Saturday, September 15, 2007

Most Influential Books

Started thinking lately of what might be the most influential books on my life. Some of them are not single books, but series of books that hang together. Others are the first I’ve read of an author, and it is really the author who is influential. I list the book here as the gateway to the work of the author. They are listed in no particular order.

  1. The Bible – well, this had to make the list, didn’t it? I would have to say that this is the single most influential book in shaping my life, through and through.
  2. Creation Regained (Nicholas Wolters) Wolters gave shape and biblical support to ideas that had been developing in me for some time. He helped me to break down the Gnostic sacred/secular distinction. Creation is more than what we think of as nature. It also includes human work and institutions. A biblical worldview comprehends that all creation is good in structure. Not everything is good in it’s orientation or direction. This book helped me to understand my freedom to enjoy all of life as a gift of God.
  3. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings/The Silmarrillion (JRR Tolkien) I lost track of the number of times I have read these, and I still return to them every few years. They provide a well of deep water that refreshes my spirit in a way that I cannot quite articulate.
  4. Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis) Lewis’s picture of Aslan is a flawed allegory if you get too picky, but one that I found incredibly helpful and useful in understanding my relationship to Jesus.
  5. Christ and Culture (Rienhold Niebuhr) Culture is part of creation. Alongside Creation Regained, this book helped me to understand that the problem lies not in creation itself, but in how we react to the world. We are not victims, but are called to agents of redemption and transformation of culture, bringing the Kingdom of God closer. We are little redeemers, in the footsteps of Christ.
  6. Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury) This book opened up to me the power of writing with powerful imagery. I remember being entranced by not only the sights, but the smells and sounds and sensations that Bradbury created inside of me through words on a page. It was a powerful experience in the glory and weight of language.
  7. Nature I Loved (Bill Geagan) Bill Geagan spent a year living by himself in a small rundown cabin on backwoods Maine. To this day, I dream of such a place and such an opportunity. This book strongly influenced my love of the outdoors and wild places where most people never go.
  8. Structures of Scientific Revolutions (Thomas S. Kuhn) Science is another branch of philosophy, not the final arbiter of ultimate truth. This book helped to be understand how our understanding of truth and reality develops and is shaped by our underlying paradigms.
  9. Appalachian Odyssey (Steve Sherman & Julia Older) I read this book many times as a teenager. The tale of Sherman and Olders 2000 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail was very influential on my dreams of thru-hiking the AT.
  10. Angels in the Architecture (Douglas Wilson & Douglas Jones) Our medieval forbears get a bad rap. All they were trying to do was to live out the Kingdom of God on earth. Did they fail? Surely. But in making the attempt, they lived much closer to the kingdom in many ways than we arrogant moderns do today. Wilson and Jones unfold a powerful vision of value and power of returning to the medieval spirit and worldview.
  11. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning (Douglas Wilson) This book was very influential in our decision to home school our girls. It sets forth a model for classical pedagogy that stimulated us to attempt to take on a job that has too often been left to the professionals.
  12. The Unsettling of America (Wendell Barry) Just the tip of the iceberg in my Wendell Barry collection. This book started me thinking about the powerful connections between humans, the natural world, agriculture and environment. I’m not always sure what to do with the things Barry writes. I am almost always moved and challenged by his work. He writes as one with a powerful sense of both place and history that resonates deep within me.
  13. The Ancient Future Faith (Robert Webber) Again, the first of several books by Webber that could be on this list. Challenged me to remember that 20th Century Evanagelicalism has a tendency to want to float rootlessly along, as if no one came before us. Yet, our faith is ancient, and we ignore those roots to our peril. This is especially important in a day when our culture chatter is becoming much more polyphonous – like the time of the ancients. How did our early church fathers deal with competing pagan voices? We must learn from them and draw deeply from the wells the strove so hard to dig.
  14. Reaching out without Dumbing Down (Marva Dawn) One of the first of several penetrating critiques of modern evangelical worship theology and practice. The problem is that most evangelical churches have no intentional theology of worship. Instead, they try to model their worship on current entertainment and marketing trends. But is it biblical? Is it Godly? This book really helped me to frame the questions and categories to change the way I worship and lead others in the worship of the One True and Living God.
  15. Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail (Robert Webber) Can an evangelical go Anglican? I’m tempted myself, although I’m sure I’m not sure what I’d be getting into. God has not thus far led me there, but I have been shaped by Webber’s account of his journey.
  16. Men and Marriage (George Guilder) This controversial book lays it out. Women need men to build their homes and cities and civilization where they can raise their children. Men need women to motivate them to curb and channel their energies into useful pursuits that build and create rather than destroy. Makes common sense to me, but many “modern” thinkers find it to be a highly offensive hypothesis.
  17. Perelandra (CS Lewis) What would have happened if Eve had chosen differently. Lewis once again takes our deepest myths and transforms them through new stories so that we can examine them from different angles. The whole “Space Trilogy” series has actually deeply influenced my cosmology and understanding of how God works in the world.
  18. That Hideous Strength (CS Lewis) Lewis’s fictional treatise on the ultimate end of modernism. I was especially influenced by certain scenes involving Merlin, whose pure and unadulterated ancient/medievalness makes me think of how wan, weak and emasculated are modern males.
  19. An Offering of Uncles (Robert Farrar Capon) This is a very recent read, but I put it on this list because I can already feel it reshaping my thinking. Capons discussion of knowing the shape of the world through Place and History, and our roles as priests of this creation is providing a newer deeper framework for my engagement with creation.
  20. The Appalachian Trail (Ronald M. Fisher) This is the first book I ever read about the AT. I remember seeing it and feeling this little explosion in the back of my head when I realized that their was such a thing as the AT for the first time. I knew very little about it, but I knew that I wanted to hike it.
  21. Dune (Frank Herbert) All the Dune books have been very influential. Explorations of the nature of religion, culture, politics and power. Rollicking reading, full of thought provoking dialogue and discussion. More philosophically modern, and less influenced by Christian thought than Tolkien or Lewis for sure, but powerful influences on my nonetheless.
  22. The Vampire Chronicles (Anne Rice) The entire library of vampire books by Rice took me by surprise. Her skill as a storyteller is enormous and makes worthwhile reading for that alone. As with any great literature, there are many lessons about life and the world included for free. You also find Rice wrestling with many religious questions throughout the series. Come to find out, the process of writing these books was strongly influential on her return to Jesus through her Roman Catholic roots. Proof again that if God wants you, He will have you.
  23. All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy) Like Dandelion wine, this book powerfully affected me simply with the language. To read McCarthy is to be fully present in the moments of his story with all your senses.
  24. Legends of the Fall (Jim Harrison) I am a fan of the epic and the heroic. Jim Harrison is a writer of the epic and heroic couched in stories of places we know now, or times not long past. This is a tragic novella, made into a movie. I saw the movie first, then sought out the novella. The themes still haunt me.
  25. Rich Dad Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki) RDPD changed the way I view money. I’m still working on bringing that change of meaning into reality in my life. Nevertheless, everything starts with a change of thinking.
  26. The E-Myth (Michael Gerber) E-myth influenced how I understand the structures of organizations and the differences between technicians, managers and entrepreneurs. A valuable work for anyone who wants to own or operate a business.
  27. The Greatest Salesman in the World (Og Mandino) Along with The Power of Positive Thinking, this was one of my first introductions to American Success Literature of the 20th Century. It was introduced to me while I worked summers in college selling books door-to-door to earn money for school. That experience, and this book, literally changed the entire trajectory of my life.
  28. Body for Life (Bill Philips) - Picked up this book after completing the 2000 Green Bay Marathon, looking at myself and realizing that although I ran the race, I was still lacking in overall fitness, muscle tone, and strength. The program in this book introduced me to weight training. In 12 weeks I lost 10 lbs of fat, put on 13 lbs of muscle and dramatically redistributed everything into a much stronger healthy package. Since then I have always included a strength resistance component in all my physical conditioning activity. It has served me well.
  29. The Russian Kettlebell Challenge (Pavel Tsatsouline) Pavel introduced me to kettlebells, the old time russian instrument of torture and conditioning. A kettlebell is an iron ball with an intergrated iron handle. The offset center of gravity, and the use of full-body ballistic movement make kettlebell training very challenging and extremely effective. This book helped me to leave behind the pretty-boy body building emphasis of Body For Life and pursue a more gritty old-time approach to strength training.

  30. Combat Conditioning (Matt Furey) Furey introduced me to the power of body-weight exercises for strength and conditioning. We used to call them calisthenics. Now I don't need no stinking gym. I am my gym, wherever I go. There is good reason why gymnasts and wrestlers are among the strongest and best conditioned athletes around. And most of the training they do involves simply using their own bodyweight. I love the freedom of not paying for, or having to go someplace special to train. More people should eschew the marketing, and just start moving.



Roger and Meg said...

Hi, Dragonslayer!
Just discovered your blog and I'm enjoying your journey with you. We share many ideas and favorite authors and you've given me some new ones to read. Thanks for your openness and sharing.
Roger & Meg Bruce

Anonymous said...

We have much in common- who'd of guessed? I would add, 7 Habits by Covey, Jesus and the Victory of God by NT Wright, The City of God by Augustine (really), and anything by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Ron Jung

Dubbahdee said...

Roger & Meg, how did you find this? Did you just stumble in here? You are welcome, of course. Most of my readers are folks that I know and they just come to see what I'm drivelling on about today. So I'm curious when someone shows up and says they "just discovered" the blog. A good reminder to me that this is really published and out there for anyone to see who cares.

Dubbahdee said...

Ron -

NT Wright is on my list. I considered 7 Habits, but I can't say that it's been a book that I felt rocked me. It certainly has been a big part of my life, and I refer to it often, but it lacks the emotional resonance of the ones I listed.
I'm already thinking about editing the list. On further reflection, I think I'd take of Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. It was a fascinating book, but I'm not sure I'd call it influential.
I have a post in planning on books that got left out.
Also, note that 2 of the books on the list are books that you gave me.

Dubbahdee said...

Make that 3 books you gave me.
Angels in the Architecture.
An Offering of Uncles.
Reaching Out without Dumbing Down

Anonymous said...

7 Habits greatly influenced me. It was one of those books I read at the right time in my life- early 20's. And yes, I did notice the three books.
Ron Jung