Thursday, November 10, 2011

Influential Books

I don't read a lot of books. However, I like to think of myself as someone that enjoys books and I wish I read a lot of books. Maybe if I blog about books that will be good enough.

Below is a list of the books that have influenced me the most. (I have decided not to include scriptures in the list.) This isn't a list of my favorite books. These are books that have changed me the most. They aren't in any particular order.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
by John Gray

Before I read this book I knew that men and women were different, but I didn't realize just how different they are, nor could I pinpoint the differences. The author describes our differences so well. At times he describes men and women so well that it starts to get spooky--like he's been spying on you and your spouse or something.

After reading the book, you are able to more easily recognize the cause behind disagreements you may have with your spouse. This alone is a powerful tool, but he goes beyond that and gives advice that you wouldn't have thought of on your own.

by Matt Ridley

This book blew my mind. I had no idea that our genes control so much of our lives. I don't know that this book has influenced my behavior, but it sure has influenced the way I think about myself and others. It's actually very sobering. We all like to think that we have absolute free will and that we control all of our actions, but our genes have a lot more to do with what type of person we are than we recognize. This isn't to take away from the beauty of our unique personalities. It just means that we didn't choose every aspect of our personalities.

The book may not convince you as much as it convinced me--and, in fact, I'm not convinced of a couple of points it makes--but there is just so much interesting material in the book that you should read it even if you don't agree with its conclusions.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond

At 500 pages, this is the second longest book I've ever read, and easily my longest that I didn't have to read for school. Also, it's about geography and world history--Not a good formula for an exciting book. However, almost every page has fascinating information. I think I could have read the book twice as fast if I hadn't stopped so often to think about how cool the latest fact was.

The gist of the book is that civilization developed at different speeds and in different ways in various parts of the world mostly because of geography. Let me give you one example: Think of a domesticated animal that is particularly useful. Now think about where that animal comes from. Odds are you thought of an animal that comes from Eurasia and not from Africa, Australia or the Americas. That is the case if you thought of a cow, horse, sheep, pig, donkey, or even a dog. There aren't many domesticated animals from those other places. (The book explains why that is.) If you wanted to start a primitive civilization and you couldn't use any of the animals I listed above, you'd be at a huge disadvantage.

Maybe you don't think that's a cool concept, but I sure do, and the book explains tons of other concepts that are just as cool. Besides just explaining cool things, it is an influential book because it makes you stop and think about different societies and about how civilization came about. It really is a great book.

Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression
by Mary J. Ruwart

This actually isn't a very good book and I don't really recommend it. Again, this is a list of influential books, not favorite books. This book has been very influential to me because it was the first book I ever read about libertarianism--back before I even knew what libertarianism was--and by the end of the book I was "converted." Before I read the book I leaned politically conservative but didn't really have a political persuasion. After reading the book I decided I was a libertarian and have read more books and articles on the topic than perhaps all other topics combined.

It's not a bad book. It's a quick read and very easy to understand. But, there are several more interesting, more convincing libertarian books than this one. If I were to recommend just one, it would be Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
by Mitch Albom

Part of me hopes that you have stopped reading this post by now, because I'm really embarrassed by my reaction to this book. Let's just say that I was "influenced" by this book. Let's not say whether there was or wasn't tissue involved.

[I distinctly remember writing a review for this book, but can't find it. If any of you know where I posted it, I'd appreciate you letting me know in a comment or an email.]

I have a more complete list of books that I've read, along with reviews and ratings, on Goodreads. You can view my profile here:

Do you have a book that influenced you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


Andrea said...

First off, I love your new manly blog look. I was just thinking that Ranting Rita had been quieted by Babbling Brent! :)

I loved your list of books. I've tried to think of influential books I've read, and it's been hard to come up with some. I guess I read more fluffy stuff. One that did come to mind was a book called "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini. The book described the lives of two fictional women who lived in Afghanistan between 1979 and 2001 and described the reality of what it was like live in a war-torn country where woman lacked basic human rights. The book flat out angered me and then made me think of the many blessings I have living in the US.

I did an entire blog post about it when I read it:

Keep the fun November posts!

Rita said...

I'm slightly mortified that you posted Men Are From Mars...It makes it sound like our ideal marriage actually takes work.

Although I didn't read Genome, just having you tell me pieces of it was enough to blow my brain which angst you understand better than most people because you know my mother so well!

Beverly said...

Loved the post. I would also list Men are from Mars as one of the books that has influenced me the most. Please keep up your posts after November! I love them.