I will be traveling to Arizona soon to attend a high school reunion. This, naturally, engenders a bit of self-reflection, encouraged and abetted by a great deal of time to think about it on my recent trek on the Colorado Trail. Books have been a central feature of my life and I usually manage to read 30-50 books a year. In that spirit, here are ten books that greatly influenced me and affected my life, in no particular order.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t know exactly what to say about this, except I was young once and full of myself.
Trinity by Leon Uris. I still remember finishing this book on the floor of my bedroom and sitting still for what seemed like hours, completely worn out and enthralled by the power of story.
Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda. A book that blurred fact and fiction for me in the search for truth. I still have all of Castaneda’s books on the shelf by my bed.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I swallowed this book hook, line, and sinker and I’m still dealing with the repercussions.
Writing with Power by Peter Elbow. The first book that convinced me it was possible to learn to write powerfully.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. The shadow side of Henry David Thoreau. Life would have been more lucrative and more impoverished, too, had I not run into Abbey.
Lord of the Rings (Trilogy) by J. R. R. Tolkien. Reading this out loud to my sons over the course of a year is one of my favorite memories of being a parent. It was impossible to keep each character’s voice distinct, but no one seemed to care.
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. The first book I truly loved. I read it over and over again through the years until it literally fell apart.
Desert Notes/River Notes by Barry Lopez. Without a doubt, my favorite book of all time. Timeless stories that can only be read one at a time, with days and weeks of reflection between them. I memorized several of them and could recite them verbatim.
The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks. This book reminds me of what is essential in a well-lived life: passion, an appreciation of the eternal mystery, a willingness to dance in the face of everything else. Soul food for the inner life.