Oct 14, 2014

The 7 Most Impactful Books I've Read

I saw someone else do this and thought, "What a great idea!"

Well, actually no, what I really thought was, "Really?  Catcher in the Rye?  How can that possibly have impacted your life when it makes no sense?  Gah, I hate that book!"  But that was illogical, we're all entitled to like what we like, and almost immediately afterwards I thought, "I should play this game."

So basically here's the books that have had the most impact on me and why.

7 Books that Blew My Mind

1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I read this at a very pivotal time in my life.  And honestly, the only reason I read it was because my youngest sister had, and liked it, and she very rarely makes it through a book without resorting to spark notes.  So I had to read it to show her up since I was the "reader" in the family.  And because she doesn't skim, I couldn't skim.

I had to take breaks.  There's a speech near the end that goes on for 70 PAGES!  And the concepts are heavy.  So I would read my 15 pages or so, and take a break to think about it.  I may have taken notes, I don't remember.  This was quite possibly the first time I'd ever thought about social issues in this way.

A lot of people object to Ayn Rand for her extremism and her coldness.  But I think the book is set in an extreme world, and the concepts aren't mean to translate directly to ours in the same intensity.  Even if they were, I can analyze the concepts and decide which pieces of them I agree with and take from it, and leave the rest.  And, honestly, I don't know if I was capable of that before reading this book.  It really taught me to think for myself.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

I remember very clearly the first time I read these.  I was complaining to my younger sister that I was bored, I had read everything in the house, there were no new books, etc.  She said, "You have not read all the books in the house" and pulled open a cabinet I had never investigated before.  The first book she happened to grab was The Two Towers.

I read it, and then read the whole series, in the proper order.  It was the first adult fantasy I'd been exposed to and I loved it.  It really catapulted me further into the genre.

3. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman & Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

I know this is 2, but they're basically the same category.  I wrote about each one when I read them, because they taught me such important lessons about my relationship and about the way I think.  Quick synopsis: The 5 Love Languages teaches us different methods for conveying our feelings and how to test which is most effective for our loved ones (full post here).  Men are from Mars... is more about the different ways each gender expresses themselves, and how their needs vary (full post here).

4. I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

This was the first personal finance book I'd ever read.  I took a lot out of this and basically reconfigured my finances.  I highly recommend if you're unfamiliar with investing and you don't make use of your 401k!

5. Harrison Bergeron, Fahrenheit 541, and 1984 (Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, and George Orwell)

We went through a dystopian section in school, and there were several short stories, but it somewhere in between these 3 that it clicked in my brain.  They're all warnings.  And it became fascinating to see what type of screwed up futures authors could imagine, and realize they all pointed to the government having too much control.  They called it different things, but "Big Brother" was always very present and something we need to watch out for in our modern day world.  (Note: I don't worry about government control all the time, but I do still love me a good dystopian story)

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis & Taggerung by Brian Jacques

The Chronicles of Narnia was such a magical read as a kid.  I was completely swept away by this world of vivid imagery.  Taggerung is only special because it's the first of the Redwall series I read, and after that I had to keep collecting them.  I was a little older when I started Redwall, so at that point part of the enjoyment was the story itself, but a bigger part of was sharing both of these series with my younger sister.

I remember reading from one of the Narnia books and getting winded because the sentence was so long.  So we stopped and she counted each word while I read.  I don't remember exact numbers, but they got up there.  My favorite memories of the Redwall series involve doing character voices, and making up fake-out scenes to see when Sister3 would catch on.  And there were a couple times I read so long I lost my voice.

7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle & The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

These are among the very earliest memories I have of books.  I know I was blown away by books that had some kind of tactile/3D element.  And they both involve a transformation of some kind.  The Rainbow Fish had the added element of some gorgeous artwork.  I really think the beautiful illustrations in most of our children's books had something to do with my childhood desire to be an artist, and eventually going into the graphic design field.

I guess I should also mention Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Helen Berger, because it's another one that stuck with me.  Not so much for the story, but for the artwork.  Later on, after starting graphic design classes, one of our projects was to interview someone in our field/a similar field, and Ms. Berger actually responded and answered all my questions.  It was very insightful and really reawakened my love of this book.

8. Bonus!  Whatever Book I'm Currently Reading

Because almost everything I read gives me something to think about, something to learn, and sometimes even something to utilize in my daily life.  I love reading and I love the influences books have had on me.  Working a book quote into conversation is always awesome and sharing my favorites with other people is even better.

So that's the list!  They're not all classics or masterpieces, but they were all there at the right time in my life, and collectively had a huge impact on my behavior, philosophies, career, and hobbies.

What books have impacted you?  What is your favorite book of all-time?

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  1. The book I remember best in my reading progression is Darkfall by Dean Koontz, I don't remember much about the book itself or the plot. It was the first adult book I picked for myself from my high school library, I remember thinking the middle school library was boring and full of baby books so it surprised me to find something so grown up in high school.

  2. I tried to read Atlas Shrugged as it was an ex boyfriend's favorite book. I couldn't get through even half of it and perhaps it was because I hated him at that point too haha!

    Loved Narnia and the Five Love Languages.

    One of the most impactful books for me was Tuesday's With Morrie. All of the life lessons were truly inspiring for me.

  3. I can never pick a favorite, but Jane Eyre, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, Blume books (specifically Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Forever), Ordinary People, The Little House books and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood have left big marks on me.

  4. My all-time favorites: All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriott), for humor and vivid description. Tears of the Giraffe (Alexander McCall Smith), for genuine good nature and gentle charm. Sarah, Plain and Tall (Patricia McLachlan), for huge implied emotion within a sparse and lovely text.

    As a child, I was very much into the series... The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The Bobbsey Twins series. Nancy Drew. (These are all from way before your time.) But also most definitely the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, although I didn't remember them until SMD's post reminded me. Probably On The Banks of Plum Creek is my absolute favorite of those.

    As a teen or young adult: The Cay (Theodore Taylor), for courage and triumph in the face of adversity. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (JRR Tolkien), for pure fantasy. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), for humor and a totally different way of thinking about the world.

    Honorable mentions... these are children's books that really stuck with me, mostly because they made me cry: Black Beauty (Anna Sewell), Bambi (Felix Salten), Watership Down (Richard Adams), Charlotte's Web (E.B. White). Although I love the classic cartoon movie with the voices of Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte and Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat even more than the book.

    OK, I'll stop now. (But there's more, lots more!!) Thanks Jenn, for posting such a fun topic to think about.

    1. I almost included Hitchhiker's Guide! I really like how he twists things around so that all the pseudo-science sounds almost plausible. (Significant hates it for the same reason) But in the end, I decided it had had less actual impact than the others, even though it's one of my favorites.

      I'm glad you liked the topic! I don't think I've read Sarah, Plain and Tall as an adult - I might have to, so I can get the more subtle parts out of it (I'm sure it went over my head as a child).


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