Your Top 10 influential books? Here are mine …

Your Top 10 influential books? Here are mine …

One of the side benefits of recuperating from my recent surgery has been long blocs of reading time.  I got four thick books as get-well gifts (including Douglas Brinkley’s “Wilderness Warrior,” about Teddy Roosevelt, from staff) and right now I’m plowing through an amazing book called “Citizens of London” by Lynne Olson. I  heard a book review on NPR and was intrigued. It is about an unsung hero, a former governor of New Hampshire who succeeds Joseph P. Kennedy as Ambassador to Great Britain at the outbreak of World War II, and how he helped gain American support for the war and the British people.

I’ve been hearing about the blogosphere’s interest in people’s subjective list of Top 10 Influential Books.  Since my office includes the State Library and I have gained a reputation as being quite a reader, my staff asked me to compile a list of 10 books that have made a big impact on me and my view of the world, about what leadership looks like and what lessons we can learn from history.

My degrees were in political science and history, and most of my adult career has been in state and local government, so it won’t surprise you that my favorite titles all deal with historical biographies, books about great leaders and great periods in our history, like civil rights, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Constitutional Convention.  These books are all in my personal collection at my office in the Capitol, a daily reminder of the perspective and context I get from history.  The central lesson I’ve drawn is that you try to discern what the right thing to do is, and then do it, rather than always try to figure out the political consequences.  Great books can give us wonderful lessons on leadership and political craftsmanship.  We should never stop learning.

So my list, in no particular order, are:

1. John Adams, by David McCullough.

2. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

3. Washington Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer

4. A Wilderness so Immense, by Jon Kukla

5. Eisenhower, by Geoffrey Perret

6. FDR, by Jean Edward Smith

7. A Matter of Justice, by David Nichols.

8. Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin

9. The Summer of 1787, David Stewart

10. Lincoln, David Donald

What are your most influential books?  Please share your list by using the comment button.  And happy reading!

28 thoughts on “Your Top 10 influential books? Here are mine …

  1. So many books, so little time. As a voracious reader from age 5 on, it’s hard to pick a relative handful of books that have really stuck with me. Lots of fiction, some poetry, psychology and theology, tons of non-fiction. I usually have at least three or four books going.

    So here’s a top-of-the-head list in no particular order:

    1. Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl
    2. I and Thou, Martin Buber
    3. The Bible
    4. Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Casteneda
    5. Denial of Death, Ernest Becker
    6. Seven Storey Mountain and many titles by Thomas Merton
    7. Anything by Anne Lamott
    8. Earth House Hold and anything by Gary Snyder
    9. Don Quixote, Cervantes
    10. Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard

    second 10 would start with fiction by Pat Conroy and David Guterson, little self-help books by Richard Carlson and Melody Beattie, The Odyssey, Markings by Dag Hammarskjold, A. Lincoln by Ronald White Jr., and whatever I’m reading at the moment!

  2. I usually hate these bloggy memes, but this one looks like fun:

    1. Walden, or, Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau
    2. The Compleat Backpacker, Colin Fletcher
    3. Roughing It, Mark Twain
    4. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
    5. Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin
    6. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll
    7. The European and the Indian, James Axtell
    8. Manitou and Providence, Neal Salisbury
    9. Jesse James, Last Rebel of the Civil War, T. J. Stiles
    10. Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, Larry Cebula

    (Kidding about that last one!)

  3. 1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson
    2. The Human Comedy by William Saroyan
    3. Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus
    4. In Dreams Begin Responsibiltlies by Delmore Schwartz
    5. Call of the Wild by Jack London
    6. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
    7. Adventures in the Skin Trade by Dylan Thomas
    8. Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
    9. Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo by Oscar Zeta Acosta
    10. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield by Robert Benchley

  4. I am an avid reader. I ready at least 3 books a month. I have many, many favorites but these are the ones that have meaning to me.

    1. The Hobbit or there and back again. By JRR Tolkien. It was published in 1937 but he
    wrote it before this for his children. I read this and the Lord of the Ring Trilogy at least
    once every seven years. My high school speech teacher turned me onto them in 969.
    2.– 4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. By JRR Tolkien. I love these books.
    5. To Kill a mockingbird. By Harper Lee. Again a book I first read in high school for a
    book report. This book opened my eyes to another world.
    6.– 12. All of the Harry Potter books. By JK Rowling. This series of books I read with my
    granddaughter, Graycee (now 17 years old). I bought us each a copy. Then we would
    read the book and sit and discuss it. I have wonderful memories of these times. She is
    an avid reader too. She was only 7 when she read the first novel and now she reads
    almost anything but her favorite is non-fiction—history.

    As you can tell, my favorite books have meaning to me. I will read any genre and I am in a book club that keeps expanding my love or reading and books.

  5. Without thinking too much about it, here’s my top ten list.

    The Bible
    If on a winter’s night a traveler – Italo Calvino
    Foucault’s Pendelum – Umberto Eco
    Tess of the d’Ubervilles – Thomas Hardy
    Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman
    Gambara – Balzac
    Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
    The Moviegoer – Walker Percy
    Do androids dream of electric sheep – Philip Dick
    1984 – George Orwell

    If I had to add more it would include more Hardy, Eco and Calvino, lots of historical fiction (Ian Pears, Robert Graves), some biographies, theology by C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright. I’ll make my wife happy and say I might even include Jane Austen. 🙂

  6. Hmmm tough one. I read a lot, mainly for pleasure. This is a strange set probably, some have changed my life, others have introduced me to series of books (or genres) that I’ve enjoyed over the years.

    Anyway, here they are

    The Book of Mormon
    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
    Foundation (really the whole trilogy)
    The Peter Principle
    Fit or Fat (although you wouldn’t know it by seeing me now!)
    Jubal Sackett (not my favorite, but the first of MANY Louis L’Amour books)
    Believing Christ
    The Fellowship of the Ring (I really like the trilogy much better than The Hobbit)
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (indeed, all of the Chronicles)
    The Miracle of Forgiveness

    #11 would be The Wheel of Time, which started me on the remarkable, and still not-quite-finished series by Robert Jordan (and now Brandon Sanderson).

  7. I have had many “phases” in my reading, from biographies and historical accounts to self help and fiction. Some of them left an indelible mark on me and others didn’t touch me. Like everything else in my life, my reading taste is eclectic and yet simple. Many of my favorite reads have been mentioned by others, but when I sat down and really thought about the books that had some kind of effect on me, here are the first ten that came to mind:

    Phenomen of Man by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin
    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    Me by Katherine Hepburn
    Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlum
    Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
    Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
    Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
    Old Jules by Mari Sandoz
    My Life by Golda Meir
    The Poetry of Robert Frost, by Robert Frost

  8. In no particular order:
    1. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
    2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter Thompson
    3. Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
    4. Friday – Robert Heinlein
    5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
    6. Coral Comes High – George Hunt
    7. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain
    8. Time Enough for Love – Robert Heinlein
    9. The entire Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
    10. Vampire Congress – L. N. Pierce

  9. Most inspirational:

    1. Miss Rumphius – Barbara Cooney
    2. After the Ecstasy, the Laundry – Jack Kornfield
    3. The Art of Happiness – the Dalai Lama
    4. Encountering God – Diana Eck
    5. The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo
    6. Loving What Is – Byron Katie
    7. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
    8. The Bible
    9. Inner Revolution – Robert Thurman
    10. The Sufi Book of Life – Neil Douglas-Klotz

    Less inspirational, but close-to-my-heart favorites include…Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy by Sigrid Undset, The Young Visiters [sic] by Daisy Ashford, Olivia by Ian Falconer, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, and the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

  10. excellent memo and Top 11 list from Nick Handy, your state elections director:

    “Every once in a while I will get on a jag like a few years ago I read a half dozen Hemingway novels, then a bunch of Normal Mailer novels.

    I read mysteries on airplanes, probably about a dozen a year.

    I love Ivan Doig and have read most of his books.

    My favorite authors in college were J.P. Donleavy,J.D. Salinger, and Kurt Vonnegut.

    I read the NYer faithfully for about 25 years but have not been reading it lately.

    I was on a biography jag about five years ago and read the biography of William Randolph Hurst, Katherine Graham, Gertrude Bell, Jacqueline Kennedy.

    I am not much on political history or even politics, although I thought the story of LBJ in Caro’s “Path to Power” was pretty amazing.

    My list would look something like the following, mostly from 40 years ago.

    The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B–J.P Donleavy

    The Saddest Summer of Samuel S–J.P. Donleavy

    The Ginger Man–J.P. Donleavy

    Franny and Zooey–J.D.Salinger

    Catcher in the Rye–J.D. Salinger

    Dancing at the Rascal Fair–Ivan Doig

    Winter Brothers–Ivan Doig

    Slaughterhouse–Five–Kurt Vonnegut

    The Naked and the Dead–Norman Mailer

    The Agony and the Ecstasy–Irving Stone

    For Whom the Bell Tolls–Hemingway

  11. Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve actually FINISHED a book, and I don’t always remember the context of the book, but the ones that stuck in my head are:
    Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
    A Wrinkle in Time
    All the biographies contained in the elementary school library
    Lord of the Flies (which I read with my 13-year old daughter)
    Twilight (again, another recent read with my daughter – but really not too terrible!)
    Boy Scout handbook (I was jealous of my older brothers being able to do all that fun boy stuff)
    Small Sacrifies (Ann Rule’s book about Diane Downs)
    Lord of the Rings trilogy

  12. Ideas, A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud, by Peter Watson
    The Poems of E.E. Cummings
    The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell
    In The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
    Silence, by John Cage
    Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, by Susan Jacoby
    The Archaeology of Knowledge, by Michel Foucault
    Omensetter’s Luck, by William Gass
    What to Listen For in Music, by Aaron Copeland
    The Master and Margerita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

    It puts me over ten, but I would also add many others like Melville (Bartleby the Scrivener in particular), Angela Carter, Neal Stephenson, Italo Calvino, J.L. Borges, Ishmael Reed, Ivan Doig, James David Duncan, or Samuel Beckett. Tolkien, Classic myth, comics and any of Dr. Seuss’ or Shel Siverstein’s books for “kids” would figure largely into my childhood.

  13. Now you’ve gone and distracted me, anyway, so I’ll take a crack at a top-10 list!:

    The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut

    The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

    The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover

    Summer of ’49, David Halberstam

    Lamb, Christopher Moore

    Cosmos, Carl Sagan

    Seeing in the Dark, Timothy Ferris

    The Associated Press Stylebook

    Lord of the Rings, Tolkien

    Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins

  14. 1 Beloved, Toni Morrison
    2 In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
    3 Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
    4 The Good Earth, Pearl Buck
    5 Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
    6 As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
    7 Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
    8 Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
    9 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
    10 The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman

  15. Sam was emailed this list by Jim DiPeso and would like to share it with y’all:

    What a great idea!

    Here is my quick-and-dirty Top 10 of books about leadership, politics, American culture, and lessons that we can learn from history.

    Lincoln: A Novel, by Gore Vidal
    Theodore Rex, by Edmund Morris
    Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, by Douglas Brinkley
    The Making of the Popes, 1978, by Andrew Greeley
    The Powers That Be, by David Halberstam
    Ike, by Michael Korda
    Wilderness and the American Mind, by Rod Nash
    Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
    The Second World War, by Winston Churchill
    Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    And, just for fun, the best trashy political novel I’ve ever read: Dark Horse, by Fletcher Knebel

  16. My Top 10:
    Catch 22, Joseph Heller
    Their Finest Hour, Winston S. Churchill
    No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
    Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, Hunter S. Thompson
    Human Smoke, The Beginning of World War II, The End of Civilization, Nicholson Baker
    Wait Til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Theodore Rex, Edmund Morris
    The Last Wilderness, Murray Morgan
    Lake Woebegone Days, Garrison Keillor
    P.S.: If you read only one book this year — besides “Booth Who?”; shamless plug for a coming attraction — make it “Human Smoke.” It’s incredible.

  17. Wow, everyone’s list is so cerebral! Well, almost everyone’s. 🙂

    I’ve constantly got my nose in a book, but I read mostly fiction as reading is my method of escape and relaxation. I go through books so fast that if they’re especially good, I’ll keep them and read them again in a year or two and it will be like reading them for the first time. My husband enjoys historical non-fiction so I’ll occasionally read something about Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or some other historical figure that made a huge impact in our society. Some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Jodi Picoult, Jonathon Kellerman, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs and Michael Crichton and my preferred genre is mystery thriller.

    Half of my list I first read when I was very young and have re-read again and again over the years. The second half are more recent reads that especially touched me.

    1. The Bible
    2. Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz
    3. The Abandoned by Paul Gallico
    4. The Hobbit
    5. The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven of them)
    6. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
    7. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
    8. My Life in France by Julia Child
    9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (I cried through the entire last chapter)
    10. Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

  18. Okay, I’ll take a whack at this – I learn by stories so there’s a lot of fiction – this was actually a tough list to come up with!

    1. The Bible – especially the Old Testament (more stories, messier, less theology)
    2. The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
    3. The Trojan Women by Euripides
    4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
    5. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    6. Walking on Water: Reflection on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle
    7. Shantung Compound by Langdon Gilkey (a study of westerners in an internment camp in China during WWII)
    8. Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King
    9. Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison (set in modern Tibet -in form it’s a mystery, but is far more about the clash between China and Tibet)
    10. Death comes for the Fat Man by Reginald Hill (actually the whole Dalziel and Pascoe series – good writing & marvelous characters in some rather messy ethical situations)

  19. Here are mine, in no specific order

    The Bible
    From the Browder File: 22 Essays on the African American Experience by Anthony T. Browder
    Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun by Reginald Lewis with Blair S. Walker
    How to Succeed in Business Without Being White by Earl G. Graves
    The Pact by Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Remeck Hunt with Lisa Frazier Page
    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
    The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr. and Clayborne Carson

    Hector Quiroga

  20. I’m a big fan of fiction…

    1. A Prayer for Owen Meany- John Irving
    2. Ender’s Game (series)- Orson Scott Card
    3. Harry Potter (series)- J.K. Rowling
    4. Heart of Darkness- Joseph Conrad
    5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    6. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
    7. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
    8. The Joy-Luck Club- Amy Tan
    9. Lord of the Flies- William Golding
    10. Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe

  21. What marvelous titles on this topic! But I must begin my subjective list from the beginning of novels that influenced me (I prefer non-fiction)

    1. Dr Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg
    2. Pippi Longstocking
    3. Little Women
    4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith – my all-time favorite
    5. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    6. Black boy, by Richard Wright
    7. Grapes of wrath, by John Steinbeck
    8. Book of Ecclesiastes
    9. She’s come undone, by Wally Lamb
    10. This much I know, by Wally Lamb

  22. While I was in hospital I worked my way through the complete works of William Shakespeare so that my number 1
    2: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
    3: Messiah – Boris Starling
    4: Anything by Kathy Reichs
    5: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    6: The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien
    7: The Others – James Herbert
    8: The Master Key System – Charles Haanel
    9 and 10 are reserved for anything that keeps my son happy, he’s 19months old and well if it keeps him entertained I’m happy 🙂

  23. This is from Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell:

    My Top 10:

    The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
    Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
    The Bible
    Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    The Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Madison, Jay et al
    John Adams by David McCullough
    Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
    Warriors of God, James Reston Jr

  24. Fiction:
    100 Years of Solitude – Garcia Marquez of Love in the Time of Cholera
    Franny and Zooey – Salinger or Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenter
    Sometimes A Great Notion – Kesey or Sailor’s Song (although I confess that I can pick up Kesey and start reading anywhere and be totally lost in his words instantly regardless of the story)
    The Sun Also Rises – Hemmingway or For Whom the Bell Tolls
    The Past Master – Lafferty
    A Canticle for Lebowitz – Miller
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Heinlien or Time Enough for Love
    The Ballroom of the Skies – John D. MacDonald or Wine Of The Dreamers
    Lord of the Rings
    Harry Potter

  25. These are some of my favorites – in no particular order:

    Ken Kesey – Sometimes a Great Notion
    John Steinbeck – Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat
    H. G. Wells – The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau
    Hunter S. Thompson – Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
    Nikita – Khrushchev Memoirs
    J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Vincent Bugliosi – Helter Skelter
    William S. Burroughs – Naked Lunch
    Mario Puzo – The Godfather
    Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front

  26. I am surprised that very few people have actualy included any personal self development books and my belief is that all schools should teach some if not all of the following books.
    Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
    Character – Building Thought Power – Ralph Waldo Trine
    Mastery of Self – Frank Channing Haddock
    As A Man Thinketh – James Allen
    Self Development – L.W. Rogers
    Success – Max Aitkin Beaverbrook
    The Art and Science of Personal Magnetism – Theron Q Dumont
    The Way of Peace – James Allen
    Why Worry – George Lincoln Walton
    Within You Is the Power – Henry Thomas Hamblin
    The MAster Key System

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