Friday, April 2, 2010

Top Ten Books

There is a book meme making its way around the internet, which I saw most recently at Dean Dad's place, and I thought it sounded like too much fun to pass up. So here, in roughly chronological order of when I read them, is my list of the top ten books that influenced me the most. I've left out holy writ.

  1. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss – “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.” This book introduced me to the idea of speaking for something else that did not have a voice, and the importance of nature and appropriate use of resources.
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – “Equal is not same.” I didn’t realize how much this book had influenced by thinking until I went back and reread it as an adult, and realized my dissertation that I am writing is about the issues raised by Meg Murray.
  3. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold – I still remember sitting in my dorm room on a California coast, reading about an oak tree getting cut down on the prairies, and knowing I would never look at the world the same way again. This book set me off on my own journey to find my place.
  4. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis – I think this is one of the greatest philosophical expositions of the potential power embodied in the Christian tradition ever written. His gift with analogy is rarely equaled.
  5. Policy Paradox by Deborah Stone – This book explains the way people use narrative in their own lives, and the way narrative is used as a policy tool. It completely changed the way I view the news and the political process.
  6. The Imperial Presidency by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. – probably the source of most of my disdain for modern politics. It is a biting critique (exhaustively documented) of the expansion of executive power, and diminution of Constitutional structures. I have multiple editions of this on my shelf.
  7. Orientalism by Edward Said – I hated this book when I started it, and thought it was completely wrong. By the end, I was convinced Edward Said was a genius, and now am highly conscious of the way we as a society construct the Other.
  8. The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry – This book is kind of like a sequel to Sand County for me. Berry’s critique of modern society’s disconnect from each other and from the land is penetrating, thought provoking, and beautifully written.
  9. Democracy’s Discontent by Michael Sandel – the first sustained critique of the liberal project that I read in graduate school. This book made me change my area of emphasis to political theory.
  10. Basic Rights by Henry Shue – the book that sparked my dissertation. If Shue is right about the idea of basic rights, and I would argue that he is, how do we implement it?
What books have influenced you?
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