I think it's pretty safe to say that we all come to this path via different steps. Now, a lot of us have posted a 'how we started' post in that thread...but I was wondering about your Zen influences - particularly what you read when and how it changed your thinking about Zen. Of course, other influences should be included too. For me personally, it was a wild hair-up-my-ass whack at meditation after reading about Buddhist-type meditation in a completely un-Buddhist-related book.
Then, two years later, it was probably Benjamin Hoff's 'Tao of Pooh' and 'Teh of Piglet' books that got me going. Then Lao Tzu, Chaung Tzu...the 'New Age' section of the book store where I lived (the area that I'm from is so provincial that yes, Buddhism is considered 'New Age' - the Buddhist books were right next to the Dolphin-Reincarnated-Soul-Channelling' books, LOL) had a pretty limited supply of Zen books. I picked up 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' and learned how to sit 'properly' from that...then 'Zen Keys' by Hahn (STILL haven't finished it...that guy is dry as a desert in mid-July)...
ZMBM got me REALLY into breath counting and watching where I hadn't been into that before. I sort of wish I'd been exposed to something like Treeleaf back then, because it would have gotten me off the breath-watching a lot sooner. There was no interweb back then, or at least very little (it was '94). I got minimalistic. I went vegetarian, kicked out the TV, and probably about the spring of '94 I began sitting every day. Because the internet wasn't very prevalent back then, I got into book club buying thing (catalog) that offered a lot of Zen stuff - and I read a lot of the Utne Reader. Slowly, I began to accumulate Zen references - but because I was unguided, I missed a LOT of what was considered 'Zen Basics' or 'Zen 101'. I did pick up some Trungpa, and then a LOT of Trungpa. It was pretty weird because in my mind, I didn't make a lot of differentiation between Trungpa's stuff and Zen. I got some books on Koans (Zen Bones?) Trungpa got me thinking a bit more about the formalism of sitting practice and a 'practice life'. From Trungpa came some reference to Ginsburg and Kerouac - so I got into the beats. Say what you want about Kerouac, but man - his enthusiasm really injected some new life into my practice! It wasn't until late '96 when I went to Salt Lake City for my Massage Therapy training that I really came up next to brick-and-mortar, honest-to-goodness 'Zen in 'Murca'. I wasn't too impressed. It was Genpo Merzel Roshi's place in SLC - Kanzeon. I'd never seen or heard of a 'Soto/Rinzai' mixed sangha before. I wasn't really very impressed, although it really is a cool Zendo! I was a dedicated zazen practitioner, but buy that time, my social skills had degraded even further than they'd been - and I'd never really been very well 'socialized' as a kid. I did read Genpo's 'Eye Never Sleeps' - it's not bad, really. In SLC, I borrowed a ton of books from the library. Social theory (Erich Fromm, especially), some more Zen books... It was so hit-and-miss for me. Also, my physical and mental health were degrading pretty bad at that time. I got into a serious of tumultuous romantic entanglements (all my romantic entanglements were tumultuous when I was in my 20s). I continued doing 'art' things with painting. I moved home from SLC for a few months, then back to SLC where I cut out sugar and tried 'raw food dieting' in a misguided attempt to recover my health. While on the way from SLC to a job interview in East Lansing, MI - my father died of a heart attack. I came home..and continued to sit zazen. I was pretty lonely at the time and my borderline was getting worse along with my general health. Using my inheritance, I drove back out to SLC to start a Massage Therapy career. Sometime in the spring, I dropped off my daily sitting practice. It was the spring of '98. I can't believe it's been that long since I had a daily practice - it was never my intention to get away from daily sitting for that long!
Since then, I've been influenced by Brad Warner, Ken Wilber (wow, I typed those two names one after the other and my computer didn't burst into flames!)...I had a bit of a Zen revival when I started listening to an audiobook by Steve Hagen...but before that, I actually got into a totally misguided entanglement with Holosync and binaural beat entrainment stuff. I kept reading...I sat intermittently...sometimes the spaces between sittings would be months.
Of course, now I'm influenced pretty heavily by this place - but it fits in well with Hagen and some of the other stuff I'd read and some of the other places I'd sit. I just could never really fit in at any of the Sangha's I'd attempted to connect with in the past...part of the problem was how unstable my material situation was. I kept getting sucked back to Iron Mountain, MI - where there are no Zen centers. It's taken a long time for me to get off the ground and get the sort of stability where committing to a Sangha was really possible.
So yeah...'Beyond the Occult' got me started...then Benjamin Hoff's stuff, then Trungpa, the Beats, Hagen, Thannissaro Bhikku, Ken Wilber (actually, Wilber's had a lot of influence on my entire orientation to everything - and also helped me reconcile with people from other mystic/meditative traditions). I'm missing some stuff here, but it's still a really sparse list. In a lot of ways though, I think I'd have been a lot better off with fewer books and ONE really good teacher/sangha.