Putting it simply, my childhood was pretty crazy, so I spend much of it reading books.
Until I was 18 I read only fiction, losing myself in the stories in the books to forget about the ridiculous shit often going on in my own life.
A Childhood Filled with Books
My earliest memories of my Mom are of her with her face in a book with a lit cigarette and open beer. When I lived with her, I remember every room of the house being filled with massive overstuffed bookshelves full of mostly fiction so I think that’s where my love for reading started. The kind of bookshelves where the tension of the books is kind of what’s holding the thing together, the wood was there for show.
House of Books
I started reading early, having been taught Dr. Suess by my Aunt. You think with how much my mom read, she would have been the one to teach me but she also liked to party a lot as well as sell drugs, which generally cuts into the mother daughter time. By the time we lived in that house I described that was filled with books, I was reading pretty much anything I wanted.
Comfort in Books
It wasn’t long before I was reading a chapter book a day and that just increased as I went through school. I was known for finishing books in English early, only to move on to my own books I had ready to read. My tastes were pretty mature from a young age, I remember I started regularly reading books by the likes of Stephen King by the time I was 11.
Working with Books
In high school, I spent all of my spare time in the library and that included at the end of classes, when the lecture would be done and we could start homework. Almost always every free chance I got I made my way to the library, both for the books and the librarian who was ordering and cataloging them. The nice thing about being close to the librarian? You could make requests and get first dibs on new novels as soon as they arrived.
This love affair continued into college where I immediately sought a library job at my campus. I got it and that’s roughly when I made the shift from fiction to non-fiction, or to reality anyway. At this point I have to really identify with a piece of fiction to bother, I now find the tales of history much more entertaining. This point is also oddly enough when I made the shift to agorist as I was reading everything from Karl Marx to Hayek.
At the end of the day, I would literally not be the same person were it not for the books I read in my youth. At the suggestion of Thaddeus Russell (Thanks for the idea!), I’ve compiled a list of 15 Books that Shaped Me.
1) Dark Tower Series by Stephen King:
Technically 7 books telling one massive epic tale that is literally like nothing else King has ever written. It’s got everything from romance to scifi to western themes in it and it’s all about saving a world falling apart. Highly metaphorical for me, especially the end of the series.
Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series
2) Woman of the Frontier by Zane Grey:
I avoided westerns until I met John’s grandpa (on his father’s side) who had hundreds of them in his house. I noticed this book and his grandpa gave it to me and it turned out to be one of the best fiction novels I’ve ever read. Its controversial, tragic and just a great story.
Woman of the Frontier
3) Huxley by Sybille Bedford:
This is a biography written about Aldous Huxley by what I think might have been one of his mistresses. It goes into great detail about his entire life and honestly is so well written it reads like a fiction novel despite being non-fiction. Huxley was an incredibly fascinating man and that all becomes obvious when you read this book. Also explains a lot of his views on society and the world which were extremely fascinating to me.
4) Walden- Henry David Thoreau
I listened to this book on audio with John many times while living off the grid for the first time in Cleveland Ohio. It made us proud of what we were doing even though we had the modern day comforts of the city, we were still concerned with things like cooking bread on a potbelly wood stove.
5) The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia by Thomas Keneally
This was one of the first what I call “entertaining history books” I came across. It was a dollar buy from Goodwill and was honestly a page turner. I had no idea that Australia was founded technically by prisoners before this and it definitely made me wonder what other history was out there I wasn’t aware of.
The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia
6) Mr. Bloomfields Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds and Mycologists
Another find at Goodwill that proved to be a fascinating general source of knowledge that left me with nothing more than a badass respect for the hyper versatile lifeform that is fungi in general. This kicked off a marathon of reading books like this on everything from root biology to soil science.
7) The Rebel Farmer by Sepp Holzer
Sepp Holzer is a permaculture expert in Europe who has spent much of his career finding loopholes. Turns out you can’t be a farmer without government compliance. So he finds loopholes so he can continue to farm his land the way he wants in spite of the government. The Rebel Farmer is all about his struggles and triumphs with dealing with the local authorities and his right to do what he wants on his own property. Sepp is a hero of mine and was a hero of John’s.
8) The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This was bought for me by Nana from Goodwill when I got out of jail. This is the harrowing account of one woman’s take on her unique childhood. I remember while reading it that I loved how brutally honest she was about everything. I plan to use this novel for inspiration for compiling and finishing to write my own memoir.
9) Getting Things Done by David Allen
I have read and listened to this one on audio many times. As soon as I accepted the fact that my interests were diverse, my focus turned to trying to learn proper time management and productivity skills. I don’t apply everything as well as I would like to but this has provided as a basis for me. If you’ve ever wondered how I’m so productive, this is a big part of it. Otherwise I’m just a big unorganized mess of too much responsibility.
10) Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar by James Marcus Bach
We heard of this in a podcast back in the days when we binged on School Sucks podcast. This book inspired me to take my education into my own hands.
11) A Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky
Mark Kurlansky is probably one of my favorite authors. I’ve read several books by him and all have been incredible, opening my eyes often to things I never considered. Like how the history of Cod is a huge part of human history in general! Or how Salt has played a role in our history since the beginning! In his book, he talks about the incredible resilient and resistant people from Northern France and Southern Spain. It’s all about their untold influence on the entire planet, something I never even heard about in school.
12) Road to Serfdom by Freidrich Hayak
I tossed myself into philosophy and the capitalist/socialist debate in college. This happened because I very quickly became aware that I didn’t have a good understanding of where I stood. So, I read both Marx and Hayak. I found particularly Road to Serfdom to be useful in determining the illegitimacy of the system I was stuck in. It wasn’t long before I was an anarchist. This book is one of the first I read on the way down the rabbit hole. In college I did everything from attend Socialist Democrat events to getting involved in local legalization politics. The only thing that does for me in terms of an actual solution to change the world is agorism.
13) The Prince by Machiavelli
This was a book recommended to me by John, who read it in prison at the suggestion of his lawyer. It’s all about politics, a sort of handbook on how to be a leader that backfired on the guy who wrote it. It’s served useful for identifying the systems in place and how control systems work. For those unaware, it’s all a power play especially for those at the top.
14) Anthem by Ayn Rand
I’ve read most of Rand. While I’ve agreed with a lot of it, not all of it has hit home. The Fountainhead was entertaining but kind of crazy, same with Atlas Shrugged. My favorite of her books is Anthem, the shortest one but I think it hits home the hardest. The story is clear and direct and its easy to read getting the point across in a way that makes it memorable. My high school librarian recommended I read it. I tried and couldn’t get into it. She told me “try again later, you’ll like it”. She was right.
15) Year of the Black Rainbow by Claudio Sanchez and Peter David
My favorite band is Coheed and Cambria and they’re my favorite because the story. The music is all based on an epic slightly dystopian sci fi love story comic series written by Claudio Sanchez. Claudio also writes at least the majority of the music as well. Year of the Black Rainbow the novel explains much of what’s talked about in the album titled the same thing. In many ways its inspiration because its an amazing multimedia way to tell a story.
I could list more but this is what I came up with. These are in no particular order other than the order they managed to come to mind.
This was originally posted over a year ago but got deleted in the Highly Functional Growth rebuild. This link is from reposting it first as a “Hive Original at PeakD.