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What are the most influential books of your life? - 10 Life Changing Books

Updated on October 13, 2012

The pen is mightier than the sword

Books are powerful., the written word has always held a great allure to me. This isnt necessarily a list of the best books ever, merely the ones whose impact seems obvious to me.

Charlotte's Web - E.B White

I read this book for the first time, when I was in Kindergarten. My father purchased it for me in a collection that included The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little.

21 years later, I can still remember these titles and even picture the illustrations within. Perhaps, its merely because it is the first book in my memory, but nonetheless I feel it is one every young person should be exposed to. I believe this book truly helped me gain an early love of reading.

The anthromorphism (attribution of human traits to non-humans) throughout the story must have somehow impacted my lifelong respect and love for animals and the natural world. How can one be afraid of or want to kill spiders when they vividly recall Charlotte's plight and her gentle "Salutations"

Dragon on a Pedestal - Piers Anthony

The joy of puns

Sometime in middle school, I stumbled upon a copy of this book, Dragon on a Pedestal by Piers Anthony. I believe this was my first exposure to the comedy of absurdity and an example of truly outlandish puns.

 The books that are forced on us in the american educational system all have some great perceived meaning or purpose but are not generally great entertainment. I dont believe I ever laughed out loud or saw amazing pictures in my head until I was exposed to Piers Anthony.

His frequent allusions to "The Adult Conspiracy" probably flew over my head, but that made it all the more exciting when I entered the conspiracy myself. A few years later I was able to borrow the majority of the Xanth series from an older friend which showed me the community that reading can offer.

So if you think you might like a nice laugh and some witty light hearted reading where footballs are dangerous monsters with feet of every animal that trampling the forest or the adult conspiracy hides from children how one "summons the stork" that delivers babys, where a NightMare eats hay and delivers bad dreams or lovers elope to the Isle of View (say aloud), I wholeheartedly suggest one pick up a few Xanth novels...might as well start at the beginning with 'A Spell for Chameoleon"

A movie was planned by Warner Brothers but they allowed their option to!

If one chooses to read Piers Anthony, The Incarnations of Immortality series is fantastic as is the post apocalyptic Battle Circle trilogy.

The Authors Notes that are included in every Anthony novel are not to be missed, Piers Anthony's sharp wit just drips off the pages when he answers fan mail and rants about his publishers. Exposure to Piers Anthony, really showed me that authors were just humans like the rest of us and being an author is an achievable goal.

Upton Sinclair - The Jungle

So much can be learned from this book,

Can one 28 year old idealist fight a mighty and terrible industry? Upton Sinclair brought down the Beef Trust by bringing conditions to public light and swaying public opinion with his muckraking style.

One should remember that the people sitting in big glass offices, profiting off of your purchases, rarely if ever have your best interest at heart.

One should remember that cheaper prices mean less wages for the laborers or inferior product, neither being things you should vote for with your dollar, especially in the food industry.

Although this book was written in 1906, and major reform occurred in the Beef Industry following the publication of this work, a century later most of the major issues brought forth by this powerful story still effect the workers of the world.

When you write you to influence change, remember literature is for intellectuals, unfortunately the common man needs propaganda, exaggeration and theatrics in order to be swayed.

...I never eat fast food and this work contributed to my later life decision to give up meat.

Upton Sinclair also wrote OIL! which is the inspiration for the film"There Will Be Blood"

Its Easier Than You Think - Sylvia Boorstein

I remember going for a long walk after getting thrown out of student housing for having the mother of all Jello shot parties in my dorm room.

It was a emotional time, old dreams being crushed, new goals growing...exposure to people of all sorts of cultures and upbringing.

In a snack bar, I found a copy of the book, Its Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness by Sylvia Boorstein. I began to read over my lunch, it was a simple collection of anecdotes followed by a possible outlook/lesson involving the eightfold path.

This book and its simple down to earth spirituality has changed my life for the better.

"“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated that that. It is opening to or recieving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” - Boorstein

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

So Ayn Rand was most likely a sociopath and her Objectivist movement is very hard to completely accept as a whole (but what is)

As an artist, a writer and a business owner theres just something wonderful about Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. If one was to read these novels and then wonder how both Upton Sinclair and Ayn Rand could both be considered influences than they would wonder well.

A very basic generalization of the philosophy of Atlas Shrugged is that a persons selfish ego is the driving power of progress. This concept has always given me some steam when it came to pushing through on projects especially if they were unpopular or I felt unsupported.

A powerful quote:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia, “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?”

Siddartha - Hermann Hesse

What can I say about Hermann Hesse?

Personally, exploration of self and identity and a conscious personal transformation are elements of my life, in these matters Siddartha is a truly awesome reading experience.

The day I discovered this author was a major turning point in my intellectual development.

Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Carl Jung, existential philosophy, the awakening of innocence, the life of Buddha, eastern philosophy for the western mind, its all within the treasures that are Hesses works. This book and the others by Hesse are a keystone between eastern thought and western life for me.

From Siddartha:

Slower, he walked along in his thoughts and asked himself: “But what is this, what you have sought to learn from teachings and from teachers, and what they, who have taught you much, were still unable to teach you?” And he found: “It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could only flee from it, only hide from it. Truly, no thing in this world has kept my thoughts thus busy, as this my very own self, this mystery of me being alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others, of me being Siddhartha! And there is no thing in this world I know less about than about me, about Siddhartha!”

I also strongly suggest Demian and Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game)

The Alchemist- Paolo Coelho

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dreams

"...there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth" - Coelho, The Alchemist

This book has the distinction of being the most translated work of any living author. Thats a very telling statement, this work speaks of universal experience and is incredibly inspirational.

Its an allegorical novel that follows the life of Santiago the Shepherd, other than that I would prefer to leave your mind emptyso that you can experience this work fresh in mind.

Read The Alchemist! Just do it! ...a movie is expected to be released in late 2009, read it now before everybody ruins it for you!

Gardner's Art Through The Ages

This tome is big enough to kill your spouse with or stop a bullet, This is the type of book you dont want to leave on your glass coffee table as it may end up coming through the other side. But its worth its weight in gold.

Even if you dont like Art, or you dont like history or you dont like learning, this book may be that key to breaking it all open for you.

The complete history of man, religion, politics and culture are all embodied in the art of the people of its time. I cannot suggest any way of learning about the history of man that is more enjoyable than through the Art History perspective.

Gardner's History of Art will get you dates and make you a genius, its unavoidable plus you will become very good at Jeopardy.

This tome covers all the art of man from early cave paintings to Pop art, the book is frequently updated, be sure to get both volumes or an edition that has both volumes. It should be around 100.00 USD any less and you got a deal.

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bryson

I admit it, Im more of a liberal arts fellow, I enjoy philosophy, politics, religion, economics and history, science and mathematics arent really my thing.

Thats what makes A Short history of Nearly Everything by  Bill Bryson so invaluable to me, The story of the earth and scientific discoveries is an amazing and exciting story when told by the right person.

Bryson achieves this for me, he puts complex scientific theories into easily digestable yet comprehensive chapters that include interesting trivia and anecdotal data.

Between Gardner and Bryson, you could get a complete education in the History of mankind and science from multiple perspectives, which can only lead to expanding your knowledge and understanding of the world around you.

About the Author

When reading reviews one should know the reviewer in order to judge how valid there opinions are in relationship to your own.

Although those were my most influential books, my favorite authors include:

Roald Dahl, Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, Herman Hesse, Chuck Pahliunuk, John Irving, James Clavelle, William Golding, Alan Watts, The Dali Lama, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

Perhaps you would like to write a similar article, feel free to join me here at HubPages, become part of a writing community!

What are the most influential books of your life?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great list with wonderful commentary. P.S. Kurt Vonnegut was the man! (And, posthumously, still is!)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      What a terrific bit of opposites are "Atlas Shrugged," and "The Jungle!"

      If any other two books ought to be required reading for economics...then I don't know what they are.

      Too far in either direction....socialism or capitalism - and everything is just shot.

    • WriteAngled profile image


      6 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      I first read Siddhartha more than 40 years ago and still love it, and many other books by Hesse. He was somewhat "in" when I was a teenager, but I rarely hear anyone mention him now. I like Coehlo too, but not as much as Hesse, I must admit.

    • sunforged profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from

      Its great to see that so many people appreciate these authors too, I kind of felt many had fallen out of favor by now.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      thanks for the book hub, i love to check out people's reading recommondations and have found wonderful selections that way...before i read the whole hub, i scrolled down to see what you thought of any rand because she is always there on every freakin' list and had to laugh and read on

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      Love the list - I'm glad to see Charlotte's Web right on top - it was one of my favourites! And of course, I'm a hopeless Ayn Rand fan and think we need a John Galt to set right today's problems. Loved the Alchemist - though I love all his books, I've always felt this was his best.

    • GeneriqueMedia profile image


      9 years ago from Earth

      I really recomend F451. A book about banning books, which is being banned by some schools. Ray Bradbury wrote it at his local library paying to use a typewriter by the hour or some such. I've not heard of those two books LondonGirl, I'm going to look into them. And I agree with philosophical matieral sunforged, like you pointed out about Siddartha--it got me thinking behind western religions, and western society in general.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      Have you read The Crysalids, or Death of Grass?

    • sunforged profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from

      1984, Animal Farm, The Island, Lord of the Flies...dystopias in general are my favorite reading materials, on the opposite end in philosophy/religion utopian thought is my favorite, So Im with you both,1984 just didnt make this particular list... was close but i did try to stick to stuff I thought might be little less well known

      Somehow I never got around to reading f451...will have to make up for that some day

    • GeneriqueMedia profile image


      9 years ago from Earth

      1984 was definitely a harder one to keep reading. Its just something in the style I think...besides, I think "Neuromancer" that was written/released in '84 has a lot more detailed or maybe "realistic" take on a world overgrown with big brother and papa corporation.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      I agree, F 451 is great. I could never really get into 1984, though.

    • GeneriqueMedia profile image


      9 years ago from Earth

      Very thoughtful insights. I've read many of the books you've listed here, and I concur that they changed my ways of thinking about the world.

      Others I would include myself are 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

      Also, good job on plugging HubPages, and trying to help people differentiate from honest reviews and just merely fanboyish tendencies.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Sunforged, thanks! My daughter indeed does have a copy of Charlotte's Web on her bookshelf. I read it to her when she was very young, and then she read it again in school. Sometimes I think it takes away from a book's power when it becomes assigned reading, though.

    • sunforged profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from

      I checked out your Hub, Aya ..

      definetely a suggestable read with a great collection of choice works. Its kind of a fun contrats between our choices as I tend to pick male authors with independent,out of the box male characters and you seem to have been drawn to the same with female authors/characters.

      I do want to reiterate that is my list of books that impacted/influenced me...I wouldnt include Anthony or White in any kind of master list of amazing literature, but I would suggest giving your kids a copy

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Sunforged, we share Ayn Rand in our top ten. My excerpt in my hub on my top ten books in the English language is contiguous to your quote here. I like Charlotte's Web, too, though it didn't make my top ten.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      I have added links to the main part of my hub to this and other book review hubs.

    • quicksand profile image


      9 years ago

      Sure you'll like Uderzo and Goscinny!

    • sunforged profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from

      Luckily, although I also disliked being forced to do anything..the classics were and will always be enjoyed ...Hugo- count of monte cristo and dickens oliver twist were familiar and enjoyable reads to me before I even hit double digits!

      Alber Uderzo and Rene Goscinny!!!...Ill have to look into them.

      certainly always a comics fan myself, although I began collecting around the birth of Image comics so my collections are centered around them

    • quicksand profile image


      9 years ago

      I used to dislike fiction immensely. During school days Dickens, Hugo, and the likes were literally forced down our throats.

      I am very comfortable in the "presence" of great authors like Alber Uderzo and Rene Goscinny!!!

      Equally at home with Marvel comicx!!!

      However, the pair Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre blew me over with one of their works. Non fiction of course. In fact I have written a review of that book. Tweaking it up a bit before I publish it on Hub Pages!



    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      Glad you enjoyed it! I've never read The Jungle but it sounds great, and I'm going to have a look for it.

    • sunforged profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from

      Thanks for swinging by so quickly! I actually have read your Hub on your top ten books and found enough similarities that I plan on reading a few of the authors that were new to me

      Read London Girls Hub too

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      I share a lot of your fave authors - great list, and nice reviews.


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