It goes without saying that the Book of Mormon is actually the most influential book in my life, but I think that using scriptures in such a list is a copout, and will not include it in mine.
and now read over 10 words a second.
I thought the movie was okay.
3. A Princess of Mars/The Gods of Mars/Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Read in 1992.) Perhaps it's cheating to put three books as one, but the trilogy really is one continuous story. Edgar Rice Burrough's space fantasy is about a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars and having swashbuckling adventures. It had a big effect on my life, reading it right at the beginning of junior high, when I was noticing girls for the first time (Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars, is the original hot space chick-but is portrayed surprisingly progressively for a novel published in 1912), and wondering what all was going on with becoming a man. John Carter was a good fantasy role-model, even if he was a Confederate Veteran, meaning he had fought for slavery before his adventures on Mars. (In that vein, it also made me confront Edgar Rice Burrough's biases, and in so doing launch me into considerations of such things.) Also, it's basically the best escapist literature I think I've ever read. I still remember it all these years later. The movie adaptation was pretty cool too, even though, sadly, it looks like there will be no sequels.
I've reviewed this book here on my blog. This book is on this list for reasons that might surprise you. The horror of the massacre is in no way blunted by the fact that the perpetrators all lived good lives before and after it. They just had one really really really bad week. Also, there's a line in the book that basically says, "we authors get the impression that if even one person had, at any time, said, 'hang on a minute,' the situation might have ended very differently. But nobody ever did." I think that now I would be such a person who would stand up and say "excuse me? No. I won't do that. And you shouldn't either." But I think that now I would be such a person because I've read this book. Before I read it, I could see myself getting sucked into such groupthink as was necessary for such an atrocity to take place.
That thought haunts me.
Oh that there were more like me, in some instances. Read my review of the book here for more detailed thoughts.
Honorable Mention: "Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil," by David Paulsen. This BYU forum address, given on September 21, 1999 during my first semester at BYU, changed the course of my life. I didn't include it in the list, because it's not a book, but it beats just about every book on the list as far as impact on my life is measured. A few years later in my World Religions class, Professor Roger Keller said, "I wish all Mormons would take philosophy of religion, because we don't even know the questions to which we have the answers." Listening to this forum by my future mentor Dr. Paulsen was the first intimation for me of something I had come to know very well by the time Dr. Keller said it more succinctly and more articulately than I.
Honorable Mention: God is Not One, by Stephen Prothero. It's nice to have a well-respected and bestselling religion professor that gives a full-throated defense of what I believe, even if it's not currently in vogue in academia, namely, that all religions are not the same, and that to argue such is intellectually deceptive, factually incorrect, and morally questionable. He just says it nicer than I do. (Obviously related to Nomad, #9 above.)
I wonder what books I will read in the future that will knock some of these off the list? Here's to many more years of reading to come! My thanks to Mom, of course, for getting me to read books in the first place, recommending #2 and #3 above specifically.
Richer than I, you will never be,
for I had a mother that read to me.