Monday, July 9, 2012

4 books that influenced my life

Earlier today I read a little note (I don't know if it is true or not) that Mexican Presidential candidate Pena Nieto had difficulty naming "3 books that influenced his life". This was apparently being held against him by some in his race for President. But it also made me think, "How would I answer that question". With a little thought it was fairly easy to come up with 4 books I think qualify for me, not necessarily "great" books that are well written but influential.

1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

2. Lost Horizon by James Hilton

3. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

4. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Each of these kind of mean something different to me and were introduced to me at different stages of my life but I'll give a little reasoning why these made the list for me and if you haven't read them why they might interest you.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is, for me, a transformational book of how to think (or stop thinking so much) and be happy in the "now". It appeals to the logic/thinking/ego system by explaining how the mind works in an intelligent but not overly technical way. It also uses personal examples of Tolle, and other fairly connectable ideas to really connect a intensely difficult idea to comprehend to enough grounding to be consumed by normal folks. This book has really helped me with focus, with being happy on a daily basis and with God's current blessings, and not "focusing" on the past or the future in ways that are less than healthy. This looking forward and backwards (forward is more of my issue generally) was really screwing up my enjoyment of all the cool, outstanding things I have in my life currently.

Lost Horizon by James Hilton is a beautifully written book that is in super simplified fashion the finding of the place "Shangri-La". I find it hard to write about this without providing spoilers if you do want to read about it but simply put a guy crashes in the mountains is introduced to this place where everything seems kind of off. Some people look downtrodden, others not so, but they all seem happy and it is looked upon as weird by the lead voice. When they have the opportunity to leave some don't want to, others don't want to leave some behind, eventually the lead voice begins to see the beauty of the place and when he leaves he can't figure out if it was real or just imagined that a place like Shangri-La exists. -- That is a very quick and dirty version of a really well written story so if you are intrigued please read it.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was introduced to me in the 6th or 7th grade (a young age for the subject matter but I specifically remember my teacher asking my parents permission). The basic premise is following the path of a lead character through his journal who is "slow" and this is exemplified by his lack of ability to write above a 2nd or 3rd grade level. He has a mouse, Algernon, and both have a surgery to fix the "slow" condition. Basically you watch the lead grow in intellect, and actions based on his new found intelligence ... and then Algernon who also had the surgery starts to regress and you see it won't last. So the lead character knows it won't last for him either. The mouse dies and the lead knows what his fate will be as well. A quite literal story arch. I'm not positive why this book is so powerful but it is. Maybe it is to see growth and appreciate I'm not "slow", maybe it is to appreciate what I have because it can be lost, not really sure but a very memorable story for me some 20 years later.

The final selection I had is the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Now I'm not a complete Dave Ramsey believer, I at one point was a envelope carrying follower but now I'm lax and believe good principles that can be shaped for me. But this book was/is the basis for me understanding money as an adult. My parents did fine to teach me, I never was terrible with money, but this book and its principles are keys for a financial game plan, for controlling your money and not your money controlling you. And a lot of it is common sense, some of it goes too far but it is also (IMO) written to the lowest common denominator that needs severe help and therefore a severe system. Like many things in life though it is excellent to explore or be exposed to a severe idea and then take what you can from it and implement it to your station in life. It is why I hate identifying myself as a Republican because it's extreme (I'm clearly not a Democrat but disagree with Republicans too much to be whole hog). If you want my advice on finances you can find some on the blog from the past or feel free to contact me and I'll give you my ideas, I know I've definitely thought a lot about them :)

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