Mine Was A Scientist’s Autobiography That Went Out Of Print In The 60’s, But I’m Weird That Way

Sadly, yesterday I spent most of the day looking for time to write a four paragraph post and still almost got in trouble with the boss twice. In the end I decided that it was pedestrian and deleted it (shorter version: I wonder why UAW line workers who saw their contractually guaranteed pensions hosed did not get a front page tongue bath at the Washington Post). It looks like these days the best that I can do is steal quotes from around the internets.

So, Bob John Rogers.

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Indeed. Open thread.

***Update***

By demand, the book was Lady With A Spear, by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Good luck finding a copy.

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113 replies
  1. 1
    Cyan says:

    Aurobiography -> Autobiography

  2. 2
    Joshua James says:

    Actually, I believe the quote belongs to John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey, correct?

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    Aurobiography = a book written about one of the people who are employed by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to hunt Death Eaters.

    i’ve never read Atlas Shrugged (and prolly never will). i did however read The Fountainhead, because The Cure have a song of the same name. i don’t think the book explained the song… and that was all i was really interested in.

    book that changed my 14 year old life: The Painted Bird

  4. 4
    Andrew says:

    John Rogers, not Bob. Where’d you get Bob?

  5. 5
    Ricky Bobby says:

    LotR did indeed change my life at a young age and I have read it once a year since then, over 20+ times now.

    Atlas Shrugged? Fuck me, to mention Ayn Rand in the same sentence as Tolkien is blasphemy.

    I have to go and recite some LotR poetry in elvish now to pay for my sins.

  6. 6
    BP in MN says:

    Damn it cleek, in just ahead of me!

  7. 7
    JC says:

    Book that changed my life at 14?

    Catch-22.

  8. 8
    Ned R. says:

    I’ve made that general comparison vis-a-vis the two books in a similar context (ergo, it MUST be true!) — and I’m pretty proud to say I fell down on the LOTR side of things. I just remember thinking that the covers on the Rand books in the eighties were pretty ugly and thought to myself "Who’d want to read big clunky stuff like that?"

  9. 9
    jibeaux says:

    My seven year old did a bracket for the first time this year. He has North Dakota state going to the sweet 16. He wanted them to go further, but his dad steered him elsewhere.

    What? You said it was an open thread, and I’m a girl, I got nothin’ on LotR, and good googly moogly am I tired of Ayn Rand.

  10. 10

    Maintenance of my screen name (also burning curiousity) requires that I ask:

    Mine Was A Scientist’s Autobiography That Went Out Of Print In The 60’s

    Title? Author? But if we’re expanding to non-fiction books that change a 14-year-old’s life, my first one would be Paul de Kruif’s Microbe Hunters — though I guess I read it when I was 10.

    At 14? The Left Hand of Darkness.

  11. 11
    Brian J says:

    So yesterday I was reading an article in Worth magazine on the different qualities of Obama’s main economic advisers (or some magazine like it; I am trying to find the article now, but I can’t seem to). The usual suspects, like Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, were discussed. When it came to Christina Romer, the head of the CEA, I learned something I hadn’t heard before.

    Apparently, when she and her husband submitted a draft of an economic speech to the campaign, Obama sent it back, asking for more and better documentation and research. The article didn’t make it seem like he had some sort of big issue with what they said, just that he had high standards and, since he was actually thinking about these issues, wanted to understand them better. Perhaps this is done a lot of the time, but I am not sure it is. If it’s a standard practice, good for him, since it’s a return to normalcy. If it’s not, then so much the better, because it’s a demonstration of intellectual curiosity and, I think, a sign that he’s got the right idea of what these people should mean to him. He’s not intimidated by them, when he easily could be; they are, after all, very well known and respected academics. He’s also going to use them for their biggest assets, their brains and knowledge.

    Again, what he did might not be that unusual, but it sounds like it is. Can you imagine Bush or McCain, or Cantor or Boehner, doing that? I can’t. If nothing else, this gives me confidence that he’s the right man to lead us out of this mess.

  12. 12
    jibeaux says:

    Kind of embarrassing, but as best I recall the book that most changed my life at 14 was probably Hitchhiker’s Guide. I had no idea books could be that funny. As a middle school girl in a smallish Southern town, you don’t really want to go around preaching it though. I was a lonely reader. I don’t even know how I found out about these things.

  13. 13
    Singularity says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

  14. 14
    BFR says:

    Kind of embarrassing, but as best I recall the book that most changed my life at 14 was probably Hitchhiker’s Guide.

    Mine was Catcher in the Rye. Not sure what that says about me…

  15. 15
    Singularity says:

    And I’m going to guess that yours was something by Bertrand Russell?

  16. 16
    Ash says:

    My life-changer was Lord of the Flies. Not really sure what that says about me.

  17. 17
    Brian J says:

    @ jbreaux:

    My senior year of college, my friends and I did our brackets through Facebook. While I like college basketball, I never really follow it, so I don’t have the knowledge to really make informed picks. Still, I never did as bad as I did then. The fact that (a) one or two friend’s girlfriends killed me and (b) I had one of the worst records out of the million or so people who did it through Facebook convinced me that I should just give up.

  18. 18
    jibeaux says:

    @BFR:

    It says you’re a lot better at picking one of the classic life-changing-to-14-year-old books than I am!

  19. 19
    TenguPhule says:

    I think its long past time to throw Rand under a bus and then give em a slap to the face.

  20. 20
    Woodrowfan says:

    "A Canticle for Leibowitz " and my dad’s issues of Analog.

  21. 21
    BDeevDad says:

    I could not get through either of those books until my 20s. I guess that explains why Cryptonomicon was my life changing book when I was about 25.

  22. 22
    Blue Raven says:

    A book on feminism aimed at younger women and Mae West’s autobiography.

  23. 23
    jibeaux says:

    @Brian J:

    I don’t follow much outside the ACC, but I do know to pick Kansas over North Dakota State. Still, I make liberal use of the % widget on cbs sports, that tells you what other people are picking. Such a hopeless conformist.

  24. 24
    ksmiami says:

    Mine was 1984…and it actually was 1984 when I was 14 and starting Orwell.

  25. 25
    John PM says:

    The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

    And no, I am not just saying that because we are now facing the gravest economic crisis since The Great Depression. I have been meaning to pick it up again, but time constraints have prevented it.

    As an aside, in conjunction with reading the Grapes of Wrath, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s stage production of The Grapes of Wrath opened my eyes to the power of theater, as well as the possibility that the theater could contain nudity (also big to a 14 year old).

  26. 26
    Anton Sirius says:

    Ender’s Game was mine. And I think I know exactly what that says about me.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for all of St. Ayn’s faults, without her there would be no movie version of the Fountainhead, which is one of the greatest comedies of all time.

    I sincerely hope that if the film version of Atlas Shrugged even gets off the ground, it hews as closely to the text of the book as possible. There could be no greater spoof of Objectivism possible.

  27. 27
    Ash says:

    @John PM: I sort of liked The Grapes of Wrath, until I got to the very end and my 15 year old mind was blown.

  28. 28
    Incertus says:

    Book that changed my life at 14–E. E. Cummings’ Selected Poems, especially the poem "since feeling is first", though I didn’t understand it then as well as I do now. I read Tolkien at the same time, but certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by it–Heinlein did more for me, but I managed to survive that as well.

    Hitchhiker’s Guide got me at 12, and I reread it every couple of years to this day.

  29. 29
    MikeJ says:

    Never Mind the Bollocks.

    I was also a bookish kid, but the Sex Pistols were the ones that made me look beyond what everyone else wanted. Yeah, yeah, they were as manufactured as the Monkees, but they made me go back and seek out the Ramones and when the Germs came along I was ready.

  30. 30
    ericvsthem says:

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig.

    Catch 22, Joseph Heller.

    Read them both in high school at the recommendation of my DFH physics teacher. Almost 2 decades later and I still recommend them above almost anything else.

  31. 31
    John PM says:

    @Ash:

    The ending is exactly why The Grapes of Wrath was one of the most important books for me. Same for the play.

  32. 32
    Cpl. Cam says:

    @jibeaux:

    Mine was either "THGttG" or "Dune" so I guess Ishould be embarrassed too but, fuck it, I love both of those series.

  33. 33
    JoyousMN says:

    Mine was the autobiography of Clarence Darrow. He had a chapter called "Questions without answers" that converted me to an agnostic. The rest opened my eyes to social ism: the 30’s were really a time of a lot of progressive thinkers.

    I read Rand and thought she was great. But I was only 13 and it soon passed.

    At about the same time, my Dad confiscated all my Kurt Vonnegut because he hated communism, but it didn’t help. I just bought them again and hid them better.

  34. 34
    smiley says:

    The Jungle

  35. 35
    YellowJournalism says:

    I would like to say that the book that changed my life at 14 was To Kill a Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye. But I guess I’ll be honest and say Flowers in the Attic. That book showed me "messed up" in a way no others had done. I’d picked it out for the cover art, to be truthful, and I think it led me to try out some more books I was curious about based on cover art, like The Handmaid’s Tale . (Now that was a life-altering book!)

  36. 36
    Xenos says:

    @Doctor Science: My immediate thought was also The Microbe Hunters, although that is, of course, still in print. I was a bit turned off by the mountains of dead guinea pigs. The critical 14-year-old book for me was Fitzgerald’s first edition of the Iliad, with all the funky transliterated names. Great stuff, and a permanent part of my mental world for nearly 30 years now.

    I won’t go into the subject of the magazines that blew my mind, though. All that testosterone really does change the structure of the brain.

  37. 37
    Halteclere says:

    @Ash:

    My life-changer was Lord of the Flies.

    Lord of the Flies is on my list of books that made an impact on me in my early teen years.

  38. 38
    Xenos says:

    Oh shit, Dune. I read that too, that summer. This is pretty creepy now that I think of it. What if I had read Ayn Rand at that age?

  39. 39
    smiley says:

    The only thing I can say about Rand is that The Fountainhead changed how I think about architecture.

  40. 40
    Persia says:

    Mine was probably Slaughterhouse-Five.

  41. 41
    woody says:

    am i still being moderated?

  42. 42
    smiley says:

    By demand, the book was Lady With A Spear, by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Good luck finding a copy.

    It’s available at Amazon.

  43. 43
    woody says:

    A Separate Peace? Maybe…
    or Catcher In the Rye…
    I read ’em both during puberty, mas o menos…

    I read Atlas… as a youth. What I most vividly remember are all the images of powerful, throbbing locomotives plunging through damp, dark tunnels…

    John Irving’s first book, "Setting Free the Bears" was memorable, though a little later. Also Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita." I read Catch 22 for the first time on a military transport aircraft on my way from Germany to a tdy in peshawar, pakistan in ’66. It was a LONG flight, but it’s a THICK book…interestingly, I was in the movie version, as an extra…which was shooting in mexico, near guaymas. i was down there after I got out of service in August, 68, partying…

    Reading Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael books led me indirectly to Paul Shepard, and his thinking definintely reshaped my own…

  44. 44
    geg6 says:

    I have two that changed my life at age 14:

    Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, which introduced me to a concept I still revere to this day, the zipless fuck. That was a really, really radical concept to a Catholic girl in the early 70s.

    Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by the good Doctor. He radicalized me politically more than anyone or anything. I still adore and revere him and will forever.

  45. 45
    Warren Terra says:

    I was bookish and had read a lot of science fiction and fantasy well before I was 14 (the series not mentioned above that I most strongly recall is Thieves Guild, edited by Nye and Asprin; for some reason anthologies, of which there were several excellent ones in the 80’s, don’t seem to endure like novels), but I remember that when I was 13 or 14 I read the first volume of Manchester’s biography of Churchill (now sadly left incomplete), which then led to my readind many other books by and about Churchill and branching out to other works of popular history and biography, a major shift in my reading habits that has been very important to me.

  46. 46
    Apsalar says:

    When I was in high school, one of the counselors was always pushing this essay contest on The Fountainhead. I guess there was a scholarship for whoever wrote the best essay, but there were always so few entries (at least, good entries) that anyone who entered had a pretty good shot of getting some money. I was a bookish type, always reading, and he tried to get me to enter it, but I don’t think I got more than 20 pages into the book before deciding it couldn’t possibly be worth it.

  47. 47
    Crusty Dem says:

    I’m with Persia, Slaughterhouse 5, although the Hitchikers Guide was my favorite book, by far.

    Tim F, your mileage may vary, but after working in science for 15 years for 5 different PIs, I can only say "get out, get out, GET OUT!!" I’ve been out of science for 6 months, I’m still not gainfully employed, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. In retrospect, I can honestly say that the people I’ve worked for varied between sociopaths to full-blown psychopaths with nary a decent human being among them.

    I don’t know about you, Tim, but I went into science for the intellectual and general sense of freedom, which lasted into about my 3rd year of graduate school. I trained myself to ignore the degradation, harassment, and general pain and managed to achieve modest success, eventual graduation, and a fellowship at (insert top notch school here). The fellowship started ok, then got worse and worse. In my time in science, all but one of my PI’s tried to get me to commit fraud (varying from "Just get rid of the N’s that make it non-significant" to "Get this result", despite the fact that I’ve always made clear that was not going to happen), I’ve had to watch fraud committed by co-workers (varying from removing non-supporting experiments to experiments labelled differently from what they were to Science papers consisting entirely of manufactured data), and I’ve seen obscene treatment of foreign students and fellows (my favorite was "You’ve made me unhappy and I’m going to pull your Visa).

    I finally got out when I realized I couldn’t poop without my boss waiting at my desk to accuse me of not working hard enough. The most depressing fact of the whole thing for me is that I still enjoy science, and I do good work, but the current system is beyond broken and it’s not going to be fixed anytime soon. I’ve talked to other PIs, but they all seem to suffer from the same disorders my previous PIs had (actual quote – "I hired some foreign fellows because they were cheap") and I will not willingly put myself back in that position again…

  48. 48
    reece says:

    it is actually surprising to me that conservatives have actually adopted ayn rand as their intellectual leader. That is stunning. And they’re not even referencing her essays where she had some pretense of engaging in philosophy. They’re citing her novels. Someone needs to tell them that motherfucking FICTION is not EVIDENCE of anything. You know why? ‘Cause the author can choose the outcome of the story.

    Liberals need to keep this in mind too as I am often reminding people who think The Wire is an argument for drug legalization.

  49. 49
    pharniel says:

    Terry pratchet’s series, diskworld, blew my mind.
    Boris Valejjo and mercades lacky’s ‘oathbound’ trilogy also, err, exposed me to some ideas.
    Unfortunjatly when i was 14 mom got teh interwebs and I got usenet.

    so i guess it was "The Internet for Dummies" rather than phule’s company or another fine myth or wyrd the colour of magic.

  50. 50
    contract3d says:

    Woodrowfan wrote:
    "A Canticle for Leibowitz" and my dad’s issues of Analog.

    Yeah, exactly. Except in my case they were my sister’s copies.

    Now I’ve got to find a copy of "Canticle" and re-read it.
    Right away. Thanks, Woodrowfan. No, really, – thanks!

    Oh and btw, the original post – "… the other one involved orcs" – may have been the funniest damn thing I’ll read today.

  51. 51
    Rich says:

    By demand, the book was Lady With A Spear, by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Good luck finding a copy.

    It also looks as if it’s in libraries all over the place: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/341712

    I’m glad someone suggested Catch-22. That was mine, too.

  52. 52
    Socktopi says:

    Good luck finding a copy

    Not only is it available on Amazon (as Smiley @#42 points out) – it’s only $1.83!

    Behold the power of the internet!

    Amazon Link – Lady With A Spear

  53. 53
    AhabTRuler says:

    phule’s company

    Ugggh.
    First book: freakin’ hilarious.
    Second book: pretty good
    Third book: Fell into abyssal trench, and the series went downhill from there.

    Same thing with Bill the Galactic Hero or any series by Piers Anthony.

    Fell in love with all things Douglas Adams at 10. Still think the Last Chance to See is his best, but most underrated, book (I have a signed copy).

  54. 54
    Nicole says:

    I think Ayn Rand’s novels have done a lot of damage to a lot of socially awkward young men. Nothing like having trouble connecting with other people and having these books tell you that not only is that normal, in fact it makes you SUPERIOR to everyone else around you. Yeesh. And I think a lot of lonely teenagers then grow up to be lonely, angry adults, still trying to tell themselves that they’re better than other people for being so lonely and angry.

    I’m just surprised that short guys also fall for it, since she makes it very clear in her books that short people are villains and only tall, lean, beautiful people are ever worth anything. Which is pretty funny stuff coming from a short fat lady. Self-image issues, much?

    Influential book for me- Black Beauty. Liked it as a kid, still like it, but on a whole different level, as an adult.

  55. 55
    contract3d says:

    Ask this question in a few years and someone is bound to cite "Confederacy of Dunces"

    Be afraid.

  56. 56
    Xenos says:

    I loved Confederacy of Dunces, but how many people read that when they were 14? Still, seems a great counterpoint to all things Randian, even if it makes a better companion piece to Lucky Jim.

  57. 57
    SpotWeld says:

    I’ll go with Douglas Adams as well.
    HHGTG is pretty much the definitive work, but in the preface to "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" there’s a little quotation that has always meant a lot to me.

    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    I think the Foglio’s Girl Genius also deserves a mention for the Transylvania Polygnostic University’s Motto

    Know Enough to be Afraid

    Which really works on a lot of levels if you think about it.

    And finally I have to give a shout out to Richard Feynman’s lectures on Physics, especailly "Six Easy Pieces"

    Man that’s good stuff.

  58. 58
    Sister Machine Gun of Mild Harmony says:

    ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’
    ‘Lord of the Rings’
    The Foundation series by Asimov
    All these changed my life. I did read ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand when I was 14. At the time, I thought it was profound. The thing is that it isn’t hard to outgrow Objectivism.

  59. 59
    bootlegger says:

    Mine was Outsiders.

    That bit about Rand readers is downright hilarious. I started one of her books but only got halfway though before it bored me to death. I have no doubt the right’s hero worship of the book tells me all I need to know about their intellectual capacity.

    Oh, I’ll be in second place after Dayton finishes off West Virginia and if Temple comes back I’ll be in the lead. Unless they don’t and I maintain my kiss of death.

  60. 60
    phein says:

    I was 17, in the Army, stationed at a remote location, and had two books to read for most of a year: Atlas Shrugged, and the collected works of Carlos Castaneda. When you haven’t seen the sun for 6 months, your mind starts doing strange things, like blending the teachings of don Juan with the rantings of John Galt, and I ended up absolutely stone-cold certain that Yaqui medicine men were libertarians . . .

  61. 61
    Cris says:

    I find a lot of books profound and powerful and moving (including a lot of the ones mentioned here) but I’m can’t really say whether any of them actually changed my life.

    I guess the thing is, I find myself drawn to books that reflect the place I’ve reached in my life at that time. So it’s not that they change my life, it’s that they show me what my life has changed into.

  62. 62
    Cerberus says:

    I think it might have been 13, but…Fahrenheit 451. Got me hooked on sci-fi/fantasy as well as encouraging me to write more myself. Also influential that year was Sophocles. I tried to write my first one-act afterwards. Greek epics should never be written by middle schoolers.

  63. 63
    Tony J says:

    I remember being blown away by Donaldson’s First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – The Unbeliever around that time. Having a self-hating leper as the hero of your Fantasy Epic took the genre somewhere new for the first time since Moorcock.

    And The Mists of Avalon. I cried my little eyes out at the end, and was pretty well innoculated against authoritarian religions as a result. Though now I think about it, I had the same reaction to the end of LotR. Why didn’t those fekkers give Frodo any respect, dammit?

    And I recall reading The Long, The Short and The Tall at school and being the only person in my class who would admit that they’d – really unhappily -commit cold blooded murder if they were in that kind of situation. At 14 that kind of "I can navigate my own moral compass quite independently, thank you" clear-cut thinking came easily. But I was 14, and didn’t explain it too well, so everyone just looked at me like I was being a tit.

    For the girlfriend, it’s either Animal Farm or The Stand, both of which I agree with.

  64. 64
    smiley says:

    @phein:

    and the collected works of Carlos Castaneda.

    I read some of that but was never too into fantasy. Nearly turned me off to anthropology.

  65. 65
    OniHanzo says:

    Twas Orwell’s 1984 for me. Sweet jesus, Room 101 still informs my life.

    Man’s inhumanity to man, in the name of power.

  66. 66
    Tony J says:

    I have no idea why those bits are struck-out. I blame fat fingers.

    I was a bookish type, always reading, and he tried to get me to enter it, but I don’t think I got more than 20 pages into the book before deciding it couldn’t possibly be worth it.

    And so decided to become the Goddess of Assassins in order to punish those who did finish it, and found it meaningful into their middle-age?

    Go you! That’s dedication.

    Erikson’s Malazan Book of The Fallen is damned good. I challenge anyone to read Deadhouse Gates and not end up in a little ball of pain when the Chain of Dogs ends.

  67. 67
    Xanthippas says:

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

    Wonderful. From now on, every time I see some buffoon praise that stupid book Atlas Shrugged on their blog, I’m just going to quote Rogers. Oh and while we’re at it, the book that probably changed my life was Foundation, only at 12 or so instead of 14. I’ve been a nerd since.

  68. 68
    jenniebee says:

    Mine was the Bagthorpe series, starting with Ordinary Jack, which launched me into the more adult writings of Roald Dahl.

    Cross posting my comment on KFM:

    I’m a firm believer that we could stop creeping Galtism in a generation if we made a concerted effort to introduce young people to Aldous Huxley before they have a chance to find Rand. It’s not only that they have competing visions, it’s simply that Huxley is one of the few authors who can compete with Rand for teenage attention because his writing is approximately the same level of difficulty as hers is, and he does better porn.

  69. 69
    Xanthippas says:

    BTW, why am I not surprised at the amount of sci-fi that’s dominating this thread?

  70. 70
    JenJen says:

    By demand, the book was Lady With A Spear, by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Good luck finding a copy.

    Tim… quick eBay search turned up a few copies of "Lady With A Spear." ;-)

  71. 71
    AhabTRuler says:

    TimF gets pwned by Amazon Marketplace (tee hee).

  72. 72
    Leelee for Obama says:

    Being an eminence griege, I had to figure out what year I was 14, damnit! Then, what did I read that changed my life that year? Believe it or not, The Sheik! I was in eighth grade in Catholic school and it made the nuns crazy. I actually did a book report on it! That’s why I say it changed my life; I discovered that making nuns crazy appealed to me on too many levels to keep being a Catholic!

    To me, in 1965, there was a great love story there. I re-read it every 5 years until my tattered copy dissolved, and every time, I was shocked, shocked by all the rape fantasy in it! I had completely missed that at 14.

    Later on, I read To Kill a Mockingbird the second-time around, and fell absolutely in love with Atticus Finch. I’m happy to say, that never changed.

  73. 73
    Blue Raven says:

    Oh, gods, how could I forget A Brave New World? I got that before 1984 and holy crap, it kicked me in the gut but hard. Not sure I read that at the age of 14, but I’m pretty sure that’s close enough to the right age for me to have been assigned Night by Elie Wiesel. Anne Frank’s diary is one thing. That plus BNW put the fear of totalitarianism into me straight down to the bone. Mix in the junior high feminism, and a progressive is born.

  74. 74
    gnomedad says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    Tim F, your mileage may vary, but after working in science for 15 years for 5 different PIs, I can only say "get out, get out, GET OUT!!" I’ve been out of science for 6 months, I’m still not gainfully employed, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. In retrospect, I can honestly say that the people I’ve worked for varied between sociopaths to full-blown psychopaths with nary a decent human being among them.

    As the parent of a young brainiac, I find your assessment disturbing. I certainly hope this reflects bad luck. What would you have advised your younger self to do differently? What do you hope to do now?

  75. 75
    Johnny Pez says:

    I, Robot and Foundation came later, but for me the life-changer was Is Anyone There?, a collection of science essays.

    I miss Isaac.

  76. 76
    AhabTRuler says:

    What would you have advised your younger self to do differently?

    Go into finance. Those assholes seem to be the only people getting paid these days!

  77. 77
    Shinobi says:

    Book that changed my life at 14. Snow Crash. Such is my devotion that I even enjoyed Anathem.

    The Hitchhiker’s series was also life changing for me, but I read that when I was 10. So 42 and all that good stuff.

  78. 78
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Johnny Pez: You wouldn’t if you had read any of his books on humor. I recommend this one. I received a different book of his on humor for X-mas one year, and I have never read anything less funny.

  79. 79
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Shinobi: I’m gald I wasn’t the only one to be hitting the D. Adams stuff at so tender an age. Ehhh, its better than smoking.

  80. 80
    Warren Terra says:

    By demand, the book was Lady With A Spear, by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Good luck finding a copy.

    Tim, you’ve got to learn about Abebooks, a site that searches the inventories of lots of used bookstores and handles the transactions. Ever since Amazon bought their early rival, Bibliofind, they’ve been the first place I go for any book that’s been in print for more than a year or so, or especially for books that are out of print.
    They list 137 copies available, starting at $1 plus shipping.

  81. 81
    Johnny Pez says:

    @AhabTRuler: Eh, limericks. For the F&SF essays, I’ll forgive him anything, even the limericks.

    Even the Norby books.

  82. 82
    JenJen says:

    DAYTON FLYERS!! WOOT!!

    Hell yeaaaahs!

  83. 83
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Johnny Pez: Oh, just ‘limericks’ would be too easy. Sherlockian limericks, no less. Got to be worse than Vogan poetry. Got to be.

  84. 84
    Cris says:

    @JenJen: I can’t believe Da’Sean Butler bobbled the ball on the perimeter when the Mounties still had a chance to pull within 3.

  85. 85
    Uncle Bubba says:

    Lady with a spear
    Eugenie Clark
    128 copies available from $1.00 and up:
    http://www.abebooks.com/servle.....&y=11

  86. 86
    Shinobi says:

    Got to be worse than Vogan poetry. Got to be.

    Let’s find out! Bring out the poetry appreciation chairs!!

  87. 87
    smiley says:

    @gnomedad:

    As the parent of a young brainiac, I find your assessment disturbing. I certainly hope this reflects bad luck. What would you have advised your younger self to do differently?

    Don’t despair, If your young brainiac is really that, s/he will be fine. PIs (principle investigators) are the boss but many of them hire post-doc/research associates to manage things who are quite good to work for. If your young brainiac is in position to be one of the post-doc/research associates, it’s like an apprenticeship. Maybe not so good, maybe great. I know plenty of great PIs (my friends). I also know plenty of assholes (not my friends). Is it really so different than any other profession?

  88. 88
    Thlayli says:

    The Baseball Abstract 1982

    My God, someone else thinks about this stuff the same way I do! Without all that "baseball is a holy sacrament" bullshit!

    I’ve read just about every word James has written since then. Even though I don’t particularly care for what the game has become today (is it really necessary to step out of the batter’s box after EVERY. SINGLE. FUCKING. PITCH??? And would it kill one of these "closers" if they had to get, like, FOUR outs once in a while?)

  89. 89
    Johnny Pez says:

    @AhabTRuler: Well, when you write five hundred books, the odds of one of them being a collection of Sherlockian limericks is bound to be pretty high. It’s a small price to pay, IMO.

  90. 90
    Warren Terra says:

    Heh, Lady With A Spear has sold almost two dozen copies in an hour just from Abebooks (and a fair chance also some others through Amazon and through used book clearinghouses not linked here) – I’m willing to bet all of those sales resulted from this thread.

  91. 91
    dbrown says:

    The book that really changed me was "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". I was about ten (and had read few dozen SciFi books) and was looking for a long book … anyway, as a young and foolish child I had always admired how WWII Germany had fought and nearly defeat the whole F’ing world …that is, until that book really opened my eyes to what WWII (spell the Hilter and how he and the Nazi’s were solely responisble for the murder of over 100 million people) was really about! Shit, that book changed my worldview big time. This book should be required reading to graduate from any High School or at least college.

  92. 92
    AhabTRuler says:

    Hilter and how he and the Nazi’s were solely responisble for the murder of over 100 million people

    Hate to break it to you, but they actually had a great deal of help in the pursuit of this goal.

    Omar Bartov’s Hitler’s Army is one book that discusses the relationship between the Nazis and the German Army, which was only one source of support.

  93. 93
    canuckistani says:

    Another vote for Catch-22, and the Field Guide to the Stars and Planets

  94. 94
    Downpuppy says:

    The paperback copy of Lady With a Spear we bought in 2002 for the Little Pup was printed by Ballantine in 1974.

  95. 95
    YellowJournalism says:

    Later on, I read To Kill a Mockingbird the second-time around, and fell absolutely in love with Atticus Finch. I’m happy to say, that never changed.

    You know, To Kill a Mockingbird is now one of my all-time favorite books, but it took me until the second time reading it to really enjoy it. It was probably the joy-killing routine of breaking down the plot in Sophomore English. My teacher sucked all the beauty out of that book with a simple Venn diagram.

  96. 96
    Mike in NC says:

    What, nobody’s life was changed by "A Charge to Keep" allegedly written by George W. Bush? Come on!

  97. 97
    Deborah says:

    Not life changing, but at that age I constantly reread Podkayne of Mars and Space Cadet. Now the "girls can’t do stuff" message would be a problem, but at the time I merrily tossed that off to Heinlein’s being an old guy.

  98. 98
    jenniebee says:

    @YellowJournalism: I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I was younger, wanted to name a son Atticus. Lately though when I read it I’m disappointed that the progression is from blatant violent institutional racism into paternalistic racism. I hate feeling disappointed in Atticus for not being more like Raymond Dolphus.

  99. 99
    Crusty Dem says:

    gnomedad, sorry, after re-reading my post, I had to go polish my "bitterest person in the world" award, it doesn’t clean itself..

    Anyway, I’d suggest sticking to engineering, bioinformatics, or other fields that are more quantitative and results oriented. I would say that if people end up having to retract work because it can’t be replicated, that’s a good sign. In the truly awful fields, poor/fraudulent data is published and never repudiated, either because of the inherent irreproducibly of the work or the power of certain leaders in the field. In the biological sciences, avoid protein biochemistry and physiology, avoid most of physics (which just tends to cause vast frustration), I think most of chemistry is pretty solid.

    Also, see how long it takes to get professorships in the field and how many post-graduate fellowships people are performing. When I started, it was typical to spend 4-6 years for a PhD with a 2-4 yr postdoc to get a faculty position. Now, in some fields, researchers are following a 6-8 yr PhD with 2 or 3 3-5 yr fellowships. Getting an assistant professorship at age 40+ after 15-20 years of suffering and low pay is really not a great deal, but it’s even worse if only 10% of the population make it there.

    As always, the best path to success is to find the biggest, best lab in a good department and do good work there. It’s often a terrible environment, what with postdocs stealing for grad students (and each other), but it’s really the only consistent path to success. A lesser lab will often just chew people up in a desperate bid for big papers (nothing is worse than being in a 2nd rate lab chasing Nature papers you can’t possibly get).

  100. 100
    Xanthippas says:

    I miss Isaac.

    Seconded.

  101. 101
    Bert Chadick says:

    Hell. Fourteen? I guess any one of dozens of "Ace Doubles", the old paperback science fiction books that had a whole second book included if you flipped it over. First Title? "Tiger Tiger". Ballard still kicks ass.

  102. 102
    Svensker says:

    Lady With a Spear? One of my son’s favorite books when he was a kid.

    If you’re looking for a copy, check here

  103. 103
    gnomedad says:

    @Crusty Dem:
    Thanks for the reply; very helpful. When I started graduate school I wondered about the Ponzi scheme of professors turning out lots of little professors-in-waiting, but somehow talked myself out of my suspicions. After taking way too long to recognize that I wasn’t crazy enough for academics, I got into software. But that was a while ago and I appreciate the contemporary perspective.

  104. 104
    Ellid says:

    14? Ha! I read LOTR when I was 11!

    *chortles*

    Also, Ayn Rand was a lousy writer, a shallow thinker, and an apologist for sexual abuse and rape. Why does anyone take her ravings seriously?

  105. 105
    EL says:

    Sister Machine Gun of Mild Harmony,

    Agree with both LotR and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (although I didn’t read that until my early 20’s). I did read "Atlas Shrugged" in my teens, and at the time I was impressed. It didn’t last very long, though. I haven’t read it again, but I still reread LotR.

    Anyone for Zenna Henderson’s "The People" series, while we’re talking about old SF? Lloyd Biggle Jr? James Schmitz?

  106. 106
    EL says:

    Atlas Shrugged also had as its heroine Dagny Taggart, who is what writers call a "Mary-sue." Meaning she is an obvious wish fulfillment attempt of the author, who endows the character with amazing and unreal abilities and character aspects.

  107. 107
    Mwangangi says:

    I read many of the books that were mentioned in the thread either before or after my 14th birthday. I will mention Number of the Beast, not really for any of the characters and situations, but for the idea of the time axis. It broke me out of a linear view of time. That definitely changed how I look at reality.

  108. 108
    jrosen says:

    I was 14 a long time ago and can’t say that anything I read then changed my life, not at that time. But I think the book that impressed me most was "More then Human" by Theodore Sturgeon, who wrote a lot for F and SF which I bought every month for several years. Most of what I read was science fiction — I read "The Caves of Steel" (Asimov) as serialized in Galaxy SF, another mag I bought every month. Got "The Stars, My Destination" (Alfred Bester) the same way (BTW a good antidote to Rand…his view of hyper-capitalism is fantastic. )

    I didn’t open LOTR until I was 40! And fell in love with it immediately. I reread it every 5 years or so, and have set some of the poetry to music.

  109. 109
    eyelessgame says:

    Childhood’s End.

    Well, that and Godel, Escher, Bach.

  110. 110
    eyelessgame says:

    I think Ayn Rand’s novels have done a lot of damage to a lot of socially awkward young men. Nothing like having trouble connecting with other people and having these books tell you that not only is that normal, in fact it makes you SUPERIOR to everyone else around you.

    Word. Objectivism is to philosophy as autism is to normal human behavior.

  111. 111
    Anton Sirius says:

    @jenniebee:

    I’m a firm believer that we could stop creeping Galtism in a generation if we made a concerted effort to introduce young people to Aldous Huxley before they have a chance to find Rand. It’s not only that they have competing visions, it’s simply that Huxley is one of the few authors who can compete with Rand for teenage attention because his writing is approximately the same level of difficulty as hers is, and he does better porn.

    If that’s the goal, forget Huxley. Issue all the little bastards copies of the Illuminatus Trilogy.

  112. 112
    JustBeingPedantic says:

    Late to the dance (as usual), but for this once-upon-a-time-fourteen-year-old, the book was Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. It’s still the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

  113. 113

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