The Ten Most Influential Books I’ve Read in My Life, So Far

Books-06I was recently tagged in a Facebook post in which I was invited to read, and then myself create, a list of the ten most influential books my friend and, subsequently, I had read.

The rules were pretty straightforward: “In your status, list 10 books that have greatly influenced you in some way. Don’t spend more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard.” It was a good and fun excuse to look over the books I read over the past few years – and given that I have read, in the last two and a half years, maybe, 10 times the total number of books I read before that time, choosing them was made slightly more simple.

Here is what I posted:

The 10 books that have made the largest impact upon my life and work, so far, in no particular order:

  1. Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  2. Insurrection: To Believe is Human, to Doubt, Divine by Peter Rollins
  3. Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming by Catherine Keller
  4. The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich
  5. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism by Alain Badiou
  6. The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event by John D. Caputo
  7. Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics by Steven Shaviro
  8. A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone
  9. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? by Slavoj Žižek (inc. John Milbank)
  10. The Descent into Hell: A Study of the Radical Reversal of the Christian Consciousness by Thomas J.J. Altizer

Honourable mentions:

  • What is Philosophy? by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari
  • The Making of the Indebted Man by Maurizio Lazzarato
  • Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton
  • Theology of Culture by Paul Tillich
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Looking over my “reading lists” I was surprised by the diversity, in some ways, as well as how the impact was limited to relatively few of these books.  I was also prompted to think that I regret the absence of any historically significant novels, and would feel strongly that I want to take a turn towards a more meaningful philosophical engagement. A further surprise for me was to realise, between the above list and my reading lists, just how explicitly theological my interests have been. I have known for a long time that I have been reading a lot of theology, but I had managed to put myself under the impression that I had been expanding my field of interests rather meaningfully recently – not so, it appears.

A caveat I’d also found myself processing, regarding the list above, was that while the first two books – I’m inclined to think, at least – are themselves of varying levels of quality and confessional sentiment in relation to the rest of the list, they were genuinely significant in cultivating within me a theological imagination that would have me read any of the rest – and, in turn, become the kind of person willing to attempt to engage meaningfully in economic, political, and philosophical literature and theory. In this way, they are truly influential; coming, in fact, at a time in my life that not only open me up but saved me, in some ways. The rest, in this sense, have offered for me a truly inspiring and serious expansion of what those first two books began to cultivate and awaken in me.

All in all, an intriguing and enlightening exercise.

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