A friend of mine tagged me in that “Ten Books That Have Stayed With You” meme going around Facebook, and I decided to share them here, as well. The below are the ten books that I think have had the biggest impact on my life, in no particular order.
1) Goosebumps # 17: Why I’m Afraid of Bees, By RL Stine
This is the book that first got me into reading in a big way. I still remember getting it from the book fair in second grade. I’m unsure why, but this book really got me hooked on reading. Afterwards, I started devouring books. Every time my mother and I went to the mall, she would buy me a new Goosebumps first, and then I’d read it for the duration of the shopping trip, perfectly behaved, and usually I’d finish before she.
2) Plutarch’s Lives
I’ve always been a fan of classical history for as long as I can remember, and Plutarch is one of the earliest authors on the topic I ever read. I recently purchased his entire collection, so I can finally read all of them, but I’ve been reading individual lives for years, and I find them extremely interesting, and a wonderful source of wisdom and comfort. History, I think, teaches us how to persevere through our current troubles and how to deal with new ones. I just love Plutarch’s style, as well, and I enjoy getting to write in a similar way.
3) Sandman, by Neil Gaiman
An absolutely incredible graphic novel series. It’s beautiful, moving, awesome; I can’t praise it enough. I ought to go and reread the whole thing one of these days. If you’ve never read it, you should. Gaiman works in a lot of interesting history and mythology, and it reminds me a bit of Dresden Codak in that way.
4) Doctor No, by Ian Fleming
This was the first James Bond novel I ever read. I admit that it was the Penguin cover that convinced me to pick it up. Before then, my only experience with James Bond was the game Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. To this day I have a worryingly good memory of the Facility level. I could probably draw it from memory if I had to. But I digress. I love the way Ian Fleming writes, and he had such an interesting life, too. I greatly enjoy reading 007 for entertainment. I don’t pretend that it’s benefiting me in the same way as history or philosophy might, but entertainment itself is a noble endeavor, I think.
5) The Asian Mystique, by Sheridan Prasso
This book looks at Western, especially American, perceptions and stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans. I think it’s an excellent book, although I can’t really say I’m the best person to judge such things. Nevertheless, I truly believe that this book helped me a great deal, and helped me become a better person. Oddly enough, when I gifted this book to an Asian-American ex-girlfriend, she initially thought it was pro-Asian stereotypes, and wouldn’t read it until after her mother told her how good it was. I wonder why she thought I would send her the book she imagined it to be.
6) The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke
This book first got me into science-fiction. I had read some before, and I loved Star Wars and such, but Arthur C Clarke was really the first science fiction author I read. The anthology is somewhere around 900 pages, and I went through all of them. I think he’s been the single biggest influence on my writing style, so if you dislike my vague, open endings, blame Clarke.
7) Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, by John Barry
I’m biased because I happen to love Roger Williams, and I’ll probably write a post entirely about him later, but this was a very enjoyable book. For those unaware, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, which had separation of church and state and freedom of religion before anywhere else in the modern West, and all this in the 1600s. He also helped pass the first anti-slavery laws in what would become the USA. It’s a really neat book, and if you’re interested in colonial New England or Christianity, you should definitely check it out, or if you’re a proud Rhode Islander.
8) Game Over: Press Start to Continue, by David Sheff
This book is a history of Nintendo, and I think it transformed the company from just where I happened to get my games from to one of my favorites. I really like corporate histories now, even though I find actual business stuff excruciatingly dull. It’s so fascinating to read about the personalities behind a company like Nintendo, and to learn the struggles and battles they fought back in the early days of video games. There’s a scene in it that I’d really like to write up, too, so maybe I’ll do that someday as a little stand-alone piece.
9) Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This book got me into mysteries. A lot of these books are the first of their genre, it seems… But I suppose that’s only natural. For without the first books, the rest could never be read. Since Sherlock Holmes, I’ve gone on to read a lot more mysteries, but I still think Holmes is one of the best, right behind Judge Dee and Arsene Lupin for entertainment, and the best for producing a logical mindset. If you like any of the three, I recommend the other two, as well.
10) The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
Not so much the book itself as the fact that I wrote my master’s thesis on it, which led to my graduation. I honestly am unsure what I would have written my thesis on otherwise. I do enjoy the book greatly, and the descriptive viewpoint of politics, rather than prescriptive, which, while also necessary, isn’t nearly as useful. The Prince is also the only book I own two copies of: one in English, one in Italian.
So those are mine. Which books have most affected you? If you’ve read any of mine, I’d love to discuss them a bit, so feel free to comment.