A bunch of smart people have been making lists of the most influential books in their lives so I decided to do one my own. One caveat: I consider “influence me the most” as being different than books that I enjoyed the most. Some of the reads below were not really entertaining or ‘nice’ but have in some way marked me and probably influenced the way I live much more than any pleasant has. So here it goes:
8 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy: This is definitely a disturbing book but one that hit me in a big way. To me this book is about life and hardship, and how powerful family connections (in this case between father and son) are. It is also a great tale of good and evil, and how blaming exclusively your environment for who you are is ultimately a copout.
7 – The Time Machine by H. G. Wells: This was the first sci-fi book I’ve ever read. I was about 11 when I read it and it got me started on my first ‘wave’ of reading, which lasted until I was about 16. It was probably one of the biggest influences towards my love for technology and later my career working with computers.
6 – Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson: This was the book that got me interested in sci-fi again after a period of total lack of interest in the subject. It is also a book that got me interested in the whole discussion of what are the roles of government and how big it should be.
5 – Animal Farm by George Orwell: I am not sure how old I was when I read this (I think I was about 15) but I remember that at first I didn’t associate the story with politics or government but with human nature. It was one of the first books that confirmed my feelings that human beings are by and large corruptible and gullible, and that absolute power over others is evil no matter what.
4 – The Language of God by Francis S. Collins: This was such a fresh perspective on the usually belligerent world of science vs. religion. I felt like I was reading a lot of ideas I agreed with and never had the competency to express. It is most of all a book about how complex this world is and how hubris is replacing humility when the subject is knowledge and science. It helped me in many ways to realize that my reservations about spirituality were mostly based on fear of being seen as irrational.
3 – Economics for Real People by Gene Callahan: One of the first economics books I’ve ever read. It got me interested on all the fundamentals behind capitalism. Still one of the clearest and most readable economics books ever.
2 – The Way The World Works by Jude Wanniski: This was the book that got me interested in global politics and macro economics. It woke me up to what taxes really are and how special the American system is when compared to all the alternatives. This was not so much about supply-side economics to me but about a worldview where development takes precedence over stability. It definitely changed my view of everything around me and how human progress really happens.
1 – The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: It’s funny to remember how amazed I was when I first read The Fountainhead. I was reading it non-stop – during lunch, before going to sleep, just using every single spare moment I could get. I really couldn’t put it down. I came to realize later that people have many different interpretations for the book. Some people think this is about being an egotist, the total abnegation of caring about other people. Others think this is an anti-government diatribe. But to me, the book was about rationality and free will. It helped me solidify my own internal philosophy of how humans act and why. It comes down to one thing: you either believe we are rational beings (and therefore, we are what we do – or like Ayn Rand liked to put it, I am, therefore I’ll think) or you believe in some mysterious super-natural force that controls us: society, god, genes, feelings, etc. I think I will write a separate post about this.