Ten Influential Books

Last post I had a rather “passionate” display of truth-telling. I’m still digesting. I bought To Kill A Mockingbird the other day, and am trying to read it. I hope it doesn’t end up in the slush pile with the other fiction books I started but just can’t seem to get interested enough in to finish. Best sellers, Pulitzer Prize winners- the problem is obviously me. I think I want to try to read Michael Cunningham next, or maybe Khaled Hosseini. I’m trying to find someone who writes with the kinds of themes I write, in a believable, heartfelt, and riveting way. And a suggestion was made for The Celestine Prophecy, so I may add that to my slush pile as well. I’ll either get there, or I won’t.


But in honor of all the fiction books I haven’t finished (and this is nowhere near all, as 99.5% of my books are currently in boxes in storage), I wanted to share a list of the ten most influential non-fiction books I’ve read over the past 20 years (and have finished, a few with multiple reads). (note: these are not ordered by any criteria, and obviously The Bible is excluded).

  1. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck
  2. The Existential Jesus, by John Carroll
  3. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp
  4. Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  5. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker
  6. The Book of Knowing And Worth, by Paul Selig (The Guides)
  7. Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  8. The Science of Mind, by Ernest Holmes
  9. Journey of Souls, by Michael Newton
  10. The Red Book, by Carl Jung

My personal library consists of hundreds of books, and I’ve just included the books that stuck with me, that I reflect back on often, or that radically shifted my perspective. There are several noteworthy books, like The Denial of Death, Long Walk to Freedom, Autism and the God Connection, Hostage To The Devil, A Father’s Story, The Magic of Conflict, etc. that have a special place on my shelf. I notice that nearly all of the books that made the top ten are of a spiritual nature. Interesting, but not at all surprising.

I would hope all this reading would shape my fiction stories and characters into something deep and dynamic. But it seems writing fiction is more about the nuts and bolts of story structure and the ease of reading than about anything else. Our stories are competing in a stimulus saturated world. Long gone are the days of sitting around the tribal fires listening to the chief or shaman tickle the imagination while answering life’s deeper questions with allegory. Long gone are the days when families gathered around the table by kerosene lanterns, or candlelight to fill their leisure time with reading, or when people communicated from afar by handwritten letters, full of poetry and prose.

Ah, well, what can you do? Resistance is futile. I remember ten years ago I was talking to a self-publishing salesman about my cancer journal project and he suggested that everything was eventually going to be either print-on-demand or digital format. He was using this as a sales point in persuading me to self-publish. I scoffed, thinking that was ridiculous. And I’ve fought buying a Kindle harder and harder every year since then. It seems inevitable- I think I’m going to have to ask for one for Christmas, because all this moving and having to haul around hundreds of pounds of books is getting unmanageable and no one in my family wants to inherent them. It just makes me really sad though.

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