The most influential book you have read in your subject

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The most influential book you have read in your subject

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1januaryw
Editado: Jul 26, 2007, 9:59am

Have you read a book that has inspired you in your field of study? What is the most influential book you have read in your subject?
I am getting my MSW (Social Work) and recently mine was The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down. I had to read it for a class and I am glad that I did. It was packed with useful information as it followed the path of a young Hmong girl with a seizure disorder. It covered cross cultural stuff, child welfare, the health care system... it was great.

2manguni
Jul 26, 2007, 10:52am

I have read many books in my field that revolutionized my thinking, but I must say that reading In the Realm of the Diamond Queen by Anna Tsing when I was finishing my undergrad degree made a big impression on me. Her willingness to be extremely reflexive as an ethnographer, as well as her respect for her informant's perspectives - no matter how outlandish they seemed from a Western perspective - made for a nuanced and fascinating piece of anthropological work.

3fallentree
Editado: Ago 6, 2007, 12:13am

semi-related to my field (forest biology and ecology): I'd say Ishmael by Daniel Quinn has been a rather influential work for me, bringing in a broader context of community and personal responsibility. Actually, upon finishing it, I had one of those "a-ha" moments where I finally realised what my Environmental Philosophy professor had been attempting to subliminally teach us all the previous semester. Other works I've found particularly inspiring include Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat because, quite frankly, that book turned me on to the idea of field research in the first place! and... Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, and Desert Notes River Notes by Bary Lopez... yes, I come to forestry from the environmental side of things. To me, the only true way of managing the land is to first love it.

4Sniv
Editado: Ago 2, 2007, 10:22pm

Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory has influenced probably more than anything else the way I think and write about art (I study film). Up until that point, I actually didn't care much for Adorno. I had read Culture Industry for a film theory course, disagreed with most everything in it, and summarily dismissed Adorno. Then, I had to read sections of Aesthetic Theory for a literature and philosophy course and experienced an intellectual lightening bolt. Everything I've read from Adorno since has been nothing short of illuminating.

5LittleKnife
Ago 3, 2007, 8:43am

Probably reading the Aeneid and bits of Ovid in Latin for the first time was the most inspiring reading - it reminds you why you study a language when you watch technicians play with words and you know you need a page to explain what the image or joke on one line is.

I can't really name one scholar who most influenced my critical thinking but I would thank Paul Cartledge and Simon Goldhill for writing books examining the zeitgeist of theory and explaining its modern relevance to a non-specialist audience.

6sorlil
Ago 4, 2007, 5:05pm

Definately Aristotle's The Politics for his explanation of the nature of man as essentially political whose telos/purpose/end is to be found in the activity of the polis.

Also Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution particularly for his concept of society as a contract between the living, the dead and those yet to be born, and his idea of the latent wisdom of the principle institutions that make up society.

Finally, Marx's essay 'On the Jewish Question' found in his Early Writings for his analysis of the estrangement between man’s political life and his material life.

7mrlanger
Ago 11, 2007, 3:07pm

Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death and For Self-Examination have been instrumental in my studies. Particularly, these have given profound insight into how to apply theology and reading of Scripture.

Book Four of Augustine's The Trinity and Book Ten of his City of God have been helpful in terms of understanding atonement theology prior to the major stances on atonement.

G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy has taught me how to take myself less seriously.

Helmut Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians has hopefully kept me humble.

And, finally, Stanley Hauerwas' The Hauerwas Reader has taken my theology and dumped it upside-down.

8ForrestFamily
Ago 14, 2007, 1:04am

I read A Bed for the Night by David Rieff while doing my Masters and it inspired my PhD thesis topic on NGOs and military strategy. So it is Rieff's fault!

9scottveg3
Ago 24, 2007, 9:51am

Fallentree I have also read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and loved it. I read it my undergrad Design with Nature course (Landscape Architecture). I am about to embark on a graduate degree in water resource management. God help me.

For me one of the most influential novels was actually a fiction book. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven. I read it in high school and it got me on my current career track. Its the closeness with the land that people must achieve so they don't die out once all of society is torn away. Its very interesting.

10snoopy205
Ago 24, 2007, 1:15pm

It may seem strange, but the most influential book I've read in recent years was Michael Howard's Franco-Prussian War. It was such a good book and a such a good piece of military history, that I want to be a historian/international relations scholar of Howard's calibre. It is an incredible achievement, and I wish to aspire to that quality of scholarship in my own writings.

11MysteryWatcher
Ago 25, 2007, 3:54am

There are so many, mainly because they seem to change as I go along. Does anyone else find that a book that was hugely influential a month ago is only incidentally on your topic now? Maybe that's just me...

But one I like from a stylistic viewpoint is Linda Young's Middle Class Culture in the Nineteenth Century because it's a mishmash of art history, history and cultural studies. I love books that break the rules.

12januaryw
Ago 25, 2007, 10:40am

I forgot to list Amazing Grace: the lives of children and the conscience of a nation by Jonathan Kozol (touchstones are strange things). This book drove me to social work!

13fallentree
Ago 25, 2007, 8:21pm

Scottveg3, sounds interesting... best of luck! that's certainly a field in need of more knowledgeable people.

I'm going to have to look into Lucifer's Hammer, one of the reviews said it was "Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, for adults, on a massive scale," and I LOVED Hatchet back in grade five.

it's amazing how people can actually pinpoint turns of thought, and sources of inspiration in books like this. who knew a person's life could change direction just like that?

14nmelcher
Nov 3, 2007, 5:49pm

I'm in my third year of a Creative Writing MFA program and I have three books which I find invaluable:

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield is a great way to look at creativity and the tendency writers have to block themselves from success.

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern is an excellent book on writing as craft. I'm teaching out of it in my section of "Introduction to Creative Writing" and my students really like it.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera was the first novel I read in my program which really spoke to me on how far one can take writing craft.

15Madcow299
Editado: Nov 25, 2007, 7:48pm

many things by Henri J. Nouwen have inspired me. Open secrets by Richard Lischer is a great look into parish life for a new pastor.

#7 mrlanger, I heard Hauerwaus speak at my sem last year and he was excellent. I think he likes to ruffle feathers and does so with ease, but I was really fascinated by what he said. Is the reader worth it?

16Muscogulus
Jan 12, 2008, 4:04am

Nouwen is well worth reading.

In my field, history, the lightning struck when I first read Michel-Rolph Trouillot's book Silencing the Past. Ever notice how the philosophers and theorists of history never seem able to do any history? Trouillot is an exception, and he can write. I've just gotten hold of his brief but thoughtful Global Transformations (which may not be on LT yet).

17GigiD
Fev 18, 2008, 11:15am

The book that influenced me was Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. I didn't read it for school, it was something I picked up on my own and helped encourage me to become a teacher. It really made me think about children and our school system and how we are failing them. This book really changed my view on education and the public school system.

18jsnrcrny
Editado: Fev 19, 2008, 7:39am

I know it's cheesy and cliche, but probably Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. I remember reading that the sophomore year of my undergraduate, and it felt like I was reading a catalog of my life, only it was taking place in nineteenth-century Russia. Raskolnikov was one of the first "historical" characters I felt true empathy with (up until the murder, of course). By historical, I mean that first person from pre-corporate America who actually seemed to be suffering from similar anxieties and fears that I had thought only plagued us modern, post-Industrial rev., post-Cold-War minds Also, it was my first long Russian novel, and it was really empowering to finish it.

19firefighter288
Fev 19, 2008, 10:32pm

20galacticfuzz
Mar 5, 2008, 12:35am

I am a theoretical physicist/"reformed" astrophysicist, and I would say that overall Carl Sagan has been the most influential author for me. In particular his book Cosmos. Also, his compilation of essays Billions and Billions was the first hint to me that a scientist could become more than "just" a scientist if s/he wanted. We don't have enough examples of that, so reading those essays was a very important experience for me.

21jlelliott
Mar 14, 2008, 3:29pm

I am a geneticist, and Darwin's The Origin of Species is still awe-inspiring, all these years later. Not many science books have that kind of staying power!

22Fullmoonblue
Editado: Mar 18, 2008, 10:12am

Hmmm... coming from Comparative Literature, it's a tie between Erich Auerbach's Mimesis and a pile of Foucault.

23PierreAnoid
Mar 23, 2008, 11:39am

A book that took two undergraduate courses taught me to think like a statistician. I work in statistics now and my graduate school is slightly related in system sciences. The book was Applied Linear Statistical Models by John Neter. Very good basics and good for motivating diagnostic thinking. This is definitely beyond cross tabs and simple descriptive statistics.

24KidSisyphus
Mar 23, 2008, 8:34pm

Working on my thesis in Humanities/Lit, I have found Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Northrup Frye's Anatomy of Criticism and Jonathan Swift: The Brave Desponder by Patrick Reilly all indispensable.

But I'll give a nod to Fullmoonblue -- Mimesis would be on my short list.

25medievalmama
Mar 24, 2008, 8:58pm

I'm sitting in a room surrounded by books thinking that I am very glad, this question was NOT on my exams. I still can't answer it. In my field, hmmmm . . . I know many who would like to be most important. Perhaps for me, Burrow, Ricardian Poetry because it takes Chaucer off the high tower and puts him in the field with Gower, Langland, and the Gawain/Pearl-poet who wins MY vote for best 14th century works.

To get me into the field, it would have to be the Complete Shakespeare that my godfather gifted me with when I was 10.

Of the primary sources in my field -- I could easily work on Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Tempest forever and ever -- one at a time, two at a time, or all together.