The Books That Changed Me

Rich Bryant tagged me, and I actually started my blog right after the last one of these hit, so I guess I’m due. Here’s how Rich describes the meme:

The task is, name the books that changed your life. As far as i know, there’s no upper or lower limit on the number of books. It’s also a tough call. When first challenged, i thought it’d be easy. Then i got stuck. Then i really, really thought about it and realized that life-changing books are rare and also that they tend to happen when you’re young enough that your life changes on a day-to-day basis.

I don’t remember enough of the books I read in school to fall back on them like Rich. Maybe that’s an indictment of our crappy American public schools, or maybe it’s just because most of the classes that involved reading books didn’t involve much math or science so I didn’t pay more attention than I absolutely had to. There are still books that changed my life, though, and here they are in no particular order:

  1. Effective C++ by Scott Meyers — This is an excellent book for a C++ programmer to read, and it’s packed full of useful tips. That alone wouldn’t put it on this list, though. I’ve read plenty of useful books for programmers, but this one was the first one I ever picked up of my own accord and read cover to cover. This book taught me about C++ pitfalls, but more importantly it taught me to read for personal and professional enrichment. This might actually be the first non-fiction book I read without being forced.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien — This book changed my life in many ways, most of which happened before I actually read it. Without Tolkien we wouldn’t have Dungeons and Dragons, which was an important escape for me during my miserable high school years. Without it we wouldn’t have Men In Tights-style games, which is what started the entire MMO industry. Without LotR the Middle-Earth project wouldn’t have been there to get me into the game industry. For all of these reasons, this book has been a huge impact on my life, and on the world as a whole.
  3. Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes — When I was in high school I was introduced to a live-action role-playing group called the International Fantasy Gaming Society, which was founded by people trying to recreate part of the Dream Park experience. 15 years later I met my wife at an IFGS event. If that’s not life-changing I don’t know what is. These books also colors much about what I think about virtual worlds and the way they will eventually fit into society. When I eventually get sick of computer games, I might just move on to virtual world-style location based entertainment.

And here are some books that I almost put on the list above, but ultimately decided not to:

  1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — This book makes me look at education and authority with a much more critical eye. I don’t think it had nearly the impact of the books above, but it still deserves a mention.
  2. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein — This book describes a future that seemed about 10 years out when it was written in 1966. Unfortunately the space race ended and we lost interest in space as a nation, so it’s still about 10 years out. Of all the hard science fiction I’ve read, this is the one that really made me believe the world it was describing could actually happen. It’s also the book I compare all other science fiction against.

So that’s my list. It’s not long (in fact it’s so short that I felt the need to pad it with a couple of also-rans), but these books really did change my life.

I suppose I ought to pass the love along to:

Sara Jensen Schubert

Justin Miller

Kevin Maginn

Brandon Reinhart

Damion Schubert


4 Responses to “The Books That Changed Me”

  1. Jeck said on :

    I review the books that changed you post!
    -text I didn’t read-
    1. Nerd.
    2. Over rated.
    3. Never heard of it.
    -more text-
    1. Really good.
    2. YES. YES. YES. To make someone into a good person you must have them read this book, A Wealth of Nations, and Flim-Flam.

  2. John Scott Tynes replied on :

    Wow, I’ve read Moon is a Harsh Mistress at least six times and am well overdue for another one. The conspiracy structure described in that book was the inspiratation for the conspiracy structure in Delta Green.

  3. Rich Bryant commented on :

    My list may be more artsy than yours, but i’m willing to bet that mine involved a lot more corporal punishment.

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