Sunday Salon: Ten Influential Books

I was musing about the fact that I didn’t have a Sunday Salon post, and hubby mentioned that around the blogs he frequents, they’re talking about the ten influential books in their lives. Hubby’s list includes 15 heady philosophical books; he said that while it’s mostly academics doing this, there’s no reason why us non-academic readers can’t play along.

So, ten influential books in my life, in no particular order:

Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan: I’ve mentioned this before, but Pollan has changed the way I — we — think about food. It started with some articles that were the basis of this book, but ever since I first read them, I’ve been obsessive about High Fructose Corn Syrup in my diet. I make bread weekly because of this man. I shop at farmer’s markets and buy my meat from a local rancher because of this man. I cringe every time I walk into Wal-Mart (it’s still a work in progress; we are on a limited budget after all) because of this man. My life is healthier because of this man, and I am glad for it.

Beauty, by Robin McKinley: this is what started my love of KidLit as an adult. A friend was properly shocked that I hadn’t read this, handed it to me, and I’ve never looked back. So they’re kids books? So what? I love kids books. I love the writing — I think it’s tighter, almost better, than adult books — and I love the stories being told. My life would be so much less without the kids books that I read.

Austenland, by Shannon Hale: admittedly, it’s not one of Shannon Hale’s better books, though I do like it quite a bit. But, this is on my list because it’s the first ARC I requested from a publisher. I’d never even thought about doing that before Andi and Heather came into my life, and then suddenly a whole new world was opened up: I could request books! Before they are published! I heard about this one; I coveted it. And, when I asked, they sent it to me! Amazing. I’m still not as into all the ARC love as other bloggers, but I do like it when I get some in the mail. It’s kind of a validation thing, I guess. At any rate, I do love what I do.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen: I couldn’t not have a Jane Austen on here, right? This one, my mother handed to me when I was 14 and I just didn’t get it. Everything fell flat. Luckily A&E and Colin Firth came along and reintroduced me to Lizzy and Mr. Darcy (yes, I saw the miniseries before I read the book!). I went back to the book, discovered Jane’s wit and observations and humor, and fell in love with her. Now I can’t imagine literary life without picking up and reading an Austen book once in a while.

Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Hubby said I should have a book from my childhood, and this one popped into mind. As I wrote to Besty at Fuse #8 when I submitted my Top 10 Children’s fiction books: “This was one book that spurred my love of reading. I read it so many times when I was a kid that I practically memorized it. (And I still quote passages of it to my children.) I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to enjoy life like Laura. I wanted to write like Laura. I’m glad I had Laura in my life.”

Sports Illustrated magazine: I know: not a book. But, honestly, it influenced me to major in journalism in college. I had my own subscription for most of high school, paid for with my own money. My mom would always watch for the swimsuit issue and squirrel it away — though I managed, on occasion, to find it: there were articles I wanted to read! It fed my love of sports, it showed me what tight, interesting, good reporting could do. I suppose I should have been reading Time or Atlantic Monthly, but, dang it, I loved my SI.

Deadly Persuasion, by Jean Kilborne: Soon after C was born, a friend loaned me this book. It simultaneously scared and empowered me: these girls I was embarking upon raising were going to be inundated with terrible images from the media, they would be pressured into buying things that were degrading to them, and yet… I had the power to teach, to guard, to guide, to put my money where my mouth was. Which is why I won’t let my kids be billboard ads for companies, among other things.

The Great Gatsby
, by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Hubby thought this was an odd inclusion: why does a book that I haven’t opened up in 20 years rate here? Because, for me, this is all tied up in thinking about music and literature and the power of metaphor. I’m not sure it changed me, but it did stay with me.

Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau: I’m a pacifist. I can pinpoint this to my reading of Thoreau’s work and the whole idea of non-violent protest as a means for change. My admiration of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi came from this essay, too. It resonated deep within me, and — again — even though I haven’t reread this since high school, I found that it fundamentally changed my thinking about war, about protest, about how to go about creating change.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Bill Bryson: I’m sure I could have picked any number of travel books to fill this last slot; ones that feed the wanderlust that my pocketbook cannot satiate. But, it comes down to this one: Bryson’s hysterical reflections on being reintroduced to America after years of living in England. It feeds into my European sensibilities, it looks at my country with a new and fresh light. But, most of all, it makes me laugh.

So, there are my ten. What are yours?

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8 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Ten Influential Books

  1. What a great idea for a post! A friend an I were discussing the top 100, 1000 whatever books to read because he found a list of books that supposedly educated people have read. We've decided to put together a list similar to yours of the most influential books we thinks our kids should read.

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  2. I agree with you on Little House on The Prairie. I had the set, and read every one of them over and over. I remember them to this day, and I believe they are the books that inspired my love of reading.

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  3. Beth, that's a great idea. I'm interested to see what you came up with.

    Amanda: I know you didn't like Austenland. πŸ˜€ I bet you'd like Great Gatsby, though.

    Missy B.: Yay! Another Little House fan. I know exactly what you mean!

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  4. I have never read any of Michael Pollan's books but we live on processed food at my house. I am 26 and live with my sister who is 25 and a really picky eater. We live on chips, pizza, mac and cheese, potatoes, and me frozen dinners. Awful I know but I gave up on cooking. I put a hold on this book at the library. πŸ™‚

    My top ten would include The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables set, Laura Ingalls Wilder set, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Negotiator by Dee Henderson, and more I just can't think of right now. πŸ™‚

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