The “My Ten Most Influential Books” Me...

The “My Ten Most Influential Books” Meme Marches On

Via Jacob Grier, who I keep pointing out gives me too many of my blog ideas, we have this non-cocktail related blog idea: List the ten books which have most influenced your world-view, and why.

Here we go:

  1. The Lord of the Rings—I’ll have a lot more fiction on my list that others I’ve seen. Tolkien’s book(s) completely changed my life. They utterly remade my expectations of all books, increasing my reading attention span by an order of magnitude. They also raised my expectations of what an author could and should produce. I don’t expect, well, anyone to duplicate Tolkien’s scope, but I find myself utterly brutal in my evaluation when I encounter shallow thought.
    Moreover, LotR instilled a sense of scope and grandeur in my mind-set. For well or weal, I tend to on the one hand look for that grand scale to think about, and on the other to assign a grand scale to whatever interests me….
  2. King Lear—Until I read Lear, I never got any of the other Tragedies. I enjoyed MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, but I didn’t feel them at any visceral level. In fact, I did not ever really feel the painful impact of any serious litt until Lear unlocked something in me.
  3. Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century—A fun gift from my wife led to… well… this obsession. Paul Harrington changed my life is some fundamental ways. Whether or not this is a good thing remains open to question….
  4. Six Crises—Yep, that’s right. Richard Nixon’s first book is among the most influential upon me. If you have not read anything he wrote, and he wrote a lot, he was a heckuva writer.
  5. Accounting Principles—Yep, my first Accounting textbook. I never took Accounting with any intention of being an accountant. I took it as a foreign language. I’ve slogged through a lot of texts beyond this one, and all taught me a number of things, especially how to understand what financial types and bureaucrats are really saying, and how much difference there may be between that and what they seem to be saying.
  6. The Gardener’s Palette—My other major creative outlet, sadly neglected these last few years, is gardening. This simple little garden planner unlocked for me the concept that gardens were a creation, that they don’t just happen.
  7. How to Make War—To be a responsible citizen in a democracy in a dangerous world (i.e. this one) you need an appreciation of how war works, the pressures it places on societies, what it can and cannot accomplish, and how unbelievably awful it is. If you learn of these issues only from our pop culture, or from pointy-headed, tweed jacketed types in the Ivory Tower, you are not equipped to do your job. This book won’t fully do the job either, but it at least addresses the subject as dispassionately and apolitically as any work out there.
  8. The Dungeon Master’s Guide—Seriously. I haven’t played D&D for 22 years, but the endless hours I spent with it when I was young shaped my personality and relationships in so many ways. From D&D, not writing classes, I learned to be a story-teller.
  9. The Bible—God knows, I don’t live by it. But I have read most of it at one time or another. There is of course much to learn within its pages, but the most important thing you learn from reading its fascinating, occasionally horrifying, pages is how you personally react to it. Atheist or believer, examine your reaction to this book, and you will learn a lot about yourself.
  10. Whatever book it was that led me to a haphazard way of approaching everything in life, especially the creation of lists like this.


  1. Paul Harrington

    28 April

    After reading that Cocktail is number three on your list is quite humbling. I still owe you an explanation on the Pegu, I have not forgot, I am just a procrastinator. Call me some evening this weekend and we can chat. I will be in DC at a convention and am currently looking for some cocktail tips.


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