Tyler Cowen proposed a meme where those interested would list the 10 most influential books of their lives.  Cowen suggested “going with your gut” in making the list instead of doing a lot of pondering.  So, off the top of my head, here we go:

1. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes. One of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. It updates Adam Smith’s classic and explains how the world works.

2. Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance. This the greatest SF masterpiece I’ve ever read.

3. The Demon Princes by Jack Vance. I’m cheating here because The Demon Princes consists of five novels. Sue me. These are marvelous science fantasy adventures!

4. Partial Payments: Essays on Writers and Their Lives by Joseph Epstein. I could have picked any of Epstein’s wonderful essay collections (I’ve read and own them all). I wish I could write like this.

5. Major Works by Samuel Johnson. This is another cheat because the Oxford University Press edition is 880 pages long. I could make an argument that Johnson was one of the best writers of English ever.

6. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. My favorite Trollope novel is Barchester Towers, but The Way We Live Now is probably Trollope’s best book.

7. Troilus and Cressida is my favorite play by Shakespeare. Love and war battle in this tricky tale of the Battle of Troy. It’s clever, cunning, and has a sting at its end.

8. A Deadly Shade of Gold by John D. MacDonald. This is my favorite JDM novel. Travis McGee and a twisted plot. What more could you ask for?

9. I grew up reading comic books and THE FLASH was my favorite. Yes, I read BATMAN and GREEN LANTERN, too, but THE FLASH gave me that first feeling of a Sense of Wonder.

10. The Story of O by Pauline Reage. Rocked my world.

If I had to list 10 influential books next week, I’m sure the list would be different.

18 thoughts on “10 MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS

  1. Patti Abbott

    And this is the picture waiting for me at four in the morning. Nice list-haven’t read any of them. And believe it or not, I graduate summa cum laude and Phil Beta Kappa-what a disgrace. I’ll work on my list.

    1. george Post author

      Next week, it could be a list 10 different books, Patti. So many books have influenced me…and continue to influence me. It’s almost impossible to choose a definitive list. What are you doing up a 4 AM?

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance. This the greatest SF masterpiece I’ve ever read.

    After that rave how could I not read it?

    It’s on order.

    1. george Post author

      The LIBRARY OF AMERICA should issue volumes of Jack Vance’s work, Jeff. They’ve done well with their Philip K. Dick volumes, but Vance is a superior writer.

  3. Richard R.

    I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the original post (thanks, Jeff), but have been too busy with taxes (no, not done yet), Friday Forgotten Book, Saturday Soundtrack (now up) and such stuff. Look for my post on this next week. I’m pretty sure none of your books will be on my list, George.

  4. Drongo

    George, I understand and respect fellow who isn’t afraid of his id.

    Both picture and list are thought-provoking and interesting.

    1. george Post author

      It was time to feed Steve Stilwell’s id with that picture, Drongo. I’m glad you found my list thought-provoking and interesting.

  5. K. A. Laity

    Interesting list: with you on THE STORY OF O — fascinating book and,like Nin for me, a good one for opening up the doors of perception and exploration (LOL, see also my alter ego). TROILUS AND CRESSYDE is an interesting choice for Shakey; I’m enamoured of THE TEMPEST and TITUS ANDRONICUS as well as the usual suspects. I am sorry to say I have not got around to Trollope, but I will.

    1. george Post author

      I was not surprised when it was revealed that French author Anne Desclos wrote THE STORY OF O as a series of love letters to her lover, Kate. Some critics argued that the author was a male, but I knew they were wrong. The themes of dominance and submission explored by Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage are timeless (THE STORY OF O was publshed in 1954). You’ll enjoy Trollope. Most people start with THE WARDEN, but I’d suggest BARCHESTER TOWERS as a better introduction.


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