Recently there was a thread on /r/books asking "What are your top ten books that are either your favorite or that made the greatest impact?" I feel that this question is much more interesting than just asking for a top ten or a recommendations list.
I read somewhere that there are three kinds of songs that you can list:
- The songs you like the best (favorites)
- The songs you tell others you like the best (recommendations)
- The songs you actually listened the most (hidden favorites)
The distinction between 1 and 3 is something you can understand after a bit of analysis of your listening history.
Something similar, if not exactly same, happens with books. Firstly, there are books that you would rate the best, possibly in different categories. Then there are books that you would recommend. These two sets have very definite separation. Other than molding your public image (which you would like to have some control over), your recommendations are also pretty utilitarian and are different for different people.
The third class covers the impactful kind. The books that might not be your favorite right now but they did stir things up when you read them. Connecting with the songs example, these are the songs that you won't listen much now but you did put them on loop at some point in time. These were landmarks of your journey and had important say in where you decided to go next. They derive meaning less from their inherent value or quality, and more from the context—made up of your knowledge, history and your general story—they were consumed in.
So here is my top ten impactful book list as of now (no order). Each of these impacted my life steps in some important way, which I am keeping private. This list is not final but is append only. Therefore, I will also be copying this to my wiki here where it can live and grow.
- The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character - Richard Feynman
- Culture & Empire: Digital Revolution - Pieter Hintjens
- Silent Spring - Rachel Carson
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain
- Solaris - Stanisław Lem
- Watchmen - Alan Moore
- Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
- Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
- Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman