I can say things like, “The other day when I was walking through the book store,” because I’m lucky enough to live in a town that still has actual book stores. Everyone should be that lucky. Unfortunately it seems that more and more book stores are closing down. But that discussion is for another time.
For now, I want to talk about a book I saw. A book I haven’t seen in about twenty years. Maniac Magee.
It was the first real book I can ever remember reading. And as I stood in Barnes and Noble holding this book I began to think back to other books that I haven’t picked up in a while. Books that may not make the New York Times Top 100 List or Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, but nonetheless books that have influenced my life.
The following books are in the order that I recall reading them.
Manaic Magee by Jerry Spinelli
As I mentioned above this is one of the first books I can ever recall reading. If you read the wikipedia page it will tell you this is a book about exploring themes of racism and homelessness. But that’s not what I remember. I remember a story about a boy who did the impossible.
I always wanted to be Maniac Magee as a kid, and part of me still does.
The Book of Positive Quotations by John Cook
I may be the only person to ever list a compilation of quotes as one of my most influential books. I’d be lying if I didn’t though.
My mother got me this book when I was a junior in high school. It was supposed to be a tool to help with all those college application essays and scholarships. It ended up being a way to pass the time during most of my high school classes.
I’d sit at my desk with the book on my lap, looking up enough to convince the teacher I was paying attention, and then I’d go back to reading quote after quote after quote. It turns out this is one of the greatest ways to find even more books to read.
Emerson’s Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
My first experience of Emerson was in the quote book above. I noticed I was highlighting his quotes more than almost anyone else. So one day after school, in the great age of dial-up internet, I searched AOL for a man named Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Hours later the printer was out of ink and paper and I was lying on the floor reading essays. My mom came home and I remember her saying, “I can’t believe my son is reading Emerson.” Of course, I was reading Emerson, but not exactly understanding.
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
My college professor once told me, “Reading Brautigan is like reading the phone book.” Part of me tends to agree. The other part of me gained a whole new perspective on storytelling and poetry. A slightly disjointed, crazy perspective, but perspective nonetheless.
P.S. Dear fisherman, this book doesn’t really have much to actually do with trout fishing.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
I didn’t know what to expect when I first read this book. Rilke feels like a cross between C.S. Lewis and Emerson (though I’m guessing many would disagree with that assessment).
The letters that Rilke writes are truly heartfelt. Every poet should read this at least once in their lifetime (if not more).
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
I read Siddhartha years ago while on a Carnival cruise. I remember carrying that book around everywhere. In fact one night, around 2 a.m., I was sitting on the steps in one of the main lobbies and a middle aged Indian man walked by me. After seeing what I was reading he turned and said, “Everyone should read Siddhartha at least once in their lives.” Everyone should read something by Hermann Hesse for certain.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
This was the first book I read by C.S. Lewis. I started hearing a lot about him in college and one day I picked up the book and nearly read the whole thing on a bus ride around campus. It’s a quick read and will completely change your perspective on good and evil and it plays out in the world around you.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity was one of the more influential books on my life. The thought process and philosophical approach C.S. Lewis took changed the way I thought about a lot of other subjects.
While I’ve read a lot of books on this list more than once, I may have read this book 3-4 times.
The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands
It’s hard for me to reliably say how good this book actually is. I read it after the loss of my first dog (Pace), and Mark Rowlands portrayal of the relationship he had with his wolf was just something I needed at the time.
I will say one thing though. To this day it is one of my most memorable reads, and I wrote more notes in the margin of this book than any other.
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
If you can’t tell I’m sort of a fan of wild canids, specifically wolves. This documentary shed new light on an animal I thought I knew a lot about.
So that’s it. These are the 10 books that don’t ever leave the night table by my bed. I’ve read these books more than any others, and I hope they have as great an impact on you as they have on me.