21 votes

What are the most influential books to you?

I'm young, I'm looking to understand more ways of looking at the world. What books do you recommend people to read that had profound impacts on your world outlook, character, or anything else like that. Future me says thank you.

Edit List (Books listed so far by Title):
"Accelerando" by Charles Stross
"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
"A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn
"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson
"Brave New World" by Huxley
"Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software" by Charles Petzold
"Collected Fictions" by Jorge Luis Borges
"Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky
"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick
"Don Quixote" by Cervantes
"Daughters of the Dragons" by William Andrews
"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
"Fragile Things" by Neil Gaiman
"Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas R. Hofstadter
"Great Books" by David Denby
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams
"History of Violence" By Édouard Louis
"Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie
"Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn
"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami
"Maus" by Art Spiegelman
"Naked Economics" by Charles Wheelan
"Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
"Neuromancer" by William Gibson
"Paid Attention" by Faris Yakob
"Personality-Shaping Through Positive Disintegration Processes" by Kazimierz Dąbrowski
"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari
"Shogun" by James Clavell
"Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut
"Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu
"Tales of Power" by Carlos Castaneda
"Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science" by Peter Godfrey-Smith
"The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins
"The Bible" by :contentious_topic_here:
"The End of Eddy" By Édouard Louis
"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"The Lucifer Effect" by Philip Zimbardo
"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes
"The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins
"The Singularity Is Near" by Ray Kurzweill
"The Stranger" by Camus
"The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff
"The Three-Body Problem Trilogy" by Cixin Liu
"Where Mathematics Comes From" by Lakoff and Nunez
"Where I'm Calling From" by Raymond Carver
"1984" by George Orwell

36 comments

  1. [3]
    Catt Link
    Might be a bit cliché - 1984 (Orwell) Also, The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)

    Might be a bit cliché - 1984 (Orwell)

    Also, The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      Dot Link Parent
      The Handmaid's Tale is that TV/Web show right? Is the book truly better?

      The Handmaid's Tale is that TV/Web show right? Is the book truly better?

      1. Catt Link Parent
        I've only read the book, so I can't really say, but I heard the TV series follows quite well.

        I've only read the book, so I can't really say, but I heard the TV series follows quite well.

  2. [2]
    eyybby Link
    The Stranger by Camus, Brave New World by Huxley and How to Win Friends and Influence People. All for different reasons but all have influenced my thinking in a serious way.

    The Stranger by Camus, Brave New World by Huxley and How to Win Friends and Influence People. All for different reasons but all have influenced my thinking in a serious way.

    4 votes
    1. captain_cardinal Link Parent
      The Stranger was so haunting for me. I feel like it really drained some of my naive optimism about the world.

      The Stranger was so haunting for me. I feel like it really drained some of my naive optimism about the world.

      1 vote
  3. [2]
    Chopincakes Link
    Hmm... do you mean influential in that they changed how we see the world, or influential in that they defined what we like in a book/genre? For the first question, I'd suggest "A Short History of...

    Hmm... do you mean influential in that they changed how we see the world, or influential in that they defined what we like in a book/genre?

    For the first question, I'd suggest "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson; "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn; "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn; and/or "1984" by George Orwell. All of them have a very important significance in how I understand the world.

    For the latter question, I've personally re-inspired my love of literature, and therefore, have greatly improved my enjoyment in life by reading books like "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami, "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss, and/or just reading and learning more about poets and poetry.

    3 votes
    1. Dot Link Parent
      Probably the first question but both are important; and thanks ill add them to the list.

      Probably the first question but both are important; and thanks ill add them to the list.

      1 vote
  4. [5]
    DonQuixote Link
    Here are a few that influenced me: Tales of Power - Carlos Castaneda (this masterful prose "non-fiction" author been called a fraud which fits in with his concept of a Sorcerer) Shogun - James...

    Here are a few that influenced me:

    Tales of Power - Carlos Castaneda (this masterful prose "non-fiction" author been called a fraud which fits in with his concept of a Sorcerer)

    Shogun - James Clavell (showed me that different cultures can be very different)

    Tao Te Ching - (as an alternative to the Bible)

    The Bible - (as an alternative to Taoism)

    Great Books - David Denby (for slackers like me that didn't have time to read the Classic Canon)

    The Singularity Is Near - Ray Kurzweill (maybe it isn't, but the concept is intriguing and also the premise for Accelerando by Charles Stross)

    The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt (a favorite Dutch painter of mine as the premise for a prize-winning novel)

    The Three Body Problem Trilogy - Cixin Liu (given enough time, the most heroic actions can be trivialized or vilified, the ultimate lesson in political correctness)

    Where Mathematics Comes From - Lakoff and Nunez (to me, this controversial book has implications for General Artificial Intelligence)

    Don Quixote - Cervantes (classic and also reminiscent of Alzheimer's Disease, to me at least, not to mention metafiction and metaphysics)

    Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges (the man was the Library)

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      ajar Link Parent
      +1 Borges, great ideas and fantastic writing. And also for the Tao Te Qing, a completely different way of understanding existence. Although hard to grasp.

      +1 Borges, great ideas and fantastic writing.

      And also for the Tao Te Qing, a completely different way of understanding existence. Although hard to grasp.

      1. [3]
        DonQuixote Link Parent
        You have to read around the Tao a lot to get a feel for it. Castaneda does that some with his discussion of the Tonal and the Nagual in Tales of Power. So does Alan Watts, who had a book I can't...

        You have to read around the Tao a lot to get a feel for it. Castaneda does that some with his discussion of the Tonal and the Nagual in Tales of Power. So does Alan Watts, who had a book I can't find now, Tao: The Watercourse Way. Basically it's like Fight Club, except instead of We Don't Talk About Fight Club, it's more We Can't talk about Tao.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          ajar Link Parent
          Cool, I'll check it out. I have a bad feeling about Castaneda for some reason. I used to see his books around as a kid and it always seemed to me very... sensationalist. Also I recommend you read...

          Cool, I'll check it out.

          I have a bad feeling about Castaneda for some reason. I used to see his books around as a kid and it always seemed to me very... sensationalist.

          Also I recommend you read Blindsight if you haven't yet. It's one of my favorite books and it's free (check that link for downloads).

          1. DonQuixote Link Parent
            Looking at Blindsight now. Castaneda isn't for everybody, and his first book is only interesting as background as far as I'm concerned. His Magical Realism gets going in the second book, takes off...

            Looking at Blindsight now. Castaneda isn't for everybody, and his first book is only interesting as background as far as I'm concerned. His Magical Realism gets going in the second book, takes off in Journey to Ixtlan, and comes to a sort of completion in Tales of Power.

            His concept of perception as a bubble continues to be of use to me today, as does the idea of a 'gloss' (discussed in interviews). A gloss is a particular world-view that one intuitively knows not to be absolute, but puts on as a second skin for various reasons. But in putting it on, that view becomes one's reality, unlike a philosophy, which remains an intellectual concept.

            I believe he got the concept of a gloss from one of his sociology professors, and that's probably a source of its inherent relativism, to be used as a term for the world-view of this or that culture.

            1 vote
  5. [5]
    aleph Link
    Influential in showing a future I want parts of and driving in my career today, then I'd have to list Accelerando by Charles Stross.

    Influential in showing a future I want parts of and driving in my career today, then I'd have to list Accelerando by Charles Stross.

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      ajar Link Parent
      Tough read, though. But I liked it. I remember Stross saying on reddit that he didn't agree with that vision anymore.

      Tough read, though. But I liked it. I remember Stross saying on reddit that he didn't agree with that vision anymore.

      1. [3]
        aleph Link Parent
        Eyep, he doesn't agree with it at all anymore and I can't blame that. Neither do I entirely, but I do think certain bits in the beginning would be mighty neat.

        Eyep, he doesn't agree with it at all anymore and I can't blame that. Neither do I entirely, but I do think certain bits in the beginning would be mighty neat.

        1. [2]
          ajar Link Parent
          Do you know in which sense he doesn't agree with it? (I meant, i thought it strange that he agreed to it at some point)

          Do you know in which sense he doesn't agree with it? (I meant, i thought it strange that he agreed to it at some point)

          1. aleph Link Parent
            I don't remember offhandedly however let me shoot him a message. Then I'll let you know.

            I don't remember offhandedly however let me shoot him a message. Then I'll let you know.

            1 vote
  6. Crespyl Link
    I read Douglass Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach" religiously during my middle-school to early high school years. I must've read it something like five times in a row, and an uncountable number...

    I read Douglass Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach" religiously during my middle-school to early high school years. I must've read it something like five times in a row, and an uncountable number of re-reads over the years.

    I was a voracious reader and went looking for the biggest books in my Dad's library. The one with the coolest cover won out, and that was that. At first I really didn't understand much outside of the cool Escher prints and funny dialogues between sections, but as I got older I slowly understood more and more. I credit that book with shaping how I think about the world, my interest in formal systems, chaotic interactions, math, fractals, computers, semantics and wordplay.

    His ability to relate things as seemingly distinct as Rubix's cube solving, Godel's incompleteness theorem, "typographical number theory", and the difficulty of translating puns never ceases to delight, and left an indelible mark on my impressionable adolescent brain.

    2 votes
  7. [2]
    silva-rerum Link
    It depends on your pre-existing knowledge of the domains they cover, but these were sparks that led to further illumination for me: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral...
    2 votes
    1. ajar Link Parent
      I was looking for something after Sapiens, I think there are some good suggestions here. Thanks.

      I was looking for something after Sapiens, I think there are some good suggestions here. Thanks.

      1 vote
  8. mat Link
    The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. One of those "buy two copies to lend one and keep one" kinda books.

    The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. One of those "buy two copies to lend one and keep one" kinda books.

    1 vote
  9. Dot Link
    I forgot to say that my book to recommend to anyone would probably be "Naked Economics," I feel more millennials need to read this.

    I forgot to say that my book to recommend to anyone would probably be "Naked Economics," I feel more millennials need to read this.

    1 vote
  10. [2]
    Squeaky Link
    I actually enjoyed and hated the Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. It's not so much a narrative or story-driven book but its more along the lines of a self-reflection on tragedy and "evil" as...

    I actually enjoyed and hated the Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. It's not so much a narrative or story-driven book but its more along the lines of a self-reflection on tragedy and "evil" as seen by the author. As with anything covering real world events, you'll likely find most of the content despicable in nature; a few points of reference are the rape of Rwanda and Nanking, the holocaust, and the Stanford prison experiments.

    The book itself gives an objective view on evil and the idea that anyone is capable of it.

    1 vote
    1. Chopincakes Link Parent
      Man, I can't get into Phil Zimbardo. As someone who studied and now works in the Psych field, the dude biased the Stanford Prison experiment in such a blatant way by telling the guards to be...

      Man, I can't get into Phil Zimbardo. As someone who studied and now works in the Psych field, the dude biased the Stanford Prison experiment in such a blatant way by telling the guards to be sadistic. But I will say that there is a lot of truth in the atrocities that people are able to commit for a number of different psychological reasons. He also fucked up the heads of a lot of his participants and there are a few of them with severe depression/anxiety as a lasting effect of his study.

      Which, in a very meta way, goes to prove his point that seemingly normal people can do really horrible, unethical shit.

  11. space_cowboy (edited ) Link
    The Ancestor's Tale, which is a book which traces our genetic history, from humanity as we know it, all the way back past the Cambrian explosion to the cutting edge research (at the time) into...

    The Ancestor's Tale, which is a book which traces our genetic history, from humanity as we know it, all the way back past the Cambrian explosion to the cutting edge research (at the time) into life's nascence. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who has some sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

    Daughters of the Dragon which is about a young woman during the Japanese invasion of Korea. Warning: this book gets really rough.

    A People's History of the United States, which I have only read part of, to be honest.

    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

    Where I'm Calling From By Raymond Carver

    and of course, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quintilogy. I wish Douglas Adams hadn't died.

    1 vote
  12. thepopcornator Link
    Honestly, I really enjoyed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's a very quick read and I personally enjoyed how the main character, Ender, dealt with and lead his peers throughout the entire...

    Honestly, I really enjoyed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's a very quick read and I personally enjoyed how the main character, Ender, dealt with and lead his peers throughout the entire book. I thought it was an interesting take on kid geniuses.

    1 vote
  13. emit Link
    I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut in my teenage years and it directly influenced huge changes in the way I viewed reality, free will and war at the time. Great book and also a pretty...

    I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut in my teenage years and it directly influenced huge changes in the way I viewed reality, free will and war at the time. Great book and also a pretty quick read too.

    1 vote
  14. spinzer0 Link
    Book of the Dead ? ~ -1550 Illiad Homer ~ end of 8th Odyssey Homer ~ end of 8th Fables Aesop ~ - 620 - 554 Poetics Aristotle -335 Republic Plato -380 Bardo Thödol ?Padmasambhava ~ 8th Divine...

    Book of the Dead ? ~ -1550

    Illiad Homer ~ end of 8th

    Odyssey Homer ~ end of 8th

    Fables Aesop ~ - 620 - 554

    Poetics Aristotle -335

    Republic Plato -380

    Bardo Thödol ?Padmasambhava ~ 8th

    Divine Comedy Dante 1320

    The Prince Machiavel 1513

    Leviathan Hobbes 1651

    Ethics Spinoza 1677

    Le contrat social Rousseau 1762

    Faust Goethe 1832

    Les fleurs du mal Baudelaire 1857

    On the Origin of Species Darwin 1859

    Capital vol1 Marx 1867

    God and the state Mikhail Bakunin 1882

    Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie Einstein 1916

    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein 1921

    Player Piano Vonnegut 1952

    Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury 1953

    Treatise of the Three Impostors ? ?

    Traité d'atheologie Onfray 2005

    1 vote
  15. appa Link
    The most influential books for me were the Harry Potter series because they got me into reading in the first place. I loved them so much and read them many many times. All subsequent books were...

    The most influential books for me were the Harry Potter series because they got me into reading in the first place. I loved them so much and read them many many times. All subsequent books were bonuses as a result of this.

    1 vote
  16. satotake Link
    Flowers for Algernon By Daniel Keyes

    Flowers for Algernon By Daniel Keyes

    1 vote
  17. SaucedButLeaking (edited ) Link
    Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett -- it's a seriously funny (if you can dig British humor) book that examines fatalism in a manner that heavily shaped my theology A Clockwork Orange by...

    Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett -- it's a seriously funny (if you can dig British humor) book that examines fatalism in a manner that heavily shaped my theology

    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess -- a great dystopian read which is good for its take on crime, society, and punishment, but also as an exercise in decyphering slang so thick it's almost its own dialect

    Neuromancer by William Gibson -- essential cyberpunk. The people who built the Internet as we know it read this book and loved it (I don't have a source for that, but the concept of cyberspace came from Gibson). Also contains a pretty serious conceptualization of what rights an artificial intelligence has or should have

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. A deeper dive into AI rights and therefore what it means to be an individual

  18. Halfdeaf Link
    There are already afew books here I would have mentioned but Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky had a profound effect on me as a teenager.

    There are already afew books here I would have mentioned but Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky had a profound effect on me as a teenager.

  19. sgtmarymary Link
    The End of Eddy By Édouard Louis A really beautiful and painful autobiography about growing up gay in a small, poor town in the north of France. It's very blunt both in terms of language and the...

    The End of Eddy By Édouard Louis

    A really beautiful and painful autobiography about growing up gay in a small, poor town in the north of France. It's very blunt both in terms of language and the way it deals with topics such as class, gender and sexuality.

    His next book, History of Violence, is very good too.

  20. cadadr Link
    Cain; José Saramago. This opened my eyes w.r.t. religion. I was already questioning a lot of things, but this book stripped me off of religion. It follows Cain from him killing Abel and then him...

    Cain; José Saramago. This opened my eyes w.r.t. religion. I was already questioning a lot of things, but this book stripped me off of religion. It follows Cain from him killing Abel and then him wandering in space and time throughout the lands and stories of the old testament.