We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, August 21. 2011
A commenter here mentioned C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man recently. It got me thinking about what the most influential books have been for my adult thinking about socio-religio-political topics.
My list would have to include:
Hayek's Road to Serfdom
I'm sure I omitted quite a few, but these came to mind. (I guess, as an ole Yankee, I am rather freedom-oriented and leave-me-alone-oriented rather than gimme-oriented. I was raised to fend for myself and to shoot my own moose, but that might be old-fashioned nowadays. The "modern" women, apparently, want government to be their help and support in life instead of husbands. That's pathetic - on both sides.)
When I think about writings that influence me, I wonder whether they indeed influence, or whether they articulate half-thought and semi-formed thoughts that were already brewing in the back of my brain from my life experience.
This is a quote from Charles Warman's review of The Abolition of Man at Amazon:
Feel welcome to add your personal list to the comments.
A few Saturday morning links
Obama: "I will change the world." Good grief. If I said that, they'd have the guys in white coats take me away.Who knew that the US Supreme Court defined "vegetable" in 1893?More press lies perpetuated. We expect this from politicians
Weblog: Maggie's Farm
Tracked: Oct 18, 07:01
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Mere Christianity has been the greatest influence in my life. Great list. I haven't read Escape From Freedom yet. I'll have to check it out. Thanks Dr Joy.
All of Dickens: Taught me more about human nature than anything else I've read.
"Killer Angels"- Michael Shaara: Taught me about war with a psychological impact that left me changed forever. Also "Goodbye Darkness" by William Manchester - WWII Pacific arena.
"Lord of the Flies" - the value of leadership..
"Fahrenheit 541" - (1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Giver) - All you need to know about totalitarianism.
Viktor Frankl's book mentioned above and Elie Weisel's "Night"....
"All Quiet on the Western Front" - WWI from a German's perspective. Horrifying. Perhaps the best anti-war novel ever written.
"Cold Mountain" - Charles Frazier - Civil War setting with intimate detail of how it affected everyone - not just soldiers.
And a ton more....
Looking back, I would say that one of the most influential books in my own life has been Rollo May's Man's Search For Himself, which I read after I was widowed at 25 years of age, two years after my first marriage. This book, combined with my readings in C. S. Lewis [everything from the Screwtape Letters to Mere Christianity, to The Problem of Pain] helped me to take control of my life and my future. Erich Fromm's work has also been helpful.
P.S. On the list of Bad Books I have struggled to read and given up in disgust, is L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, on which a trendy modern religion is based, one which is very popular in Hollywood right now.
How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. It's fundamental; everything else followed it, really.
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
What's Wrong With the World - Also Chesterton
The Joy of Cooking - Rombauer/Becker (without which, all socio-religio-political topics would have been more laborious to ponder.)
I'd have to add Walden. A crazy book, but it got under my skin.
May I please add Redeeming the Time - and anything else by Russell Kirk?
As a seventeen year old, Norman Vincent Peale's ..The Power of Positive Thinking.
As a kid I was conned into buying Dianetics by some scientologist street hucksters. Once home, I thumbed through it, read the first 10 pages, then exclaimed “What a buncha crap!” and hucked it under the bed. A few weeks later my mother found the book and my panicked idiot parents convinced themselves that I had joined a cult. But they never discussed the issue directly with me. After a lengthy period of them looking at me all wierd and trying to ‘control my beliefs through my behavior’ I finally figured out what the hell was going on. I retrieved the book and threw it into the fireplace right in front of them, shouting out “What a buncha crap!” Now I was their beloved son again.
It’s not the books you read or don’t read but the way that people will read you that’s most important.
What was the question again?
Don't have a top ten, but apart from many already mentioned above, these influenced me the most as an undergraduate (all downhill intellectually since then)
The entire King James BIble
E.O Wilson Sociobiology
1984 by George Orwell
Ernst Becker Denial of Death
Julian Jaynes Origin of COnsciousness in the Breakdown of the BIcameral MInd
One Hundred Years of SOlitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Erik Erikson Young Man LUther
Walker Percy Love in the RUins
William Agee Let us Now Praise Famous Men
The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Childrearing, Religious Conceptions of the Self In Early America etc by Philip Greven
As you can see I was a flighty thing....
haha. Clop Felt Her,
I love your stories. :}
I remember hiding "Tropic of Cancer" under my bed. That book burned itself up. Along with me, of course.
I love book lists. They make me crazy.
The Patrick O'Brian series of 21 novels about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. * Stunning books.
Great topic Dr Joy!
All of Dickens.
Book of Job.
Scott Peck A Road Less Traveled
To me the answer would lie in thinks that deeply touched you, alter your thinking and that are on your bookshelf ready to be reread again.
Peanuts by Charles Schulz (they collect 'em in books you know)
Calvin and Hobbes (ditto)
Undaunted Courage and Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose
The First of Men: A Life of George Washington by John Ferling
Paul Revere's Ride and Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer
(The above works in history were monumental in my decision on a profession in history and teaching- and in beginning to really understand our country and it's founders and foundations)
In God We Trust, All others Pay Cash: By Jean Sheppard
The Stories of Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Now another doozy of a question we would be your most influencial movies! My list would have to include the cannon of the Marx Brothers, The Thin Man movies, Casablanca, the silent film Greed, City Lights with Chaplin, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Willy Wonka (the original), The Three Stooges completa, Bicycle Thief and the Spencer Tracy/Hepburn films.
I am either eclectic and profound...or profoundly weird.
Far from flighty, Randolph. What a great list and what a nice, curious mind you must have to embrace such diversity in literature. Walker Percy, "Love in the Ruins" - That's an example of loving book lists. I know I read it, but all I have in recall is a very powerful longing... a feeling. I have to go check it out on Google.
thx meta. Love in the Ruins is still awesome. Like a college beau seen, now famous, on TV, still cute as he was at 19... Thought of LITR watching post hurricane footage...Odd how much that I was drawn to then, weird eclectic whatever still contains much I go back to now,in a strange life I never could have envisioned. Jung, i believe, wrote about people receiving either messages or directions that later proved valuable tho at the time they were clueless what they meant.
"Confederacy of Dunces".... Funniest ever.
Here's some movies:
1. Dead Poets Society (Remains in #1 spot.)
2. Master and Commander
3. Cold Mountain
4. Pink Panther (Series)
5. Easy Rider
6. The Lion King
7. Early Dustin Hoffman movies
8. The Age of Innocence
9. The French Connection
10. Tender Mercies
Anything with Tommy Lee Jones.
I hit the wrong key.
I will continue.
William Styron Darkness Visible.
The Canterbury Tales
I like poetry
Kipling's If, All of Emily, Whitman, Byron, Emerson, Poe, Kilmer, Longfellow,Tennyson, Gibran.
Does Playboy count? : )
Ten more (from a family more interested in history and rehashing military campaigns or theorizing about intelligence operatives than going out in the real world):
Any James Bond
The Last Legion
Any Le Carre espec The COnstant Gardener
Lord of the Rings
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Darn it. Das Boot. OH! Right up there! I was just reading what you said about how something you've read lies quietly unprocessed in your mind, subliminally waiting..... how true is that? I read all the "Little House on the Prairie Books" when I was eight, and I know they set me up for nothing but grief as I grew up and realized 'family' wasn't all about love and working hard to make things work. That's just one example of thousands of hidden messages that shaped my world view without me being aware of it at the time. I still go back to Dickens' works, though, when it comes to understanding the nature of man.
I also realized most of my favorites on the book list are about war. I could analyze that but won't.
Das Boot...... I didn't breathe during that movie!
LeCarre - "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Did you scream at the end? I did only no sound came out. :)
Any Le Carre, yup.
One thing in the Little House series that I now wonder about (was it real or sanitized) is the male providers' success or lack thereof. Pa and ALmanzo both have horrendous failures in life, after incredible exertions. It all gets attributed to bad luck. I cynically wonder sometimes if Pa didn't have a couple of bottles hidden in the rafters of that barn he was always heading out to "To tend the stock", tho the unadulterated femininity in the cabin must have been cloying at times....But none of the females in their life even cluck or sigh as claims are lost, floods, fire and locusts decimate crops, etc. let alone holler, insult, leave or other stuff modern females are inclined to. So I agree with you that real life doesn't quite measure up to this pattern.
What a wonderful read - both the post and the comments. Lots of Christmas list ideas here!
My list runs something like this:
1. The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein
2. Screwtape and the whole Narnia series by Lewis
3. Hard to Believe by John MacArthur
4. Genesis and Romans, followed by the rest of the Bible
5. Many, many things by Kahil Gibran taught me to love words put together well
6. The Giver by Lois Lowery
Regarding number 6, I started out my teaching career with this in the curriculum and HATED it. After two readings, though, I changed my mind drastically. I have come (over 6 more times of teaching this book) to love it.
I regard it as the best discussion starter for thinking logically through to the end of government policies and what the exchange of power from the hands of people to the hands of government can cost. I usually follow it up with Night and that makes a powerful combination.
My students are only in 8th grade, but hopefully some of this sticks with them as they age. They certainly discuss current events a little more thoughtfully when we are reading those two. As Taylor Mali, whose politics I agree with not one whit, says in a poem, "if I ever change the world / it's going to be one eighth grader at a time."
The Tale of Edward Tulane by Kate di Camillo- funny how many times I will read a work of fiction meant for a child and think it is better than most of the novels I have read in the past year.
Most of the books have been listed except no one mentioned Czeslaw Milosz specifically The Captive Mind
Harold S Kushner "Living a Life That Matters"
Anything by Tom Friedman
and my list would be incomplete if i neglected to mention Karen Horney's Self - Analysis and Tom Cottle's A Sense of Self
and lastly anything by Dave Barry
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
all by Robert A. Heinlein
there's a lot more philosophy and politics in those books than might be expected
The novels of Knut Hamsun, especially Pan and Wanderers. I use to read Wanderers every autumn. I hate to use the word organic, but Hamsun's works are organic. He was a great influence on many 20th century novelists, most notedly Kafka and Hemingway. He won the the Nobel Prize in 1920 for his novel Growth of the Soil. His fame diminished when late in life he sided with the Nazi's during WW2. He may have been a shit of a person, but he was a great writer.
Love those eighth graders! I've always believed in seducing them into literature by showing good film versions (I worked at first with kids whose parents had no books or newspapers in the house, and later with "richer" (ahem) ones whose interior decorators advocated (again) no books except fake ones in the TV room er fake leatherbound books Library.
Back in the days when attention spans were a little longer, two films that were great discussion starters were "The Witness" with Harrison Ford (if need be, and depending on parental involvement/hysteria about violent movies, tho this film is tame compared to the video games they buy em). The final scenes sparked many, many heated debates about what you have to do to defeat the bad guys (surprise: a combination of things). In these politically correct times, you have to know your (parental) audience lest you be hammered on aspects of film. I used to have a framed comment of"the" Edmund Burke over the TV when showing the flick to brainwash er stimulate them. Another film fun to show em (but I think kids now are too distractible to sit thru it) is the Leonard DiCaprio version of "Romeo and Juliet". Got gang sympathizers to read and argue heatedly about Shakespeare after that one...
Heinlein knew L. Ron, and in one of RAH's books said he'd told L. Ron the way to really make money writing books was to invent your own religion.
Another book: Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends And Influence People." Dems could be dangerous if they read this book, but they seem to greatly prefer insulting people.
It's hard to say what books were most influential, but definitely some come up in thought more than others. For me, that would include:
Books by David Macaulay
Encyclopedia Brown series
Clancy - Red Storm Rising
Patton - War as I Knew It
Trump: Art of the Deal
Control your Destiny or someone else will
Reagan in his own hand
The autobiography of Teddy Roosevelt
One Mans Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey
Strunk and White - The Elements of Style
Londong goes to Sea
Not a book but Tufte's "Cognitive Style of Powerpoint"
I taught 10th and 12th grade. World literature and British lit. I taught the low students, average, and honors/AP students. The most fun I had was turning the average/low non-readers onto a book. I made each class read four books a year, and the way I started each book was to read aloud to get them interested. That cost me as they never wanted me to stop. It was important to engage them like that but never more so than with "Silas Marner". Tough book to get into, but by the time Eppie says: "In de tole hole", I had to reread and reread that part over and over. The kids loved the book! No other teacher in my department would attempt it. What a cool feeling - what a great book. Only movies I showed after reading the works were "Macbeth -Roman Polanski's version; Dead Poets Society - no book for that one; and "All Quiet on the Western Front".
What surprises me about this thread are the number of books listed that are dedicated to enriching your life. I refuse to read a self-help book or any book that declares it will change or help my life. I did read Norman Vincent Peale's - "The Power of Positive Thinking". Loved it. I think the opening line says: 95% of all human illness is caused by the mind. I might be wrong as it was a long time ago. Dr. Marty Seligman has snitched Peale's premise and turned it into a psychological cult. My graduate work is in psychology, but that is academic reading. For some reason, I have a terrible aversion to one person writing a book to tell me how to change myself.
I have to go now. Dr. Phil is on.
Others beat me to the additional Lewis, Tolkien, and Albion's Seed.
I would add Elie Wiesel's Souls On Fire, an introduction to the thought of the early Hassidic Jews in Eastern Europe. Quite liberating.
Also, Chesterton's The Everlasting Man and Orthodoxy.
The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn
The Liberators by Viktor Suvorov
They knocked the leftism out of me.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
For many things not the least of which is that it praises people who work with their hands as I do.
Godel, Esher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
For entertainingly showing me the limits of logic and reason.
The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War
Life Magazine Picture History of WWII
73 North by Dudley Pope
For showing me why wars are a necessary evil and the heroic actions that are commonplace in them.
Much Science Fiction but especially an anthology by Jerry Pournelle, The Survival of Freedom
rank Herbert "Dune". How power corrupts (no groans, it's a great yarn.too, and Sting is hot as Feyd Ratha in the film)
Chaim Potok was another great writer. He wrote The Chosen which was turned into a pretty good movie. Other books by him were The Promise and the Asher Lev series. He also wrote a book for young adults called Zebra and other stories. It contained a short story about a Vietnam Vet artist that brought tears to my eyes. It was as good as Hands by Sherwood Andersen.
All of Paul Johnson's works - British historian.
Atlas Shrugged. Don't we all have that on some list?
All of Florence King's books.
Matt Ridley: The Red Queen; GENOME; Nature vs. Nurture. Scientific, up-to-date information that is spell-binding.
A late entry to my prior picks, highlighting earlier influences on my life:
The Baron of the Trees - Italo Calvino
The Monkey Wrench Gang and The Brave Cowboy - Edward Abbey
The Pine Barrens, Coming into the Country, Levels of the Game and Encounters with the Archdruid - John McPhee
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe
Irrational Man - William Barrett
Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960's - William O'Neill
Steal This Book - Abbie Hoffman
Philosophical Explanations - Robert Nozick
What ever happened to Dick & Jane books? I mean think about it, without them none of us would probably not be able read these other fine books.
This is tongue in cheek but you gotta start at the crawl before you can walk & run.
Childhood & YA:
The Lonely Doll - Dare Wright
Nancy Drew series - Carolyn Keene
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series - Betty McDonald
The Nickle Plated Beauty - Patricia Beatty
The Diary of Anne Frank
Johnny Tremaine - ?
Margorie Morningstar - Herman Wouk
Mrs. Mike - Benedict & Nancy Freedman
Every word Ayn Rand ever wrote. All else starts from there.
Anything by PJ O'Rourke, Florence King, Christopher Buckley, Betty McDonald (Egg & I, Onions in the Stew)
In Pursuit of Happiness & Good Government - Charles Murray
The Vision of the Annointed - Thomas Sowell
Preferential Policies - Thomas Sowell
Free to Choose - Milton & Rose Friedman
Destructive Generation - David Horowitz & Peter Collier
Modern Times - Paul Johnson
Intellectuals - Paul Johnson
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
Anything by Susan Howatch. The "Starbridge" series is superb.
Animal Farm - Geroge Orwell
1984 - George Orwell
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Power of One - Bryce McCourtney
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
Like that little bunny, I could keep going & going & going . . .
SallyO, I forgot about Susan Howatch, perhaps the greatest writer of dialogue. Thanks for the reminder.
Meta, Somehow I knew you would be a Florence King fan. Years ago, she use to write a column on the last page of National Review. I think it was called The Misanthropes Corner. It was very funny.
In my 12th grade reading class we had to read a book a week. I was a good student from a modest background. My class neighbor was a rich kid who glommed onto me as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” so he wouldn’t have to read anything. I figured out later that the real reason was that he could barely read himself. Two years later, while attending the local major university, I see the guy on campus carrying a backpack. I ask him, incredulously: “What the hell are you doing here?” He replies, defensively: “Going to class.”
Now, my question is this: How easy is it for an illiterate rich kid to make his way into a major university within two years?
1973 World Book Encyclopedia
Tale of Two Cities
Metamorphosis (first time I read it, 10th grade, I thought it was an absurd waste of time...makes more sense every day)
The Trial - Kafka again
Everything by Twain
Everything I could find by Mencken
Atlas Shrugged (good plot/store, but embarrassingly poor writing)
Of Human Bondage
The Razor's Edge
The Plague - Camus
The Good War - Terkel
and lastly, though not sure if it counts as "reading", "The New Sad Sack" by Sgt. George Baker
I have that book - ALL those essays in one book! :) But her novels are extraordinary for their verisimiltude of an upbringing in the south - whether rich or poor. Wow.
Howatch. Oh yes! Add to her: Anya Seton. Swoon.
And Pajak mentioned Thomas Wolfe: Bonfire of the Vanities and the rest. The last: I Am Charlotte Simmons - an eye-opener.
How about Truman Capote: In Cold Blood. Gave me nightmares as did "Helter Skelter". I was young when I read those. I remember trembling and being afraid to get up and go the bathroom. Maybe my first 'realized' introduction to evil and how commonplace it is.
You made me laugh about the Cliff Notes. When I'd assign a book, I'd hold up the Cliff Notes and announce: "Every quiz has two questions that cannot be found in the Cliff Notes. If you miss those two questions, you will get a zero." I went to high school in New York state and we had to read a book a week. Can you imagine any school asking that of their students now? That is really sad if you ask me.
This is making me crazy. KRW - Of Human Bondage is one of my top ten that I forgot about. Oh. :( What a great book.
"A Soldier of the Great War" is another on my top ten I forgot about. Mark Halperin. About the fighting in norther Italy. Great, wonderful story to it, as well.
"The Grapes of Wrath"... most anything by Steinbeck and Fitzgerald.
Remember the last scenes in "The Metamorphosis" after they swept Gregor out, after the sister and mother and father had to get jobs. The father, so proud in his uniform he'd fall asleep in his chair while the mother and sister would toy with their new clothes. The last scene they're riding 'high' in a carriage. It is they who undergo the metamorphosis. At Gregor's expense, of course. I'm grinding my teeth thinking about literatures four biggest 'losers' (characters).
What about "Catch-22"? :)
I have to go get some chicken now. I'll go to Popeyes and get some corn so my need to grind my teeth is satiated.
Meta, Where and when did you go to HS in NY? Its a small world, maybe we know each other.
Definitely enjoyed Grapes of Wrath. I was into Steinbeck for a while also. The Pearl, The Red Pony, Travels with Charley, and especially Tortilla Flat (the movie of which is one of my favorite Spencer Tracy performances). "Catch-22" was one of those books that people who know me told me I'd enjoy but I was kind of disappointed with. I liked it but there were parts (and it was so long ago, I can't recall what) that made me roll my eyes. That happens sometimes when someone points me to something they think I would really like (movies too).
As for Metamorphosis, it's still the opening scene that captivates me. It frequently intrigues me that when I awake I haven't turned into a giant beetle.
Sorry to hear about Popeyes...we're going to Del Frisco's in O'do for steak, lobster, and a good cab for our anniversary tonight...recession be damned...
That teach would pick on each of us at random in class - he knew the entire case of books well. The rich kid would always “read” what I had the previous week – not a good sign. Then the big guy who I hid behind while I was telling the rich kid what to say lost it and snickered uncontrollably - a really bad sign – because the rich kid was so badly misunderstanding what I was telling him. Teach came up behind me and told me to “Shut it, let him talk” and the jig was up.
I heard about school grading systems changing so much that today, anybody can get an A.
I'm drawn to writers from the early 20th century for some reason. I like PG Wodehouse, GK Chesterton
Tralfaz makes a good point about the children's books, not just for the decoding, but for the values. The Five Little Peppers, all the Chip Hiltons, Rabbit Hill - I learned important values from these that were the foundation of my later reading. Fairness. Justice. Courage. Perseverance. Magnaminity. Kindness. There all there.
When my dad was away in the reserves (Navy) he would read late into the night when he missed all of us back on the farm. One book he never forgot was "In Cold Blood". It so terrified him that he spend a fortune on new locks for all the doors and windows and my mother said he would wake suddenly in the night nervous about people trying to get into the house. She teased him mercilessly "Lieutenant COmmander Milksop!" but the book is far more scarey if you are living a mile or two from the nearest neighbor.
Canton, NY. My dad was a professor at St. Lawrence University there. c o l d. Right up next to the Canadian border.
AVI. So true. "The Wind in the Willows", "The Velveteen Rabbit", "The Never Ending Story", "The Last Unicorn". I know a bunch more, but they won't come to me until I'm under the covers tonight. You listed all the reasons they are so wonderful.
I had Louisiana nuggets. They were like rocks. I also bought a Krispee Kreme chocolate glazed donut. Oh yum. I hate you.
The opening scene in 'The Metamorphosis' is considered one of the best in the western literary canon. Who can top that? "It was a dark and stormy night..."? :)
Yes, thats cold country. I am from the other end of the state Yonkers, a suburb of NYC.
I recently bought two Florence King collections from the NR website: "Stet, Dammit!" and "Deja Reviews."
Thanks for the tip re Anya Seton. At the moment I'm reading "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Boethius. Moved to do so by the epigrams which open each character's story in Howatch's "The Wheel of Fortune"
All of Tom Wolfe's work is fabulous. IMO, best true crime writers today are Ann Rule and Jack Olsen - chilling portraits of the handsome, charismatic psychopaths among us.
At eighteen in the early seventies, reading Ayn Rand got me interested in ideas and philosophy, and moving away from the ridiculous "hippie collectivism" which had given me serious pause but I wasn't sure why. I never looked back.
The only two books I was markedly different after reading were Democracy in America by Tocqueville and The Road to Serfdom by Hayek. Err, maybe I'd include My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George; I was an outdoorsy kid to begin with but that book gave me rafts of ideas in a way that the Boy Scout Field Manual didn't.
CS Lewis? I'm with John Derbyshire in disliking apologetics in general and CS Lewis in particular. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MDQ1Y2UwZTM4MDY1NTljNTMzNTUyZTIwZmU4ZWM4NDM= I liked Screwtape better than Mere Christianity but they both struck me as too clever by half.
"if I ever change the world / it's going to be one eighth grader at a time." Sounds like something Bill Ayres said last week... Love all the books/movies mentioned.
Books not yet mentioned: Carson McCullers' "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and Carlos Casteneda "The Fire from Within." The collections of Maughm, Cheever, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Dreiser, Lardner, Han Suyin, Thurber...I get several by one author to better understand his/her style.
Among other movies I loved "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack, "The Candidate" and "Three Days of the Condor" (Redford)...OK, "The Way We Were." Same thing...a Paul Newman or Natalie Wood weekend, especially during the winter.
I enjoy Betty MacDonald's very witty autobiographical books so much, The Egg and I, The Plague and I, Anybody can do anything and Onions in the Stew.
As a child I adored Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle-Series and her wonderful book Nancy and Plum.
"The Last Temptation of Christ" by Kazantzakis, which I read during summer vacation at age 13, right after I got bah mitzvahed. I was never the same. Innocence lost. Sometimes you wish you could unread a book.
Witness by Whittaker Chambers
The Unbeliever series by Steven R. Donaldson
C.S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and George MacDonald. One should start with MacDonald and work through Chesterton and finally Lewis because they are a continuations of thought.
Many good thoughts here, but I would suggest the best 'short' book to be "Oh, the Places You'll Go." Always a great graduation gift. (They might not get it now but they will.)
The Abolition of Man, certainly, and The Screwtape Letters, together with the Narnia books and the planetary trilogy.
Atlas Shrugged -- terrible writing, but we're talking about the undeniable impact on a young mind. It played tug-of-war with C.S. Lewis for a long time.
The Lord of the Rings -- I can't help it. It's in my bones now.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
A Canticle for Leibowitz; Lucifer's Hammer; and almost every other apocalyptic fantasy I could get my hands on.
Absalom, Absalom -- I can still remember being unable to move a muscle, or scarcely even breathe, upon finishing it.
Testimonies (Patrick O'Brian) -- similar impact. Unbelievable novel, his first.
The Dispossessed; The Lathe of Heaven; The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Leguin).
Pride & Prejudice.
Q.E.D. (Richard Feynman).
It seems that either I don't read much non-fiction or it doesn't have as great an impact on me as fiction.
Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton
New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, HS Thompson
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills
Christian Prayer [the single volume version of The Liturgy of the Hours]
not "big picture" but influential...
the authors David Weber (Honor Harrington series)
George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman series)
James Ellroy (LA Confidential)
and ... nobody laugh... 365 Bedtime Stories, Nan Gilbert, published in 1955 and the book I learned to read with. I still have it, and it occupies its own place of honor in the office library.
Proverbs -- A chapter a day keeps the crazies away. Proverbs puts Biblical principles into daily practice and makes life easy.
Saving Leonardo (Pearcey) is a good read based on today's environment.
HL Mencken ( Notes On Democracy, American Language, ect) - cannot go wrong with his satire and insight
Steinbeck - good insight into the human (and American) condition
Rise/Fall of the Roman Empire, Chandler's Napoleon's battles (the big green book), and Foote's Civil War.
Weber's Harrigan Sci-Fi series (kinda like Hornblower in outer-space), and Heinlein.
Gosh, there are SO many, I can't remember them offhand...
My personal inspiration was W. C. Fields' autobiography.
Or maybe not.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Then went on to the Gulag Archipelago and by the end of it my faux liberal world view that USSR was no different than the USA was shattered. I stopped being unconscious and began to think and learn for myself.
What a long strange trip it's been.
Most influential of how I think and react as an adult to socio-religio-political topics? Hmmm:
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant
Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Republic by Plato
Catch-22 is one that I've read multiple times. The older I get (and the more knocks I've received in the school thereof), the more I appreciate the the over-the-top, as well as the subtle cynicism of the book. It's almost time to read it again.
Most of my other favorites have already been mentioned, but I will add these (while I'm in the genre of cynical literature):
'The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy' series, in which, among other things, we learn that no problem is so big that it cannot be made completely invisible by an SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) Field, that the Earth is "mostly harmless", and that San Francisco is a very friendly place where starting a new religion in your honor is just their way of saying hello. And of course, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything .
'The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe', in which Trudy the Bag Lady sums up much of my outlook on life thusly: "No matter how cynical I become, it's never enough to keep up." Also an amazing one-woman play starring Lily Tomlin.
Systems of Survival by Jane Jacobs. She developed e theory that brought together her observations and many of mine in an orderly manner.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I read it for a 9th grade Politics class. That convinced me of the immorality of Communism.. A term paper I did for the class on Soviet agriculture convinced me of the ineffectiveness of Communist economics.
Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario, by Venezuelan journalist Carlos Rangel ( From the Noble Savage to the Noble Revolutionay, but published in English as "The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United Sates.") It put into writing what I had observed in Latin America: the "progressive" view of Latin Americans as victims of the Yanquis did not describe the facts on the ground.
Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
The only book I've read twice and intend to read one more time:
Crowds and Power
by Elias Canetti
I'm late to all this but I have a "big picture" book that's unlike all the rest here:
"Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" by Edwin Abbott.
Highly recommended, and you can find it online.
Robert Conquest: Reflections on a Ravaged Century
Richard Pipes: Property and Freedom
Well, I spent my formative years reading any science fiction I could find. Any and everything I could find by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Vonnegut, and dozens of other authors. It's only in my 50's that I am getting to some of the classics, like some of those mentioned above.