I’ll throw in to books that have influenced me (started here). I’m going to break the rules and go beyond books to writing general.
I think of influence, with respect to books, as changing the way I view the world. Some things that I’ve read add a filter to the way I experience and understand the world. These books go beyond learning and into altering my personality and modes of thought. These are the books I’m thinking of:
1. The writings of Ayn Rand – Ms Rand was the first to spark my interest in ideas. Once you have absorbed her modes of thought, you begin to see the world in a different way and you can’t go back to the old way. Our society worships all the wrong things. Soon, you’ll pay your taxes, which explicitly encourage debt, divorce, unproductivity and having lots of children that you can’t afford. Health care reform reallocates assets from the productive to the unproductive – society may be able to survive some of this, but at some point, production cannot keep up with the needs of the unproductive. A worldview that places needs above ability is a perverted worldview that will end in failure.
2. The writings of Murray Rothbard – From Rand, I moved to Rothbard. Rothbard lays a great economic and historical foundation for future learning. He answered many questions and raised many others.
3. The writings of Mencius Moldbug (and the works of Thomas Carlyle (e.g. here, here, here, here)) – Ultimately, many of the questions raised by Rothbard were answered by Moldbug. I’d put Carlyle here alone, but I wouldn’t have understood Carlyle without Moldbug. Again, the way that you see history, politics, and society will change once you understand Moldbug. You can’t understand modern society or recent history unless you understand democracy and no one understands it better. Every piece of news that you read will be read differently once you’ve absorbed Moldbug. Every history book you read will be read differently. The veil falls and your eyes begin to adjust to the light of truth. (That was poor attempt mimic the style of Carlyle as adapted by Moldbug, I know that it was a poor attempt, but roll with it).
4. The writings of Albert J. Nock and H.L. Mencken (and to a lesser extent Tom Wolfe) – From these men, I learned two lessons: 1) how to observe happenings around you and 2) how to behave in a society that you believe to be in decay. These men are the best observers. They all seem to share the same detachment from their own time that helps one observe insightfully and cope with living in a civilization that one knows to be in decay. Instead of being sad about what they saw, they laughed at it – a lot.
5. James Burnham’s The Machiavellians – the best political science book that I’ve read. Once you’re done, you will always view politics for what it is, not what it says it wants to be. You will therefore understand it.
6. Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, John T. Flynn’s The Roosevelt Myth, and Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative – The first two books showed me that the history I learned in school was (shall we say) incomplete. Moldbug took care of tearing down the rest of the historical myths that I had learned. The last book showed me what history could be, even in the modern era.
7. Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, the writings of Steve Sailer, Cochran’s The 10,000 Year Explosion, Hart’s Understanding Human History, and Clark’s A Farewell to Alms – I could have just listed The Bell Curve here, but you get so much more out of it when you get other perspectives on the same fundamental topic. Once you understand these works, you understand that most of the "policy discussions" that you hear about in the news totally miss the point. For example, once you understand these books, you can’t help but sit back and laugh when you see people trying to improve the educational system. The mainstream ideas are so wrong. If you’ve learned from Nock and Mencken, watching "reform ideas" while knowing what the real problems are will make you laugh. If you haven’t read Nock and Mencken, you’ll get frustrated and angry. Read Nock and Mencken first.
8. The writings of Roissy and the writings of Mickey Spillane and Anthony Trollope – I admit this is a strange group of writers. I don’t always agree with Roissy, but you can’t deny that he changes the way you view the world. To understand the decay of modern society in one sphere, you can’t do better. This item on the list deals broadly with what it means to be a man (so I could add the movies of John Wayne, but we’re talking about writing). Roissy will show you the obstacles facing modern man. Nobody wrote men, as men, better than Spillane. Nobody wrote about men, as men, better than Trollope.
10. Nicholas Antongiavanni’s The Suit – you have to learn how to dress.