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Ask Slashdot: What Books Have Had a Significant Impact On Your Life? 700

gspec writes "A little background about me: 36-year-old computer engineer working in the Bay Area. While I bring in a comfortable salary, I consider myself an underachiever, and my career is stagnant (I have only been promoted four times in my 12-year career). I have led a couple projects, but I am not in any sort of leadership/management position. I realize I need to do something to enhance my career, and unfortunately, going back to school is not an option. One thing I can do is to read more quality books. My question: which books, of any type or genre, have had a significant impact on your life?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Books Have Had a Significant Impact On Your Life?

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  • Re:Not the Bible. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:39PM (#41635329)
    Okay. "Mere Christianity" and "The Problem of Pain"
  • Two golfers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BaverBud ( 610218 ) <> on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:41PM (#41635371) Homepage Journal
    (This is not my joke/story, just paraphrasing what I remember)

    Two golfers had been meeting weekly for years - lets call them Joe and Bob. Joe started to notice one day that Bob was getting a lot better. So Joe asked Bob what he was doing, and Bob replied that he was taking some golf classes on the weekends.

    Joe, not wanting to be outdone, bought a golf self-improvement book. And gave it to Bob, complimenting him on his desire to improve.

    A few weeks later, Bob was back to his old self, and Joe was happily able to compete again.

    Moral of the story: When Joe bought Bob the book, Bob stopped practicing and started reading. Don't substitute reading for doing.
  • Some... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:43PM (#41635397)

    The C Programming Language - Kernighan and Ritchie
    The Design of the Unix Operating System - Bach
    Computer Networks - Tannenbaum
    The Art Of Computer Programming - Knuth
    Security Engineering - Anderson
    Godel Escher and Bach - Hofstader
    The Demon Haunted World - Sagan
    The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - Adams
    Adolph Hitler, My Part In His Downfall - Milligan

  • More books... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JDAustin ( 468180 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:44PM (#41635413)

    Most of Heinlein's work, although my personal favorite is Job:A Comedy of Justice (I'd swear the South Park guys got their idea of Heaven and Hell from their).

    I'd add in Atlas Shrugged also, I didnt read until I was 35+.

  • My favorites (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:48PM (#41635473)

    Why Societies Need Dissent - Cass Sunstein
    The Road to Reality - Roger Penrose
    Liars and Outliers - Bruce Schneier
    Diplomacy - Henry Kissenger
    Last Chance to See - Douglas Adams
    Free to Choose - Milton Friedman
    Cosmos - Carl Sagan
    Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond
    Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

  • PHIKAL and THIKAL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mindcandy ( 1252124 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:52PM (#41635557)
    Not the books themselves, per se.
  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:54PM (#41635597)

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It can help you to look at life in a different way...

  • Re:Not the Bible. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:08PM (#41635851)
    I always preferred The Screwtape Letters to Lewis' other works. It's a fun read, and an interesting look at the psychological nature of temptation even if you don't go in for the religious aspects of it.
  • My List (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:09PM (#41635863)
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Atlas Shrugged
    Three Pillars of Zen
    The Bible
    The Art of Happiness, The Art of Happiness at Work
    Most of Robert Heinlein's books and short stories. (man who sold the moon is still a favorite)
    An introduction to microcomputers, Volume 1
    Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:09PM (#41635865)

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It can help you to look at life in a different way...

    Read it once .. read it twice .. then read The Tao Of Poo [] and realized that this small book managed to capture and impart all of the same concepts in something that could be easily read in an afternoon.

  • Re:Not the Bible. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:10PM (#41635887)

    One of my English teachers strongly recommended reading the Bible, not for the religious content, but because there are an enormous number of literary references to it.

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:19PM (#41636037)

    The Bible.

    Nah .. forget the Bible .. Read The X-rated Bible [] instead. It cuts out all the boring bits, plus has some great factual analysis on the original verses.

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:21PM (#41636065)
    On a more serious note, i did really like James P Hogan's "Voyage From Yesteryear." Before reading it i'd always had the impression that Communism sounded like a nice idea but had serious issues on a large scale. I felt the book put forward a completely believable scenario for a stable Anarcho-Libertarian-Communist society. All you need to achieve it is get some advanced tech, and then burn the current social system down to the ground and destroying the very roots of the culture itself.

    I'm not sure if it was more heartening for convincing me that something resembling utopia is actually possible, or disheartening for convincing me it's something we'll never achieve on this planet unless we go through an incredible amount of pain and suffering first.
  • Discworld (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:32PM (#41636261)

    In my opinion, you can't have a decent quality of life without large doses of humour on a regular basis.

    I have never found a better writer than Sir Terry Pratchett for dry, engaging wit, and the occasional turn of phrase that will still leave you chuckling days later. His Discworld series also provides concise and often cutting criticisms of society and some of our more inane foibles, camouflaged behind the general fantasy setting (the Campaign for Equal Heights [] movement for Dwarves, for example). His characters are engaging and his situational comedy is absolutely stellar!

    Please don't be thrown just because it is situated in a world that is shaped like a disc, perched atop four elephants who in turn are standing on a giant turtle swimming through the deeps of space :) Yes, it's set in a 'silly' world, and populated with fantastic creatures, but the challenges and triumphs his characters face are usually very applicable to this here modern, mundane world. I heartily recommend all of his works, but the Discworld books in particular.

    Happy hunting!

  • Re:Atlas Shrugged (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:50PM (#41636545)

    It's quite simple: It tells a certain kind of person exactly what he wishes to hear. The fact that it's a message that overlaps with the cultural mythology of the United States (the "rugged individualism" trope) makes it appealing to those who've been raised to buy into that. It's (lack of) literary value (much like a vice/presidential candidate's debate performance) is irrelevant to a true believer.

  • Re:Not the Bible. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SolitaryMan ( 538416 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:46PM (#41638309) Homepage Journal

    No, it *is* the Bible. It's the most influential book ever, and it affects you as well, whether you agree with its teachings or not. It's the very basis for Western civilization & morality (though that morality is under attack.)

    Thank flying spaghetti monster you are wrong here. If that book would have been a basis for morality, we would see people being executed for things like cheating, saying "fuck god" and more minor shit like this.

    *Religion* is getting fit into the ethic norms of the time, not the other way around.

  • Re:Not the Bible. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @11:49PM (#41639161)

    That's my favorite besides Jonah, which has the additional virtue of being very short.

    Not that either is going to be of interest to someone looking to enhance their career.

    Ecclesiastes showed me why enhancing my career didn't matter and to look to other things for fulfillment.

  • by LF11 ( 18760 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @12:27AM (#41639285) Homepage
    I respectfully disagree. Reading books makes you more empathetic.

    Source: []

    Reading books also can expose you to many ideas, models, and world views that you might not otherwise encounter. Learning a new world view can radically change your personality and belief systems. Case in point; Young Christians learning about Atheism.


  • Re:Atlas Shrugged (Score:4, Interesting)

    by doodleboy ( 263186 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @12:31AM (#41639301)

    Most of the people who criticize Atlas Shrugged haven't read it, even if they say they have. It's a great book. I second the recommendation!

    I read Atlas Shrugged and to my knowledge all of Ayn Rand's other published works. In fact I thought she was the shiznit when I was 16. It all seemed so simple: these people over here are good, and those other people over there are evil. However, I have come to understand real life is a good deal more complex than that, and the binary distinctions favoured by ideologues like Rand in no way correspond with reality.

    I have come to believe that any philosophy based on hate is fundamentally untenable.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.