The book that has probably inspired me the most towards what I want to do in life is Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. I first saw the movie when I was about twelve, and the only way it affected me was by making me briefly terrified of dinosaurs. Then I read the book, and that changed everything.
I think Jurassic Park was the first thing that really brought to my attention the amazing power of math and science. The fact that scientists were able to bring T-rexes and triceratops back to life after millions of years just blew me away, and continues to do so every time I reread it. I think this book has had a major influence on my love of science. I am going to major in science in college, and I am most excited to do research. Science is a fast-changing field, and I want to be right at the forefront of discovering new knowledge. If there are dinosaurs to be resurrected, I want to help.
I also fell in love with obscure mathematical concepts through Jurassic Park. My favorite character has always been Malcolm, the eccentric mathematician who specializes in chaos theory. This is a theory that deals with finding order in seemingly random systems. Malcolm's way of explaining it made math sound incredibly cool, and every time an algebra class starts to get boring for me, I just remember that methods of solving linear equations are the building blocks for Malcolm's fascinating nonlinear equations.
However, my single favorite concept from Jurassic Park has to be fractals. These strange and beautiful shapes are made by following a simple set of rules indefinitely, such as folding a strip of paper in half again and again. This example is called the Dragon Curve Fractal, and is in fact shown at the beginning of sections in Jurassic Park, in ever-increasing complexity as the paper continues to be folded. The summer before I started high school, I attended a math and science camp where students chose three or four different subjects to learn about for the week. My favorite class by far was the one that featured fractals. As a fun project, we constructed an enormous Dragon Curve Fractal, going up to the thirteenth iteration—the equivalent of folding one piece of paper thirteen times. It took all week and hundreds of strips of paper, but it was a blast, and the end result looked amazing. Inspired by this, I chose to study fractals on a more in-depth level during my sophomore year, as my end-of-the-year math project. This was a project that I was genuinely excited to do, because I feel that I can never learn enough about fractals, and I've realized that I wouldn't even know what they were if it it wasn't for Jurassic Park.
This book opened my eyes to the incredible world of math and science, and may be the single most influential thing to shape what I plan to do with my life.