So of course I'm going to join in - it's about books. The question is what are the ten books "which have [most] influenced your view of the world." Not your ten favorite books, but those that have most shaped your outlook.
I'm sorry that it turns out all of the books are by men. I clearly need to read more.
In no particular order:
1. Genius and Chaos, by James Gleick. For better or for worse, these books more than anything else influenced my view of what the practice of science should be like. That view has turned out to wrong frequently, but I still read these books to remember why I wanted to be a scientist in the first place.
2. The Character of Physical Law, by Richard Feynman. (I would also include the Lectures on Physics.) Feynman is the scientist par excellence. He makes scientific thinking look easy, fun, and beautiful. Behind the fun is a deep philosophy of how to make sense of the world.
3. Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. (And let's toss in Mason&Dixon too). It blew my mind - before reading this book I didn't realize that it was possible to write like this. The funniest book I've read that deals with the soul-sucking, repressive, homicidal tendencies of human society.
4. Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu. "Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles, and the water is clear?" The real value of this book emerges when you begin to see this as more than a book of platitudes.
5. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. Brilliant science history, brilliant political and military history, written in some of the best non-fiction prose of the 20th century. It's a book about the bomb and the technical wizardry and scientific culture, and yet it's an extremely humanitarian book. The best book I've read dealing with the power of science and the responsibilities of scientists as human beings towards society.
6. The Creationists, by Ronald Numbers. Evolution did not lead me out of the religious belief I was raised in, but the struggles described in this book, of Evangelical Christian scientists attempting to reconcile their fundamentalist beliefs with the overwhelming conclusions of science, resonated with me as I dealt with my own efforts to resolve the tension between the realities of history and what I was raised to believe.
7. The Origins of Order, by Stuart Kauffman. I'm not sure how many of the conclusions of this book I actually believe, but I've been fired up for years by Kauffman's call for "a science of organization." He may not have the answers, but he's done some heavy lifting to frame important questions we need to address regarding living things as evolving complex systems.
8. The Great Pianists, Harold Schonberg. I'm not really that great at what I do, but this book about excellence has been an inspiration since high school. Schonberg answers not just the question of how to become a great pianist, but how to become great at anything.
9. A World Lit Only By Fire, by William Manchester. One historian's idiosyncratic take on the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It's a powerful argument for curiosity about our world, rational thinking, and the value of humans as individuals.
10. Speeches and letters of Abraham Lincoln. Despite the fact that Lincoln served as President during one of the most violent periods in U.S. history, he was one of the U.S.'s most humane presidents. His vision of a compassionate, egalitarian, and heterogeneous but unified society has significantly influenced my political outlook.
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