Oo oo, a thinking person’s meme. Doh, that means I have to think.
To quote Ross Douthat:
My own follows below. Note that these are not my 10 favorite books, nor the 10 best books I’ve ever read, but the books that quickly came to mind — I was following Cowen’s “go with your gut” admonition — as having shaped my writing or pushed me in one intellectual direction or another over the years.
What follows is not an illustrious list, but rather, books that have shaped who I am as a person. So here we go.
- The Qur’an. As a convert, is it really surprising that this book is at the top of my list? To embrace a religion viewed as dangerous and foreign by one’s family and peers must have had a pretty darn strong influence. During the summer of 2001, I was in the throes of a spiritual crisis while a counselor at a Christian camp. On one of our weekend trips into town, we stopped at a new age bookstore for some odd reason. And for some even odder reason, the store had a small section devoted to Sufism (new age-y fascination with Sufism still makes me giggle). It was there that I found a translation by MH Shakir. I read through it, taking notes in the margin as I went. In it, I found what I was looking for – a direct revelation from the Divine, something unaltered by time and man, telling us how to serve Him.
- The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. My parents had read to us every day since before I could remember, but this is the first set of chapter books my mom read to us before bedtime and I think where I can safely pinpoint my start as a life long bookworm. From this point forward, all I wanted to do was read read read (which coincidentally ties into my weight issues, as I’ve long since preferred reading to physical activity. Alhamdulilah for exercise bikes, because now I can read and move).
- Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought by Daniel W. Brown. As a few months old convert, I had no rudder, no sail and no map by which to guide me as I struggled to navigate my new religion. I signed up for a course on islam (and new movements maybe?) at UW-Madison, and this was on the reading list. I don’t remember much about the course, but I still have this book. It provided at least a rudimentary direction and a foundation upon which to investigate the deen – one of intellectual curiosity, with a deep respect for history and tradition.
- Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The first book that shook me out of my slumber about what I eat. I’d been vaguely aware of factory farms and the industrial food complex, but this laid it all out in front of me.
- Food Matters by Mark Bittman. If Omnivore’s Dilemma woke me up, it was Food Matters that kicked me out of bed and actually made me do something. Since reading this book a month and a half ago, I’ve almost completely cut processed foods out of my life and switched completely to making things from whole ingredients. I’m losing weight and feel amazing. inshaAllah I now won’t suffer from the ills that have plagued my family – heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
- The Varied Kitchens of India : Cuisines of the Anglo-Indians of Calcutta, Kashmiris, Parsis, and Tibetans of Darjeeling by Copeland Marks. It was pure serendipity that I came by this book. AbuS and I were browsing a used bookstore and were just about to leave when I saw this out of the corner of my eye. Since it was the day before Eid, I jokingly asked AbuS to buy it for me as an Eid gift. To my surprise, he did, and thus we embarked on the beginning of our journey away from boxed dinners. We ate Indian almost every night for a year, and it began my torrid love affair with cookbooks and cooking new things.
- The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Life by John Bingham. The book that changed my mind about fitness and athletics. I was never one for running. No, scratch that, I loathed the mile run day in school. My happiest day senior year was the day of the mile run – never again would anyone be able to force me to exercise! Alas, I went to college, didn’t exercise, and ate like crap. The weight crept on, and before I knew it, I was bordering on obese (bah). Then I picked up this book. While I didn’t go out and run a marathon, I realized that one didn’t need to be super thin and super fast in order to be a runner (and by extension, an athlete). Now I actually enjoy physical activity, rather than dread the thought of breaking a sweat.
- The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. Yes, this is a completely spontaneous, whatever pops into my head thing. Influential how? Ummm…probably because it’s the series of books I’ve spent the most time with over my entire life. I started reading it in high school, and have kept revisiting it over the years. Yes, I’ve complained about how it’s too wordy and after a few books, there are too many stories to follow, but it really is a fantastic series, and one I think I’ll always return to if I want a short (ok, months long) escape from reality.
- The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant by John Dominic Crossan. I don’t think I’ve ever gone deeply into what lead to my crisis of faith as a Christian, but it comes, at least in part, from this book.
- Some Chinese philosophers. I had to read chinese philosophy my freshman year of college. The experience was so traumatizing that I can’t even remember which philosophers it was. I now loathe philosophy and avoid it if I can. That makes studying tasawwuf a bit difficult, but I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the esoteric. I’m much better at dealing with practical, every day life lessons.