Top Ten Influential Books

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 11, 2014

Filed under: Random 171 comments

Jarenth tagged me with this meme on Facebook where you’re supposed to make a list of 10 books that “stuck with you”. I spent the better part of an hour hammering the list together when I realized that it would make for a half-decent blog post. And to be honest, I think Jarenth, my wife, and mother are the only people on Facebook who will careAnd they all read the blog, so….

I don’t read a lot of books. Not fiction, anyways. But I’ve read a few and some of them stuck with me.

Note that I’m disqualifying the Bible because I don’t think that’s the sort of thing that this list is about. That’s like if I asked you for your list of favorite cars and you listed the ambulance that took you to the hospital that one time and saved your life. Okay, but that feels… weird. I’m also disqualifying reference books, even though there are some that really stuck with me in a practical sense.

My list:

  1. Lord of the Rings. If not for this, then I wouldn’t have made the webcomic that caused me to change careers.
  2. Neuromancer. The book that made me start writing. I don’t actually think it’s very good, and I STILL don’t get WTF happened there at the end, but it was incredibly influential on me.
  3. Cryptonomicon: It’s like a great novel mixed with bits of XKCD. I still find myself using and thinking about its ideas and analogies. Also, it’s probably the only book I’ve ever read where I felt like I had a lot in common with the main character. (Or characters, in this case.) I’m at some mid-way point between Randy Waterhouse and Lawrence Waterhouse. I’m not as brilliant as LawrenceI doubt I could keep up with Alan Turing in a conversation. Although it would be fun to try. but the book’s descriptions of his social ineptitude remind me a great deal of my younger self.
  4. The Five Love Languages: Okay, this book feels a little “Oprah Book Club pop-psych”, and I recognize it as such. To be truthful, I never actually read the book itself, but my wife gave me the cliff-notes version and it greatly helped me understand all our misunderstandings. Made me a better husband and father.
  5. A Brief History of Time: It wasn’t until three years after I graduated high school that I discovered that science was really, really interesting. After reading this book I realized my teachers must have been very smart and hardworking people, because it would take monumental effort and creativity to make something this cool into something that dull.
  6. A Fire Upon The Deep: Bit of a slog, but it was packed with ideas and aliens that felt genuinely alien.
  7. The Law by Frédéric Bastiat: This one strays into politics. Or more accurately, into the philosophies that shape policy debate. Even if you don’t agree with it, the book is an amazing demonstration that very little of what the dummies on C-Span are debating is new. These types of arguments go back centuries. Also: Don’t argue politics in the comments. If the last 164 years has failed to resolve these arguments, I seriously doubt you’re going to make any progress here. And in any case, I’d rather not have to moderate your attempts.
  8. Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Still quoting it 30 years after the first time I read it.
  9. A Wrinkle in Time: Can’t stand it now, but in 1981 I fell in love with it. Our teacher used to read us a couple of pages a day. I’d never really bothered with books before, but this one hooked me. I couldn’t stand the slow drip of pages we got from the teacher, so I had mom take me to the bookstore and I bought it for myself. It was the first book I ever owned.
  10. Day of the Delphi: Terrible books can stick with you just as well as good ones. Two decades after I read this thing, I still get annoyed when I think back to it. How many fiction books have a webpage dedicated to detailing all the ways in which it sucks? To be clear: The author of that page is unduly kind in my view. There are many additional flaws that he does not bother to enumerate. He read it in order to familiarize himself with the Technothriller genre. That’s like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space as an introduction to sci-fi.

    Take the Tom Clancy technothriller formula, hand it to an author who knows nothing about firearms, goverment, or military equipment, replace the main characters with stale b-movie hero archetypes, and then run the whole plot through some sort of Michael Bay stupidifier. Some books aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed, but Day of the Delphi isn’t worth the cubic volume of air that the book displaces.

So that’s my list. Honorable mention goes to Hunt for Red October. I loved it so much that I read another half dozen Tom Clancy novels, thinking there had to be another Red October in there somewhere. Finally gave up when it felt like I was reading Jack Ryan fanfiction.

Looking at this list, it’s pretty obvious I don’t read a lot of books. I don’t think any of these were written in this century.



[1] And they all read the blog, so…

[2] I doubt I could keep up with Alan Turing in a conversation. Although it would be fun to try.

From The Archives:

171 thoughts on “Top Ten Influential Books

  1. evileeyore says:

    Only 10 books?

    I don’t think I can winnow the list down that far… how about just 10 authors?

    1 – Philip K Dick. If I had to list only 10 books, I’m sure 3 or 4 would be his.

    2 – Harlan Ellison. Man’s a jackass in person, but his literature speaks from the soul. He’s on the list if only for A Boy and His Dog.

    3 – Terry Pratchett. Another who’s likely to have more than one book in my top ten.

    4 – Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is essential.

    5 – Robert Aspirin. The M.Y.T.H. series is the second funniest fantasy series ever written.

    6 – Neil Gaiman. No Top Ten can ever be complete without one his books on it.

    7 – William Gibson. Anyone who fathers a genre needs to be on the list.

    Ahhhh… too many authors still to go. Okay, I’ll just pull three from a hat in no particular order…

    8 – Lois McMaster Bujold. The Vorkosigan Saga starts great and only gets better, which some long winded authors don’t seem to get right.

    9 – HP Lovecraft. Set my course in rpg GMIng on his star* and haven’t deviated since. *A star which is of course, right.

    10 – Frank Herbert. Probably the second or third most influential author in setting my rpg game mastering style (the other ‘third’ being Robert Howard).

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’ve lost count of the number of “The Sandman isn’t litratchure because pictures” arguments I’ve had.

      PS Not that I care whether it is or isn’t, really. I don’t know who decides such definitions, and thus I’ve no idea whether or not I should respect their authority. But in each case the other person was willing to go Pictures therefore Not Literature therefore Beneath Me, and I certainly cared about that.

      1. evileeyore says:

        Ahem: American Gods. Neverwhere. Stardust. Coraline. The list goes on, all those are novels, not graphic novels.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Oh, I know! That was just me completely flying off on a tangent at the mention of Neil Gaiman…

          (In my opinion The Sandman is his best work, and thus his best literary work, but that’s kinda here nor there given I’m still off wandering around Tangent City.)

    2. Henson says:

      Huh. And here I thought I was the only one who remembered that Lois McMaster Bujold existed. Most lists never mention those books, which is odd considering how much I liked them. I mean, I only read books 1 & 2, but still.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        Seeing as she’s still garnering Hugo nominations as recently as last year for her latest book, I think there’s still a sizable contingent of Bujold fans out there. I read her for the first time less than two years ago. Diplomatic Immunity, of all things, a volume smack dab in the middle of the Vorkosigan Saga which must make reference to at least half a dozen previous books. To her immense credit as a writer, I not only followed along, I loved every moment of it. And then I read Curse of Chalion and realized it’s not just space opera, she also does epic fantasy better than most. Now I’m steadily making my way through her body of work.

        1. Ingvar M says:

          I have yet to find a McMaster Bujold book that makes me disappointed (although the Sharing Knife quadrology may be her weakest, they didn’t go as far as filling me with gleeful joy, but I was still not disappointed).

    3. Tizzy says:

      We’re talking about influential books, right…
      Terry Pratchett – anything by
      Neil Gaiman – anything by
      David Foster Wallace – Broom of the system or any of the short stories collections
      David Sedaris –
      Sue Townsend – diary of Adrian Mole
      Tolkien – the Hobbit, a childhood favorite
      Stephen Donaldson – the first chronicles of Thomas Covenant
      Stephen King – It or The Stand. I doubt I would enjoy reading either now.
      Homer – the Odyssey
      David Lodge – small world
      Max Barry – Jennifer Government
      Umberto Eco – Foucault’s pendulum
      Carl Hiaasen – sick puppy or lucky you
      JK Rowling – the whole series
      Suzanne Collins – the first two Hunger Games book
      HP Lovecraft – anything by, not read in a looong time though.

      Oh my god…. I’m a nerd!…

      1. RCN says:

        I love The Odyssey and The Illiad, but they really are hard to read, especially when we can only get rough translations of what it originally was, and especially because it was “written” in oral tradition (I once got the privilege of hearing a few select excerpts from it sang in the probable original greek. I could sort of understand, but more importantly, it really did sound beautiful.)

        Can we really rate them as books? I supposed they only survived to this day because they were written down, and heck, Camàµes “The Lusiad” is a book, even though it was made to be sang to the King of Portugal in person.

  2. Mechaninja says:

    Wait. Neuromancer isn’t good? You should do a review of it because I don’t understand.

    1. David Drake – Hammer’s Slammers
    2. William Gibson – Neuromancer
    3. Glen Cook – The Black Company
    4. Isaac Asimov – pick anything
    5. Roger Zelazney – A Night In the Lonesome October
    6. Steven Brust – Jhereg
    7. Walter John Williams – Hardwired
    8. Asimov’s Sci Fi magazine

    1. evileeyore says:

      “3. Glen Cook ““ The Black Company”

      Oh yeah, I concur.

      “5. Roger Zelazney ““ A Night In the Lonesome October”

      Ah, how could Zelazney not make my list. And I’ve run LARPs based on this book!

      1. Mechaninja says:

        In your defense, I’d forgotten about the Myth books completely, and couldn’t come up with the towel thing … not sure why.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      I’m interseted in a Neuromancer review from Shamus as well. I, too, feel that it is sub-par in many respects, but it would be fun to see his take on it.

    3. Ingvar M says:

      It’s full of vivid imagery. It created a genre (sadly, I would in retrospect have been much happier if Walter Jon Williams’ Hardwired had been accepted by a publisher, but they were all going “No, this is unlike everything before it and will not sell”, so Gibson is “the parent of cyberpunk”) and so on.

      But, reading it with a decent grounding in computer networking and the like makes me despair. Or did, when I last re-read it, whenever that was (12 years ago, maybe?).

  3. MichaelGC says:

    Gà¶del Escher Bach & The Eighth Day of Creation have probably had the biggest impact on me & my day-to-day life. (The first is an attempt to describe how consciousness might be possible – not how it works in detail, just how it might be possible – and the second is the story of the discovery of DNA.)

    The Idiot is the best novel yet written, and Collected Fictions by Borges is the best work of fiction yet published. (I don’t believe in objectivity*, so hopefully it will be clear that my tongue is jammed firmly into my cheek when speaking in such terms!)

    Excession is the best SF novel in the history of evaaaaah. (Tongue thtill encheeked. Actually thith ith beginning to hurt a little.)

    I can’t really do 10, given the ~20-way tie for 6th place, so let’s just say George Orwell and leave it at that.

    PS I’ll be surprised if I live long enough ever to read a better description of a dental appointment than the one in Cryptonomicon.

    PPS I also went through a very similar process with Tom Clancy.

    *A little more strictly: I think that “objectivity” is impossibly accessible for a consciousness, and that this is a good thing. There are of course gradations of subjectivity such that the term can be a useful shorthand.

    1. Mechaninja says:

      Iain M. Banks, another great choice.

      Oddly, I can’t find Excession for Kindle.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        That’s weird – it’s definitely out on Kindle: I’ve got it right here. (Saves me having to chronically overthumb the already well-thumbed paper version which sits on my Bookcase of Fame.)

        Errrr … that Bookcase of Fame thing was either a joke or the honest truth dependant on how much you want to flush my head right now…

    2. Retsam says:

      Loved GEB, but I wouldn’t have recognized it based on your description. It’s not that the book isn’t about consciousness, but it’s really about so many things it’s really difficult to narrow it down to a single one. I usually think of it more as a book about the incompleteness theorem.

      Thinking about it a bit more, I think I’d say it’s a book about “formal systems”; (which sounds really dull) the formal systems that underly mathematics, those that underly computer science, hypothetical formal systems underlying the brain, etc.

      But yeah, can’t recommend this one highly enough.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Yes, no, errr: completely agree with your disagreement with my description! :D The consciousness aspect was the bit that impacted most on me; hence I tend to focus on it.

        Your description is much fuller and more accurate, and therefore definitely more useful for anyone who hasn’t read it and might think of doing so.

        1. Hitch says:

          I remember buying GEB when it first came out. I found it in the bookstore and thumbed through it trying to figure out what it was. Something caught my attention and I started reading. I read about 20 pages standing there in the store and realized I needed that book. I took it to the register and the clerk looked surprised that someone in our little town was actually buying it. She looked at me and asked, “Do you really understand this stuff?” I answered honestly, “No, but I hope to when I finish the book.”

          1. Halceon says:

            I saw the book at a friend’s place during a party. Similar sudden obsession ensued. I then borrowed it. To date it is the only book I’ve read that I felt I needed to write notes with.

            Sadly, I had to give it back way before finishing it.

      2. Jexter says:

        Also, it’s about seriously clever self-referencing meta-jokes. One could argue that these are what such an otherwise confusing topic so eminently digestible.

  4. Doug O says:

    I wont throw an entire top 10 due to overlap, but I’ll add one to the pile.

    Heinlein — The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    1. Hitch says:

      The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a very good choice, but for me The Heinlein novel that affected me most would be either Stranger in a Strange Land or Time Enough For Love.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        What about Starship Troopers? No? I mean “moral calculus” was enough for me, and the rest was gravy.

        TMiaHM was pretty good too… I guess after reading a few Heinlein books I got tired of being preached at… or at least being in the presence of preaching. He’s a rather preachy author is what I’m saying.

        1. evileeyore says:

          Oh, good addition.

      2. I loved Stranger in a Strange Land when I first read it. Then I read it again when I was older, and I felt like someone was trying to con me. Like it seemed really deep when I was shallower, but when I’d gotten a bit more exposure to depth myself I tried to look under that deep-looking surface and I didn’t find anything there.

        1. Chuk says:

          I had the same feeling — I re-read it every year or two (and I rarely re-read books) for the beginning half of my teens but kind of grew out of it after that. (I did read the “director’s cut” version that came out later and liked that one slightly more.)

        2. LassLisa says:

          Heinlein is, for me, one of the authors that really reinforces ‘The golden age of science fiction is 12’.

          I read and loved a lot of that introduction-to-depth stuff as a teenager – Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Siddartha… and bits of them all have stuck with me. But the only one that I’ve gone back to that I still really appreciate is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

  5. joe says:

    Neuromancer being what it is, I really… really wanted to like it. It was just so filled with nonsense jargon that it took 3-4 readthroughs to really understand the subtleties of what was happening, and by that point I was more frustrated with the book than truly interested in understanding it. It was a great idea, just not executed well.

    Given that it was near the start of the genre, I’ll forgive it. Asimov had some of the same issues with his books, being super heavy handed with his metaphors.

    1. Mechaninja says:

      See, I liked the made up jargon. It felt … like what we’d really do. Can you imagine someone from even 1990 waking up from a Rip Van Winkle today and being sat in front of Reddit?

      1. joe says:

        I liked and appreciated the idea of the jargon, but I felt many of the terms were never conveyed to the reader or were conveyed poorly at best. Didn’t have to come out explicitly with a dictionary, but it just took away from my appreciation of the story which I didn’t like.

        1. Mechaninja says:

          This is the kind of thing that really entertains me about different people’s tastes in books.

          I liked that about it.

          But then I’m the guy that refuses to google an abbreviation he’s never seen before and tries to puzzle out what it means. How ridiculous is that? SJW was easy, but I still haven’t figured out SMH.

          1. syal says:

            Simurgh-Made Handles.

            1. Halceon says:

              Is that a Worm reference?

              Or just ancient mythology?

          2. swenson says:

            Really? Wow. SMH.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              It’s from Marlow Briggs, isn’t it? “Shoot Many Helicopters?”

          3. modus0 says:

            I haven’t Googled SMH, but I believe it’s “So Much Hate.”

            Could be wrong though…

          4. krellen says:

            Joking aside, “SMH” is “Shaking My Head”.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:


          5. DIN aDN says:

            Sydney Morning Herald?

          6. evileeyore says:

            So Many Hippopotamus.

    2. Garrrrrett says:

      The best part of Neuromancer is the space rastafarians and now if you need to refer to someone with brain implants doing crazy visual 3d avatar hacking you just say the person activated their Gibson module.

    3. harborpirate says:

      I had the same problem. The issue isn’t so much the jargon itself, but the density of said jargon. Rather than being enjoyable to read, the first couple passes through the book were simply to obtain the meaning of all the new words via the context in which they appeared.

      Its like there was this really cool, interesting thing, except it was buried in five feet of trash that you had to dig through to get to it. I guess I can understand for some people, the fact that they found the thing at the end would make the whole process worth it.

      I appreciate the book for what it is, and its still on my shelf… But seriously William Gibson, screw all of your nonsense jargon.

  6. Lee says:

    Which Clancy novels did you bounce off? I read a few of them, as hand me downs from my father who enjoys them. The only one I like is Without Remorse, and I happen to love it. I always have to stop myself from buying a copy when I see it in the garage sale book box.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      For me it was a gradual thing, but (to avoid spoilers) the point at which one of the characters ascended to a high political office was also the point at which I thought: “You know, this’d make a great doorstop.”

      1. Dave B. says:

        If you like Clancy’s basic style but hate Jack Ryan, you should read Red Storm Rising (if you haven’t already.) You could also try Red Rabbit, which is part of the Ryan series but doesn’t feature him as a main character, or really at all.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Hmm, thanks – I may give RSR a try. (After all, the worst that can happen is I get a nice new doorstop … :D)

    2. Mechaninja says:

      Yeah, my best friend of many years who knew my tastes then better than anyone handed me Without Remorse. I looked at him darkly, because Clancy, but he just shook his head and walked away.

      He was not wrong.

  7. Rikt says:

    To save you from a huge wall of text, here are a few authors I would add:
    Patrick Rothfuss
    Brandon Sanderson
    Robin Hobb
    Ursula Le Guin
    Ian M Banks

    1. evileeyore says:

      OMG! How did I miss Ursula Le Guin?

  8. Lazlo says:

    Read Deepness in the Sky (That is, if you haven’t already). Really, read all of Vernor Vinge, but Deepness is sort of kind of set in the same universe as Fire Upon the Deep. And it’s freaking amazing. For the longest time, all my co-workers would look at problems and say to one another “What we really need here is Focus.”

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      So much Vernor Vinge! A Fire Upon the Deep was what got me started, but at this point I have read everything he has ever published.
      I am a bit concerned though. His style relies on reasonable extrapolations through the Singularity. But he’s also created a good deal of cognitive momentum, and Singularity is all about agility. His latest works feel… dated somehow. We all loose our edge eventually. I’m wondering if Vinge has forgotten that humans can be sharpened.

  9. TheLurkerAbove says:

    In no particular order:

    George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones
    Douglas Adams – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Robert Charles Wilson – Spin
    Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers
    Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
    Bill James – The New Bill James Historical Abstract
    Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
    Issac Asimov – Prelude to Foundation
    Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – Watchmen
    Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None

  10. Toasty Virus says:

    The lack of Irvine Welsh in the comments makes me sad.

    That’s about my only contribution, I don’t read much :[

    1. Tizzy says:

      Now I regret not listing him…

  11. urs says:

    Whoa. Maybe it’s that I’m reading too little or maybe I’m reading too much into “influential” and “stuck with me” but I have a hard time coming up with 10 in a timeframe that is justifiable for ‘writing-a-comment’.

    For the time being I’ll have to take this as an inspiration to e.g. pick up my girlfriend’s A Scanner Darkly

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Just be careful no one picks up your girlfriend while you’re busy.

  12. Robyrt says:

    Seconded for A Fire Upon the Deep, which really manages to convey how different the universe would be. Most authors would take a concept like “tree aliens”, stick a spacesuit on Ents, and call it a day, but Vernor Vinge has a detailed explanation for how and why a bunch of immobile trees became sentient and built spaceships.

    My own list, briefly, includes:
    Crime and Punishment
    The Screwtape Letters
    Star of the Guardians
    The writings of Julian of Norwich
    and a bunch of things other people will mention.

  13. Geebs says:

    Given that everybody here seems to like sci-fi – how come nobody has mentioned Blindsight by Peter Watts? That book blew my mind.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’d not previously heard of it nor him; downloading it now. Thanks!

    2. Grudgeal says:

      I read it. It’s technical, it’s clinical, it’s dark as heck, it’s legally free to read online from the author’s page and it’s a really great read that I will heartily recommend to any fan of “2001”. I will probably remember it for a good time. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it seminal to me, personally.

    3. Chuk says:

      The follow up Echopraxia is also amazing.

  14. JAB says:

    A few books, or series, that I’ve stayed with [ie, read over and over].

    David Brin- Startide Rising [He’s got 6 books in the universe, I like this one the best]
    James Alan Gardner- Expendible [The whole series. Giving an elevator pitch of the series is not really possible, but… Humans live in a universe with more or less benevolent aliens, some of which are billions of years older than us. You’ve got your agriculture phase, industrial phase, information phase, genetic engineering phase, ascending to immortal energy creatures phase… and it keeps going]
    Kate Griffin- A Madness of Angels [Urban Fantasy set in London]
    Martha Wells- The Element of Fire [A fantasy series, with technological progress. Ends I think with WW2, more or less. The country is based on the UK]
    Andrea Alton- Demon of Undoing [Rather obscure. Humans crashland on a planet with a native presence, meddle a little cause all sorts of problems, then withdraw. Hundreds of years later, they’re remembered as demons, and never seen. Point of view is an alien.]
    Rob Thurman-Nightlife [Urban fantasy, somewhat dark. Brotherly love is a powerful thing]
    Raymond Feist- Magician [I am less impressed as the series goes on, but I still really like the first book/first 2 books, in paperback]

  15. Retsam says:

    Trying to list out top ten is probably overkill, but I’ll contribute an author and a book:

    Brandon Sanderson – I recommend Sanderson to pretty much everyone, but especially for Computers/Programming types that have any interest in fantasy whatsoever. Pretty much anything Sanderson has written is going to be in my “top books” list, if we’re going to be honest. He does fantastic worldbuilding, great characters, excellent plot… but he’s really known as “the magic guy”.

    Magic in a Sanderson book isn’t of the wand-waving, incantation-muttering sort (that I think often turns a lot of analytical typed people off to “fantasy” in general); his magic systems are generally constructed with a few simple “rules”, and then a lot of emergent behavior that comes out of those rules and their combinations, which in a way reminds me of programming, which itself is essentially emergent behavior on a few simple rules to produce “magic”.


    On a different note, the book is East of Eden by Steinbeck.

    I took a lot of literature classes through high school, and so I’ve read a fair bit of “classic” literature, and while I can generally appreciate “classic” literature, I rarely enjoy it. East of Eden is the exception to that. It’s essentially a double retelling of the Cain and Abel story set in California in the late 19th early 20th century. More generally I might call it an exploration of good and evil and human nature? But the plot’s good, the characters are memorable, and the ideas are interesting.

    Oh and, hey, if you’re a Mumford & Sons fan, the song “Timshel” is a reference to one of my favorite bits of East of Eden.

  16. Happy says:

    The scarcity of female authors on these lists make me sad.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s definitely skewed sci-fi way more than it might be on another site. I’m less sci-fi focused and my list is 4/10 female.

      There are a ton of really amazing female classics (Jane Austen, the Brà¶nte’s, Mary Shelley, Agatha Christie, Harper Lee, Virginia Woolf etc) and female authors have had more breakouts in recent times than male authors (JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins)

      So it’s really any area to have more hope than most. It’s better than political leaders at least :P

    2. DrMcCoy says:

      Yeah, my list also only includes Ursula K. Le Guin as the sole female authors. 2/10 in my short story list isn’t all that better either. :/

  17. Professorkid says:

    Never posted before but had to drop out of lurker mode to add my 2 cents on this topic. My number one book on this list would be David Gerrold’s “When HARLIE was One”. It’s about a computer AI that wants to know if it has a soul. Much of the book is philosphical discussions between HARLIE and his inventor that you might not completely agree with, I didn’t, but it made me start thinking about the reasons that I didn’t agree. A book that made me think about some of the deep questions in life and kept me thinking about them long after I put the book down, is definitely a book worth reading.

  18. Aerik says:

    More random sf recommendations:

    Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Mass Effect feels like an adaptation of this book and its sequels.

    Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. This is both a roaring page-turner and an easy read. I’d recommend it to Firefly fans, especially.

    The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Most sf tends to be near-future (Blade Runner) or far-future (Star Trek). This novel is medium-future, and it defined the way I think technology and society will work in, say, 150 years, after we’ve had a few transformative technologies come along.

  19. Thomas says:

    1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    It would be my favourite book except that Emma and Mansfield Park also vie for that throne. I read that book so that I could hate it and be superior to all the arty people and it won me over with it’s straightforward and delightfully funny/cynical tone and then I love everything about the story. The past is so weird, it’s basically fantasy anyway.

    2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    One of the best books ever written

    3. Scott Pilgrim (Whole series) – Bryan Lee O’Malley
    It really made me think about having friends and hanging out with them and how to live life as someone who probably won’t change the world.

    4. Screwtape Letters – (but really everything by CS Lewis)
    Influenced how I go about the world in many ways. John Polkinghorne also really made me think with stuff like Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science & Religion. But his books are super dense and aim to be very technical.

    5 Night Watch – Terry Pratchett
    Just here because it’s my favourite book of my favourite author. As my first real adult book series and an ongoing part of my life I guess it’s shaped the way I think. It at least taught me what ‘erotic’ meant, although it led to a confusing conversation as I tried to find out from my parents why erotic books would need to be suspended in water. I thought it an erotic book must be something like the book in harry potter that moves around and tries to eat people.

    6. The Complete Fairytales of Oscar Wilde – Oscar Wilde
    He is one of the greatest writers that ever lived and his fairytales are a thing of beauty. I’ve had the book since I was young and it’s one of my prized possessions. A Portrait of Dorian Grey is also genius and Oscar Wilde has some really quirky interesting ideas on religion which explain why some of his fairytales are super religious despite Oscar Wilde not being so. He figured that Jesus was the world’s greatest artist and that was so important that the him being God or not was irrelevant. I’ve never really heard anyone think like that before.

    7. Critical Mass – Phillip Ball
    About using ideas in maths and science when modelling society and the tricks and traps involved. It’s probably been a subtle influence in my career path (I’m just about to try and apply epidemic modelling to mental illnesses hopefully)

    8. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
    Fun and gave me a completely false (and better) idea of what science fiction should be than what a lot of it ends up being.

    9. The Boleyn Inheritance – Phillipa Gregory
    Apparently her books have got a bad reputation, but along with Crusader Kings II, it’s given me a much clearer picture of life in those times than anything I’ve read. It really changed my ideas of Anne of Cleeves and it interests me how much the propoganda of Henry VIII has stuck and become common knowledge.

    10. Tom’s Midnight Garden – Phillipa Pearce
    When I was young I had an anthology book with extracts from various stories and I read the one from Tom’s Midnight Garden again and again and again. When I got the book it was amazing and I read it again and again and again. I think it bought into my young fantasies completely and it was just generally very beautiful.

    11.Imperium – Robert Harris
    Did for Rome what Phillipa Gregory did for medieval Europe. Cicero was also part of a really interesting time in terms of democracy and government. (I have a no. 11 because I finished my list and realised I’d forgotten To Kill a Mockingbird!!)

    Runners up: State of Fear – Michael Crichton (for being the worst book I’ve ever read), Lord of the Rings, The Edge Chronicles, The Hardy Boys (For being my first books series as a young reader), Sherlock Holmes, Contact – Carl Sagan, Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, The Invisible Man – HG Wells, Cards at the Table – Agatha Christie, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Stop The Train – Geraldine McCaughrean, Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier and many more… I’m bad at having favourites

    1. Thomas says:

      Swap out the Boleyn Inheritance for A Brave New World. I’m sorry Phillipa Gregory, but I’m far too fatalistic about society to skip ABNW

    2. Hitch says:

      Runners up: State of Fear ““ Michael Crichton (for being the worst book I've ever read)

      Critchton is one of my favorite authors, so it pains me to read that. But I do admit that State of Fear is certainly one of his weakest efforts. The worst (in my opinion) bestselling (and therefore presumably loved by someone) novel that I have read was Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

      Also among the worst books I’ve read was one co-authored by one of my favorite writers, Beowulf’s Children by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes. So bad I bought it twice. I picked it up on sale when it first came out. It was boring and forgettable. So forgettable in fact that a couple years later when it was remaindered on the bargain table I didn’t remember having read it, so I picked up another copy just on the basis on Niven’s name and that I liked the novel to which it was a sequel. I got home started reading and was overcome with deja vu, until I thought to look at my bookshelf and saw the the other copy.

      1. Thomas says:

        Michael Crichton is at his best the furthest away he is from trying to make a real point. I like Jurassic Park and Prey a huge amount and it helps that I can believe they’re fun thrillers with a science twist. It’s when you realise that he wrote Rising Sun as a genuine warning about the evils of Japanese business that you slip into bad territory (which is a shame because I love the plot), he’s writes with authority too so it can be easy to forget that it’s actually very much just his opinions.

        But he really is a fantastic author with his writing ability and the tech vibe is a lot of fun.

        Dan Brown’s books would actually be my next worst book, although there’s quite a gap. I don’t know which one. He was actually quite a similar experience, except he’s actually not a good writer either. The draw to his books is they’re full of random little facts that make you feel like you’re learning when having fun. It was when I realised that
        1) Almost none of the facts were true and 2)He uses the exact same plot for all 4 of his books that I really began to dislike the books.

    3. Here here. Excellent taste in general. HAven’t read all but many are in my personal favorites list.

    4. jawlz says:

      Cicero himself was an outstanding writer (and an admirable man too, for that matter). His books ‘On Duties’ and ‘On Old Age’ are outstanding, as are most of his other works.

  20. Lord Nyax says:

    As far as “A Wrinkle in Time” goes I’m almost the exact opposite. I hated the book as a child. It’s possible that I tried reading it at too early an age, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get it. The book didn’t make any sense to me and I was used to understanding everything I read. I knew I wasn't dumb so I just dismissed the book as something that was deliberately obtuse for no reason. If my vocabulary had been large enough I might have called it pretentious. I don't think I ever finished the book, though as I can remember some kind of giant head and the planet where everyone has to behave the same so I must have gotten a decent way into it.

    Then in 6th grade our teacher assigned us to read “The Wind in the Door,” which I was naturally loathe to appreciate. I gave it begrudging attention because I respected my teacher a great deal, but didn't really get it either. It just seemed like random things happening punctuated by long periods of exposition that didn't really make sense.

    I kept this opinion in the back of my mind for the next decade or so. Then, in college, I made some nice nerdy friends whose opinion I respect, and one of them was astonished that I didn't like A Wrinkle in Time. I was taken aback myself: how could my friend have liked it? Eventually I saw it on some bookshelf and picked it up again. I only got through the first chapter or so before I had to leave, but I was really surprised. It was like reading a completely different book. I didn't remember any of this stuff from the first time I read it, and what I was reading seemed really interesting and unique. I still haven't read the whole thing through again, but I'm actually interested in it now.

    How did your feelings change about the book?

    1. LassLisa says:

      This happened with me and Lord of the Rings.

      I typically skim unconsciously when I’m reading. It’s a habit that’s great for getting through books quickly with a solid understanding of plot. But for some books I really need to be able to turn it off. With LotR I lost the plot halfway through the second book, because if you glance over one freakin’ paragraph you can miss key character introductions and decisions. On second read several years later, the books were much less confusing.

      1. Lord Nyax says:

        Yeah, the first time I tried to read LotR I was not ready for it. I only got as far as Gandalf talking to Frodo about what the ring really was before I gave up. I guess I was just too young to handle the works density. When I got older I picked up where I left off and finished the whole thing. Exact same thing happened with Dune.

  21. DrMcCoy says:

    1. George R.R. Martin – Dying of the Light — Yeah, that one is my favourite GRRM novel, not Song of Ice and Fire. Dark, moody, fatalistic.
    2. William Gibson – Neuromancer — Drowned in atmosphere, awesome through and through. Bullshit jargon and space rastafari and all.
    3. Michael Moorcock – Elric of Melniboné — I’m counting that as one book because I did read it as one book, edited together. A dark and gritty universe, a protagonist with edges and warts, so much unlike LotR.
    4. John Brunner – The Crucible of Time — A lot of John Brunner novels would qualify for this list, but Crucible is the one I most often think about, so many years after having read it.
    5. Isaac Asimov – Foundation — Again, very hard to pick only one book, but Foundation does stand out in my mind for its sheer scope.
    6. Ursula K. Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness — A novel that broke so many of my assumptions when I first read it; I utterly fell in love with it.
    7. Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — A fairly too conventional novel for Philip K. Dick and maybe a too obvious choice, but it was my introduction to his work.
    8. Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson – The Illuminatus! Trilogy — Yeah, I’m counting that as one book too, sue me. Another book that completely changed my views about narrative structure.
    9. Frank Herbert – Dune — Imaginative and evocative throughout. Too bad he never wrote a sequel.
    10. Stephen King – The Drawing of the Three — The second book in the Dark Tower series. The later parts are quite cringe-worthy, especially the Stephen King author character in the freaking books, but this is from when it was still awesome and other-worldly.

    …Wait that’s already 10? Damn.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      9. Zing!
      10. I read the first Dark Tower book, and gave up on the series. Is “The Drawing of the Three” worth it if I barely made it through The Gunslinger?

      1. Grudgeal says:

        You know there’s something wrong with a (hypothetical) book when your main impression of it is “waitaminute, we spent all this time following Scytale and getting to this buildup only to have it all be for naught and end that quickly?”.

        In retrospect I don’t even know what made me want to try to read the (hypothetical) third book. I had to put it away after the first hundred pages or so. Mainly because the library would never have forgiven me if I’d thrown it like I wanted.

      2. DrMcCoy says:

        Hmm, probably not, then.

        The thing is, I can’t really recommend the series anyway. The parts are not quite stand-alone, and I already gave my opinion about the later parts above. Although, contrary to a lot of other people I spoke to, I actually found the ending fitting.

  22. Michael says:

    Catch-22 for me. I read it in high school, when I was first realizing how awful bureaucracy is, so the book struck a chord with me.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’d love if someone made a video game out of Catch-22 meets Fight Club.

  23. Grudgeal says:

    Top ten books that influenced or stuck with me, eh? Well this will get nostalgic, then.

    1. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
    My mum read this to me as a goodnight story when I was a wee lad, night by night, chapter by chapter, on evenings I wouldn’t otherwise fall right asleep. Five years old and entranced by tales of Hobbits and Dwarves and Elves and the terrible Smaug. Lord of the Rings came later, and of my own volition. But there is nothing really to beat out the original.

    2. “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe
    First book I owned myself. A gift from my grandfather. I used to read it at the age of seven and get lost in the lost world of the tropical islands. Later came Jonathan Swift and Jules Verne, but it was all due to this one. I still have it up in my bookshelf, somewhere, old and dusty and torn and read time after time after time. And I still love it for it.

    3. “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
    I first read this book at the age of… Ten? Eleven? I can still quote way more of it from memory than I’m entirely comfortable with, half a man’s age later. First satire I read and responsible for my later foray into hardcore Pratchettism.

    4. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell
    Because the only thing more pretentious than someone claiming how this bad boy defined their view of politics, is a *prepubescent* claiming how this bad boy defined their view of something they had yet to understand. My follow-up was “Brave New World”, more Orwell and a lot of other dystopias, but the visceral sensibilities of this one has stuck with me for far longer.

    5. “Spirits, Heroes and Hunters of North American Mythology” by Marion Wood and “Gods, Men and Monsters from the Greek Myths” by Michael Gibson
    At first, they were pretty pictures. Later, fascinating stories any child would marvel at. Also, I think my religious studies teacher used to dream about murdering the authors in her sleep after spending a class trying to teach Jesus to someone who thought Raven and Dionysus were ever so much more interesting. Poor ms. Burazer…

    6. “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder
    I first read this book as an undergraduate. I wish I’d read it even earlier so I could just have skipped introductory philosophy altogether. The first “meta-novel” I ever read and possibly the book I’ve re-read the most times in an effort to spread it to the next generation.

    7. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
    When John Lennon died, *everyone* wanted a piece of this book as a result. Me, I just thought it was a good lightning rod for troublesome adolescent thoughts, even though again I was probably a few years under par. Still. You remember the confusion, the down-to-earth reality, and the word “phonies”.

    8. “Caves of Steel” by Isaac Aasimov
    The first “proper” sci-fi novel I read and still one of the ones I remember best. It, and its related literature, taught me many lessons, chief of which the value of living in a town with a decent-sized public library and getting your own card as early as possible.

    9. “Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes
    They say no-one truly forgets the first book they had to work *hard* to get through. I can barely remember any direct quotes *from* the darned thing — fool me for picking an old version in the original wording — but I can darned well remember *reading* it. And don’t get me *started* on bloody Nietzsche…

    10. “The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan
    I could pick any number of books for this last slot, really. I’ve read a lot of fascinating biographies, there’s always the lots of Hemingway and Hamsun and lots of other famous price-winning novelists I’ve read, but I’m going to pick this one. Not because it’s all that *good*, really, but because it was what got me back into fantasy at an adult age after spending most of my adolescence and teenage years interested in… Other things. A return to the world of books, if you will. It’s not that it was a particularly good or unique fantasy novel. But it was the right novel, at the right time, and I remember it for that.

    1. Thomas says:

      Yes! The 42nd comment mentions a Hitchhikers Guide, it was destined to be =D

      1. Grudgeal says:

        So, how improbable is that?

    2. DrMcCoy says:

      6. “Sophie's World” by Jostein Gaarder

      Oh, yes, seconded. :)

      1. Retsam says:

        Thirded; I’m actually re-reading this book currently.

        Though I’ll say it doesn’t stand up quite so well on re-read since knowing that there’s no answer to the “mystery” aspect makes those bits less interesting. But still, great book.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      4. I found “1984” to be the inferior member of the dystopian trifecta. How did you like “Farenheit 451”?

      1. Grudgeal says:

        I didn’t read Fahrenheit 451 until a fair bit later, having inexplicably ‘missed it’ during my adolescence, and so I read it at a time when I’d actually started to get into literary criticism. That means that I spent a lot more time analysing the book than I did works I read when I was young like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Animal Farm, A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies and what I remember of it thus tends to be coloured by my analysis rather than my experience of the book’s plot itself, and I don’t count it as as seminal to me as I probably would have if I had read it in my young and impressionable years.

        My main take-home messages from that book, muddled by the Fog of Ages, was that the girl character (Clarissa?) seemed to exist for little or no other reason than to inspire Guy Montag to be free and different before dropping off the face of the Earth, and that the whole book seemed more inspired by an intense dislike of television rather than a fear of censorship: The warnings about mono-culture and death of creativity were still potent but I think they were a bit too coloured by the “damn kids and your bleep-bloop new media get off my lawn!” lens.

  24. DrMcCoy says:

    Oh, I can do one for SF short stories too. I read a lot of anthologies, and many of the stories stayed with me through the years. :)

    1. Eugie Foster – Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast
    2. Jay Lake – Skinhorse Goes to Mars
    3. George R. R. Martin – A Song for Lya
    4. Harlan Ellison – I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
    5. Alfred Bester – The Men Who Murdered Mohammed
    6. Joanna Russ – When It Changed
    7. Robert A. Heinlein – “”And He Built a Crooked House””
    8. Philip K. Dick – We Can Remember It for You Wholesale
    9. Terry Bisson – They’re Made Out of Meat
    10. Robert Silverberg – Now + n, Now – n

    1. Aerik says:

      3. George R. R. Martin ““ A Song for Lya

      Oh jeez, if I sit and think about this story too long, I’m going to tear up. This one’ll hit you right in the feels.

  25. Daimbert says:

    I’m the opposite in this case: I read a ton of books, mostly fiction.

    I’ll try to list ten, but I won’t try to order them, and I’ll try to exclude the philosophy since they never stuck with me for themselves, but only as what I was studying at the time. And I’ll combine series except when a particular book stands out. So, in no particular order:

    1) The Amber Series (both Chronicles) by Roger Zelazny. This is the series that probably started me down reading fantasy.

    2) I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole. I read this book a lot.

    3) Starfighters of Andumar by Aaron Allston. The best book in the X-Wing series and the definitive characterization of Wedge Antilles, who is now my favourite Star Wars character.

    4) The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley. An interesting look at a criminal — if stereotypical — civilization and its relation to a future Earth.

    5) The Elenium by David Eddings. I like and read all of those series, but still like this one the best.

    6) The Yurt series by C. Dale Brittain. Like the Myth series, but with a bit more heart. My screen name here comes from this series.

    7) The Myth series by Robert Asprin. What got me interested in fantasy parody.

    8) The Zork Chronicles by George Alec Effinger. Holds the definitive fire warning sign.

    9)Heroes in Hell series, created and edited by Janet Morris. Probably the most interesting take on Hell that I’ve ever read.

    10) The Blair Witch Files. A faked up true-to-life set of books based on the movie, but were well-done. I picked them all up at a used bookstore for cheap, and they captured what I liked about the movie more than the movie did.

    But in terms of authors instead of simply series, I’d have to go with Zelazny, Mercedes Lackey, William R. Fortschen (his slipping in a lot of history into his Wing Commander books was amazing), Eddings, Fred Saberhagen (Berserker and Swords/Lost Swords mostly), Allston, and Harry Turtledove (responsible for interesting me in alternate histories).

    And there’s, of course, a number of good books and authors that I won’t mention here.

    1. Duneyrr says:

      Oh man “I, Jedi” is the best Star Wars book.

  26. Dave B. says:

    These are not necessarily all great books, or even what I would call my favorites, but all of them have stuck in my mind long after I read them. In no particular order:

    1. The Lord of the Rings — J.R.R Tolkien
    2. Foundation Trilogy — Isaac Asimov
    3. The Stars My Destination — Alfred Bester
    4. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransom
    5. Don’t Care High — Gordon Korman
    6. Dracula — Bram Stoker
    7. The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death — Daniel Pinkwater
    8. Where Eagles Dare — Alistair Maclean
    9. The Hound of the Baskervilles — Arthur Conan Doyle
    10. Free Radical — Shamus Young

    1. Dave B. says:

      I tried to add descriptions to each item in my list, but apparently the edit timer expired while I was typing and it all vanished into the ether. Huh. Well, I wondered what WordPress would do if that happened…

    2. Thomas says:

      Where Eagles Dare is great fun. I really loved Force 10 from Navarrone too.

      But I think my favourite from Maclean is Ice Station Zebra. I love his books about a small group of people trapped in a hostile tense environment (like a weather station in the middle of the artic) and something goes wrong and they know that someone is the saboteur but everyone is suspicious and double checking everyone else.

      1. Dave B. says:

        I think I’ve read both of those other books and I agree. I think Maclean does dry humor, suspicion, plot twists, and surprise revelations really well.

    3. Yay, Swallows and Amazons! (and most of the others in the series)
      So much fun, these English kids back in, what, early 20th century doing all this sailing and camping out and, as the Water Rat would put it, messing about in boats, simply messing about in boats . . . often with no adults in sight, a kind of massive independence kids that age now would never be given.
      Snarkout Boys is pretty fun too. My mother collects kids’ picture books or I would never have seen it.

  27. Hamilcar says:

    Just wanted to throw out a thumbs up for Frederic Bastiat. I thought I was the only person who read that book.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      You’re not alone! I love it so much that I made an audio-book out of the English translation! Liberty forever!

  28. Eric says:

    I’m not even going to try and rank these, but for me…

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Might as well start my list with a Pulitzer winner, right? It’s probably my favorite book. All of the characters feel fully realized and something about the different ideas and themes throughout the book resonate with me.

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s like Dickens and Austen got together and wrote the most elaborately detailed fairy tale ever conceived. It’s absolutely amazing and the fact that the author hasn’t written a second novel depresses me to this day.

    The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Kind of a cheat, as this is actually four books (five if you count Urth of the New Sun, which was written later). The return of Jesus Christ (sort of) written as a science fantasy space opera on a dying earth. Also, wickedly constructed plot and thematic structure. More happens in the book than you realize while reading and that’s saying something, because a lot happens. Neil Gaiman is a huge fan of Gene Wolfe, by the way.

    Rubicon Beach by Steve Erickson (note: this is not the guy who wrote the Malazan books). I don’t really know what happened in the story or what was really going on, but when I finished, it felt like I’d just finished reading something monumental. This one is pretty obscure, but I think it’s worth tracking down if you’re into headscratchers.

    The Stranger by Albert Camus. This is the book that got me into classic literature. Something about it resulted in it being the perfect storm for my teenage self.

    The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I hated this book the first time I read it at 18. When I read it again at 23, I loved it. Holden is one of the most perfectly realized characters ever written and love him or hate him, he leaves a definite impression.

    The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings (yes, both of them worked on it even when only David Eddings was credited). Also a cheat, since it’s a series, but I don’t care. A lot of people (Shamus included) credit Lord of the Rings with creating their interest in fantasy. For me, it was this series. It’s not the greatest fantasy series and reading any of the Eddings’ subsequent novels sours the experience a bit, but these books catalyzed my interest in fantasy.

    A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. With the ubiquity of the TV show nowadays, the hipster inside me feels ashamed at putting this on the list, but reading this book as a high schooler is what probably what kept my interest in fantasy alive to this very day. What the Eddings’ started, Martin has kept alive… even though my opinion on the last two books is less than stellar.

    Shogun by James Clavell. This is what kickstarted by interest in not just Japan, but Asia in general. While I’m sure it’s not an authentic portrait of feudal Japan, it feels like a genuine effort was made to make it as close to life as possible.

    The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne. Donne is the poet who made me realize how much I can really like poetry. Simple as that.

    Honorable mentions: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union also by Michael Chabon. Anything by Phillip K. Dick or Raymond Chandler. Dune by Frank Herbert. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Harry Potter, because it gives you at least one thing in common with almost everyone in the first world and is enjoyable to read despite what Harold Bloom says.

  29. Daimbert says:

    This is actually somewhat relevant. I was just looking for the best music, but when I saw the WoW rendition …

    The authors, if you don’t recognize them, are probably all Canadian, since it’s a Canadian band.

  30. Stormcaller says:

    I just had to add Matilda… after all, as an impressionable six year old after i read that i spent an aweful lot of time trying to move a pencil with my mind.

    Oh and “The Change” (i think) series (first book is Dies the Fire) by S M Stirling.

    It has a bit of hand waving about how and why but “magic happens” and tech breaks… the world burns and we follow the survivors building a new civilisation.

  31. RCN says:

    1. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien: My father gave me this book for christmas when I was 10 years old. I was so clue-less I thought it was a book of several small short stories (I’ve had never read anything with CHAPTERS in it, and when I looked at the index and saw all those titles that’s where I got my conclusion from), so at first I read two chapters out of order and complained to my dad that the stories made no sense. He explained it to me that I had to read from the beginning. I felt like an idiot, but it lasted just as long as it took for me to get to Gandalf. Then I pretty much forgot all else till I finished that book.

    2. The Posthumous Memoirs of Brà¡s Cubas (usually translated as “Epitaph of a Small Winner”, which is a great way to completely miss the whole point of the book) – Machado de Assis (feel free to look him up on Wikipedia): As a Brazilian writer, I doubt anyone else here has ever read of his books, but he is the greatest Brazilian writer and the only reason he’s not as known as Camàµes (considered the greatest writer of the Portuguese language and better known) is because there has been a thick cultural barrier around Brazil since the 1700s that makes absolutely everyone outside Brazil to not know the first thing about it (not even its neighbors). This book taught me about irony and sarcasm, about the reasoning behind people in general, how a love story does not a story make, and so many more marvelous things.

    3. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett: So far there are very preciously few Terry Pratchett books translated into portuguese and properly sold in my country. I really should just import a few (or buy their e-books). This one was his most influential to me so far, even though I find Rincewind one of the best written characters ever made and Death itself to be a bit dull most of the time. For me, this one is the most influential just because it taught me to not trust reality just because everything is built around it, to know that the world and the universe exists, but it doesn’t necessarily means everything is perfect, since life probably only exists due to an imperfection in the universe.

    4. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman: Though I technically liked American Gods better, there’s too much Americana in that one that I can’t even begin to comprehend and the ending wasn’t that satisfying, while Anansi Boys is full of interesting characters and archetypes. Interestingly, it is the book that taught me to appreciate music better, even though music is but a small part of it.

    5. Love According G.H. – Clarice Linspector (another Brazilian writer): Never have I hated a book more than this one. There are probably books out there more deserving of hate, especially because it is actually, technically, a GOOD book. I just can’t even try to pretend to endure free indirect speech for more than a couple of sentences. And that book is ALL complete navel-gazing indirect speech of a completely mad woman realizing the truth behind the universe upon killing and eating a cockroach in her apartment. Mainly, this book taught me that is ok to stop reading a book midway through, since not always you’ll find an ending that makes everything else ok. Ugh, how I loathe it.

    6. Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien: I really didn’t want to use the same writer twice, but I really got a newfound respect for Tolkien after going through university and learning linguistics. Probably I should have put The Simarillion here, but that one isn’t really a proper book as it is the History Book of a fictional universe. Still, it was only on a second read that I realized how much care he took with linguistics on The Lord of The Rings. To the point I’m always bothered with fiction nowadays whenever everyone can communicate with everyone else all the time and things keep their names throughout history for millennia. ARAGORN HAD TO ASK FOR THE LOCAL NAME OF A HERB! That bit alone is almost enough to give me a linguistic boner… ok, not “almost”. It’s come to the point that I actually raise the Stargate Movie to the same status as its series JUST because the movie respected the linguistic aspect, while the series mostly ignored it. Oh, it is also the reason I loathe Disney’s Atlantis, because of how much it completely botches linguistics.

    7. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman AND Terry Pratchett: It is both of them so it doesn’t count! Anyway, you’d think that a book with two writers would be confusing and unfocused, but I thought both of them worked really great together. And I just love Crowley almost as much as I love Rincewind. But the reason I really liked this one is how it takes the story of the Armageddon… and chooses to relate it through the point-of-view of the Antichrist itself. And how one can look at what everyone tells is his destiny and how important it is… and reject it (one reason I also like Hellboy).

    8. Macunaà­ma – Mà¡rio de Andrade (YES, another Brazilian writer): I really, really loathe most modernist Brazilian writers, and with even more passion the post-modernist ones (yes, Clarice Linspector is post-modernist). But Mà¡rio de Andrade is a very strong exception. In the turning of the 20th century, this guy wrote a book that mixed the city life and urban culture with the Brazilian folklore and myth. It is so clever on it’s myth-building you’d think he had a time-machine. I reckon that this book would probably make as little sense to a foreigner as American Gods did to me (probably more, at least a good bit of Americana penetrates life around the globe through its cultural omnipotence), but I still love it dearly and am very saddened at how unknown and forgotten he died (he was against the national regime during Brazil’s first dictatorship under Vargas, and so was made a political pariah).

    9. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – H.P. Lovecraft: There are probably (well, certainly) better H.P. Lovecraft books out there. But this one was his first to me, and, his fixation with architecture non-withstanding, it was a very tense read. This one stuck with me because I had heard of Lovecraft and knew of his fame, and had very high expectations when I read the book. And it is so full of dread and ends on such a bleak note that it is one of those very rare cases that built-up hype isn’t disappointing. If done today, that ending would be a complete sequel-bait, but there was no real continuation to Charles Dexter Ward, it really just end with “And all that horror was averted… for now and in that particular area”.

    10. Harry Potter – JK Rowling: Alright, alright. I’m partially ashamed to include it here. But those books rekindled my interest in reading during a very critical moment during my teens. Nowdays I can’t really re-read them too well, as I find too much tired archetypes and obvious twists, she’s not really the most subtle writer. However, I’m still amazed at how much she did right. I’ve ALWAYS loathed Harry. I found him too obnoxious, too sure of himself and too pity-baiting (he lived under a stair for his whole childhood for gods’ sake!), but the world she built is interesting enough to make the protagonist I loathed feel insignificant in comparison, also, it helps that the characteristics I hated the most about him bite him in the ass later on. And to this day I can spend hours talking about the Rowling’s universe (mostly about the things that make little sense, but it is only because I care enough to). Rick Riordan’s books (more prominently Percy Jackson, if you’re wondering) are certainly much better researched and much better written in general, but he’s just unlucky for his books to not come out during the period I really needed and he had also the unfortunate fate of having very lackluster movie adaptations to his books…

    1. Thomas says:

      Hey don’t be ashamed of Harry Potter dude, those books quite literally changed the world. I still love them and I think they deserve to be remembered.

      I enjoy Rick Riordan’s books a lot (I even managed to enjoy the films =D) but I do think Harry Potter is special in a way that the Percy Jackson series isn’t. Percy Jackson is really fun to read and the mythology is always exciting, but Harry Potter creates a living breathing world for people to go to in a way that few other books series’ have. The Harry Potter films were mostly kind of terrible, but they still managed to strike a chord with people because HP has that special kind of something.

      1. RCN says:

        As I say, it is only partially. She’s not a bad writer, it is just that there are some aspects of her writing that becomes grating once you start expecting… something different I guess. Maybe if the books were a bit more self-aware. There’s just too much that are really pushing in my particular Willing Suspension of Disbelief. I liked the last book more than the others, mainly because it completely broke with the predictable arcs of the previous ones. It is probably more to do with me that I can’t stand how the universe seemed to revolve around the school year of Hogwarts throughout books 1 to 6. Though that same structure is probably something that had grabbed my attention when I first read them.

        Plus, maybe I’m biased towards Percy Jackson. I really love greek mythology (a love that only multiplied when I studied linguistics and literature in university) and Rick Riordan is great at updating and adapting the myths without completely neutering or rewriting them (like Disney’s Hercules and… well, the Percy Jackson movie adaptations did).

  32. Henson says:

    I’m not a big reader, but sure, let’s make my own list of maybe not a full ten entries.

    A Cartoon History of the Universe – Larry Gonick’s unusual journey from the Big Bang to Alexander the Great, as told through expressive cartoon drawings. I don’t think he was always accurate, but damn did he make it interesting.

    The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – I think this was the pinnacle of jumping head-first into a fantastical realm when I was young. I never read the rest of the series, but this one sure stuck with me.

    Dragonlance – Chronicles & Legends – They’re not the best written books, and reading them today can feel a little odd, but damn did they work when I was eleven, and some of those chapters still make my skin tingle. More than anything else, they were great explorations of character. I think these were my transition books into more adult literature. I’m still transitioning…

    Pretty much anything by Michael Crichton – I hadn’t read anything with such a cut-and-dried scientific bent before these books, but they were wonderful to get my dose of hard speculative science. Few fiction books felt comfortable including graphs and computer output. (Side note: I’ve been meaning to read some Neal Stephenson – are Crichton’s works tame by comparison?)

    Ender’s Game – Yeah, we all liked this one. Don’t lie, you did too.

    Animal Farm – Allegory often falls flat because of how preachy and in-your-face it is, but this book is just wonderful. If I were a high school teacher, I would make it part of the course syllabus in a heartbeat. (Funny story: my interest in this book began with the X-Men cartoon, in which Beast is found reading it in prison.)

    A Game of Thrones – After the long slog of the Wheel of Time (I only made it through book 3, though the second one was pretty good), this book was a great reminder that in good fiction, stuff actually happens. That, and it clearly was comfortable taking risks after giving detailed, strong characterization to the point-of-view character in the Prologue and then summarily killing him off. Thank goodness I picked up this series before the HBO series began.

    1. Duneyrr says:

      If I had known about “A Cartoon History of the Universe” when I was in high-school, I would have been a very different student.
      I feel like I need to track down all of my history teachers and apologize for never paying attention in class!

    2. Grudgeal says:

      I didn’t like Ender’s Game all that much. To me it was pretty much “moody mr perfect mopes around while crazy big brother TAKES OVER THE WORLD”. People don’t get that perfect.

      Then again I might be slightly biased by hinsight after I subsequently discovered the author’s… Views on my situation. Those who know what I’m talking about are encouraged not to turn this into a political debate please.

      1. Akri says:

        Ender’s Game made me want to throw my Kindle against a wall.

        So, yeah, not a fan either.

        1. JAB says:

          It was originally released as a short story, which I think works better:

          1. jawlz says:

            Correct. As I understand it, turning that story into a novel was mainly way to create the setup for the very different (and, IMO, superior) Speaker for the Dead.

  33. Paul Spooner says:

    “…my teachers must have been very smart and hardworking people…”
    Good thing the ambulance is in a nearby metaphor, because those teachers are suffering from fourth degree sick burns in the vicinity.

    Also “it's pretty often I don't read a lot of books” feels like it leaked into your post from a parallel universe. It’s technically correct, but it still makes my skin crawl.

  34. Goblin says:

    Hmm… how about 10 books that haven’t already been mentioned? Fantasy only, I’d need another post for sci-fi and a third for straight fiction.

    1. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
    Won a World Fantasy Award. Deserved it. Amazing mix of humor, poetry, and action.

    2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
    Honestly almost everything by Kay is great, but this one has an original plot idea as well.

    3. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    Somehow listed as Young Adult by my local library, this has the most terrifying vampires I’ve ever read about. But it also has cinnamon rolls, I guess?

    4. Slay and Rescue by John Moore
    Funniest fantasy I’ve read that wasn’t written by Terry Prachett.

    5. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
    Zelazny’s best known for the Amber series, and I liked those too – but this won him the Nebula award. Although maybe this isn’t fantasy…

    6. Legend by David Gemmell
    300 as a fantasy novel, but better written.

    7. Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
    Simply a can of fantasy whoop-a**.

    8. Freedom & Necessity by Steven Brust & Emma Bull
    A fantasy about 1849 English socialist organizations. No, really! Frederick Engles is in the book!

    9. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
    Made me want to go back to college to take English again.

    10. The Gate of Ivory/ Two-Bit Heroes by Doris Egan (Ok, so 11… but you can buy these in an omnibus edition!)
    A great mix of action and introspection through a non-action protagonist.

    1. Duneyrr says:

      I like fantasy, but I’ve never heard of any of these books… I’ve got some research to do!

    2. Love Robin McKinley.Excellent writer- probably ended up in ya because everything else she writes is there.

    3. 4th Dimension says:

      Ohhh Gemmel. His books and Legend in particular are designed to make even most manly men cry by the end [spoiler]when a charachter has an epic death[/spoiler]

  35. ngthagg says:

    Picking influential books is tough, because I’m still reading, and influence takes time. For example, Moneyball has completely changed the way I enjoy hockey, but I just read it in the last couple of years, so it’s influence is hard to judge.

    Far easier for me to list the most memorable books (or series, as is frequently the case) of my childhood. These are all books I first read as a pre-teen and still have vivid memories of.

    1) The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein. I read this a dozen times at least as a child. I couldn’t get into LoTR as a kid, but this one drew me in.
    2) The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis. Especially The Magician’s Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I loved the taste of different worlds.
    3) The Belgariad, David Eddings. In retrospect, my love for these books fits pretty well with my love for jRPGs.
    4) A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin. I remembered this as being a massive tome, such that I was surprised at how short it is when I picked it up as an adult. I think it’s the first book I can remember reading where the author isn’t shielding the characters in some way.
    5) Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card. I think Ender was the first character that I wanted to BE.
    6) Incarnations of Immortality, Piers Anthony. I loved the mix of fantasy and sci-fi, and the idea of normal people thrust into unusual jobs. The first novel, On a Pale Horse, is still a solid example of good what-if sci-fi writing.
    7) The Stand/It, Stephen King. As an adult, there are other things he has written that I like more, but these two grabbed me as a kid.
    8) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. I liked it for the same reason everyone else does. Still haven’t found another book as witty.

    1. RCN says:

      Try Pratchett ;)

      Having read both Pratchett and Adams, I find the former… hmm… more sincere? Adams is certainly witty, but his writing can be extremely, painfully loaded at times (it is, for instance, very obvious that at some point a bureaucrat completely fucked Douglas over, while Pratchett is a certified expert at spinning his villains into understandable and relatable beings… EVEN when they’re cosmic horrors).

      Oh, LeGuin and this Piers Anthony guy seem like interesting writers for me to look up. IF this Earthsea has nothing to do with Studio Ghibli’s Earthsea. I’m really NOT a fan of most jRPG or Myiazaki.

      1. Oh good lord, you sound like someone worrying that Lord of the Rings might be some kind of rip-off of “Sword of *$#! Shannara”.
        “A Wizard of Earthsea” was first published in 1968. It and its two main sequels are . . . hard to describe, and kind of different from each other, but thoughtful, good, and uncompromising. Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it, its sequels, and a good deal of groundbreaking SF and F, as well as some significant critical essays on the general field. Much of her stuff is really great, and also as a side effect helped make SF intellectually respectable beyond the limits of hard science.

        The Studio Ghibli adaptation was much, much, much later and I don’t think it was that well received; the maestro Hayao Miyazaki was not at the helm, it was a first effort of his song Goro Miyazaki.
        Even though I’m distinctly uneasy at the thought of watching the Studio Ghibli rendition of Earthsea (or, really, any Le Guin), it doesn’t stop me from seeing Hayao Miyazaki as a genius on his own terms. “Spirited Away” would certainly be in my top 10 list for movies; it’s a masterpiece, and so are a couple of the others.

        Piers Anthony has written some decent stuff, some decent fun fluff, and quite a lot of godawful phoned-in pablum. Also in his early career a bit of out-of-his-depth attempts at pretentiousness, which didn’t sell. One of my favourites, and one of his least known, was a hilarious book about interstellar dentistry called “Prostho Plus”.

    2. Thomas says:

      I think Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favourite of all of them. I don’t know what is about it, I’ve always liked Edmund and I liked Eustances storyline but it was something about the voyage and all the little places they visited.

      1. And Reepicheep, admit it. That fuzzy little bastard stole every scene he was in with his sheer panache.

  36. Hitch says:

    Lets see how long it takes me to decide on 10. In no particular order, just numbered so I can keep track of how many. And I may change my mind about some of these, these are just the ones that come to mind first.

    1. Stranger in a Strange Land (or Time Enough For Love, depending on the day) by Robert Heinlein.

    2. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter.

    3. The Foundation books by Isaac Asimov.

    4. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. (This one really blew my mind)

    5. Again, Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison. (And the first one, too.)

    6. Cat’s Cradle or Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.

    7. The obligatory Tolkien. (Made me stop resenting the fantasy novels clogging up the sci-fi section of the bookstore.)

    8. The Illuminatus Trilogy by Shea and Wilson.

    9. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. (But only by virtue of being the first of his novels that I read.)

    and finally…

    10. Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman. (It wasn’t a good influence, but I read far too many of those books before realizing what puerile dreck they were. I learned a lot from those.)

    1. Hitch says:

      Just wanted to add that Pratchett and Gaiman aren’t on my list, not because they aren’t great and worthy, but I was older and less likely to be influenced when I read them. Douglas Adams was a TV writer/story editor when I first encountered his stuff. I watched the original HHGG TV series and Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who episodes before reading his books, so they were more of a rehash.

  37. Duneyrr says:

    I’ll give this a shot!

    1. “The Once and Future King” – T. H. White
    My mum read this to my brothers and I when we were young along with The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling), Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson), and Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe). These nightly readings inspired our love of literature and this one, in particular, stuck with me the longest.

    2. “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” – Scott McCloud
    Is a comic book cheating? How about a comic book about comic books? This one was given to me by my first art teacher and I have read it many, many times. This is the book that made me pursue an art education, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

    3. “Edda” – Snorri Sturluson
    I love mythologies! I read this in high-school. Still one of my favorite mythology books along with Homer’s poems and the next entry…

    4. “The Silmarillion” – J.R.R. Tolkien
    A modern mythology! This book was a great inspiration in high-school as well.

    5. “The Animator’s Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion, and Internet Animators” – Richard Williams
    This monster of a title is printed on the greatest resource an animator can own. If you have any interest in animation, read this book. It’s also quite entertaining!

    6. “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” – Lynne Truss
    I never cared much for grammar in school. It was only in college when my mum handed me this book that I discovered the joy of punctuation. A hilarious and educational book!

    7. “Dune” – Frank Herbert
    I’m not particularly fond of science fiction, but I think Dune comes close enough to fantasy to blur the line. I didn’t notice I had fallen in love with a sci-fi book until it was too late!

    8. “Thief of Time” – Terry Pratchett
    My first Terry Pratchett book (another one recommended by my mum!) scratched the itch that “Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy” could never quite reach due to my aversion to sci-fi.

    9. “The Cartoon History of the Universe” – Larry Gonick
    Another comic book? Yes! I hated history in school. It all seemed so distant and unconnected and I just didn’t CARE about anything when there were cool fantasy books that were so much better than real events.
    It wasn’t until five years after graduating college, that I picked up one of these and found all the joy I’d been missing out on.
    If you want to learn history (or have teenagers who don’t seem too interested) I’d highly recommend these. Yeah, they’re corny, but they are FUN and super educational to boot!

    10. “Pygmalion” – George Bernard Shaw
    This one gave me my love for theater! I acted in several plays and radio dramas throughout my teenage years and early 20’s, and this one is still my favorite. If you are inclined, you could read it, but it really should be seen. If you don’t mind musical adaptations, just watch ‘My Fair Lady’ (really you should just watch it anyway) – it’s pretty spot on and has great music!

  38. Bryan says:

    The Silmarillion

    Sauron’s Defeat

    Morgoth’s Ring

    (all three by both Tolkiens — various drafts by JRR, and edited by his son Christopher)

    Consistent Quantum Theory (Robert Griffiths) — turns out most of the seeming paradoxes go away if you make one small change to the way you think about the interpretation

    Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis) — though reading it at least twice is a good idea, as “the gods can change the past”

    All five entries in the Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy (even if 5 was rather depressing at the end)

    I’ve read a bunch of other stuff too, but I don’t think I’d put it on this list even though I’m not to 10 yet. (Lots of Clancy 15 years ago; now I think “meh”. Almost everything by Madeleine L’Engle; the first three or four were pretty good, but when it moved down a generation or two in the family, it started to be less interesting too, I thought. Basically everything else that either JRR or Christopher Tolkien published, except Beowulf, and that’s on the list for this Christmas; the three at the top are my favorites.)

  39. Phantos says:

    I got tagged by a friend for the same list on the book of faces, and I’m… kind of disappointed in myself that I can’t think of 10 books by memory, let alone 10 that left any sort of impact on me.

    I like reading, which is the weird part. It’s just most of the media that had a big effect on me were movies and shows and video games. I can think of a few novels that stuck with me, but certainly not 10.


  40. doppleganger says:

    I’ve begun lurking here as of late, after I got the curiosity to check back on that DM of the Ring I had enjoyed years ago.

    I did not see the name of one of my favorite SF authors in any of the comments and felt the urge to mention him:

    1)Philip Jose Farmer, particularly the World of Tiers series

    and then, some authors that left a lasting impression on me:

    2)Isaac Asimov, particularly anything related to his Robots novels.

    3)Agatha Christie, read all her detective books, several times.

    4)Henri Vernes, read a lot of Bob Morane as a youngster.

    5)Jules Verne, we had the complete collection at home, so once I picked one, the others followed.

    6)A E Van Voght, I think its the first SF author that hooked me.

    7)Raymond Feist, but only for Magician Apprentice and Magician Master. I think these are some of my preferred “coming of age” novels in fantasy setting.

    8)Ursula K Leguin, for Earthsea novels. Another nice set of “coming of age” novels in fantasy. At some point, got really tired of the genre and just said no to Harry Potter.

    9) Michael Moorcock, for anything related to his Law vs Chaos related novels. Quite refreshing from the classic Good vs Evil.

    10) Anne Rice, for her vampires.

  41. DavidB says:

    I’ve been lurking around here for a bit and thought this would be a good place to make my first post.
    These aren’t put in any particular order, but here’s my ten books or series that have stuck with me and that I can go back to anytime.

    1. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson – Though I like Cryptonomicon, It’s the Baroque Cycle that really captured me.

    2. The Avery Cates by Jeff Somers – Quite possibly the bleakest sci-fi series I’ve yet read, which is saying something. It does have quite some problems particularly with each book essentially being the same as the last but bleaker, but I found them all to be highly enjoyable.

    3. HP Lovecraft – Lovecraft’s mythos has been a big inspiration of so much of what I’ve read, it was a revelation to read the source of it all.

    4. Laundry series by Charles Stross – Speaking of Lovecraft this series re-imagines the mythos into a tale of modern-day espionage and beauracracy. It deftly balances absurd humor with bleak situations as a British spy agency tries to prepare for the end of the world (NOT avert it, it’s happening all they can do is try to survive.) Of special interest I think to you Shamus is that the main character is a programmer in a world where mathematics is magic.

    5. The Eisenhorn trilogy by Dan Abnet – I’ve read a lot of Warhammer 40k books over the years, but this was the first and remains the best. It is the book I always recommend to anyone interested in the setting of 40k and is probably the best introduction to the universe.

    6. Gotrek & Felix by William King and Nathan Long – Another Warhammer series but Fantasy this time. My favorite books for when I just want bone crunching action and don’t feel like thinking. Stay away from the books not written by King and Long they’re awful.

    7. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – A previous poster recommended this author and I have to echo their comment, Sanderson is fantastic and Mistborn is a perfect place to start.

    8. Kraken by China Mie`ville – Probably this author’s most devisive book it’s my favorite of his. I fell in love with the idea that magic is an argument you have with the universe and you have to convince it you’re right.

    9. the Bigend books by William Gibson – I honestly could not get through Neuromancer but these books made me see what people like about Gibson. I feel that they captured post 9-11 America dead on.

    10. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – This book might possibly be a bit pretentious to some, but I love it. It really showed me some of the amazing things that can be done with the format of a novel while still telling a gripping story. (three in fact!)

    1. Grudgeal says:

      I found “Kraken” to be essentially a darker retelling of “Neverwhere”, but not a bad one. I preferred it to Bas-Lag: At least it didn’t end on a giant “**** YOU READERS” note.

      1. DavidB says:

        The Bas-Lag books are pretty weird like that. I mean I liked Perdido Street Station well enough but HATED The Scar, and found Iron Council so boring I that couldn’t finish it. I think most of China Mie`ville’s other books are of decent quality though hit and miss.

  42. Corran says:

    No surprise to see so many SF (never ‘sci-fi’ Asimov always said) and fantasy writers on the lists here. :)

    But when it comes to influential authors there are some I’m surprised haven’t been mentioned yet:

    Arthur C. Clarke (never forget the “Clarke-Asimov Treaty of Park Avenue”).

    Jack Vance (his books transcend SF and fantasy).

    Larry Niven (hard SF at its best, his books are treasure troves of cool ideas).

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if John Grisham was single handedly responsible for a huge increase in law students.

    And I’ll fanboy a bit by saying a certain Aaron Williams has certainly influenced me with his insightful posts and Full Frontal Nerdity of course. :D

    1. Aerik says:

      Oh man, I just looked up the Clarke-Asimov treaty. That’s hilarious. I’d never heard of it before. :)

  43. MadTinkerer says:

    In no particular order, here are ten of mine:

    1. The Electric Book.

    Written in 1975, discovered by me in 1988 in my elementary school’s library, this book is actually a fantastic introduction to tropes, AI, and procedural content generation, despite not actually calling any of those things by those names. Considering many of the ideas were later brought up in (usually holodeck-based) Star Trek TNG episodes, I suspect that this book or similar stories were circulating among the Star Trek writers. Remember: 1975.

    It’s title was originally very distinct and now tragically generic to the point of being obscured by a publishing format if you try to look up information about it online. Fortunately, it’s fairly cheap to get on Amazon… once you can get Amazon to point to the page for the actual book.

    2. The Dragonlance Chronicles.

    I finished The Hobbit, but I have yet to finish The Lord of the Rings. Instead, after The Hobbit, I read the Dragonlance Chronicles because omigosh it’s so much easier to finish Chronicles when you’re 13. Also my friend was showing me AD&D (2e was the latest edition at the time) and it was the post-Gygax-pre-WotC silver age of TSR and Dragonlance was the best thing they had.

    (Forgotten Realms is a good setting, but the novels are a mess. Dragonlance was conceived as a series of adventures and novels before being a setting, so it’s easier to follow the stories. Realms is a sprawling setting with many differently themed areas with many different cool heroes to follow all over the place instead of one or two groups of The Most Influential Heroes At The Present Time like Dragonlance. Mistakes have been made, Dragonlance fans know what I mean, but as a series Dragonlance is still the easier read.)

    3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    The seventh Harry Potter book sticks with me mostly because of my personal achievement of working an eleven hour shift on the same day that I purchased and finished reading Deathly Hallows. The book is good too, despite the fairly ridiculous body count, and otherwise likable but irresponsible parents orphaning their kid like they were on a submarine on the Lost island.

    Like, seriously, if you have the choice, make the tough choice of choosing which of you runs away and lives to look after your kid. If a bad guy surprises you in your house and kills you both, that’s fine. I’m not criticizing the Potters, here. However, choosing both of you fight the bad guys when it’s a suicide mission, and you are highly likely to make your child an orphan, is fucking irresponsible.

    4. Savage Worlds main rulebook

    Once upon a time, WotC nearly conquered the world with D&D3e and the d20 license. Then they decided to throw it all away by introducing “3.5” far too early and disrupting dozens of third party publishers who had just gotten on WotC’s bandwagon. Shane Hensley had enough success with d20 books to save his then-financially-desperate company Pinnacle, but saw the writing on the wall regarding d20 books in 2002 and decided to invent a whole new game system based loosely on a combination of d20 and a miniatures war-game called Great Rail Wars.

    Savage Worlds, as it’s name implies, was one of the first ever RPGs designed to evoke a specific kind of heroic adventure above a single setting or a generic “realistic” ruleset (like GURPS). Savage Worlds and all setting materials was designed from the start to make things easier for GMs to organize and run games, and for players to be able to act like heroes (or whatever is setting appropriate) with the minimum necessary rules and modifiers.

    On the official forums Shane Hensley once mentioned off hand that Savage Worlds “isn’t perfect”. My immediate reply was “Sir, I respectfully disagree”. Eventually I hope to find the time to run it again. Stupid Real Life getting in the way of my RPG time…

    5. Dodger

    I love all of Terry Pratchett’s novels except for Hogfather and the Last Continent. If there weren’t just too many fantastic Vimes-centered books to choose from, I would choose one of them. So instead I’m going with Dodger.

    Dodger is a fantastic tribute to Charles Dickens as well as that period of history and literature, working literary references into a fairly realistic historical fiction without satirizing the source material. Because of Discworld’s numerous Dickensian influences and references, and Terry Pratchett’s signature style, I did forget a few times that the story was supposed to be taking place in Historical Fiction London and not Ankh-Morpork. But otherwise, it stands as a fantastic example of Sir Pratchett’s work with no prior knowledge required (although the more you’re familiar with Dickens’ work, the better you’ll appreciate the references).

    6. Hackers by Stephen Levey
    (a.k.a. “hackers heroes of the computer revolution” on the cover)

    Not the most comprehensive history of computing, but one of the most important. The book focuses on the original groups of mainframe hackers that defied the regulations of mainframe administrators, the hardware hackers that brought us commercially viable personal computers, and the dawn of professional software development and video games.

    This book changed my life by making me realize that I myself could make computers pretty much anything that I wanted them to do, and didn’t have to put up with what some stranger had compiled into a program. That, in fact, I could do better than anything that came on a disk in a store because i could make my own programs for me. It just takes time and access to the right manuals…

    7. Perspective! for comic book artists

    Having trouble understanding how 3D maths work? Let your programming and math part of your brain take a break and set the art side of your brain to trying to understand the problem. That is not the purpose of this book at all, but it turns out to be extremely handy regardless.

    8. A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

    This was my introduction to classic comic books which were otherwise unobtainable for years. Highlights include the origin stories of Superman, Batman, and Plastic Man, the bizarre stories by Basil Wolverton and George Carlson, Pogo, the first The Spirit stories I ever read, and a few miscellaneous E.C. stories including a few pre-magazine format Mad stories. Donald Duck is present as well, but at the time I was already collecting Gladstone (the company which had the license for Disney branded comics at the time) comics and was well familiar with the classic comic book version of Donald Duck.

    9. The Color Out of Space

    The first H.P. Lovecraft story I ever read was nothing to do with Cthulhu. Coincidentally, I read it during the first season of Smallville, which introduced Kryptonite as not just poison to Superman but also potentially a source of super-powers for humans. The parallels between kryptonite in Smallville and the meteorite in The Color struck me as having incredible potential.

    I still haven’t gotten around to a proper write up of my concept for Lovecraftian Super Heroes as an RPG campaign, but if you’re familiar with how corruption/madness works in the various Call of Cthulhu games, and how Taint works in Aberrant, you’ve got some idea of the sort of themes I’m thinking about. Heroes who start off very human (including the aliens, of course) and have to fight harder and herder to retain that humanity. I have quite a few notes, but one of the problems is that I still can’t decide on which time period to set the campaign…

    10. my copy of Basic Mathematics I

    My sixth-grade math textbook. It did not have nearly enough illustrations of aliens and robots. I fixed that.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I love all of Terry Pratchett's novels except for Hogfather and the Last Continent.”

      Really?Because hogfather is practically the best book about morality and justice.I mean all I have to do now is link to the deaths speech about the sun rising and win any argument about subjectivity of morality.

      1. MichaelG says:

        You mean this bit? My favorite as well.

        1. RCN says:

          Teach the little lies, so they can later believe in the big ones.

          That’s abstraction for you. Made all the more poignant that the anthropomorphic representation of the concept of death is the one saying it.

          Though I wonder what this says about the fact that you’re supposed to outgrow the little lies…

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        “Because hogfather is practically the best book about morality and justice.”

        And it has TERRIBLE PACING. And there’s the part where the book takes four pages to describe a character who you think is going to have something to do with the plot but then nope they’re killed off and their death doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the book in a story where Death is a character.

        Hogfather is not nearly the worst book I have read. However, it’s flaws are enough to drag it down below what I see as the standard for the entire rest of his work.

        And seriously: Last Continent was two not-very-good books, one of which was just a preview of the much better Science of Discworld books shuffled in with the manuscript for the most phoned-in Rincewind story ever. I get the feeling Terry was tired of Rincewind at this point but wanted to finish the book because he had promised the fans he would finish it.

        Two misses out of… however many books he’s written is still a fantastic record. I haven’t read Raising Steam yet, mind you, but odds are good that it is as well.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      10. my copy of Basic Mathematics I

      My sixth-grade math textbook. It did not have nearly enough illustrations of aliens and robots. I fixed that.

      I was more into dinosaurs myself. Dinosaurs riding motorcycles.

      1. Henson says:

        Dinosaurs…IN F-15s!

    3. Aerik says:

      “The Color Out of Space” is great. My favorite Lovecraft story is also non-Cthulhu: “The Rats in the Walls”. Reading from somebody’s perspective as they lose sanity is chill-inducing. I just hate that you have to put an asterisk on it.*

      * This story has been visited by the racism fairy.

      1. RCN says:

        Eh… Racism and the early 20th century go together like small spiders and webs: completely unfortunate, but also unavoidable. Tintin is one of the best adventure serials, but couldn’t escape the racist fairy. Asterix is also a great example. Popeye. Disney AND Looney Toons in general, really. There’s even a fair bit of Sci-Fi writers who were absolutely bonkers about blacks or asians. It can be fascinating to read.

        It is interesting that this phase happened in my country more in the 1800s than in the early 1900s. Not that there’s no racism in my country, it is just that writers in general went from uber-racists in the early 1800s (of blacks, asians, natives AND Europeans) to generally celebrating diversity in the turn of the century (probably something to do with the fact that half of them were mulatos by then).

        Probably also something to do with the fact that our most celebrated writer, who lived in the late 1800s, was black.

        1. Aerik says:

          Based on your comments, let me guess your country. With your comments about mulatos, a Caribbean nation is the obvious answer. But I’m going to guess… France? Is the celebrated writer you’re referring to Dumas?

          (Don’t feel any need to confirm my guess, if you’re not comfortable posting your location online. :) )

          I live in the southern US, and this phase is… still happening, actually. It’s ever-so-slowly getting better, but man, it is lingering like a bad odor.

          1. RCN says:

            Sorry, Brazil. You could have confirmed that by reading my post of MY most influential books (including 3 Brazilian writers, one of whom I hate to no ends).

            The writer I was talking about was Machado de Assis, not nearly as famous as Dumas worldwide, but certainly highly respected in my country. He was decades ahead of his time. Famous for his absurdly unreliable narrators (his most famous book is about a man who relates how much of a traitorous woman was his wife, but thorough analysis of it throughout the years has shown that it is more than certain that any infidelity was in his paranoia alone, even though the book never makes it explicit). It was only after his death that critics even began to notice that his narrators were supposed to be unreliable. He was a master of irony and sarcasm, but he never discussed his work with critics. In fact, he was often purposefully misleading.

            In the early 20th century we had a very strong artistic movement. There was the Week of Art of 22, where many writers and artists gathered to debate and exhibit the European modernist movement and try to discover a Brazilian artistic identity. Of those attending, a fair share were of color (including Mà¡rio de Andrade, who is basically the only modernist I actually like).

            EDIT: (Oh, I didn’t even realize that Tintin and Asterix were kind of misleading tells. I completely forgot how they are almost unknown on the United States. They are incredibly popular here, though. Oh, I know Tintin is Belgian, but I also know it is very popular in France, as well as the rest of Europe).

  44. MichaelG says:

    A lot of my favorites have been mentioned, but recently I’ve been digging through some classic authors. An amazing number of SF short stories are being dumped onto the Kindle in these huge collections for 99 cents. Search Amazon for “science fiction megapack”. Really a great value.

    Also, I’d add James H. Schmitz as an author. I think he’s pretty much forgotten now, but “The Witches of Karres” is great fun (despite the name, it’s SF adventure, not fantasy) So are the Telzey Amberdon and “Hub” series. You can find all three collections on Amazon or Baen EBooks. Strong female characters too, which was virtually unheard of for SF of the time.

    In the collections, some of the shorter work is “meh”, but the longer pieces — The Lion Game, The Demon Breed, and Ti’s Toys — are all excellent.

    I’d also recommend God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell. Just don’t bother with any of the sequels. She’s been grinding them out for 30 years now and has barely advanced the plot. Unless she has some inspiration or lives to be 100, she’s never going to finish this series.

    I’d give a second vote to Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. The sequel to that one (The Story of the Stone) is great too. You can find them collected under the title “The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox”.

  45. Sector47 says:

    My contribution would be any Terry Goodkind book. Although I have not read a few of his most recent books, I have always agreed with the philosophies in his books. If I narrowed it down to a single book of his it would be Faith of the Fallen.

    1. Um. Terry Goodkind’s books seem to spend a lot of time coming up with the nastiest magic-SM-porn they can. And Goodkind explicitly rejects the concept of worldbuilding, which may explain why I find his settings so extremely unpersuasive. And the stuff tends to be incredibly plot-manipulated for purposes of maximum angst and squickiness. His very first book was OK. And maybe he’s gotten better again since I gave up. But I’m not a fan.

  46. Ingvar M says:


    Mix of books and authors, since it’s hard to pick “just 10”. Ordering is entirely to give identifiable numbers, not a ranking.

    1. The art of motorcycle maintenance Robert M Pirsig
    2. Walter Jon Williams
    3. Lois McMaster Bujold
    4. Cherie Priest
    5. Douglas Hofstadter
    6. Common Lisp, the language, 2nd ed Guy L. Steele
    7. Terry Pratchett
    8. Greg Egan
    9. Elizabeth Bear
    10. Astrid Lindgren

    All for multiple reasons. Only two are deeply connected to my job (with a third tangentially connected, would you believe it).

    1. jawlz says:

      You forgot Zen!

      Pirsig’s ‘Lila’ is on my list, over ZATAOMM, though I suspect I’m an outlier in this.

  47. Jarenth says:

    I’m okay with this being my eternal legacy. “Here lies Jarenth”, they’ll say, “he got Shamus to talk about cool books.”

    Reproducing my original Facebook answer here, for posterity:


    1) Nuklear Age — Brian Clevinger
    2) John Dies At The End — David Wong
    3) Mogworld — Yahtzee Croshaw
    4) The Name Of The Wind — Patrick Rothfuss
    5) Leviathan Wakes — James S.A. Corey
    6) Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives Of The Elements — Hugh Aldersey-Williams
    7) Why Does E=MC2? — Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw
    8) The Dreaming Void — Peter F. Hamilton
    9) Dune — Frank Herbert
    10) The Caves Of Steel — Isaac Asimov

    Disclaimer: I forget a lot of shit. There are *tons* of books that I have fragments of swimming in my memory, half-remembered words and phrases, that I couldn’t remember the title of if you put a gun to my head.

    And dishonourable mention to Steven Erikson’s The Forge Of Darkness, the first and so far only book I’ve ever read that I *dumped in the trash* the minute I was done reading it.


    1. Aerik says:

      Hey Jarenth, have you heard that Leviathan Wakes is being adapted into a TV series called The Expanse?

      I hope that it’s good, so it will help me get more people to read those books, which are phenomenal. :)

      1. Jarenth says:


        I agree with the assessment that The Expanse (the name for this series of books) is, in fact, amazing. I put Leviathan Wakes on the list, but I actually read all four of the current books within the span of a month.

      2. Sleepy the Bear says:

        If you like Corey, you should give Daniel Abraham a whirl. He is one of the writers who form James Corey. His other series is “The Long Price Quartet”. It is a completed fantasy series – with a unique magic system, a quasi-asian setting, and a society that gets radically changed by the events of the books. In addition he has strong characterization and a nice prose style.

    2. Haven’t read The Forge of Darkness. But I’m very impressed by Erikson in general. Yes, he’s a very heavy read (often literally–his books tend to be kind of massive doorstops). And his characters’ griping can get annoying. But there’s a lot going on in his stuff. His background in archaeology and anthropology really comes through in the sense of deep time the books have, history before history before history, lost civilizations who in turn lost other civilizations ages ago. The temporary, contingent nature of “civilization”, for that matter, and the fragility of any human society “civilized” or otherwise. And a bunch of other stuff going on. He’s a rather mournful writer as a rule. But good.
      And in between, there’s a good deal of butt-kicking done.
      But this one, which is a prequel to his massive 10-volume “Malazan” series, might be either an exception or less accessible if you haven’t already read the main series and wondered what was up with some background.

  48. Vermander says:

    Like a lot of other people have already said, many of mine would be books that I don’t actually like (or used to like as a teenager, but don’t now), which introduced me to genres or concepts that I’d later explore in other, better books.

    In no particular order:

    1) The Hobbit, first full length novel that I ever read, made me love the fantasy genre.

    2) The Sword of Shannara, read and enjoyed it immensely when I was about 12, led to me reading many novels by Terry Brooks and David Eddings, which I now realize were not as awesome as adolescent me once thought.

    3) Jurassic Park, my first Michael Crichton novel.

    4) Any Harry Turtledove book, can’t remember which one I read first, but I was obsessed with these for a while. They inspired me to get my Master’s in History, which is kind of embarrassing.

    5) Lonesome Dove, made me appreciate the Western genre and made me realize it was possible to love books with deeply flawed protagonists.

    6) Guns, Germs, Steel, one of the few books I was required to read in grad school that I genuinely enjoyed.

    7) The Shining, first Stephen King book that I read. This led to yet another case of teenage me devouring the works of a writer who I don’t really like as much as I once did.

    8) A Game of Thrones, the book that brought me back into the fantasy genre as an adult (yes I read it before it was a TV show).

    9) Devil in the White City, normally I have no interest in the “serial killer” or true crime genres, but I found this one fascinating. It made me really interested in a particular period of history that I hadn’t paid much attention to before.

    10) Any of the Time Life history books, I remember loving these at various libraries as a kid. Big hardback collections full of glossy pages and huge photos. My father-in-law owns the western and civil war collections, which I end up thumbing through every time I’m at his house.

    1. Aerik says:

      Jurassic Park literally changed my life. I am a programmer now because of that book.

      Also, Guns, Germs, and Steel gave me an entire framework for thinking about history. It’s the kind of book I think of as required reading for everybody.

  49. Xapi says:

    My list, in no particular order:

    1 – The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien: Loves this as a child/preadolescent, probably the book that set me on the path of F&SF

    2 – The Dispossessed, by Ursula K LeGuin: Although “A Wizard of EarthSea” could take this spot, I think the message in The Dispossessed is very powerful, even when I don’t agree with much of it. I had to deal with more than my fair share of anarchists, and none of them got even close to articulating their thoughts as well as LeGuin did.

    3 – The Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov: Foundation did two things for me, on one part, it cemented my love for SF, and for the other, it sparkled my interest in the historical and political processes.

    4 – Perón – Cooke correspondence, editor Eduardo L. Duhalde: Sorry, none of you guys are going to get anything from this. I might comment a description later, but a lot of context is needed.

    5 – Last and first men, by Olaf Stapledon: The concept that I loved in Foundation taken to the extreme, suprahistorical processes, what the REALLY REALLY future may bring (instead of the usual 10/20 years in). (I know this predates Foundation, I read it afterwards).

    6 – Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card: A book abuot many things, but mostly about dealing with the pressures that come with being perceived as an above average child (obviously taken to an absolute extreme).

    7 – Godbody, by Theodore Sturgeon: As with “A Wizard of Earthsea”, “More than human” could fill this spot, but I think I’ve put in enough about what shaped me as an adolescent/preadolescent and should get into what shaped me as an adult. What is love? What is religion? What should one DO with love? This book gets you thinking about all these things. I gave this book to my now wife after I read it, and we enjoyed talking about it a lot.

    8 – L’àŽle des gauchers, by Alexandre Jardin: I’d be hard pressed if I had to explain how a spanish edition of this book came to my possesion, I can’t even find online an english version of the title (In spanish it is “La isla de los zurdos” wich would translate to “The island of the left-handed”). Another excelent take on what love is, and how to live up to the expectations that come with it.

    9 – Mindswap, by Robert Sheckley: FUN. Makes you laugh out loud. I still remember the theory of search as if it where something they taught me at school.

    10 – Don Quijote, by Cervantes: Incredibly acid humor for a book that is old as F.

  50. poiumty says:

    Do games count as books that could influence you?

    Because they should and they totally do and you don’t get to say otherwise shut up shut up shut up

    The Legacy of Kain series is probably the one “book” that has most thoroughly influenced my philosophies in my high-school years. I’ve read a bunch of books (mostly fantasy, LOTR, Salvatore, some local stuff, some of Remarque’s war novels and so on), but none of them have sat with me the way those games have.

    The fact that they were attached to this time-travelling plot featuring a vampire wraith with a lightsaber and voiced by some of the best of Broadway probably helped.

    As for my college years, it’s split between Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World (and his TV show, which I saw for the first time when I was 20) and a bunch of japanese visual novels and yes I consider those books as well and I will fight you if you say otherwise

  51. No time to think about a full top ten, but I’d like to throw out Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Forced to read it in high school as a freshman, I fell in love with it and couldn’t put it down. The language is slightly antiquated and ornate, but it’s certainly quite penetrable. Besides, Dickens was paid by the word. Seriously. That’s why he’s somewhat longwinded.

    Also, anything by John Green. All his works are hilarious and moving. The Fault in Our Stars in particular is fantastic.

    I don’t think anybody’s mentioned the Redwall series either, according to Safari’s Find function. I grew up on those books. Gloriously heroic and escapist. (By Brian Jacques)

    I grew up on Harry Potter, of course. I read each of the books many, many times. At one point my father actually took away all the Harry Potter books in my room because that was how I was spending my summer vacation, just reading them again and again.

    Perks of Being A Wallflower is one I only read recently, but it described high school me perfectly, minus the residual emotional trauma. I didn’t have nearly that good of an excuse to not make friends.

    He’s been mentioned several times, but Terry Pratchett is an amazing and hilarious author. It doesn’t matter where you start with his books. He writes like Rutskarn on an elephant’s dose of Adderall, except with less puns and more traditional jokes and irony.

    Oh, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I first read it in 7th grade, but I didn’t get all the humor then. I recently reread it and realized just how amazingly brilliant it is. If I could pick any of these books to be required reading in school, that’s the one I would pick. Half of the book is razor sharp humor of a quality I haven’t found elsewhere, and the other half is emotionally moving and discusses some, well, very serious business. It’s… an experience.

    1. Thomas says:

      I didn’t mention Redwall but I thought about it. The Long Patrol is probably my favourite because I can’t get enough of hares*. When I was younger I did find I’d sometimes run into problems where I didn’t know what the animals were (Monitor lizards?)

      *Lord Brocktree is also great

  52. tmtvl says:

    1) Karate Kata – The 26 Shotokan Kata. The ultimate autoritive book on Shotokan kata, explaining everything from history, application,.. A definite must for any karateka.

    2) The Shaolin Encyclopedia. As Karate Kata, but for Shaolin kung fu instead of Shotokan karate, and much more in-depth.

    3) Matsuo Bashō. A book about the life, travels and haiku of Matsuo Bashō. A very interesting read, and well-researched.

    4) Lieh-Zi. One of the major books in Taoism, Lieh-Zi is my favorite of the masters and so this is a clear winner in my eyes. Very enlightening.

    5) Eternal Travellers – An Anthology of Ancient Japanese Literature. Exactly what it says on the tin. Contains text from the manyōshu, the kojiki, the nihonshiki, heike monogatari,… Very entertaining and informative.

    6) A History of Japan, from Samurai to Soft Power. By one of the foremost experts in Japanese history, professor Willy Vande Walle. What more neds to be said, the man is an expert, and the book one of the best of its kind.

    7) The Programming Language C. Contains everything you need to know about programming in C. Very useful, even in this age where you can simply go to Stack Overflow and ask about any problem you may have.

    8) The Sword Polishers Record. Adam Hsu is a master, and his book is a veritable masterpiece of martial arts literature. Completely worth a read.

    9) The Book of Five Rings. A no-brainer, but I don’t like it as much as some people who swear by it. Worth a read, but remember your own training as well.

    10) Eyes of Amber. The best science fiction book I’ve ever read and the only fiction that makes my list, although Voyage of the Space Beagle is decent as well.

  53. 4th Dimension says:

    Most influential books? Now there is a difficult one. I can not say what those were because I allmost uncenciosly pick things up here and there from reading them, and I don’t notice it. So what I’m going to do is go chronologically (mostly) through my reading history of the books that are freshest in my memory still. If I can remember them I guess they had an influence on me.

    I would have liked to start with the first book I read on my own but that was over allmost 20 years ago and I was just a kid. It was about some cat stranded in a city trying to get back to his human familly I think. That is how much I remember of the plot but I really liked it and it opened my eyes to the fact that you could enjoy reading novels. Though that was not my first willing encounter with written word since I was a long time fan of liefing through a set of Military Encyclopedias, but that mostly boiled down to looking at images, maps and comparing force levels in the tables of different armies.

    After the first book I think I read some more but they didn’t stick with me. The next two writers that influenced my taste the most were Branko Ćopić and Jules Verne. Also these are the writers whose works I binge read and when I went to a new library I would allways see if they had something by them I hadn’t read.

    Branko Ćopić was a writer from my country so he is probably unkown to most but his line of young adult novels really resonated with me since they mated funny shenenigans kids/teenagers could get into (back in the day of 30s and 40s) with all sort of funny dialogue, and serious toppics like foreign occupation and partisan war as seen through eyes of children often forced to grow up too quickly. That got me my preference for the books that are often mood wiplasish and still I prefer authors with a sense of humor.

    Jules Verne on the other hand is largely responsable for my liking of SF or at least fantasy with strict rules. Also really liked his descriptions of machines and such. Again I basically read anything by him that I could get my hands on. Oh and I guess his books were a revelation that you could have multiple seemingly unconnected books inhabiting the same verse.

    Next book group I can still remember was Carl May and his faux Western* books. I guess I liked them because they were adventure books and I really liked them back then. Also even than I had a feeling something was wrong with them. *Later I learned that the writer wad basically NO idea what was going on in the American west other than there were Indians and Settlers and some of them were of German origin.

    Also I think this was the period when I read quite a few historical books (like Siege of Leningrad and such) including Churchill’s WWII memoirs. Not much stuck with me since I was too young to understand them completly, but some vignetes stuck. Like Churchil/Stalin discussion of what was likely to happen the their political carriers after the war, and how Stalin was confused and amused that Churchill full expected to be booted out of the office once the war was over even though ‘he won it’. To which S responds with ‘One Party, much better’.

    Next set of books I remember reading (I read a lot else but I don’t remember it much, Post apocalyptic spacefaring dogmatic Icelandians, Munar rebel base Earth ship battle and so on) was Lord of the Rings. And I really liked them. Also I think LOTR books were the first ones I actually got and did not rent or borrow. Af course me and LOTR got on splendidly, and I quite liked quirkiness and the myth of it. Once I read the main books I had to have more and I read the rest by Tolkien including Simarilion and I liked all of them.

    Maybe my LOTR reading would have remained only a excursion into fantasy if I didn’t get my hands on Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Thus began my love and later kind of meh relationship with Wheel of Time. I was a WoT fanatic for quite a while since it was my first introduction to online discussion and forums. I also liked the element of mystery and discussons about theories. Also since I knew a lot about it (mostly from reading a lot of other sites dedicated to WoT and not much through my own work) I become an unsufferable know it all moderator of that subforum. Also when I started reading books 1-10 were available in English but only first 3 or 4 were avilable in my language. So WoT become the first novels I read in another language. And let me tell you it wasn’t easy for someone living >500 km from nearest shop selling english literature to get them.
    Also it showed me how much translations can be flawed.
    Later on the serial draged on and I kind of lost active interest about book 11 (last one written by RJ himself) but still followed the serial to it’s conclusion by Brandon Sanderson (in book 14?).
    About the serial itself, it’s kind of standard fantasy trope of prophesied hero coming from a forgotten village and him and his childhood friends among others saving the world from a BIG BIG existential BAD. The first book has STRONG Tolkien influences of the the Fellowship of the Ring. What set this serial apart was that RJ was quite skilled worldbuilder (even though he did fail on some things quite hard), that wrote some memorable scenes and his world was inhabited by literaly hundreds of characters and for most he had detailed accounts of who they were and what motivations they had. This multitude of characters while commendable in the end bit him on the ass (with his often unnecessaryly long descriptions) and books got bloater and bloater because we had to account for all different factions and what they are doing about or in response to some events. For example book 10 was mostly responses of the dozens of factions to events in book 9 and setting up things for book 11.
    I would recommend it now that it has been completed if you can stand long descriptions and a bit tedious internal monologues that plague books 8-10. Also RJ could write good combat scenes (he had personal expirience from Vietnam what is it like being shot at with intention to kill) and his magic system rules based and quite interesting. Oh and this might be interesting in this world only women can be stable mages due to events 3000 years ago and the strongest political faction is composed of female mages.
    Oh great I spent a whole lot words talking about one group of books. Let’s see if I can break the post character limit.

    Now I will switch from chronological view to a more what strikes me as interesting to talk about, since I started to read a lot in English since WoT introduced me to the fact that you don’t need to buy physical book when you can pira . . . I mean legaly acquire e-books en bulk in English.
    Also one of my daily routines during colege/university/faculty (pick one you are familiar with) was going to a book store and browsing for interesting books after lunch. Than coming back to my room and wasting my time I should be studying by reading.

    For example I bought Hyperion and started reading it about 3pm and finally I was able to put it down ad 4 am. It was that good. Than I had less than 4 hours of sleep and went to classes.
    About Hyperion it is an awesome SF series that mashes all kinds of things in it including myths, SF tech making myths, adventure, time travel and so on. It’s also quite wierd in times and I liked that. Though at times in later books I felt lost and I did not agree with books stance on religion I quite liked it. But first book is still the best of them.

    I guess I must mention Brandon Sanderson since right now he is my favourite writter. As Retsam mentioned he is an excellent world builder and his magic systems are ussually fully explored and have well defined rules available to the readers. This prevents him from “pulling deus ex machina” whenever writer wants since there is not too much mystery in magic. There might be rules reader might not know at some point but by the end you will learn all of them, or enough to intuit those you don’t know.
    Also further more nearly all his stories are in single verse with different serials happening on different “planets”. There is not much travel between worlds allthough some verse traveling characters do pop up as easter eggs and as an hint at what might be happening in the verse overall. Also while diffferent planets have diferent magic systems some rules are universal.
    So if you like clear rules in fantasy, and mysterious new worlds to explore I do recommend it.
    Also Brandon is quite skilled at writing and inserting funny and sarcastic dialogue into his works (a plus big one in my book) and is an AMAIZING action writer. His fight scenes are amaizing.

    Discwolrd by Terry Prachet. As you might guess I adore Discworld for it’s humor allthough I don’t remember why I picked up the first book. The covers certanly do not do it justice. But Discworld books arent simply funny books in fantastic setting, they also explore and often subvert tropes of fantasy books. But it doesn’t stop there Discworld is a wierd reflection of our world with many things or institutions from our world as seen through magic. That lets Prachet explore deeper things like for example formation of our universe, morality and stuff. So it has both humor for people easily amused like myself and highbrow stuff in a shiny and interesting covers.

    1633 verse by Eric Flint and other alt history fiction (Turtledove I guess, never read him). While these are not works of high art and they have their own problems (often Mary Sueness of the main character/civilization) they do rather good job of believably presenting people of different time periods and explaining why humans with same basic needs wants and pretty same base morals would do things strange to us. They largely humanise people from different historical eras in our eyes. Also these books are often well researched and contain many interesting devices and are thus similar to technotrilers only here the showcase are old tehnologies. As I said I have my own problems with these series, but first fiew intoductory books are often fun.

    David Gemel – since only one person mentioned his books I will say The Legend, the first book of his Drenai saga was the only book that I know of to make me cry. The man had a talent of writing heroes larger than life giving them impossible goals and than making their potintial sacrifices awesome and awesomly sad at the same time.

    Okay, I think I blew past the marker for 10 books by now, So I’ll just list some other writers that I like:

    – Lois McMaster Bujold
    – David Webber – while he suffers form many same problems as the rest of the Baen writers he does avoid many traps of Amerocentrism and he does write excellent technothriler military SF novels.
    – Jack Campbell – another writer of excellent military SF (what can I say I’m a sucker for big explosions).
    – Sandy Mitchell and his Caiphas Can series of novels set in Warhammer 40k, this time with a humorous twist.
    – John Scalzy – If I hadn’t wasted my time on other formative books I would talk more about these, but trust me read Old Man’s War or Redshirts and you won’t regret it.
    – Ryk E. Spoor – His Grand Central Arena series is quite interesting. He deliberatly set the rules of his world to allow for greater than life heroes from old fiction. In fact couple of the characters are in story genetically built to be Han Solos, Shatners and such. Have a go at Grand Central Arena it’s a relatively hard SF with a twist.

    Okay I bored you long enough I’m signing off.

  54. jawlz says:

    Hah, I partook in this meme myself, so I can just copy-paste! Kind of an interesting exercise in that you’re asked to think of books that have been influential to you, as opposed to your ‘top ten favorites’ or the like. As I said at the end, I would have liked to include “Soul of a New Machine,” but ultimately didn’t find it that influential *in my own life*. That said, I would recommend it very, very highly, especially to this crowd.


    Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

    A River Runs Through It (Maclean)
    Meditations (Aurelius)
    Remains of the Day (Ishiguro)
    Lila (Pirsig)
    History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides)
    On Liberty (Mill)
    Chicago Manual of Style (various)
    Federalist Papers (Madison, Hamilton, Jay)
    Walden (Thoreau)
    Finite and Infinite Games (Carse)

    The list would probably change a bit if I were home where I could look through the bookshelves. Also, I’m limiting this to books I have read; I have no doubt that some books I haven’t read have had a larger overall impact on my life (i.e. all the religious books, some of the denser economic books, scientific/mathematics works, etc) by virtue of having been tremendously influential on a world-wide level.

    Also, had a hard time choosing a work of Plato, so he was sadly omitted, but he would be in the list if I had been able to settle on any one work. I also feel like “Soul of a New Machine (Kidder)” should be on there, but I’m not sure how influential it’s been on my life.

  55. Goblin says:

    Ok, let’s see if I can manage 10 sci-fi books to recommend that haven’t already been mentioned. This’ll be harder since y’all have covered a lot of my favorites…

    1. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
    Seriously, how have y’all not mentioned anything by these authors yet? Anyway, this is a classic first contact novel.

    2. Armor by John Steakly
    I’m grasping for a way to describe this well. A book version of Aliens? Catch-22 in space? Read it and let me know!

    3. Cyteen by C.J Cherryh
    Another author I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned yet. This is an amazing study of cloning and politics.

    4. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
    A bit dated at this point, but still a good book. And now also a fascinating look at what today was expected to be like in the 1960’s.

    5. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
    I suspect most of you have read this already (or seen the movie based on it), but if not you really should. It’s a classic story about… well… a lot of things, but fundamentally the relationship between intelligence and emotion.

    6. The Torch of Honor by Roger Macbride Allen
    A desperate last hope rebellion against overwhelming force. Kinda the sf version of Legend (the book, not the movie).

    7. The Long Run by Daniel Keyes Moran
    Your introduction to Trent the Uncatchable. I’ll leave it at that.

    8. An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews
    A book about a torturer, written so that you will sympathize with him.

    9. The Final Reflection by John M. Ford
    A Star Trek novel that’s really a cold war spy story. Set about 40? years before the original Star Trek TV series, so hardly any Kirk/Spock/McCoy.

    10. Crap, 10 already? Umm… The Complete LaNague by F. Paul Wilson (specifically An Enemy of the State, although the other books included are also good).
    A (very) simplified version of macroeconomics used as a tool for revolution.

    And now I’m going to go read Torch of Honor again…

  56. Zak McKracken says:

    That Bastiat book makes me want to debate politics very hard.
    I think some parts of it can be debated but on the whole it explains what I like to call the second law of politics (the complexity of law and what it concerns will always grow unless energy is used to keep it from doing so), although I think I have spotted a fallacy or two.

    The only thing (Shamus, feel free to remove this if you think it’s too political, though I’d be super-interested to know your opinion*) I directly don’t like is the translations’s foreword’s use of “socialist”. If anyone in the 1980s would have done that, I’d have concluded that they’re holding the map of Europe the wrong way round. When Bastiat wrote the text, democracy was a new thing and pretty extreme concepts were considered quite seriously, such as the stuff that eventually happened to the Soviet Union and the rest of the “Eastern Block”. I can tell from first hand accounts (having grown up in western Germany, having family on the other side of the iron curtain) that there’s a huge difference between “let’s have the state help people with no income” and proper socialism. Both can be debated but please stop equating them, everyone.

    *you have my mail

  57. Ravenred says:

    Something I’d throw in is Ben Aaronovitch’s Urban Fantasty Rivers of London series. They’re a bit shambolic in terms of plot, but are some of the wittiest and densest writing I’ve seen, crammed with massive amounts of Pop Culture references, an elegant and easily understood scheme of magic embedded police procedurals.

    It’s not in my top ten yet, but I’ve compulsively reread the four current books in the series, which is a good harbinger for their long-term status.

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