Don’t know if this counts as a meme or not, but this post is based on a boozy dinner the other night. We got on to the conversation of which books had changed our lives. For a book worm like me its not an easy question. Most books I read get my mind churning in one way or another, but saying that there are books which do stand out in my mind. So, a post, which books and why. I’d be curious what has happened in your life, but don’t like doing the tagging thingy, so do it if it intrigues you.
1) Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathrusta – I read this in my late teens and it both excited and appalled me. I do not agree that all that does not kill us makes us stronger, but I can not help but observe that some humans are of stronger will and capability than others. However, that opinion also strongly informed my belief that all man is equal. Equal in rights, though not necessarily equal in ability. Also, that with strength comes responsibility. Those are my thoughts, not Neitzsche… I also rather reject that animals live to exert power over each other argument. He ignores the concept of will, and that cooperation is often necessary to survival. It changed my life in that it got me to think and define my own philosophy rather than whole heartedly accept anothers.
2) Heinlein’s Stanger in a Strange Land – I read a lot of science fiction, some of which I will strongly contend is at the forefront of literature. This is an odd old book, written by a man probably taking a lot of drugs at the time. Its a hippy story as much as anything, but it really got me to quetsion God and define my spirituality. I don’t mean that in a negative sense, it was a profound time for me. I am deeply religious, but not in a traditional sense. Some day I’ll post on it, just not yet…
3) Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy – Though I took a degree in hard science (Math), I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it forgoing all other things. One of the courses I loved was a small tutorial on Political Science. Two of my most heartfound books came out of the readings for this course. I read both the Prince and the Discourses. Its the Prince he’s most well known for, but it wasn’t meant as a training guide for dictators as is commonly thought, but as a warning. His Discourses, which is actually a collection of thought pieces, is a profound look at how Democracy should work. Many of the fundamentals of the American Constitution arouse out of Machiavelli. It still today informs much of my thinking on government and how it should work.
4) Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy – Again, a bloody good sci fi romp, but he’s got some underlying thinking that really gripped me. There is one theme that I still muse upon and struggle with today, “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent”. He was not a pacifist by any means, but there is a whole philosophy of life in that one line. When is violence permissible, and how should you live to avoid it?
5) Smith’s Wealth of Nations – Another book I struggled with, but really helped inform my own thinking. I am a capitalist and do believe in free markets. However, I also believe the free market does not have a place in all aspects of life. Education and Health benefit the nation as a whole, and do not go lightly with market economics. The book itself explores the nature of national economies, and is widely thought to be the starting point of economics as a discipline.
There are other books, which meant different things to me, so I could go on. However, those are the ones I remembered with a glass of wine in my hands, so its also where I’ll stop.