Recently, this has been going around on Facebook:
List ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. It is not about the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.
Once you’ve listed your books, you are supposed to “tag” 10 people. I am not usually a big fan of these chain letter things, but I really enjoyed reading the lists that were posted, particularly when they involved commentary. When my college friend Cathy tagged me, in turn, I asked OCLC Research colleagues to contribute.
Earlier this month, the Facebook Data Science team posted an analysis of the “top” books from the meme. It was interesting to see how many of the books listed showed up on our lists but perhaps even more interesting to see the interests of our group reflected in some of the more unusual choices.
If you’d like to check out our lists, please read on. If you’d like to play, consider yourself tagged — leave your list of books below. And enjoy!
- Rublowsky, John. Is Anybody Out There? Read this as a kid – my introduction to what was then called “exo-biology”. Have been fascinated by astro-biology ever since.
- Ridley, Matt. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. This book is just fascinating, and I keep re-reading it…
- Laozi, Bi Wang, and Zhe Su. Laozi dao de jing. Not sure which edition I read, but this was the first Chinese book I read cover-to-cover and served as a basis of a discussion with a philosophy professor at TaiDa. Really opened my mind to a completely different way of thinking, and influences me still..
- Hersey, John. The Wall. Read this as a teenager. My introduction to Holocaust fiction and inspired me to read far more about it.
- Bosworth, Allan R. America’s Concentration Camps. Read as a teenager. My introduction to Japanese internment camps. One of the books that made me realize that the US has a number of dark periods in its history beyond what I had learned in school…
- Sartre, Jean-Paul. Huis clos. The first French book I read cover-to-cover, again as a teenager. It was a time when “L’enfer, c’est les autres” really resonated!
- Cheng, Nien. Life and Death in Shanghai. This autobiography really gripped me as no others about the Cultural Revolution.
- Polo, Marco, William Marsden, and Jon Corbino. The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian. Not sure which edition I read, but read it as a teenager and likely put the “traveling bug” into me. A factor in my living/traveling for 9 years before returning to the US…
- Hofstadter, Richard. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. A book I read in college – understood from then on that the ignorance I often see around me is nothing new…
- Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. One of the first books I remember reading ALL BY MYSELF as a child – and reread later for the wonderful portmanteau’s of language.
- Laozi, and Stephen Mitchell. Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. The first translation I read as a teenager. Others are good, better maybe, but this one was very accessible.
- Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus Christ and Mythology. My first introduction to the concept of hermeneutics. It wasn’t even central to the book, but it’s such an important concept to understand that I’ll probably always remember where I first read about it.
- Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. It just put all the petty bullshit “problems” of my life into perspective and offered insight into creating meaning in life.
- Palmer, Parker J. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. For being so short, it’s a pretty gut wrenching book. The short version is that you’re probably not spending your working hours in the most fulfilling way. A simple insight, but the journey there is tough.
- Wallace, David Foster. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion About Living a Compassionate Life. A little sermon on being intentional in a seemingly arbitrary and unintentional world.
- Pausch, Randy, and Jeffrey Zaslow. The Last Lecture. How to live your life so you don’t have to answer the question “how would you spend your last days”
- Heinlein, Robert A. Stranger in a Strange Land. The point I got from this book is that Love is genuinely alien to most people.
- Peck, M. Scott. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth. Introspection is tough. Do it anyway.
- Peck, M. Scott. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. This one is tough because of the accounts of “evil” throughout, but an important read so that you don’t convince yourself that evil isn’t real.
- Peck, M. Scott. A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered. The dynamics examined in “The Road Less Traveled” and “People of the Lie” are reexamined in the context of larger organizations.
- Hijuelos, Oscar. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Cuban American brothers in New York City and their visions of the perfect woman. I felt like the heat and humidity was enveloping me the entire time I was reading. Painfully human characters.
- Tartt, Donna. The Secret History. An incredible writer in the technical sense who also weaves weird and wonderful tales. Classics prof draws his students into the supernatural, woo hoo! Many didn’t care for her next (The Little Friend), but I did. Can’t wait to dive into The Goldfinch.
- Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings. Borges: the most amazing short story writer of all time. And of course the most fascinating fantasy library ever imagined is the centerpiece of The Circular Ruins.
- Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel. Such a weird but endearing protagonist, matched only perhaps by Iggy J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces (which, alas, didn’t occur to me until my list was already at ten).
- Solženicyn, A. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. My first view of life as a member of Soviet society. Indelible.
- Gardner, John. The Sunlight Dialogues. Gardner was one of my favorite novelists when I was in my 20s (add to that Vonnegut, Irving, and Robbins, weirdos all). Sunlight stands in for them. Or maybe I should have picked his retelling of Beowulf from the perspective of the monster Grendel.
- García Márquez, Gabriel. One hundred years of solitude. Speaking as a student of Latin American literature, is it necessary to explain why this was, and is, so affecting and influential?
- Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. It’s the librarian in me, but also, I suppose, the fallen Catholic. Not to mention his amazing depiction of the Middle Ages.
- Craig, Charmaine. The Good Men: A Novel of Heresy. More ex-Catholic fascination with Medieval times and the joys of the Inquisition! Craig evokes the era with extraordinary skill. And she did her research in lots of Medieval libraries. Oh, and the Cathar Heresy is a fascinating bit of French history.
- Neruda, Pablo, and Nathaniel Tarn. Selected Poems. Extraordinarily beautiful use of the Spanish language, generally well-translated into English–but read him in the Spanish if you’re able. One of the top reasons why I’m glad I majored in Latin American literature.
Bruce says, “Not all of these remain influential, for me anyway. One thing they have in common is that I’ve read each one multiple times and have recommended them to others.”
- Gilliam, Harold, and Gene M. Christman. Weather of the San Francisco Bay Region. This might be the little book that has influenced me the most. I still have my copy from 1970. The great Harold Gilliam taught me all about fog. His 1962 commentary at the end regarding climate change is fascinating from this distance.
- Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. This shows up on many lists, I imagine. If you read it when you were young, especially. Old Atticus is still kind of a role model. And I learned what a “chifforobe” is. That’s important information for a 12 year old.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings. Actually the whole series. I read it in the early 70’s before LOTR became an industry. I remember an intro by Peter Beagle about these works, saying “the strangest strangers turn out to know them”. That hooked me.
- DeLillo, Don. Libra. I’ve read this a bunch of times and am always entertained. It influenced me to read everything else from DeLillo.
- Banks, Russell. Affliction. The take-away for me was advice given to Wade Whitehouse by his brother. Wade is plagued by problems, including a bad tooth. His brother says list your problems in priority order and tackle one at a time starting with the tooth. Wade doesn’t listen.
- Catton, Bruce. Mr. Lincoln’s Army. Actually, the Army of the Potomac trilogy. Here’s Catton describing the battle of Antietam: “south of the fence, filling all of the ground between the road and the wood, was Mr. Miller’s thriving cornfield — THE cornfield, forever, after that morning.
- Gibson, William. Pattern Recognition. I’m not exactly sure why but I always really enjoy re-reading this one. There must be some pattern to that.
- Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Everything that can go wrong, does. Not that this should influence any further adventures, I’m sure those will be great.
- McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, or, The Evening Redness in the West. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I imagine. But after reading it I looked at the West differently. Harsh and arbitrary rather than pastoral and benign.
- Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Probably a good time to re-read this one again. I was willfully ignorant about the forces and people involved. Still kind of am.
Roy says, “Although I cheated and did 15. So sue me. ;-)” Never a rule follower, that Roy….
- Kazantzakis, Nikos. Report to Greco. I fell in love with Kazantzakis before I met my Greek American wife. So my inevitable trip to his beloved Crete was made all the more sweet when it happened. I raise a glass of Raki and toast him and his work.
- Gonzales, Laurence. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why : True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death. Read it. Understand it. And one day, when you need to live it, you’ll be ready.
- Herbert, Frank. Dune. The single best marriage of Ecology and Science Fiction there ever was, or ever will be. Two of my loves, joined at the hip and completely believable. Amazing.
- Eiseley, Loren C. All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life. Loren Eiseley is my hero. I need no other. A scientist, a thinker, an outdoorsman, a writer, a poet and a prose poet, a true Renaissance Man. What I aspire to be, and fall short of, but love to strive to achieve.
- Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. I read this in two weeks as a teenager, and I felt like I was 80 when I was done. It was like mainlining all the hate and disaster this world has to offer and it was almost more than I could take. It still is.
- Zinsser, William Knowlton. On Writing Well The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. My bible of writing. May I one day prove worthy.
- Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. I read this as a mid-teen and the poem “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” become my mantra, as I spent 17 virtually alone in my treehouse on an Indiana farm.
- Trevor, Elleston. The Flight of the Phoenix. I’ve always tried to be the ultimate Boy Scout — prepared for anything, and ready to deal with whatever is thrown at me. So I fell in love with this story of doing exactly that to survive. Rebuild a crashed plane and fly it out of the desert. Awesome.
- White, T. H. The Once and Future King. Because some legends require a whopping good telling.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. One of the best introductions to Socialism, buried, in the end, by its account of slaughterhouses. Which goes to prove that people care more about what they eat than just about anything else.
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. There are no words.
- Solženicyn, Aleksandr I. The Gulag Archipelago: 1918 – 56 ; an Experiment in Literary Investigation. It was slow going in a lot of places, but this is one of the most important accounts of 20th Century history. And every now and then you would come across a true gem of insight. Without him no one outside of Russia would know.
- Robbins, Tom. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. If you can only read one thing before you die, read the Preface of this book. I mean, srsly.
- Stegner, Wallace. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. As someone who learned to run rivers at 21, and within a few months of that set off down the Colorado River as a guide, I cannot begin to imagine what Powell and his men thought as they made the same journey for the very first time. And with science.
- Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. I’ve always been in love with the outdoors, so this paean to nature, and to the desert that I learned to love in my teens and early 20s, really spoke to me. It still does.
Ricky says, “I’m being literal, going to earliest influences.”
- White, E. B.. Charlotte’s Web. My first “chapter book” (and my 2nd, 4th, and 6th).
- Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking. Introduced spunk and attitude to reading.
- Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders. Exposed me to a world unlike my own
- Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. Spawned all sorts of opinions, questions, and doubts
- Van Matre, Steve. Acclimatization: A Sensory and Conceptual Approach to Ecological Involvement. Gave me new ways of teaching kids about the environment
- Holt, Rinehart. Adventures in English Literature. The beginning of a passion for the British Isles
- Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. The subject of my first serious paper in high school; it remains my favorite of the Bard’s plays
- Updike, John. The Music School: Short Stories. The Music School struck me as the most beautiful piece of writing. I’m still in awe.
- Dickens, Charles. Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. The first of many Victorian novels that really moved me.
- Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. Instilled a yet-to-be-fulfilled desire to immerse myself in the desert southwest.
Melissa writes, “Now that I step back and look at it, I wonder what it means that my list is made up of books I read as a child or a young adult. I’ve also read most of them to my children. I can interpret this in several ways: 1.) I’ve read these books so many times they’re burned in my mind, or 2.) I really love children’s books. When I was young I wanted to write children’s books when I grew up. That hasn’t happened yet but it still could. Maybe I just haven’t grown up yet?! ;-)”
- Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree.
- L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.
- L’Engle, Madeleine. A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
- Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon.
- Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson.
- Seuss, and Seuss. Horton Hears a Who!
- Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows: The Story of Two Dogs and a Boy.
- Dahl, Roald, and Joseph Schindelman. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are.
- Hoban, Russell, and Lillian Hoban. A Bargain for Frances.
- Leithold, Louis. The Calculus, with Analytic Geometry. My dad pushed me into mathematics. (I suspect he felt weak in it.) I enjoyed it, but never felt the passion for it that I do for programming. But, this book was just about as good as it got. Leithold had a wonderful way of making the concepts simple.
- Heinlein, Robert A. Stranger in a Strange Land. Counter-culture in Los Angeles in the 60’s. This book defined it.
- Pratchett, Terry. Small Gods: A Novel of Discworld. A book about a man and his personal relationship with his god. This is one of the two books I try hardest to get people to read.
- Pratchett, Terry. Reaper Man. “There is no justice, there is just us.” Terry Pratchett creates characters that you care about. I often cry while reading his books. One of his most endearing characters is Death.
- Knuth, Donald Ervin. The Art of Computer Programming. My sophomore year of college was about working my way through this book. I won’t swear that a lot of it stuck to me, but the experience certainly did.
- Heller, Joseph. Catch-22, A Novel. My mother told me to read this. I’ve always respected her suggestions and this was a good one. I was depressed for a week after reading it.
- Cheech And Chong. Cheech And Chong. I know this is supposed to be books, but this album was exactly what my life in Azusa was like. I knew all the characters in this album. I snuck friends into the drive-in in the trunk of my car. Dave’s not here.
- Chabon, Michael. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I love this book. It’s one of two books I try to make people read. It’s a great mystery. It’s a great love story. It’s a loving insight into Yiddish culture. The story is one surprise after another right up to the end.
- Cherryh, C. J. Downbelow Station. I love the books of CJ Cherryh! This book is part of her Company series. It does a wonderful job of making you feel like you understand what it’s like to live on a space station. It’s not a happy life.
- Kraft, Philip. Programmers and Managers: The Routinization of Computer Programming in the United States. The Communist Manifesto for programmers. I was lucky to take a couple programming and society classes at UC Irvine in the late 70s. This book has a lot to say about where we fit into our businesses.
And finally, my own list.
- Eastman, P. D. Go, Dog, Go! I loved the illustration of the dogs in the houseboat, and playing in the trees — I could look at this for extended periods of time.
- Baum, L. Frank. The Wizard of Oz. …and the many other books that followed – thankfully I didn’t know it was an allegorical commentary on the gold standard
- Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. So beautiful, and so sad.
- McCullough, Colleen. The Thorn Birds. The first book I checked out of the adult section of the library – don’t judge, I was 10 or 11.
- Michener, James A. Centennial. I loved James Michener books because they were so very, very long. I have never wanted a story I liked to end.
- King, Stephen. The Shining. Stephen King is an amazing story teller with a very twisted mind.
- Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. For a while I could not get enough of the dystopian future thing.
- Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. I spent several years in college and after doing research in archives trying to figure out why in the heck the Joads would move on from the FSA camp, which seemed like heaven to me.
- Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. The levels of manipulation are fascinating.
- Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. A college friend assigned it to me. I love rereading it, and of course all the derivatives are fantastic.
Merrilee Proffitt is Senior Manager andprovides project management skills and expert support to institutions within the OCLC Research Library Partnership.