A Meme About Influential Books

I am an irregular meme participant but like the idea of this one passed on from A Momentary Taste of Being:

Memes come, memes go, and I rarely inflict personal stuff on readers of this blog. However, this meme is fun: list the ten books that most influenced you. Forget the books you love, or the books you think you need to say you’ve read; instead, list the books that answer the question, “Who are you, and how did you get that way?”

  1. Sartre’s Nausea scared me witless. I was nineteen and understood that God was either dead or had turned his face from man. It took three years to begin to recover from Nausea and I consider that recovery  a work in progress. The only book that I have reread annually.
  2. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment was the book that brought home Kafka’s truism that “literature is an axe for the frozen sea within us.”
  3. Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land lead to a fifteen year engagement with science fiction and fantasy. How many books did Heinlein publish? I must have read most of them. I’m not proud of Heinlein and you’ll find no evidence of my passion on my bookshelves today.
  4. Bruce Sterling’s The Artificial Kid was published in 1980. Can you believe that this novel is thirty years old? This book still has more pointers for the future than science fiction written in the last ten years.
  5. Søren Kierkegaard’s Either/Or provided guidance and sustenance during an unfortunate first marriage.
  6. Winston Graham’s Angell, Pearl and Little God adheres thirty five years later. I don’t know why and feel no need to explore or revisit the memories.
  7. J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man. Donleavy, in my twenties, was a writer that I read exhaustively. It began with this book. None of his books have survived my regular culls but I occasionally have an urge to reread this book.
  8. The influence of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is inestimable. This is possibly the source of my passion for rambling, digressive literature,
  9. Roger Deakin’s Wildwood kicked off a continuing appetite for poetic prose about the natural sciences. Deakin lead to Robert MacFarlane, Sara Maitland, Roger Mabey: all writers with a notable influence on how I live.
  10. Although I considered myself a collector of books before reading Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night, Manguel helped me to appreciate the value in a carefully selected, well-culled and organised library.

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