5 Influences

What 5 books have influenced you the most?

P.S. Or if you prefer, what 5 movies, 5 albums, or travels.

1. The Dictionary – I have an old and huge, (faux) leather-bound Merriam-Webster edition. It has been my companion since grade school. It has taught me countless words, and checked my spelling a thousand times, it also has some very clever line drawings on every page or two.

2. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums – Made me want to live in San Fran (had to live vicariously through Ali on that one) and gave me a deeper appreciation for jazz, words, and the world in general. Introduced me to the idea of prose, which I have since made my primary language.

3. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand – I have mentioned this one repeatedly before…despite the fact that current liberal politics frown on Objectivism as a whole, and conservatives are doing their best to champion the notion, all the while debasing it’s very meaning – I still love the philosophy. That love comes with a caveat that all philosophies are fundamentally flawed in one way or another… This book presents the concept elegantly, with a very engaging and romantic plot line – and vaguely Gothic setting! Good indulgent fun!

4. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett – this was the first to book to really sweep me away and transport me to another time and place. I still recall setting the paperback copy down, I was sitting in the sun, on the deck at the Truckee house – downtown by the park. It was a shock to be whipped back into the dry warmth of the California high desert after being immersed in the foggy moors of England. I was torn between the world of young Mary; hunting ghosts and fraternizing with birds and flowers – and my own, seemingly plain and non-mysterious world.

5. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen – Another one to whisk you away to new places and cultures! This book taught me about ecosystems, mountaineering, and Buddhism. Three of my loftiest loves. In fact, I have a literary tattoo traced straight out of the tattered pages of my used copy of the book, the traditional Nepalese Sanskrit for the mantra OM MA NI PAD ME HUM, is beautifully reproduced there, my tattoo, unfortunately – came out a bit crude. Think twice before you get work done with a home-made tattoo gun at the dinner table!

Just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere — in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight.”   – Mathiessen


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