The Influential Books List

Quote of the Day:

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

TB checks in at least a couple of times a week on nmisscommentor, a lawyer’s blog out of Oxford, Mississippi, that covers a little bit about a lot of topics I find interesting along with a healthy dose of Mississippi politics and legal news. Today there was a post and some interesting responses concerning “the ten most influential books” on the author. Of note, it is reported by NMC that “blogs all around are listing 10 influential books.” NMC says he is late to the party, so if I sneak in right behind him maybe my faux pas will go unnoticed.

Anyway, I think its a cool topic for commentary. Some people have more time and some perhaps more interest, but most everybody has read something that they consider influential. I hope to hear your list. It’s supposed to be “off the top of your head” so don’t feel like your decision is set in stone, and in keeping with TB’s anti-authoritarian mandate, feel free to number your list anything other than ten.

Here’s the list I’m going with today, in no particular order:

  1. The Virginian, Owen Wister–progenitor of the western genre, and the mythos of American rugged individualism.
  2. Charlie Wilson’s War, George Crile–gave me a much better understanding of how Congress works, how Afghanistan became “our” mess and the law of unintended consequences
  3. Paris, 1919, Margaret McMillan–all about the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI, how it shaped the 20th century, and the law of unintended consequences
  4. The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis–spirituality, irony and a dry wit that resonate with TB
  5. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway–nobody strings together words more perfectly than Papa
  6. North, Towards Home, Willie Morris–learning to look inward critically, without self-loathing, and without romanticizing; I loved this book even while I resented Willie’s opinions; loved it even more when I came around to his point of view.
  7. The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown–because its a helluva fun adventure and because he raises issues that ought not be taboo
  8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle–because we should at least attempt to see things as they are, not as we expect them to be
  9. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, many, many Brits–because I found out I really did like poetry, a lot of it anyway, especially the parts about girls and booze
  10. Ulysses, James Joyce–if and when I ever get through this without injuring my feeble brain, I will officially consider myself well-read. My previous record was getting to page 2. But its been a few years, so maybe I should try again soon.
  11. TB’s Work in Progress, TB–if and when I ever get through this, I hope to be able to move past the nagging feeling that I missed my true calling.

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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38 Responses to The Influential Books List

  1. irvineredd says:

    I’ll have to throw a list up later, but just curious if anyone here saw the new South Park last night, which had the boys reading Cathcer in the Rye, and being upset because it was really that filthy to them? So they wrote their own book with the hopes of getting it banned.

  2. irvineredd says:

    Catcher in the Rye. I’m an idiot.

  3. Jessie Lou says:

    I used to be a more regular NMC reader a while back and still check in from time to time. I’ll have to take a look.

    First two that come to mind are:

    Uncle Remus – His Songs and His Sayings – Joel Chandler Harris – I wish I had an Uncle Remus or that I was still young enough to listen to my dad read it to me in the proper dialect.
    Captains and The Kings by Taylor Caldwell – tale of immigration, money, greed and American family.
    The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold – seeing her view on heaven was very interesting.
    To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Boo Radley got a bum rap until Scout came along.

    I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye which was recently brought to my attention and put on my list of to do’s.

  4. Oh, dang, I can’t believe I left this one off:

    12. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–Douglas Adams; possibly the funniest book(s) ever, biting, enduring relevance and a huge influence on the TBU, to say nothing of what it did for fjords, which is a funny word.

  5. Harmony says:

    Here are some books that I have read recently, that I liked:

    Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

    I second Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and would like to add that ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘The Lost Symbol’ are as equally good if not better.

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    East of Eden by John Steinbeck

    We read To Kill a Mockingbird in H/S, Jessie Lou..I loved reading that as well!

    My siblings and I all read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit, off and on throughout our childhood.

    One of my all time favorite books as a kid was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle…which I have been reading to my 10 y/o at bedtime.

  6. Jessie Lou says:

    Harmony – I loved “A Wrinkle In Time” – I need to read that again!

    I was secretly in love with Gregory Peck from the movie of the book “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

  7. Harmony says:

    JL ~ I am a little embarrassed to admit, that I didn’t know that ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ is part of a 5 book set. When we bought our copy I also picked up the second book (A Wind in the Door). I am excited to see what journey that book takes us on.

    Gregory Peck doesn’t look like anybody who needs to be a secret crush. šŸ™‚ While reading TKAM, I always pictures Tom Skerritt as Atticus Finch..although I am not sure why.

  8. irvineredd says:

    I’m going to cheat on my first one, all of the Great Illustrated Classic collection. I read a bunch of these as a child, and it was a nice set up for the rest of my reading life.

    2. I feel Great and You Can too-It’s Pat Croce’s, former owner of the 76ers, autobiography. It’s basically all about positive thinking and not giving up. Not to mention he led a pretty interesting life.

    3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

    4. Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them. I read this book after I read one of Bill O’Reilly’s books. I dated a girl in college whose father is a 24/7 Fox News watcher, and he gave me the O’Reilly book. I think he was of the impression that I was a young, dumb, ideaological, liberal. And I did read it. I thought it was a piece of crap but, I did read it. Then I read Franken’s book, and loved it. It was funny and eye opening.

    5. High Fidelty- Everyone should read this book. It’s pretty damn great.

    6. The Great Shark Hunt-A Collection of Hunter S. Thompson’s writings

    7. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

    8. Hemingway’s Short Stories

    9. Garcia- the biography of Jerry Garcia

    10 . Ray- Barry Hannah was amazing.

    Also, probably the most influential thing in my reading life was my mom, JL. She got me reading early, and without that I wouldn’t be who I am now. So thanks, mom.

  9. Jessie Lou says:

    H – I’m not sure I remember that either. I’ve been on a roll reading all the books from my childhood. IR got me “Alice In Wonderland”, “James & the Giant Peach”, “Willie Wonka” and the box set of E. B. White books for Christmas. So I’ve been working my way through them. If I don’t start WW I may go the library and check out AWIT. I just finished “King of Torts” so I need something light and entertaining.

    Tom Skerritt is a man who can handle a shotgun like Atticus – he would be a great choice in the updated version. The Secret Celebrity Crush would be a great blog entry, if I were writing one.

  10. Jessie Lou says:

    Ok, I just got over a crying jag this morning (I thought I’d lost my engagement ring) and now you have put tears back into my eyes! Thankfully, you loved to read like me and I read to you from the moment you came out. You believed me when I told you if you could read you do anything. You are the best! I am hoping the Little Scamp is the female version of you for old TB.

  11. ZEEK says:

    I have read many but I must admit I will have to try and list my ten favorite,I don’t know about influence.

    1) Beach Music–Pat Conroy–THE BEST

    2) Prince of Tides–Pat Conroy–Well, he’s my favorite

    3) Of Mice and Men–John Steinbeck

    4) Captains and the Kings–Taylor Caldwell

    5) To Kill a Mockingbird–Harper Lee

    6) A Time to Kill– John Grisham

    7) Along Came a Spider–James Patterson

    8) The Sacketts–Louis L’Amour

    9) The Great Santini–Pat Conroy

    10) The Holy Bible– GOD

    JLou–Thumbs up on the Uncle Remus, I also loved those as a kid. Remember Brer Rabbit??
    Curious George was also cool.

  12. ZEEK says:

    BTW–I read A Catcher in the Rye and I was not real impressed to tell the truth,I only finished it just so I could say I had read it.
    I have enjoyed many books by the over-imaginative Dean Koontz–The Bad Place, Intensity, and Mr. Murder being my favorites.

  13. Harmony says:

    Jessie Lou, as if you didn’t already amaze me enough..Irvineredd sweeps in and shows just how absolutely fabulous you truly are. You two are a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

    When are you going to give in and start that blog JL?

  14. Barista says:

    Great. Now if I say Confessions of a Shopaholic I look like a major idiot. Thanks brainiacs.

  15. Harmony says:

    I kind of felt the same way about “The Great Gatsby” Zeek…I finished it, just to put it behind me.

    We read Of Mice and Men in H/S too and The Grapes of Wrath both great books. I should give those a re-read.

    I also really liked Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and Have a Little Faith.

  16. Harmony says:

    I also want to add “The Tragedy of Pudd’Nhead Wilson” by Mark Twain. That book is amazing, I always thought it would make a great movie one day.

  17. Jessie Lou says:

    Zeek – I am about to read “The Tarbaby” story. I just read the one where the little boy meets Uncle Remus for the first time and he tells the story about Brer Rabbit being invited to dinner by Mr. Fox. IR gave me that book for Christmas 2007 as a replacement for the one my dad bought me on June 21, 1971 that I lost in Katrina – he even had my daddy write me a note in it. To say I cried uncontrollably for about 5 minutes would be accurate.

    Harmony – I have the best kid in the world and we’ve gotten through some tough times together. Without him I would never have survived. Thank you for your kind words! Once his daddy dies and we see the body and know for sure we will likely write the book.

    Barista – I loved “Bridget Jones Diary” – complete fluff and entertainment. No shame in that – I read to escape the seriousness of the world and to be put to sleep.

  18. Harmony says:

    Barista ~ I read and liked all four books of The Twilight Saga (easy reading is nice sometimes) that is, until the fanatic fans surfaced. Shame gives me a good hearty slap on the back every.single.time I see a commercial for one of the movies. *sigh*

  19. Jessie Lou says:

    I read all of those as well and could not put them down. Don’t be ashamed! I would have to say I am “Team Jacob”!

    I read all of the Harry Potter books except the last one.

  20. larry says:

    I will give it shot. No top ten, just the order I remember reading

    Like Irv, I have to give it to the one that started it all: Mr. Fig Did A Jig

    Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein
    Huck Finn – Twain
    The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
    Treasure Island – Stevenson
    Great Expectations – Dickens
    Absalom, Absalom! – Faulkner
    Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry – (after I watched the movie)
    The Stand – King
    A Good Walk Spoiled – John Feinstein
    Mr. Nice – Howard Marks
    Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow

  21. tinyd says:

    In no particular numerical order:

    Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr. Suess (right along with Green Eggs and Ham)
    The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom (also Tuesdays With Morrie) Haven’t read Have a Little Faith yet
    The Bible
    Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge – Mem Fox (check it out – you’ll see what I mean)
    Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck
    Travels With Charlie – Steinbeck
    Chronicals of Narnia
    The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

    I will also admit that I could not put down the Twilight Series…great read but not very influential in my opinion

    Favorite bedtime story – Guess How Much I Love You

  22. i’m not trying to be e.e. cummings and not use capital letters, but i’m typing this on a laptop that had a 5-year attack it and the shift keys don’t work. so, it’s this or all caps.

    i’m glad i read this post and the comments because i see about 4 books that i need to read.

    in no particular order and without reflection, here are my contributions.

    1. babbit by sinclair lewis. if you didn’t know he was writing about the 1920s, you’d swear he was writing about the present. i love this book.

    2. congo by michael crichton is the best page turner i’ve ever read. the da vinci code, as great as it is, took me 2-3 sessions. congo was an 8-hour, all-night nonstop joyride.

    3. war and peace by tolstoy. it’s a classic for a reason. it turned me on to all things tolstoy and dostoevsky

    4. praying for sheetrock by green or greene. it’s a true story of lawsuits, segregation overcome, and a hero with feet of clay

    5. intruder in the dust by faulkner

    6. twain. just anything mark twain

    7. catcher in the rye is like saying you like u2, but i loved it and am not ashamed to say i think it’s a masterpiece

    8. idiot america by charlie pierce is not a classic, but i just read it and i liked it

    9. the book of romans by the apostle paul — ah, didn’t see that coming did you? i think the apostle paul was a male chauvinist and arrogant, but romans is a beautiful representation of what i think it means to be a christian

  23. Jessie Lou says:

    TDW – Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible (along with James and all that taming of the tongue stuff which I’ve needed over the years) and we are currently in the middle of a sermon series on this at church. I’ve studied Romans before but have learned a great deal more this go round.

  24. Harmony says:

    tinyd ~ I love The Giving Tree!

    Our favorite Dr. Seuss stories are Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz and The Big Brag.

  25. JL, it’s heartening to hear that y’all are having a sermon series on Romans. If people read it and put it into practice, we’d be in a much better world.

  26. Jessie Lou says:

    Romans 8:1 gives hope for everyone and Romans 3:23 evens the playing field. I had commented to the preacher that I had learned so much more and now he has invited me to meet with him and discuss. Should be entertaining as there is alot on forgiveness, my weak area. Paul’s sentence structures just drive me crazy sometimes!

  27. smilyj says:


    Owen Parker Jones. 6lbs 3oz. Born yesterday 12:15 pm!

  28. Jessie Lou says:

    Good for you SmilyJ – Congratulations!

  29. Awesome news. Who’s the fa–oh, I can’t do it. Congrats.

  30. Madd Dawg says:

    DW and JL,
    thank you for correcting Zeek in that GOD did not write the Bible.

  31. Jessie Lou says:

    What we teach in confirmation is that all scripture is God breathed. The answer to the cathechism question about that is “all scripture was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit”.

  32. ZEEK says:

    Thank you JLou for having my Presbyterian back. I would think that MD would have the intelligence to know that I meant inspired by God. I certainly am not going to list all the contributing authors. Of course, MD is a Godless heathen, so we shouldn’t expect any different.

  33. Jessie Lou says:

    You are welcome. I’ll correct myself and tell you that the answer is “men chosen by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit”. Amen Brother!

  34. Madd Dawg says:

    How often does thou read the Holy Book, Brother Zeek?

  35. ZEEK says:

    Been listening to my pastor on CD just about every day in the car here lately MADD DAWG!!!

  36. Bobby Pitalo says:

    Ten Little Indians-Agatha Christie
    I Robot- Isaac Asimov
    Missing Links-Rick Reilly
    The Poet- Michael Connelly

  37. Jessie Lou says:

    10 Little Indians was a good movie too – can’t remember if I read the book or not but am looking for something to read now – may have to check it out at the Library.

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