Top Cat isn’t much of a reader. He’s more of a curl up on the end of the couch and watch the latest episode of Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness on MTV. I myself love to read a good book…..after I’ve watched the latest episode of Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness on MTV. So we’ve compelled a list of my Top Ten Most Influential and Life Changing Books. I suggest that you give them a read yourself. After you’ve watched the latest episode of Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness on MTV of course. 🙂
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I included this book, mostly because of the imagery that Fitzgerald uses. In one of my first real college English courses, the professor did an in depth analysis of the symbolism found in The Great Gatsby and I have never been able to forget it. I have re-visited the book many times since then and have fallen in love with the story of the young and mysterious millionaire who tries everything to rekindle a lost love in the Roaring Twenties.
9. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
I read On the Beach after the recommendation of my best friend. He had read the book and he wanted to talk about it so badly that I just had to read it. The post-apocalyptic novel details a mixed bag of people who are trying to live their last days and come to grasp with the air currents that are slowly bringing radiation from the nuclear war that happened the year before. The book is extremely emotional and thought provoking. It has and will remain on my top just for that reason.
8. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz came into my life during a point of personal growth. Reading a semi-autobiographical work about a guy attending a liberal college (just like me), who was dealing with his inward spiritual life (just like me), and the personal reflections of a man who realizes the ramifications of all of his choices was extremely important and beneficial to me. Helping to understand how to love God and Jesus but to also know how to respond to the lives of others around us has helped me in my life since that moment. It along with Mere Christianity by CS Lewis are by far some of my most influential religious reads.
7. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Salinger wrote a gritty, realistic story. I didn’t necessarily see a lot of myself in Holden Caulfield but teenage rebellion, angst and fear are all topics that we all can identify with. The novel deals with some extremely complex issues and I think that it deserves to be on the list of the most influential English-language written books of all time as well as my list of most influential books to me. Holden’s issues with belonging and loss cuts you deep and the confused 16 year old inside of you weeps deeply for the truth being delivered.
6. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
My favorite book by one of my favorite authors draws lines from real history, complete fantasy and a fable to end all fables. The book was extremely well written and I caught myself day dreaming about the characters and what they would look like if I saw them standing beside me. The book literally was on my mind all the time. By the book’s ending I was contemplating my own personal ‘story’ and realized that sometimes your past is thrown into the sunlight for all to see because sometimes the things that we have been told are not exactly what the reality was or is. I still find myself thinking about the characters and story that I read many years ago.
5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I just read this book a couple of years ago and it was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I kept thinking about where the story would go. Coelho had written characters that I had become emotionally invest in and I think that that is what has made The Alchemist such an immensely popular read. The story of a shepherd boy named Santiago who literally has followed his literal dreams and went on a journey to Egypt to find the treasure that he knows he will find. The book spoke of your ‘personal legend’ and how when we are young, we know that thing that we have always wanted to accomplish. The book goes on to explain that the universe helps us to achieve our personal legends. This central theme implored me to continue in all of my artistic endeavors and not give up on fulfilling my personal legend.
4. Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut
The nonlinear story told by an unreliable narrator full of flashbacks and time travel is simply amazing. The events (even though told out of order) allow y0u to see inside the disoriented life of Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut, who acts as narrator of the book, was a soldier and was actually held prisoner during the Dresden bombings that followed the Battle of the Bulge. So it goes.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Who knew that a book written as a collection of letters could cause me to burst out in tears. Stephen Chobsky’s 1999 coming-of-age book discusses the life of a troubled teenager named Charlie. Charlie is writing to someone (whom the reader feels like is them) and addresses all of the adolescent problems that we all battle. The pop cultural references give us an unofficial soundtrack and the unofficial background noise for the movie. During my first reading of the book, I cried. I wept, uncontrollably during many parts of the book. The books message itself taught me to be more accepting of others and realize that there were and are others out there who are struggling just to get by. I have given many copies away to my students throughout the years if I knew that they would be able to relate or be able to deal with the controversial themes (even had one student tell her that she was upset with me but loved me at the same time; because I had given her a book that made her cry).
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Imagine a dystopian future where books are outlawed and the fireman that are supposed to be there to put out the fires are the ones that come to burn your books. Imagine that the government and media are keeping us ‘uniformed’ for fear that we might have dissenting ideas? Sound scarily familiar to what could happen to us? Yeah. I thought so too when I first read Fahrenheit 451. I was lucky to have read the book when I was old enough to be mentally ready and open minded enough to realize the complex implications that Ray Bradbury was making.
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I think that The Giver does not get the recognition that it deserves because it is used on the cliche mandatory Middle School reading list. The Giver, for me, was one of those books that caused a whirlwind of emotions to rise in me because it was the first book that I actually paid attention to. I was emotionally invested in the characters and vividly remember how I envisioned the characters in my mind. The Giver was the book that began my love for literature and I will forever be grateful for that.
Honorable Mention: Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias
I heard a Ted Talk by Ravi Zacharias and instantly wanted to hear more from this man. The intelligence spouting from the Christian apologist had me enticed by his every word. I purchased his book and I must say that he has brought a unique way to explain and deliver the Christian message. With respect, he shows the differences of other religions and their explanation of ‘god’ and ‘eternity’. He is completely open and lays his own personal journey from despair to happiness in the knowledge of Jesus.
Mandatory Mention: I will mandatorily mention one book. The first book that I must mention is the Bible. The Bible is the foundation for all that is within me, so it is more important than any other book but just out of honor and respect to the ‘living word of God’ I feel that I cannot place it on a ‘list’.