Under the Influence

A recent post on this blog titled “Big is Beautiful?” (June 2) led to some interesting points being made in the comments from various readers. I suspect that not all readers bother looking at the comments (which can be viewed by clicking on the place right at the bottom of a post where it says for example “7 comments”). Sometimes there are real gems to be found there.

I had mentioned that most people can recall books which have been influential at particular stages of their life, and readers responded with their own influential books. Here’s a list of the books they told us about:

As children:

The “Just William” books by Richmal Crompton. These were a favourite of mine. I have to confess that I have just discovered in the process of writing these notes, that Richmal Crompton was a woman! I had just assumed that a person who wrote many books about schoolboys and their exploits, and who had a name like “Richmal”, was a man. Her first book in the series, titled “Just William”, gets 4½ stars on Amazon.

Reach for the Sky” by Paul Brickhill is the story of Douglas Bader, the legless hero of the Battle of Britain. Reader Ken Hungerford particularly remembers Bader quoting the saying “Rules were made for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men”. 4½ stars on Amazon.

My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. About a city boy who runs away from home to live alone in a hollowed-out tree in the mountains. 4½ stars on Amazon.

As adults:

Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher. Subtitled “Economics as if People Mattered”, and, although first published in 1973, is still very relevant for today’s world. 4½ stars on Amazon.

A Fortunate Life” by A B Facey. The classic autobiography of an Australian who faced enormous hardship, but continued to regard himself as “fortunate”. 5 stars on Amazon.

The Dunny Man” by John D Gardner. Subtitled “Taking Care of Business”, this is the story of the men who provided this important service in Australia until less than 50 years ago. Described by reader Richard Kessling as not so much influential as “diverting”. Not stocked by Amazon.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder. This novel is a classic enquiry into the “why” of events involving human tragedy. 4 stars on Amazon.

Germinal” by Émile Zola. This novel is centred around the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity’s capacity for compassion and hope. 4½ stars on Amazon.

Interesting I think that the predominant theme in most of these books is not the “cheerful Charlie” side of life, but rather the difficulties and hardships that many experience. Maybe that’s what inspires people, and influences them to strive to do their best in spite of the roadblocks put in their way. As someone said, “Aim for the stars. Even if you don’t make it, you may land on a mountain top.”

How about telling us (in a comment) about one or more books which have been particularly influential in your life? Your fellow readers will be grateful (in a world where there are literally millions of books to choose from) for some clues about which ones to read in the limited time available.


About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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3 Responses to Under the Influence

  1. Kev Florence says:

    In “Scholarship” class (grade 8) early 50’s. Petrie Terrace School Brisbane, the set book was “Jungle Patrol” Story was based on Patrol Officers in the highland jungles of New Guinea.. Wow what adventures.. For years after I thought about that job, even a Park Ranger here in OZ, but not to be.. I became a Signwriter, Loved the job & travelled & worked all round OZ.. I am still travelling & camping OZ.. This Beautiful country of ours is just Wonderful.. My DREAMS did come true !

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Good to hear from you, Kev! And to know you’re getting so much pleasure from travelling through our indeed beautiful and vast land. No shortage of adventures either for those who are prepared to “venture” away from the cities and towns. Go well!

  2. Lavinia Ross says:

    A good part of my adult reading has been on the technical side, although there are many books from poetry to fiction that I have enjoyed. One I will throw out to you is “Wide Neighborhoods” by Mary Breckinridge, a history of the Frontier Nursing Service.

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