Ok, if Ilya and Todd are going to list the top books that most influenced them, I may as well, too. Here’s my “top 5” list, in the order that I read them and with the approximate date(s) in which I read them:
1) Arnold Lobel, Adventures of Frog and Toad (read in 1978). Frog and Toad taught me a lot about the values of hard work and friendship.
2) Princeton University, Class of 1993 Freshman Herald (read 1989-1993). I think I spent more time reading and re-reading this 1989 classic (known colloquially as “the facebook”) than any other book, like, ever. Among other things, it taught me the value of a good picture.
3) E.J. Dionne, Why Americans Hate Politics (read in 1993). I often disagree with Dionne, but I found this book invaluable when I decided to get out of the engineering building and to try to understand major American political movements. I had never really though much about conservatism, as I had considered myself left-of-center in college (in the generally unthinking way commonly found on college campuses). Dionne helped me think through my own views more clearly; it ended up as a significant influence on my shift towards the right.
4) F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (read in 1994). The best articulation of the benefits of limited government out there, I think. I started off pretty skeptical about Hayek’s case, but he won me over by force of reason. Very influential. (In contrast to Todd, I found Hayek’s Law Legislation & Liberty Vol. 1 quite disappointing.)
5) Alexander Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch (read in 1996). A classic on the role of the courts and the benefits of cautious constitutional decisionmaking. (To be fair, I’m not sure how much it really influenced me, as I recall being drawn to those arguments in law school before reading Bickel the summer after my 2L year. But I figured I should probably add something legal to the list, and TLDB is good stuff.)