Like most of my yuppie peers I spent a lot of time between being a kid and having a kid. So I think the young adult period should be considered. These would be the books that I felt made me more of the man I wanted to be, knowing what I should know, before I thought I was that man.
The Mind's I
I basically have powered my career based on the inspirations of this book. My entire orientation towards the process of decision-making in all its forms is based on the premises that they might be represented in machinery and objectively improved. As well, very serious implications to the ethics of identity and sentience were kicked off by this book. Again, I think my reaction was like everybody else's. I was 21.
This is rather a tough one. Although I had read 'The Economics and Politics of Race' and perhaps one other book by Sowell earlier (and decided that I was a neocon, around 1982), it was Ethnic America that really stuck in my head. It was this book that helped me to see African America as an emerging class that while it had its own special qualities, was bound to succeed in ways similar to other ethnics. It was also the first history book that I ever really enjoyed. It is the book that convinced me to delay marriage until I was more established in my career.
What can I say, I was a computer science major. How could you blame me?
The Black Power Imperative
I wonder if I'll ever read this book again. It was, after I dealt with the fact of the broken monolith, the singular reason I thought that black politics mattered any longer. Now in retrospect I'm not so sure our premises are correct. Almost nobody talks seriously about Cross' theories - essentially that African American disenfranchisement whether active or passive puts a black mark on our democracy and brings into question the very existence of representative democracy in America. I cannot imagine that Lani Guinier has not thought through this matter. I think you can read Guinier and skip Cross, but man it blew me away in 87.
Sun Tzu's Art of War
Yep. I did the whole immersion into the tao. It was an extraordinary moment in my life. I think I'm actually ready to try it again. Wow.
I read Beloved completely stunned. It stood head and shoulders above any fiction I had read before with its power and flow. It was like reading an improvised symphony. I have never seen the English language do the things it did before I read that, the first of many Morrison books I would read. I think Toni Morrison singlehandedly gave the multicultural movement the lion's share of its substance.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who understand the semiotic sleight of hand of modern life and those doomed to forever chase the cheddar in the epistemological maze that is Western Civ. Far beyond McLuhan's predictions, Blonsky ripped straight to Heidegger in his journey. Amazing book. It exposes post-modernism completely.
Drylongso is the book I should have read in 87 instead of The Black Power Imperative. Instead I read it in 93. The years in between I spent as a prisoner of my interpretation of a generational imperative vis a vis what blackfolks needed from people like me. I have never shaken myself of that entire responsibility, but Drylongso has given me a new golden rule I should have learned long ago. Black people will survive without any further assistance from anyone. Don't second guess them.
When I was ready to have children, I began reading James Baldwin because I knew that he would moderate my passion for the revolutionary. He did. Another Country made everything personal. It took all of the politics out of life.
Also rans of the era:
Malcolm X Speaks / Tropic of Cancer / Economics and Politics of Race / Manufactured Consent / Breaking Bread / Race Matters / Turing's Man / Foucault's Pendulum / White Boy Shuffle / High Cotton / A Gathering of Old Men / Candide / American Evasion of Philosophy / Shogun