There is a new posting going through Facebook. You are to write a list of ten books that influenced you. Ten! Seriously? I do not subscribe to the Captain Jean-Luc Picard one event changed my life theory. I think that’s silly and a bit unreal. First of all, it took Jean-Luc until his early middle age to realize the one event changed everything, so how did that shape his life. And secondly, hmm, not sure there is a secondly.
Back to the ten. For me that would mean I only read ten books. I’ve read thousands. I am a reader. I don’t remember not reading. I’ll read anything–graffiti on walls, cereal boxes, labels–to read is to live. More than the number of books, I think it is the type of books that shaped me. I am not a coming-of-age reader. My favorite story is that I read LORD OF THE FLIES in eighth grade and that cured me forever of coming of age. In truth, it made me think that as kids we are really barbarians, and civilization is a veneer. Personally, I like that something makes us nicer, less barbarous and violent toward each other, even if it is only a thin, almost not-real coating. After LOTF all other COA books looked rather tame and ordinary. And, really? It’s not like we don’t know the plot. An unhappy ending might be more interesting.
Back to the not-only-ten books and the type of books. I read mysteries because I LOVE to find out. As a kid I made maps of the neighborhood, charted the chores I had to do, listed all the things I needed to get done. In mysteries all of that detail work was what paid off. Oh yeah, there was some leap-of-faith stuff thrown in. No matter how you looked at it though it really only came together because the detecting brought out all the clues, relevant and not so relevant.
I read biography. If there are any books that are cool, it’s biography. Real biographies, not these written while the person is still around and doing. The ones where we’ve got some perspective on the person, we’ve read their diaries, their mail, their speeches, their actions, their relationships, their commitments. Biography more than anything made me look into myself, not to impress myself, or to be impressed, but to see what was wanting in me that made a person biography-worthy.
I read science fiction and fantasy. Well, first of all it’s cool to be on another planet, in another universe. Beyond that, sic-fi/fantasy taps into what we can become, how we are evolving. In some ways, it is a basic need to know that we will go on. The terror lies in the fact that we might not.
So, ten books? Bah! Every book I ever read influenced me, supported me, built me up, made me think, even the not so good ones.