Exploring the books that have influenced me, with influencing meaning they marked a change in my growth and they still speak to me today, I've come up with this list of five:
If I Ran the Circus, by Dr. Suess
I could have chosen any of the master's books but this is my favorite. From Dr. Suess I learned the feel of language and the beat of a sentence. Anything I know for how writing is supposed to sound and how poetry feels began here.
A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe
Wolfe replaced Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men, In Dubious Battle) as the literary figure in my life, the one who could tell a story about real people with the texture of real life. Wolfe was and is a directional push for how my journalism comes. In the last year or so his style has inspired me and driven me and influenced the best of my journalism.
Paradise Restored, by David Chilton
Religiously and philisophically, the book that represents my move out of Evangelical and Anabaptist circles and into an older Christianity, out of a Christian ghetto and into the world. This book and its Postmillenialism gave me the grounding to engage the world, to seek the triumph of Christ. It was with this grounding that I could engage in politics and then, as my education grew, in philosophy and journalism. The new optimism these ideas had also saved my from a very real and very destructive personal pessimism and defeatism, changing my personality.
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, by G.K. Chesterton
A passage in this book--about a paragraph and near the end--pushed me into Anglicanism and founded in me an understanding, and adherence, to the old sacramental Christianity. Chestertons bit about the crucifix, the juxtoposition of the great dogmas of incarnation and ressurection, is continually intellectually valuable and brought a spritual component to my life that had been weak or missing before.
Phenomenology of Perception, by Maurice Mearleau-Ponty
The most recent growth: the introduction--the only part of this book I have yet read--has inspired a reworking reexploration of my ideas of meaning and the value of a story. This Phenomenology, which I've written about here (most notably in Referential Totality), is filling out a lot of ideas I already had, creating more of a holistic understanding of the life and working with my understanding of the place of story telling.