Friday, April 2, 2010

Your Favorite Book Undoubtedly Didn't Make The List

WARNING: There will be no mention of squirrels in this particular post. Please check back in the future for more squirrelly goodness.

So I recently found out from a fellow blogger about a little game being played in the blogosphere wherein one lists the ten books that have "most strongly influenced their world views." I've looked at a few of these lists on other blogs, assuming that I would see a lot of Thomas Friedman on there. But no, oh no. These are true literary people; people I would not even dare to engage with in conversation at the bar. I didn't even recognize 75% of the books on their lists!

So I'm making my own list, but with a few changes. I'm not quite sure how to interpret "world view" and to me the phrase conotes some understanding of politics, and I am so not interested in politics. So I'm going to list the books that have just influenced me in whatever way. Also, I'm only listing seven, because that's all that came to mind. It's my blog.

Books That Have Most Influenced Me (in chronological order, as in, the order in which I read them):

1. What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
There is one section in this book where they build a house and I spent hours staring at it trying to figure out how the hot water and cold water pipes related to each other. There was a some sort of goat who was Farmer Alfalfa, and I pictured him as my grandfather, and I remember there was a cat in a hardhat sitting in a bulldozer on one page and that was my mother, in my mind (she's an engineer). As a small child, I definitely came up with ways to relate everything in my life to what I had seen in this book.

2. The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Did I mention that I have an active imagination? I'm pretty sure that from the age of about 7 to the age of 12 I pictured myself as a pioneer girl just like Laura. If I was walking to school then I was walking through the winter blizzard of 1878 to the one-room schoolhouse. If I was baking a cake then I was baking with Ma in her kitchen. If we were driving to Seattle in the Subaru station wagon, then I was Laura in the back of a covered wagon making my way to a new homestead. I'm not sure if this book influenced me more because I grew up in the West and so felt like I was a real pioneer (nevermind that my relatives arrived in Washington via train, not covered wagon).

3. The Source by James Michener
This was the first book that showed me what I refer to as "the long view" and gave me a deeper understanding of how incredibly small each one of us is when you examine the entire history of humanity. Man's relationship with God is also examined closely in this book, and although it's fiction it certainly influenced the way I think about the history of religion.

4. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I went through an Amy Tan phase and read pretty much everything that she wrote before 2000. This, I think, is actually her best book, better than Joy Luck Club, but doesn't lend itself well to movie-making. This book makes the list not because it's great (I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't call it great literature), but because of the reincarnation theme that becomes apparent about halfway through. I had always believed in reinarnation, and I remember this book being one of the first I had read to address the issue and make it a major plot point. Basically, this book told me, "Hey, you know that crazy thing you think about people being reborn when they die? Well other people might believe it too, and they might even write books about it! How about that?"

5. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I would say this book was influential in my life because of the writing. I will admit right now that I read this book when I was way too young and because of that I really didn't totally "get" the story. What I love about this book, and what makes it important to me, is the writing. I would say this is the first time I had read a book and was really blown away by the writing. Arundhati's prose is just gorgeous, and I was stunned. Later I would discover Jhumpa Lahiri and would be even more astounded, but Arundhati Roy will always be the first author whose writing really meant something to me as an art.

6. Some Random Book About Religion That I Came Across In The School Library
I wish I remembered the title of this book. It had a section on each major world religion, and I remember this was my first real taste of Judaism. I reached the section on Buddhism and was really impressed with the tenets of Buddhism. I liked it and decided maybe I should be Buddhist. And then I read the part about how Buddhism is basically an atheist religion. And I was shocked and said to myself, "But I can't NOT believe in God!" And then I realized I could. And thus began what was probably about seven years of atheism for me. I no longer consider myself an atheist, but I think those seven years or so of atheism were really important for me spiritually. Having grown up in a church I always just believed what they told me to believe and I think it was really important for me to walk away from God for a while, and to have to work through spiritual questions on my own. Ultimately I came back to my belief in God, and I think my relationship with Him is stronger for it.

7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I read this last autumn while we were on our honeymoon. When I finished it at Grand Teton National Park I threw the book across the tent, frustrated. All I can say is that this book feels very important when you read it, the ending offers no resolution (some may disagree), and I still feel as if the book has a very important point that I am missing. I often think about this book when I'm on the treadmill or on hold with technical support at work or when I'm hanging out on facebook. I'm still trying to figure it out.

So that's my list. I'm sure later today I'll recall some important book that I neglected to put on my list, but that's okay. These are the first ones that came to mind so they must have some importance.

I promise a return to posts about squirrels in the near future.


  1. When I went through my Amy Tan phase, circa 2002, I also determined One Hundred Secret Senses to be the best of her books.

  2. That's interesting - I still think The Kitchen God's Wife is the best. But maybe I should give The Hundred Secret Senses another shot.