The Top Five Books That Changed My Life—Have They Had an Influence on You, Too?

Happy Wednesday everyone!  I must confess something before I get started on today’s post.  I am sitting here at four o’clock in the morning and have nothing ready for today or the rest of the week.  Oy.   If  you’ve kept up with me the past couple days, you know that my old computer died by fire in late July and, unfortunately, all my drafts and notes went with it…so I am scrambling around trying to find some interesting things to talk about and get some posts out there for you darlings to gawk at.


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Thankfully today should be relatively easy for me because it’s Writing Prompt Wednesday, one of the new themes here on the Daily Hottentots.  Each Wednesday I am going to pick one writing prompt from websites like Creativity Portal, Plinky, Language is a Virus, etc. and use the first prompt that I get.  This should get very interesting because at some point I will explore short stories, poetry, opinion pieces, and whatever else these prompts spark in my imagination.

Today’s prompt from Creativity Portal is right up my alley—write a top five list of books that changed/influenced my life.  I am a bibliophile.  I own more than 3,000 books (fiction and nonfiction) and have read most of them; some of them I have read more than a few times, especially if the book’s author is F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Out of all those books only a handful, believe it or not, has had any real impact on my life as far as the way I think and behave.  Now I am going to share with you what those books are.  Are any of your favorites on this list?

5.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my all-time favorite piece of literature.  Narrator Nick Carraway tells the story of an eccentric rich man named Jay Gatsby and his ill-fated love affair with the beautiful blonde Daisy Buchanan.  Set on Long Island, it gives the reader a peek into the lives of the idle rich in the 1920s and gives us that perfect unhappy ending that was common in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories.

I first read this novella when I was still in grade school and it (along with everything else F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote) was at least somewhat responsible for my obsession with the 1920s.  I get my hair bobbed just the way the flappers in the 1920s got their hair snipped at the barber shop, collect clothing from the era, and fancy myself a jazz baby who was born about seventy years too late.  *sigh*  All I am missing is the loads of money that the Buchanans and Gatsby have.

4.  A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

A People’s History of the United States is one of the best known (if not the best known) American history books published in the past several decades.  It chronicles the history of the United States from the time Christopher Columbus made his ocean voyage in 1492 on up to the modern era.  Some people have criticized it as being revisionist nonsense, a load of rubbish.  I, and many others in this country, consider it an honest look at the people who made this country what it is—the natives, the slaves, the workers who went on strike, the immigrants.

It angered me…some parts made me  cry.  It made me want to go out and do something to change the world.  It turned me into a radical.

3.  An Inconvenient Book by Glenn Beck

I know, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell?” after seeing that a Glenn Beck book made it on my list.  I am the anti-conservative crusader so it seems unusual that a conservative commentator’s book would make the top five, doesn’t it?  Well, I didn’t promise you a top five favorite list, I promised you a list of books that changed my life in some way, and this book has done just that.

In An Inconvenient Book Glenn Beck vomits a ton of delusional BS.  He goes into detail about why global warming isn’t real, gives some friendly Mormon advice on how to handle marriage and family, attacks Muslims, and calls universities across America “Socialist enclaves.”  He makes it perfectly clear in this book that he is dead set against higher education.  But you probably already knew that he is considering how ill-informed and undereducated on everything he appears to be on his radio and television program.

After reading this garbage, I turned my back on anything that smacked of conservatism.  It made me even more left-leaning than I already am.  I’m sure that is not what Glenn Beck intended to happen with any of his readers, but it did with me.  I suppose I should thank him for being so insane.  Every time he opens his mouth, my side looks better.

2.  The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry

This, my darlings, is a work of historical fiction, but it really makes you think.  It is centered around the famed lost Library of Alexandria and secret societies that control people and their religious beliefs.  One interesting thing that this novel brings up is the possibility that the Bible’s translations are flawed.  When you think of this novel, think of something that is along the same lines as The Da Vinci Code.

Though it is a work of fiction (Steve Berry, a practicing Catholic, likes to remind his readers that it is fiction), it makes you question organized religion and the politics surrounding it.   After reading this book, I became more critical than ever of the Catholic Church and religions that attempt to create God in man’s own image.

1.  Padraic Pearse Short Stories selected and adapted by Desmond Maguire

Padraic Pearse’s name isn’t well-known these days even though there are streets in Dublin named after him and a museum dedicated to him in Rathfarnham at the site of the old St. Enda’s school where he was once headmaster.  Who was he?  In addition to being headmaster of St. Enda’s, he was a playwright, poet, barrister, and ringleader of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland.  On May 3, 1916, Pearse was executed at Kilmainham Jail for his role in the rebellion.

The five stories in this book, in both English and Irish, are simple  character driven tales set in rural Ireland and Dublin.  There’s not much of a plot to them, but they are beautifully written and it’s a pleasure to read something from someone who was gifted in so many ways and fought so hard for freedom in Ireland.

I grew up hearing tales about Padraic and his younger brother Willie (they were very distant relatives) and reading his writing inspired me to take up writing poetry and short stories at a very young age.  The love of reading and writing has always been with me thanks to him.

And that about wraps it up for the very first installment of Writing Prompt Wednesday!  Are any of your favorite books on this list?  If you had to choose five books of your own, which ones would you choose?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.  And please feel free to spread the word about the Daily Hottentots, which is officially back in full swing!  I look forward to  your feedback.

Leave a comment


  1. Hello:
    Thanks for linking to our posts about F. Scott Fitzgerald! We hope you will visit again soon. F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby are two of our favorite topics!

    Best wishes,
    Silver Birch Press

  2. I have found your blog to really be a great “go-to” source and love your posts. Because of that, I’ve nominated you for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” – my post will go out on Friday 9/14/12 to check it out!

  3. Don’t let Beck influence your thought about Conservatives…. There is a difference- a vast one- between conservatives and jackasses, know-nothings, and hate spewers. William F. Buckley is surely turning over in his grave considering you lumped Beck in with his ilk. (Notice that the fat one has “dittoheads” as followers???)
    Now, to more serious matters…
    I, too, read the GG in elementary school. And, was taken on a trip to see how that “other half” (you know, the 1%ers) lived… It definitely captured the fatuousness of many of that ilk. (I also liked Redford’s portrayal…)
    re: The Alexandria Link… our translations ARE flawed. Some more horrendously than others… Truth is stranger than fiction.

    • I agree with everything you said, Roy. It is pretty unfair of me to put GB in the same class as William F. Buckley. I’ve always found WFB to be a wee bit pretentious with that lovely faux British accent, BUT he was able to debate and express his views without looking like a complete raving lunatic. One of my all-time favorite debates is the one he had with good old Uncle Noam Chomsky. The WFB breed of conservative is, unfortunately, on the verge of extinction.

      Oh, and Redford’s portrayal of Gatsby really cannot be topped by anyone (even though I find that version of the film rather bland overall). And the translations of the Bible are indeed flawed. There was a lot of guessing going on with the translation of the Old Hebrew texts, and the things they could not translate were left out and filler put in its place. I have no doubt in my mind about that.

  4. You noticed I said Redford’s portrayal and NOT the movie 🙂

    • Yep, I certainly did. :p Have you seen the official trailer for the new version of it with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby? It looks terrible. That girl is not a convincing Daisy and Leo just doesn’t cut it as Gatsby.

      After the way the guy from Fight Club butchered The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m afraid to see any more adaptions of F. Scotty Fitz’s work.

      Here’s the link to the trailer; it’s coming out on Christmas:

  5. I will definately have to get The Alexandria Link. I love conspiracy books.

    • I think you will like this one, Dani. The central character is a CIA type and the book starts out with his son being kidnapped. While looking for his son, he gets mixed up with several situations involving religion and politics all over the world.


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