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Zakat's avatar

What are some books which have profoundly impacted your life and your philosophy of life?

Asked by Zakat (415 points ) January 15th, 2013 from iPhone

I’d imagine everyone’s journey is a little different, so I’ll leave the rest of the question entirely open-ended.

On one hand, I’m looking for some worthwhile reading material. On the other, I just want to hear some great stories.

Thanks a bunch!

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34 Answers

Zakat's avatar

I’ll go ahead and give my answer here:

1. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrial Garcia Marquez

3. Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky

tups's avatar

On The Road by Jack Kerouac. An amazing classic.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A very simple, easy-to-read book all about the magic of life.

They didn’t change my life, but I would definitely recommend On The Road.

It’s getting late, maybe I’ll add more another time.

Pachy's avatar

Zorba the Greek and other books by Nikos Kazantzakis. Beautiful writing and full of lessons about life.

ml3269's avatar

- Ansichten eines Clowns HEINRICH BÖLL

Zakat's avatar

@tups I’ve always wanted to read both of your suggestions. Thanks for the reminder! Ha.

Judi's avatar

Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis)
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
The Cross and the Switchblade (David Wilkerson)
Go Ask Alice (anonymous)
(The last two changed my life because of the time in my life that I read them. I was a young girl in the mid 70’s experimenting with drugs. Those books probably scared me from getting HEAVY into drugs. I avoided chemicals and only did “natural drugs mostly because of those books.)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Don’t laugh. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It says all that ever needs to be said about life.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

Zakat's avatar

@Judi I’ve often said that Brave New World should be required reading for pretty much everyone. My friends and I can sit around and talk about it for hours. Haha.

I think Huxley accomplishes what much of Orwell’s work always sort of pushes toward, but with such power and eloquence that it is unforgettable.

Shippy's avatar

Louise Hay – You Can Heal Your Life, completely changed mine. It was a mind boggling experience.

unused_bagels's avatar

I’m surprised nobody said the Bible. I’m still reading and re-reading it, and it continues to impact my life.

Zakat's avatar

@unused_bagels I’d be lying if I said that the Bible has had no influence on my life. It most certainly has, and much of it has been positive. No matter what angle one comes at the Gospels in particular, something positive can always come away from their study, IMHO.

But then I “used to be” a person of faith, and am now wholly uncertain of my convictions. I can’t speak for how everyone might react to the Bible as a whole or in its individual parts, but much of my reaction even today is positive, even when I disagree or find something to be archaic—I still learn something of value.

Judi's avatar

@unused_bagels , I just figured that anyone who knew me here alreadt knew that.

Rarebear's avatar

Carl Sagan, “The Demon Haunted World”.

syz's avatar

I don’t know that I would consider anything that I’ve read to be “life changing”, but there are books that have influenced how I look at and experience the world.

Still one of my favorite books of all time: The Botany of Desire

A Short History of Nearly Everything (or almost anything by Bill Bryson)

A Book of Bees (Sue Hubbell’s writing reminds me of @gailcalled for some reason)

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Unfortunately, Mary Roach disappoints in her follow-up books)

MacBatman31's avatar

Human All Too Human- Nietzsche, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

starsofeight's avatar

Maybe not life changing, but certainly life enhancing:
The Bible
The Books of Charles Fort
The works of Nietzsche
The Gnostic and Apocryphal works – especially Thomas and Phillip
The writings of Robert Silverberg – especially Nightwings
The writings of Keith Laumer – the entire Retief series

josie's avatar

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen Covy
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
Atlas Shrugged -Ayn Rand
A History of God- Karen Armstrong
Dawn to Decadence – Jaques Barzun
Moby Dick – Herman Melville

ragingloli's avatar

Das Kapital.
The Satanic Bible.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Almost forgot one. The Anarchist Cookbook .

lookingglassx3's avatar

The Bible. No words really, just a very precious book to me.
Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo – it really shows the stark contrast between love, lust, infatuation and obsession.
Also Charles Chaplin’s autobiography – the first half touches me profoundly. It really is a story of rags to riches – moving but also very scary what he had to endure (severe poverty and his mother’s mental illnesses) at such a young age.
Also Who Moved My Cheese? made me think a lot about what I wanted in life.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which won the National Book Award in 1974, I believe. (Wikipedia article) I read his book The Crying of Lot 49 before that, but Gravity’s Rainbow really struck home with me. The post-modern miasma of the book and the wide range of deep subject knowledge were inspiring. I related to the writing in a way that many books don’t reach me. In a weird way, it’s beautiful.

Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson is probably as different from Gravity’s Rainbow as you can get. It is nonfiction, and it is about the meaning of language in classical Greek literature up to the present. It is about love. This is a book I believe every writer and reader of great literature should read.

I buy anything written by these two authors as soon as it comes out. Their writing inspires me.

Kardamom's avatar

The autobiography of Gandhi.

mrentropy's avatar

Tao Te Ching and most of Carlos Castaneda’s works.

wildpotato's avatar

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty, The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, most of Freud’s oeuvre but in particular his late paper “The Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defense,” The Animal That Therefore I Am by Jacques Derrida, Either/Or by Søren Kierkegaard, Inner Experience by Georges Bataille, The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir, Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, Language Truth and Logic by Alfred Ayer, At the Mind’s Limits by Jean Amery, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Plato’s Symposium and the Phaedo, and all of Philip K. Dick.

@Judi Alice was indeed a freaky book. I’m just glad I found out that it is fiction and not a real autobiography as advertised before I let it scare me out of what turned out to be by and large fulfilling experiences with drugs.

gailcalled's avatar

I am amassing a list for my deep winter reading (except for Jacques Derrida. I didn’t know that anyone read him voluntarily.)

“Guns, Germs, and Steel,” by Jared Diamond.

kitszu's avatar

The Tao of Pooh
The Dancing Wu Li Masters
The Black Jewels Trilogy
the Kushiel’s Dart series

(I know the last two might sound a bit lame but if you like books that make you tilt your head to the left and say “wtf”? and then OOH! You will enjoy them.)

Zakat's avatar

@wildpotato Love the list! Speaking of Philip K. Dick, I too could have said “VALIS” and “The Divine Invasion.” Crazy stuff.

LostInParadise's avatar

Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre. I read this when I was in college. The book was very influential in the development of my world view. It both gave voice to what I was feeling, and provided a lot for me to think about.

The works of Franz Kafka give expression to my inner demons the way that the painting The Scream does.

I am a little embarrassed to mention this but I have also been influenced by The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. It is not that well written and I don’t go along with the religious stuff at the end, but I really liked the discussion of love in terms of the time and effort one is willing to put into a relationship.

cazzie's avatar

A few books by Rushdie, including The Satanic Verses. (not bible, @ragingloli )
A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
When I was really young, probably 11 or 12, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull and it did help me see the world as being perhaps a bigger place than just the tiny town I was growing up in and helped me focus on what I was capable of and not to look at the person beside me for comparison or validation, so I shamelessly put it here on this list.
I read all the usual in high school, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, Brave New World, 1984 and quite a bit of Asimov and Herbert and they all had a hand in how I still view the world and people in general.

rojo's avatar

The Monkey-wrench Gang – Edward Abbey

The Joy of Sex – Alex Comfort

A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn

Wonder Wart-Hog, Captain Crud and Other Super Stuff – Gilbert Shelton, Vaughn Bode, Kurtzman, Terry Gilliam

In no particular order

orlando's avatar

Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transendence in Psychotherapy —Stanislav Grof.

cazzie's avatar

Oh, I forgot another one I read in high school that I had to find and re-read as an adult. Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth.

MrGuru's avatar

1. Between existentialism and marxism- Jean Paul Sarte
2. Thus spoke zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
3. Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche

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