About a year and a half ago, some proto-ethnologist started a tagging blogo-game: you where asked to write 5 facts about you and then tag 5 other people you knew. Not sure if someone eventually did any analysis of the spread, lifetime and reach of the game. But regardless of the spreading speed, coverage, and eventual death, I found it to be a great way of learning something more personal about the people I usually read.
The game has started again, being tagged by my friend Gianpaolo. (I'm flattered he considers me intellectually sharp). This time the request is to name at least 5 books that influenced you.
Interestingly, the last fact I wrote about in the tag-blog post was about my library. Books have been a companion throughout all my life. They were the windows and doors to the whole world, to other people's ideas, to remote places. I traveled, I fought, I raised to glory, I cried with defeat and betrayal, I laughed, I loved, I cursed, I doubted and I learnt. My parents always told me: "toys, clothes and candy are optional. We might say 'no', but we will never say no to a book".
In the 1960 film The Time Machine, (adapted from the classic H.G. Wells classic book) the friends of the time traveler notice he left again and took 3 books with him. Then one asks: "Which three books would you have taken?", presumably to rebuild the exploited Eloi civilization in the future. That is brutal stack ranking! How could I just pick up 3! But wait...the request is to name at least 5 this time. Great!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was lucky to inherit two libraries: my grandfather's and my godfather's. Besides my parents never said 'no' to books, so early on I had a fairly large collection. Each inherited collection was very different though: my grandfather's was an eclectic collection mostly about poetry (not Vogon), history, politics and philosophy. He had all the classics: Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Kant, Francisco de Quevedo, Cervantes, Borges, etc. I read many, but most when I grew older and could actually digest what I read. Some at school of course. (and some, I confess I never finished). He mostly bought (very) cheap editions, so I had to be very careful not to break them, yet I can still recall the smell of those pages.
My godfather's books, on the other hand, where all about adventures: Emilio Salgari, Julio Verne, Daniel Defoe, Alexandre Dumas, etc. so before high school, I focused mainly on these. Many of them, I read many many times.
Memorable titles from that age: all of Salgari's (the "Sandokan" series and many others from this prolific writer), the "Voyages" from Verne, Quevedo's "Satiric Poems" which were awesome considering they were written in the XIV century and contained a lot of cursing in ancient spanish. This guy was like a "fake Steve Jobs" of the Spanish Golden Era.
One book that impacted me a lot was "Shakleton's Incredible Voyage", by Alfred Lansing. This was about a real adventure. Ernest Shakleton's was my hero. I admired his leadership and will, even in the extreme situation he and his team were in. From him I learnt: "never give up". I did a lot of research on Antarctic expeditions after that. (Many years later, while serving in the Army, I was assigned to a unit that supported the antarctic bases).
High school was all about fantasy and science fiction: J.L. Borges, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Aldous Huxley, Stapledon, George Orwell, Fredric Brown, William Gibson, Philip Dick, Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, Tolkien, Lovecraft, E. A. Poe, Brian Aldiss. I loved all these stories.
Highlighted ones: Sturgeon's "More than Human", Asimov's robot stories, all of Borges' (never read Borges? try "The Library of Babel"), Aldiss' trilogy "Helliconia" (fascinating). I also did theater during high school, so I studied of course many plays, especially those I acted on :-). Very different, but very enjoyable too: "The Importance of being Ernest", "My Fair lady", among others.
One book I remember that also triggered a lot of further study was Eco's "The Name of the Rose". It was much later I linked Jorge de Burgos, the blind librarian of the story with Jorge Luis Borges the author. Himself a librarian and also blind. Excited about this first encounter, I tried other books from Eco, but they never quite made it as "The name...".
At that time I also became fascinated by great military campaigns & military technology: roman army and battles, WWII were my favorites. I knew everything about roman formations, shields and helmets, lorica segmentata and Adrian's wall; T-34 vs Tiger vs Sherman tanks, differences between BF-109 and Spitfire fighters, etc.
During late high school and University I read mainly technical stuff, but I also discovered Rudy Rucker who mixed history, mathematics & science fiction. "Infinity and the Mind", "The Hacker and the Ants", "Mindtools", the "* ware" series all great titles.
Later years until now, I've been reading some great books on many other topics. Besides all the classics of my profession (COM+, Cardspace, WCF Unleashed, etc) I've read (and read) a lot about social & economic sciences: Taleb's "Black Swan", Jared's "Collapse" & "Guns, Steel & Germs", Druon's "The accursed Kings", Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" (great book), Jim Collins' "Good to Great" and "Build to Last". I also enjoy historical novels: Folletts' "The Pillars of the Earth", Seynor's "Roma" are great books and some of Arturo Perez Reverte books (El Pintor de Batallas, La Sombar del Aguila, La Carta Esferica).