There’s a meme going around, not so virulently as in the early days of the blogosphere, but I thought I’d try my hand at it. I am mildly surprised at the results.
The meme is a list of ten books that have most influenced your thought. I find that many of mine are from my childhood and are still vivid to me. I guess this will further convince some that I am simply not a serious (as in Very Serious Person) player in this game of blogging, commenting, whatever.
In no particular order; they slip and slide around as I think of their influence in various dimensions. And this may add up to more than ten, but some of them clump together in how they influenced me. The bottom line seems to be that I have been influenced more by books that made me think than by particular ideas.
1. Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. I still have the beautiful reproduction editions I read as a child, with the Tenniel illustrations. The world may not be as it seems, and I have a great deal of influence in how I look at it.
2. The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. I no longer have the editions I read as a child. Again, beautiful, a boxed set, Grimm green and Andersen red bindings. Prepared me for a strange and sometimes ugly world and to recognize the 19th-century Romantic effort in Europe and the Estonian forests I imagined as setting for these tales.
3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. Part of my extended adolescence and finding that maybe someone else saw the world like I did.
4. The Magus, by John Fowles. Again, that extended adolescence thing, and relations between men and women. For the latter, I think that Fowles reaches his peak in Daniel Martin.
5. Creative Mythology, by Joseph Campbell. I was on a quest, inspired by trying to figure out what went so badly wrong to produce the world that Barbara Tuchman described in A Distant Mirror. I had a theory, and Campbell’s partial translation of Wolfram of Eschenbach’s Parzival supported it, along with the anonymous author’s highly contrasting The Quest of the Holy Grail.
6. Pro and Con, by Myron Matlaw and James B. Stronks. This was the text in my college sophomore English writing class. It was actually the professor who made the difference here, teaching me that clear writing required clear thinking.
7. Getting to Yes! by Roger Fischer and William Ury. Again, maybe not the book as much as a couple of mentors at work, who taught me that every interaction is a negotiation and that negotiations can and should be win-win.
8. The book I have yet to write on how Estonia broke up the Soviet Union. Estonia has shaped a good part of the last decade of my life. If I had been able to write this book earlier, and if people had read and heeded it, we might not have had the Iraq war or the nonsense about attacking Iran. And, conversely, the crazy hopes that the Green protests there will make any changes in the near future.
I’ve mentioned more than ten books, so I think I’ll stop here. Any more feel forced and repetitious.