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Thread: The books that have influenced you

  1. #1 The books that have influenced you 
    Forum Sophomore Elbethil's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Alberta, Canada
    Last night, I found myself idly picking up Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Oh, what a wonderful book. I first read that book when I was eleven; I haven't given it a full reread since... and despite all these years, when I picked it up, it was as if I'd reread it a hundred times. I would recommend this book to anyone.

    I've read a large amount of books (yet never enough!) throughout my rather short life, but there always those ones that stick out. Yes, there are my favourite books; there are the books I find poignant or well-written; there are the books I consider timeless or classic... but there are also the books that have had a noticable influence on myself. I thought I'd devote this thread to them.

    "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" by J.R.R. Tolkien
    I picked up The Hobbit when I was about eight years old. It was an interesting read, but what immediately caught my interest was the angerthas on the maps - I was soon enthralled by Tolkien's languages. It was my interest in these languages that led to my interest in linguistics. Somehow I doubt I'd be a linguistics geek today if I hadn't read Tolkien's works. My interest in these books also brought to me to the internet, via Tolkien messageboards. That's a rather huge thing for me.

    "Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises" by Mark Carwardine
    When I was eleven (or twelve? ten?) I found myself rather obsessed with this book. I would take it out from the library, then renew it, then renew it again and again until I'd reach the limit... I'd then bring the book back and take it out the next day. Eventually my parents got fed up with this and bought me a copy. I'm still not sure to this day what it was about this book that enthralled me so much... I'd spend hours researching cetacean taxonomy and the like. I'd say that this book played a large part in getting me interested in science.

    The Royal Diaries series
    Now, about two thirds of the series can be summed up as "I am a princess and I'm going to marry Prince X". It got rather irksome, really. The Victoria diary was so ridden with such that I never finished it. That volume also introduced me to the concept of imperialism, which I found myself hating quite strongly. However, these books were not limited to that. Every book included an appendix at the back profiling the era and nation that the future-monarch was to rule. With these appendicies, I learnt of Elizabeth I's England, Nzingha's Angola, Lady of Ch'ia Kuo's China, Jahanara's India, Eleanor's Provence, Sondok's Korea, Kaiulani's Hawaii... the list goes on.

    Since I stopped reading the series some years ago, many other appealing volumes have also been published. Anyway, it was these books that spurned on my interest in history and anthropolgy. I was introduced to nations I had had no knowledge of previously, in a manner that I could easily grasp.

    "Speaking Out: Ideas That Work for Canadians" by Jack Layton
    Layton may be a poor politician (although he's been improving), but I do respect him as a political activist. His book was well written and taught me quite a few things about political activism. Concepts like grassroots activism had been unknown to me before reading this book. This was the first political science book that I read from cover to cover. Sure, I'd been interested in politics prior to reading this, but it wasn't until after I read it that I was interested in activism.

    "Who Killed the Canadian Military?" by J.L. Granatstein
    I read this one in March (2005). It opened my eyes to a few things- how the military is used by politicians, how peacekeeping just isn't working, how the military is actually important, the folly of anti-americanism... it made me rethink a very large amount of my political stances. I'm still anti-war, but I've gone from thinking "Canada should get rid of its military" to "Canada should have a small and quality military that can defend us (just in case)... but we should not have any more than to defend ouselves".

    "L'√Čtanger" by Albert Camus
    Five years ago, I picked up Jean-Paul Sartre's Le Mur and was rather shaken by it's contents. However, the impact of that books was little compared to Camus' L'√Čtanger. Never before have I identified with a character as much as I did with Meursault. I'm not much of an existentalist, but those two books spoke to me and struck deep chords within me. I would recommend them to anybody who can read French - I haven't read any of their translations, but I am certain that the power of those books just cannot be translated.

    "1984" by George Orwell
    This one I read recently. I'd read Animal Farm at about the same time as Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, but it failed to capture my interest in the same way. 1984, however, caught my interest. Perhaps I'd just been too young at the time to fully understand Animal Farm, but I did get 1984. The influence that the novel had on my political ideals was negligible; what this book introduced me to was the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis and linguistic anthropology.

    I think now I just have to mention the following authors: H.A. Rey, Douglas Adams, Gail Carson Levine, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Jean Craighead George and Gary Larson. They all impacted me, but I just don't know how to put into words how.

    Returning now to "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan.
    I still vividly remember picking this book up. I was sitting in the chair by the green phone in my house; my mother had recently finished the book, and I decided to read it. The memory of reading the book's preface is still strong in my mind. Another memory with this book also comes back to me - I was once reading the book in my grade six classroom; I came to the chapters The Fine Art of Baloney Detection and The Dragon in my Garage, which are some of my favourite parts.

    After reading the book, I went on to Sagan's other works, all of them wondeful, although none of them influenced me like The Demon-Haunted World did. It was this book that fortified my atheism, my skepticism, my wonder when it comes to science, my gross dislike of pseudoscience... sure, I was raised with these ideals, but it was this book that solidified them.

    Right now, I want to quote The Demon-Haunted World, however, I cannot pick out any parts that are any better than the others. It is just such a consistently wonderful book.

    So, now I've shared my book-influences. What are yours?

    "In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams
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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Key West, Florida, Earth
    The Little Prince

    Animal Farm

    Fahrenheit 451

    Moby Dick




    Alice Through The Looking Glass

    Seven Arrows

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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman Coffee's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
    Books written by guys who write while having a drug binge are always good.

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
    See above.

    A Confederacy of Dunces
    Funny. But what's really funny is that the author couldn't get it published, so he shoots himself. Then it won a Pulitzer.

    Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
    Teaches the lesson that you are what you pretend to be.

    Oh, and The Demon-Haunted World is good a choice as well.
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  5. #4  
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    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

    Both simple books, yet both with a great premise: giving all you can, and learning how to get along with people that are not like you.
    "loosen up"
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  6. #5  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    I like the idea of this thread. The books we like give great insight into our personalities. It's a shame we cannot insist that every member has to post in this thread before they can post anywhere else. ( :wink: ). Here are some of my favourites.
    The Count of Monte Christo
    Alexandre Dumas
    Deliciously intricate plotting, brilliant characterisation, unstoppable moves towards the inevitable.
    The Lord of the Rings
    I am somewhat snobbish over the fact that I first read it in the 60s before being aware that it was popular.
    Frank Herbert
    Masterful. Science fiction as it was meant to be written.
    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-cameral Mind
    Julian Jayne
    Stunningly original concept presented in an eminently readable and convincing fashion.
    Principles of Physical Geology
    Arthur Holmes
    A remarkable synthesis of the science with truly original insights.
    The Ascent of Everest
    Sir John Hunt
    The first ascent recounted with the same military precision with which it was accomplished.
    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
    Thomas S. Khun
    It should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to be a research scientist.
    African Genesis
    Robert Ardrey
    The killer ape hypothesis.
    Atlas Shrugged
    Ayn Rand
    I don't subscribe to her philosophy, but she certainly delivers it with vigour and imagination.

    Difficult to know where to stop. Here will do.
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  7. #6  
    Moderator Moderator AlexP's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History is an absolutely awesome book. It's a perfect blend of chemistry and history, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in either of those things, or isn't, even. It really makes one consider how much chemistry there is just in everyday life. Again, amazing book.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Bachelors Degree The P-manator's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    In the Skin of a Lion, Micheal Oondatje

    Interesting, weird yet understandable. Makes you think a lot.

    Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

    Awesome plot, genius of a writer.

    A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

    Nice plot, but even better story-telling. Makes you wonder.

    Artemis Fowl (the series), Eoin Colfer

    Light fiction, I know, but enjoyable.

    The Lord of the Rings (+ the Hobbit and The Silmarrilion), J.R.R. Tolkien

    Amazing. The only word that can describe Tolkien's writing. I too, have been interested in his languages.

    Life of Pi, Charles Martel

    Funny and intellectual. Great story.

    Good News for a Change, David Suzuki

    Not the best of writers, but such information is so interesting that I found mysef reading it like fiction.

    Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, Marcel Pagnol

    You probably have never heard of them, but they are awesome books, and very interesting plots.

    Eragon, Eldest, Christopher Something-a-Rather

    some more light fiction, but extremely well written.

    Lost in the Barrens, No Man's River, Farley Mowat

    This guy is crazy, and so are his books. Imagine blasting down rapids with a tiny canoe powered by a 2hp Lockheed outboard. Fantastic.

    And much, much more, but this is at the top of my list.

    People usually don't believe that I'm 14 when I tell them what I've read. Or vice versa.

    Fight for our environment and our habitat at
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  9. #8  
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    Sep 2006
    I just read A Year Of Wonders very good fiction book about people and the plague...a little scary, but best part is author knows a lot about the plague and actualy makes it fiction story.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Freshman llantas's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    New Mexico
    Prehaps I am cheating, but my first one is going to be a poem, not a book.

    To an Athlete Dying Young
    A.E. Housman
    It's a very short poem, easy to read. As most poems go, just take what you will from it.
    "And early though the laurel grows, it withers quicker than the rose"

    And the actual books...

    Johnathon Livingston Seagull
    Richard Bach
    My father has been reading me this book since before I could even speak. At the very simplest level, it's about a seagull that enjoys flying rather than searching for food (to the discontent of the rest of the flock).

    Just Before the War with the Eskimos
    JD Salinger
    Prehaps I am cheating with this one as well, because technically it is a short story and not a book. But I'm counting it as a book. Because it's just that important.

    Animal Farm
    George Orwell
    (This one is actually a book!) I know you have all probably heard of this before, so I won't bother explaining it. This story has had an immeasurable impact on the way that I live my life.
    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." -Stephen F Roberts
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman humblegoddess's Avatar
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    The Purpose Driven Life- Rick Warren
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  12. #11  
    Forum Senior miomaz's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Die Stadt der Traeumenden Buecher
    Walter Moers
    When you read this book you will feel like you are in the book.
    I have read so many books but this perticular one makes them all sound like eminem's rap songs.
    It changed me deeply.
    I haven't come to fight my word, but to find the truth.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Freshman Escalefter's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Gotel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid-- Douglass E. Hoffstadter
    Time Travel in Einstein's Universe-- J. Richard Gott
    The Universe in a Nutshell-- Stephen Hawking
    Insects and How They Function-- Phillip E. Callahan
    Painting like the Masters-- ?

    And various fiction...
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  14. #13  
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    Sep 2006
    Shackleton's incredible voyage; the Endurance.
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