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Illena Armstrong: 3 Books that Changed My Life
Updated on Tuesday, 3 February 2015 11:03
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In this series, I asked infosec professionals to name 3 books that changed their life. This entry features picks from Illena Armstrong, editorial mastermind behind SC Magazine.

You don’t work in the information security industry for long before you see Illena’s name everywhere. We’ve met in passing many times, and I am always struck by how down-to-earth and accessible she is. One thing you’ll notice about Illena immediately is an uncommon balance of strength and softness — yang and yin, if you will. The energy that exudes from her is simultaneously calming, exciting, and somehow familiar, so she immediately came to mind while compiling professionals for this “3 books” series. As you’ll see, Illena made it a “5 books” post; but, like her, I couldn’t possibly narrow down her five to three. Her notes to this effect are left in tact below; they made me laugh, and I think you’ll appreciate them.

Now, we get to explore these decidedly non-tech picks from our industry’s most recognized editor for information security news. Here’s what Illena shared:

book-illena-photo01 book-illena-photo02
At the infamous Sloppy Joe’s in Key West Inside Hemingway’s house

To name three influential books is tough. There are an astounding number of them across many genres that are significant to me in some way. But, the characteristics necessary to the task of brevity, which I frequently employ day-to-day, escape me in undertaking this exercise. I did try.

book-illena-01-oldmanandsea 1. The Old Man & the Sea

Ernest Hemingway is my main man. The concision and depth of his writing is astounding. The shelf life of his stories’ many teachings is irrefutable and the grays of right versus wrong laid out in them are made with an undeniable force. Of all his tales, I call out The Old Man & the Sea What I took from it has much to do with maintaining strength in moments of great adversity, the idea that persevering means to be fulfilled by the achievement of a long-sought-after goal and, more importantly, the journey to get there even if the resulting fruits aren’t plain to others.

book-illena-02-rulesforoldmenwaiting 2. Rules for Old Men Waiting

Peter Pouncey only wrote one fictional novel as far as I know. And while I long for more from him, I wonder if he’d ever be able to pen something so beautiful, rare and layered as Rules for Old Men Waiting. Not only are the rules that the main character, MacIver, shares worthy of some thoughtful reflection, but so are the two different stories he tells in this one slim book. To me, they show that the strength, soundness and fortitude of one’s character combined with the long-lasting honesty, support and love we give to those we cherish can be a mighty powerful force – maybe the most powerful

book-illena-03-assaultontonys 3. Leaving Las Vegas, Stripper Lessons and The Assault on Tony’s

John O’Brien and the three of his four books I’ve read and re-read – Leaving Las Vegas, Stripper Lessons and The Assault on Tony’s (his last, Better, was published after his suicide and I’ve not put my hands on it just yet) are something of a revelation in showcasing the human condition. In his stories as in life, one’s mental and moral courage or its absence, along with characteristics like empathy, resilience, love, sincerity and many more, can inform choices and dictate the kinds of imprints we leave behind. These are concepts I always like to keep close.

book-illena-04-tokillamockingbird 4. To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird gives us the principled Atticus Finch who unwaveringly stands on the side of integrity and what’s right even when he’s shoring up that side virtually alone. It provides us with the curiosity, thoughtfulness, moxy and genuineness of Scout, who’s trying hard to follow her dad’s lead. There’s the quiet, observant might and caring of Boo Radley who risks his own safety to protect those who most need it. For me, an amazingly important book.

book-illena-05-nocountryforoldmen 5. No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men was one of those books that came along at just the right time. From it I reaffirmed and took comfort in something I already knew but somehow forgot: That a great fire loved ones helped me build and maintain from my start always would light a way for me “in all that dark and all that cold,” even if I no longer had the comfort of their physical presence to bolster me.

I could go on, for sure (I’ve not talked about Sylvia Plath, Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski and so many others), but I risk boring you already. Maybe there are a few titles here, though, that pique your interest. Your interpretations of these stories may differ from my own, but I’m hoping your takeaways will be just a strong, helpful and, maybe, revelatory.

Ways to find Illena Armstrong:

Go to “3 Books That Changed My Life” series introduction post.

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1 Comment
  1. Comments3 Books that Changed My Life: Reading Lists from Infosec Pros | Security Uncorked   |  Tuesday, 03 February 2015 at 11:04 am

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