In this post, we talk about the books that had a great effect on us and helped shape who we are and how we think today.
What is one book that changed your life?
“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy: I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read this book.
The Road taught me that it is possible to write with such fire that every word is important and every word has a purpose.
It’s helped me in my poor attempts at fiction writing. More importantly, it helped me develop a to-the-point writing style that I think is important for content writers.
Lastly, while The Road has been called one of the most depressing books of all time, I think it is filled with hope. It is about love and faith, and the importance of hope. Reading it has inspired me to become the person I am today.
When I was 13 I skipped school with my best friend for the day.
We got caught.
As punishment, my mom made me read Sean Covey's spin-off, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens.
It's certainly not my favourite book, not by any stretch of the imagination, but you asked which one changed my life, and I have to say, this one definitely left a lasting impression on little Natasha.
The Harry Potter books.
Never have I ever grown up religious, but Harry Potter was the closest thing to my religion. And it broke my heart in a million pieces to learn the truth about its author’s transphobia. To this day, I struggle to reconcile my fondness for the Harry Potter universe, my admiration for so many wonderful things JK Rowling has done, and my disgust at the harm she’s created for the trans community.
A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. It covers a new level of consciousness that I have only had the opportunity to reach in a few select moments of time.
so it’s funny that linh brings up harry potter, because i too have a book by a “problematic” author (read: terrible human).
easily, the book that most shaped me as a person, the one i come back to time after time: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.
note, Heinlein is a notorious misogynist, going so far as to say most women who are sexually assaulted are “asking for it” (in that book, through the voice of a woman no less). he’s a really awful person in general, and it bums me out that the author of one of my favorite works, one of my former heroes turned out to be terrible. don’t even get me started on harry potter…
but still, this book about a Martian-born human coming to Earth, flouting a kidnapping attempt by the government, trying to assimilate to unfamiliar human customs, and instead converting others to the Martian philosophy and teaching people psychic powers, that somehow appealed to awkward, rebellious teenage-me 😛 no idea how. but regarding the author’s ideas…they seep through in the book. you have to take it with a heaping spoonful of salt, and bear in mind the era it was written in. i’m not making the excuse that “that’s just how things were back then”, i’m saying that being aware of the biases of the time helps to read it now (but don’t pay for it — if you must, use your local library 😉).
ultimately, i think the influence an author’s work has on you, belongs to you and you only. as daniel radcliffe said of rowling and her backwards beliefs, “no one can take that magic away”. harry has spoken, i’m keeping the magic and throwing out the garbage. ✨
Ender's Game was so inspirational to me as a young adult. The Battle School in the book was filled with problems that could only be solved if viewed from the right perspective.
That all culminated into a beautiful ending where Ender was able to empathize and love an enemy hated by humanity.
(speaking of problematic writers, apparently Ender’s Game’s Author was very much too…. Why were all great books written by bad people 😕 ) . Here’s more info:
I usually try to avoid the backstory from the artist when evaluating the art. 90% of the time it just ruins it.
It's such a let down when you find out Dr. Seuss was racist and a substantial portion of the content you consumed as a kid was potentially tainted.
I do think it's important to talk about and understand the source of some of the bad influences that create subconcious bias. It's just not exactly fun to feel a part of you die whenever it happens.
I KNOW. i tried to avoid that wormhole because that’s like 70% of norah’s book shelf. We just have to come to accept that great work comes from more often than not extremely flawed if not outright bad people.
Re: Dane Ender's Game. I'm happy I'm not the only Orson Scott Card fan here. I LOVED Ender's Game but I liked Speaker for the Dead even more.
It's too bad they went PG-13 with the Ender's Game film. Doesn't do the book justice whatsoever
Limarc I agree, Speaker for the Dead is probably my favorite Card book. All the books in that series are solid...but I was honestly a little disappointed when the books started following Bean.
I try not to be a stickler for movies following the book. Overall, I liked the movie. It just wasn't as good as the book.
There is theoretically no one book, but the closest one is "The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley". This book is a must if you are interested in understanding modern society and how aspects like development, trade and evolution interplay with each other. I am sucker for books which take a long term view of things and books on evolution tend to that. So another book I would mention would be "Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari".
Nataraj I love sapiens! Singlehandedly convinced me to be a vegan for a month 2 years ago
Haha, it didn't make me turn vegan but I can relate to the inspiration it can evoke.
What about the elephant in the room here? The one that shapes the architecture of every town in America. The one that changes the curriculum of our schools. The one who's heroine kicks off our national pledge of allegiance. While many amazing books have changed the way I see the world, which impacts my life everyday? It's a book I don't like. It's the King James Bible.
Haha David I think everyone was purposefully avoiding the “Complete Works of Shakespeare” and “The Holy Bible” in their answers.
But raised in Catholic schools, it is undeniable that The Bible changed my life too. Definitely in a good way. Actually, I always thought that religion was necessary to teach kids morals. That was until I moved to Japan.
Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and most of the country in practice is pretty much atheist.
Your point is interesting, because I actually never thought about how The Bible shapes some societies. It’s actually a testament to the power of words. Amazing how one book can affect human civilization thousands of years after its creation.
I'm not religious (was raised protestant), but I read about 1/3 of the KJ Bible last year out of interest. It's actually pretty fascinating. I felt like I was unlocking all of these cultural references that I never "got" (I imagine it's the same for people who read Harry Potter or watch Star Wars for the first time. Except x100). It was also cool to read the source material (well, as close as I can get) instead of just listening to layer upon layer of other people talking about it. It's had such a massive impact on western society that honestly I'd def recommend reading at least genesis, exodus, and the first few chapters of new testament.
Outside of that, I will come out of the closet and fully admit that I loved the tech bible, Sapiens.
so this took longer than expected to write, but full disclaimer: i’m a bit religious. like a “nibble”, 4 bits or so. 😛 but i “borrow” from multiple religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism (yes seriously). but i’m not here to convert you. 😉
my point is, i’d recommend reading the bible from a secular perspective, just as a general guide to the underpinnings of western society’s beliefs, faith, superstition, and moral hangups (especially in America). for that matter, i’d also recommend the Bhagavad Gita — most of it is just a practical guide to living a good life. like the “sermon on the mount”, in the book of Matthew.
it’s worth a read just as a cultural waypoint in western society (as Anna pointed out, you will start getting a ton of cultural references), as entertainment, as a cool story to read. i’d recommend NIV over King James, fwiw, for readability. Exodus is probably my favorite — the jewish people escape the oppression of slavery for the promised land! very cool story.
that said, i also very much enjoyed the bits of Sapiens that i read, about 1/3? 😄 need to finish that one
Fun fact, one of my electives in college was "Bhagavad Gita" (I dont remember anything from it now). It was an exercise of doing something drastically different from what I was studying (Maths & C.S). I am always fascinated by how many people in the U.S have read it while most Indians use it for decorative purposes.
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