Greatest Influences: A List

I’ve read many self-help books in uncertainty and in leisure. Entertainment lies in piecing together the argument of how we may bear fruit on our lives by discourse from the Hellenists to Influencers. Although, an intentional outside opinion can be helpful, I find implementing nuances derived from literature vicariously often more impactful. This list conglomerates some of the most influential books in my life, yet none are self-help books for that very reason. 

  1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams 

Though heavy with social commentary, the main perspective I harvested from this beautiful satire was the ability to create humor out of dark realities. After much practice, I’ve become a much happier person fighting off daily monotony or life’s anxieties with a quick joke or a sardonic perspective shift. 

  1. Elbow Room – Daniel C. Dennett 

I originally read this book for a class, the philosophy of which has little to do with the lesson I took from it. I played with Dennet’s idea of “wiggle room” in my head – of graying lines. I applied his thought process and thought experiment to ideas I previously held strictly as black and white, finding that most beliefs can hold common ground in your life; in fact, seldomly do things appear so uncompromising. 

  1. Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink

Jocko’s style of stoicism reconciles the idea of an aggressive personality with self control – something I attempt to live up to in my everyday life. With this style, I face myself and the externalities of my life head on; with honesty and humility. 

  1. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut 

Almost a Great Gatsby in reverse, Eliot Rosewater develops a conscience and dispenses great sums of money to people he meets and many he doesn’t after leaving New York. His blinding generosity, even despite those who appear to take advantage of him, inspires some of my own kindness. It has come to lend me an extremely socialist opinion on living in a society. For, if we do not take care of each other, how are we to call ourselves one?

  1. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

If I’m being honest, the plot of Mrs. Dalloway remains one of the blandest I’ve ever read, but important to my life nonetheless. Woolf’s writing taught me a release for mental blocks, for decision making, and gave me a tool in crucial times to attend to my emotions without making myself a slave to them.

Essential Sci-Fi: Guardians of Time by Poul Anderson

In the six decades since its publication, Anderson’s collection of short stories still gives perspectives of the past, both 20th century and beyond, presenting the kind of forward-thinking social commentary that developed into normalcy more recently. This alone makes it as much time machine as it is time travel saga, transporting the reader around the world from pre-historic to the edges of prediction. Its genius lies in the nuanced definitions of the known world and Poul’s tangled yet logically sound ball of yarn that makes up the unknown.

If that alone doesn’t strike interest, Guardians of Time (AKA: Time Patrol) is still one of the most captivating and cleverly crafted series of stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Reading it for the first time, I could hardly bear to put the book down; rereading it produced the exact same longing. For as long as it has born fruit for its readers, I imagine it will continue to bring wisdom from the past and project ideas for their future in a digestible, exciting way.