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.
- Lord of the Rings. If not for this, then I wouldn’t have made the webcomic that caused me to change careers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A Fire Upon The Deep: Bit of a slog, but it was packed with ideas and aliens that felt genuinely alien.
- 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.
- Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Still quoting it 30 years after the first time I read it.
- 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.
- 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.
 And they all read the blog, so…
 I doubt I could keep up with Alan Turing in a conversation. Although it would be fun to try.
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