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What is the most formative book you have ever read?

JimmyRustler

Gold Member
I‘m always on the lookout for some great books that I can actually learn something from so I thought this thread might be good to get some new ideas.

Especially in the past two years a have read many non fiction books but none has impressed me as much as Dale Carnegie‘s How to make friends and influence people as it gives you a great insight in human relationships. Read it multiple times and without going overboard I would say it changed my life in certain aspects.

I also want to add Gustave Le Bont‘s The Crowd: A study of the polpular mind as it was this book this made me get interested in books dealing with human psychology. It basically reads like the instruction manual for the Nazi propaganda, written one or two decades before latter rose to power. Cover even says Hitler and his machine used it for their doctrines. Fascinating stuff.
 

Maiden Voyage

Gold™ Member
Probably for me, it's Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham. It took me something like a year to read all the way through. I identified a lot with the main character, or at least saw bits of myself in him. I took some valuable lessons from it back when I read it a decade plus ago.

This year it was The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. Great book all around, and especially poignant in today's climate.
 
 

Tams

Gold Member
Honestly, none have really stuck with me.

A Short History of Nearly Everything stands out, as does Freakanomics, but I wouldn't say any really formed any ideas or opinions in me.

So, I guess children's books are probably the only ones that have been formative to me. Thomas the Tank Engine, Peter Rabbit, Fireman Sam, random children's encyclopaedias about stuff, Roald Dahl (the stories, not the author) for morals. Later on the Horrible series (Horrible History, Horrible Science, Horrible Geography) were perhaps not formative but sparked/kept me interested in those subjects.
 

teezzy

Fantastik Tuna
I reflect on The Stranger by Albert Camus quite a bit



That and Shane by Jack Schaefer




I'm not sure why really. The Stranger makes me oddly comfortable with the lack of rhyme or reason in life and my general sense of detachment from it, and Shane is just a very solid and simple classic tale of heroism.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
Watching sports on on TV is one thing. Learning about teams, players (including old players), records, historic franchise stats and playoffs is another.

My bro bought me this for my bday or xmas as a kid. Also a baseball almanac. My fav books growing up. I'd read page to page.

My older brother would also teach me how to understand and calculate stats you'd never know unless someone told you growing up like GAA, +/-, ERA, OBP etc....

 

IDKFA

Gold Member
I also want to add Gustave Le Bont‘s The Crowd: A study of the polpular mind as it was this book this made me get interested in books dealing with human psychology. It basically reads like the instruction manual for the Nazi propaganda, written one or two decades before latter rose to power. Cover even says Hitler and his machine used it for their doctrines. Fascinating stuff.

It seems like you have an interest in human psychology, especially why the German people not only voted the Nazi's into power and supported them during the war.

In which case, allow me to recommend the following.



The book tells the little known story of the mass suicides of German citizens after the defeat of the Nazi's. Don't think of this as your standard history book. The book is full of first hand accounts and letters from people who lived through the horror of this event. It also has accounts from people who witnessed the Nazi's come to power. It gave me a far better understanding as to why people voted for the Nazi's, why they turned a blind eye to the crimes the Nazi's commited and why people took their own lives on mass when the Nazi's lost the war.

A warning with this book. It can be exceptionally harrowing and upsetting at times. It doesn't just deal with the odd person who took their life, but whole families who killed each other in despair, including many accounts of young children being killed by their parents.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
It seems like you have an interest in human psychology, especially why the German people not only voted the Nazi's into power and supported them during the war.

In which case, allow me to recommend the following.



The book tells the little known story of the mass suicides of German citizens after the defeat of the Nazi's. Don't think of this as your standard history book. The book is full of first hand accounts and letters from people who lived through the horror of this event. It also has accounts from people who witnessed the Nazi's come to power. It gave me a far better understanding as to why people voted for the Nazi's, why they turned a blind eye to the crimes the Nazi's commited and why people took their own lives on mass when the Nazi's lost the war.

A warning with this book. It can be exceptionally harrowing and upsetting at times. It doesn't just deal with the odd person who took their life, but whole families who killed each other in despair, including many accounts of young children being killed by their parents.
One thing that has always interested me when it comes to full blown propaganda (in particular war time or North Korea stuff), is how much of the public believes it, how much dont but have to go with the flow for safety, and how many outright become rebels or anti-government. Also goes for military too. Like when WWII was over, I wonder how many Axis soldiers were relieved the stupid war was over, but had no choice but to fight for Nazi government, and how many were actually pissed they lost.
 

BigBooper

Member
That's pretty difficult for me. In a way, I could say the Holy Bible also, but I was raised with it so I didn't have a big a-ha moment, but rather a bunch of small a-ha moments. I don't think there's been one particular book that caused a huge change of thought for me, but these two are the closest I can come up with.


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It's a suffocating ploughing through the slough of injustice in a Soviet era prison camp for political prisoners. The way the book progresses reflects how the protagonist grows more accustomed to the monotony and hopelessness of his situation. It is not a cheerful book.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. This is probably Philip K Dick's most unhinged and inspired story. I'm not even going to try to explain any of it, but if you like hard sci-fi, I definitely recommend it. I was thinking about this book for weeks after the first time I read it.
 
Everything by Carl Sagan.
Cosmos the book and series was one for me.



Wyndham's The Crysalids was another substantially formative book from childhood.

The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression really opened me up to a new world of thinking and exercises around the same age.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein was one in the teen years.

The most formative would be Liber AL vel Legis

Followed by

The Book of Perfection
(which contains the text for Liber Legis)

The copy given to me by Linda MacFarlane is a bit different than the online version and has the connection to our encounter.

The incantation for a favourite Thelemite spell is in that book.

I as my orb approach the shore
A beam I send to set you burning
And cursed you’ll be forevermore
For finally all my race is learning
Seek ye not the cool, black caves!
I enter there invisibly
And when I find you in those graves
I bid ye die most horribly
Gather now, my windsome friends
And fall upon the squealing swine!
They cannot harm ye e’en with spells
Yea! I protect what’s mine!
FOGLOSTUM! MIPURUM! AGASTH!
 
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Kagey K

Member
I got and read through a complete collection of Mark Twain, when I was 8.

It was bigger than any encyclopedia I'd ever seen at the time.
 
This year it was The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. Great book all around, and especially poignant in today's climate.

Happy to see this one listed; great book.


The Bible.

Respect. Although it's only formative when you're reading it within a living Christian community, where the many texts have context for adoration & interpretation. I say this because some atheists think that they can just pick up the Bible, read it a bit in isolation, then find it confusing or uninteresting--and that this verdict would somehow mean they investigated the faith. In reality, the words will mean nothing until the first leap is made, with the context of a living church of the faithful.


As for me, beyond those named, I'd add: Being and Time. I've read a ton of philosophy texts, but nothing was so earth-shattering as this one, and I think that is born out by the enormous shadow it cast over the entire century of philosophy that followed.

EDIT: I also just saw the Nicomachean Ethics above, wholeheartedly agree. That text revolutionized my thinking on virtuous action when I first read it a couple decades ago. It truly stands up today, and is an excellent weapon against detached or utilitarian ethics.
 
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Rest

All these years later I still chuckle at what a fucking moron that guy is.
Situation Ethics. Interesting example of doublethink. It was written by a bible school teacher who was in the process of becoming an atheist. He goes over all the failings of Christian thinking and orthodoxy, and then near the end of the book tries to justify some of the worst behaviors of religious organizations.

I say this because some atheists think that they can just pick up the Bible, read it a bit in isolation, then find it confusing or uninteresting--and that this verdict would somehow mean they investigated the faith. In reality, the words will mean nothing until the first leap is made, with the context of a living church of the faithful.
You are exactly right. Religious materials are often meaningless to outsiders who are not indoctrinated or in the process of being indoctrinated. In fact, they are often nonsensical, self contradictory or so blatantly attempt to manipulate the reader into being uncritical of group leaders that unindoctrinated people will read them and be totally put off.
 
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plushyp

Member
Probably for me, it's Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham. It took me something like a year to read all the way through. I identified a lot with the main character, or at least saw bits of myself in him. I took some valuable lessons from it back when I read it a decade plus ago.
My friend also likes that book and once during a date he was asked about his favourite book. After he said "Of Human Bondage" to his date she said "nice, I also like 50 Shades of Grey". He didn't go on another date with her.
 
You are exactly right. Religious materials are often meaningless to outsiders who are not indoctrinated or in the process of being indoctrinated. In fact, they are often nonsensical, self contradictory or so blatantly attempt to manipulate the reader into being uncritical of group leaders that unindoctrinated people will read them and be totally put off.
I'm not really interested in "religious materials" as a category, since the definition chosen here can only tell me which ideological apparatus you yourself labor under, whatever purely self-serving mark of "secular" you might choose to apply to it.

The foundations of liberal democratic social order, for instance, have no particularly coherent logical compulsion nor inherent appeal to other human cultures either--who can simply shrug in indifference at clearly religious suppositions like "free choice is what bestows human value" rather than honor, etc--until those cultures have already been thoroughly inculcated in Western values religiously by adopting the lifestyle of consumerism, and all its attendant rituals & systems of assigning value. This is why the only method of spreading those ideals which has ever worked in practice is to knowingly obliterate the home culture's values through force entry of a market and pumping a ton of money into their world to saturate them in the values of consumer lifestyles.

That is to say, all ways of seeing value require a leap, which is why neither John Locke's rather comical musings on a blank slate--derived truly from nothing more than the evident preferences of his location and social class--means nothing to a reader who is not already indoctrinated, just as Christ's words are meaningless without a context of entering the way of life built around them.
 

Dithadder

Neo Member
I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand when I was 16 or 17 and was influenced by her argument that its sinful to love others more than you love yourself. Shes very passionate and the story is pretty thrilling. Im kind of narcissistic and egomaniac, so characters like Howard Roark or Feanor from The Silmarillion really speak to me. I read Atlas Shrugged some years later but found it to be way more cant-y and ideological.
 
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