” By Sandor Katz

“Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

EK April 27, 2011 at 12:28 am

There were a couple of authors who had a very profound impact on my conception of feminism and of the way a story can be told from different, gendered perspectives.

The first was the “Song of the Lioness” quartet by Tamora Pierce, the other was “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmers Bradely.

Joanna April 27, 2011 at 5:39 am

I’ll split the difference and say that one of the most important books as a teen was The color of Water by James McBride.

oleh April 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

This is a very wide subject. For the moment I remember the 1884
Victorian novella Flatland by Edwin Abbott. Abbott writes about a two-dimensional world , Flatland, where the shapes that inhabit it have a difficult time seeing beyond their dimensions. people find it.

The book is only 100 pages. I began it before a shift as a server in a bar over thirty years ago and kept reading it and completing it during my shift. It has stayed with me as an example of how we can stay blinkered within the world we know.

Sasha April 27, 2011 at 9:00 am

From my childhood, “The Phantom Tollbooth”by Norton Juster. I think it was my first memorable brush with absurdity and I definitely remember laughing out loud at parts.

Good question Mil.

Milan April 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Wild Fermentation was recently featured on Cool Tools.

zoom April 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now, ever since you first posed the question. Mine are The Little Princess, The Incredible Journey, and Charlotte’s Web.

I learned about poverty from The Little Princess, which was a riches-to-rags story about a privileged little girl who becomes orphaned and is subsequently treated very badly. I say I learned about poverty from this book, which is kind of ironic since I was living in poverty when I read it as a child. But really, it was the first book that made me really think about poverty and stigma and stuff like that.

From the other two books, I learned about animals and hardship and rooting for the underdog. From Charlotte’s Web, I learned that every life has value to the creature living it, even a lowly spider’s. From The Incredible Journey (which was about two dogs and a cat traveling thousands of miles to get reunited with their family, and enduring unthinkable hardships along the way), I learned to Never Give Up No Matter How Hopeless Things Seem Right Now.

I think all of these books – and a few others – in some way shaped my world view as a child.

That’s a very good question, by the way.

oleh May 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

It seems from the comments to date that the most influential books are often books we read in our childhood.

Milan May 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Some books I can remember reading over and over as a child, and finding compelling:

My Side Of The Mountain by Jean George

The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Chemistry

The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Physics

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I am sure there are lots of others, and I don’t have a clear recollection of what I read as a very young child.

oleh May 4, 2011 at 2:29 am

I also remember reading Ender’s Game and My Side of the Mountain as an adult. They were also books that left a strong impression on me as an adult.

In my book club after 9 years and 100 books, there was a session to determine which of those 100 books was the best. The winner was Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance”.

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