Scott Cowley on Twitter posits that “You don’t earn the title of ‘well-read’ by reading blog posts and news articles.” I mostly agree with his premise. Long-form printed literature is still instrumental in shaping the way we think and act as individuals and as a society. But modern evolutions of writing—blog posts, essays, ebooks—also have intellectually shaping capabilities. They both have place in the library of an educated, well-read citizen.
Here are some of the books that have profoundly influenced my thinking:
- The Chosen (Chaim Potok) for its exposition of true friendship and loyalty.
- 1984 (George Orwell), ever more relevant an investigation of technology and government and the disaster they can create if left unchecked.
- Hamlet (William Shakespeare), if not merely for its quotability (“Alas, poor Yorick!”), serves as a tragic warning against greed and revenge.
- A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens), a well-known classic with a prominent place on my annual reading list, extols the virtues of empathy and charity.
- Walden (Henry David Thoreau), which emphasizes the importance of self-reliance, contemplation, and introspection.
In the short-form category, these pieces have had a similarly powerful effect on my life:
- The Mansion (Henry van Dyke), a Christian short story about the proper use of wealth.
- Buying Happiness (Jeff Atwood), which explains how to make you and others happier through wise choices.
- Totally like whatever, you know? (Taylor Mali), which powerfully discusses the need for clear thinking, speaking, and writing. This video is the best way to experience the poem.
- The Regret Fallacy (Dan Shipper) – make the best decisions you can and then be happy with them.
- Caring for Your Introvert (Jonathan Rauch), a guide for introverts (like me) and their loved ones to understand how they think.
A book, a play, a poem, a short story, an article, two blog posts, and three novels. Plenty of variety.