Ten Books that Influenced Me

Every now and then, I appreciate a good Internet meme. My friend and former boss tagged me to name ten books that have had a meaningful influence on me. I’ve presented my ten below, in no particular order. I have a terrible memory for exercises like this one, and I’m certain I’ve forgotten some very important or influential books. I’m also a little ashamed that my list is so damn white and so damn male. Out of ten authors, nine are white dudes. Poor Cacilda Jetha is the only one to check any boxes on the diversity chart. I even managed to work in an outspoken homophobe. Jeez.

Partly I can blame that on the fact that many of these come from my childhood or adolescence, when women and writers of color received less prominence, but mostly it’s a reflection on my reading habits.

I was tempted to massage this list a little bit, dropping in One Hundred Years of Solitude or Wild Seed to make myself look more inclusive, but decided to go with the ugly truth. I never finished the Marquez in its entirety, and while Octavia Butler is a genius and her book was terrific, it just doesn’t have the same long-standing influence on me that these ten do. The ugly truth is that, while I join the calls for more diversity in fiction, the books that shaped me most were by white dudes. But I’m working on changing that.

1. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton 1990

This book will always be dear to me, because it’s the book that made me want to write novels. It came to our house via book club, and sat on the shelf for a few weeks before that Tyrannosaurus silhouette wooed me into opening the pages. If you’ve only seen the film and never read the book, you’re missing out on the complex, nuanced plot that first inspired me to try it myself.

2. Small Pig, Arnold Lobell 1969

The book that taught me to read. I made my parents read it to me over and over again, even after I’d memorized it all so I could recite it along with them. To this day, mentioning “Small Pig” will get an eye roll from Mom and Dad. [Read more...]

My name is Chris, and I’m a multitasker.

Yesterday I began a quest to stop multitasking.

Now, normally I look down my nose at this kind of self-help “life coaching” nonsense, so let me explain.

Have you heard about Ingress yet? It’s a massive multiplayer game developed by Google for your smartphone. As a player, you use your phone to claim territory for your team, but to do so you have to physically walk around the real world and interact with your smartphone near landmarks and works of public art. It’s a neat concept, a kind of cross between geocaching and RISK, and has the bonus of forcing the player to exercise.

The problem is that in the seven days I played Ingress, it took over all of my outdoor time. Any time I was on the move, whether commuting to work, going to a movie with my girlfriend, or just out for a stroll, I was staring at my phone and looking for the next Ingress portal to hack. At home, I would get alert notifications from the game–someone was attacking one of my portals! Time to recharge my resonators! [Read more...]