Mine has to be The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. It gave me the momentum to do some travelling, which totally changed me life.
I'd love to say James Joyce's Ulysses or Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife. But actually, a teen love story changed my life. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, aimed at young adults, is an amazing series of books that explore the love between a 'normal' girl and a vampire. It's created shockwaves in the States and has been made into a film. The main reason it changed my life was that it reconnected me with what a good old-fashioned love story is all about and inspired me to write my first whole novel!
James is a literary giant, but my favourite novel is 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus. I remember studying it for A level French Literature. It is about a man who kills an Arab but is condemned to death for not being a hypocrite,not observing society's 'rules'. The prosecutor at Meursault's trial even tells the jury that he did not even cry at his mother's funeral. It is an extraordinary novel and is very moving. Meursault remains an 'outsider' until his eventual execution.
Hate to admit to this one purely because it actually had 'THIS NOVEL CHANGES LIVES embossed all over its garish cover. But it was The Women's Room by Marilyn French. The 60s generation had Germaine Greer and this was the equivalent for the late 70s/80s: packed with heretical ideas about it not being necessary to have a partner, and all that affirming stuff about how good female friendship can be. The thought that stayed with me from then on was about how it is possible to be much lonelier in a marriage than out of one.
Platform home team
I don't think I can honestly say a book has changed my life but Little Women by Louisa May Alcott certainly gave me a warm fuzzy feeling when I read my mum's copy a fair few years ago now. There's something about the smell of an old book and the story of Little Women definitely made me want to get out there and make something of my life.
Robyn Bateman (member of the Platform team)
I do have a book that I know virtually inside-out and in a strange way can find quotes for all occasions and use it as a kind of a tao.
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow: Peter Hoeg
It's a dark story with a twisted sense of humour about a bleak person with no faith in humankind. I love it, I probably read it about two or three times a year.
i must agree that no one book changed my life, i like to think they all change my life in some way as each time i read a book it gves me an altered perspective on a lot of issues...
that said i must say hitchikers guide to the galaxy did alter my outlook on a lot of things.. not quite a ground breaking book or a classic but a book, series and film.... it just makes you think that you may not be alone, but it got me thinking that life should not be taken too seriously or you stop enjoying it, not to get too philisophical but i try to laugh and i meant tears out laughing ach day, it does wonders. even more so at the moment with everything going on.
Harlan Ellison's Tomboy is the one that did it for me. It is a teenage angst story which I claimed to have written using a pseudonym. I was 12 at the time and it was a presentation to class on our favourite book. From here sprang a life long love of make-believe, acting and writing which has sustained me at my lowest ebb and even made me money at the high points.
I too feel I should be citing Tolstoy or Bronte but it's a dime-store paperback instead.
I think that maybe "changing my life" is too big a claim to make for any one book; but one to have had the biggest impact on me was "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys. This was written in the mid 20th century as a prequel to Jane Eyre, and although he is never named, tells the story of Mr Rochester's first wife, who ends her days in his attic.
I dipped into this for my first ever O U course, and it made me realise just how much fiction in particular tells the story from just one perspective, and expects the reader to accept the values and intentions expressed by the author. I'm largely a fiction reader, only read non-fiction for the courses mostly (although Egyptology is a big personal non-fiction favourite). But this relatively short novel has added new layers and depth to my reading of absolutely anything, including corn flake packets.
That aside, my all time favourite book has been The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings since I read them the first time at 11. I count it as one book really, altho clearly written in very different styles. I'm now sharing The Hobbit with my 9 year old who reads anything he can get his hands on, and even with his already voracious literary appetite, it's wonderful to see it light the same sparks in his eyes as it does still in mine.
"Wide Sargasso Sea" had a big impact on me too. It really give me an insight and idea of the other side of the story. The woman in the attic was given a voice. Love the book.
I have two - the first is Gandhi's autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth which inspired and shamed me in equal measure.
The second is Vladamir Nabakov's Despair. One of those books that you don't figure out until the very last page. More than that tho, it was the first time I had been lied to by the authorial voice. I've read a lot of his stuff since then; I'm not clever enough to 'get' all the stuff he's doing in his books but each one blows me away.
Oh, and then there's Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and also Thomas More's Utopia (it says that `anyone who deliberately tries to get themselves elected for public office should be permenantly disqualified from holding it' and I agree!)
Mine was Do It!: A Guide to Living Your Dreams which I read at a time twenty years ago when a lot of certainties were looking less certain
I can't say that I've read a book that has changed my life. But there is a book which changed my perspective on the women of Afghanistan, and the reality they face everyday. I know the book is fiction, but I do belivev there is some element of truth in it. That book is 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hossien.I read his other book: 'The Kite Runner', but I felt the book 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', was much more moving. I would recommend this book.
I was in an agony reading 'a thousand splendid suns' as i have experienced domestic bullying, and the thought of the structure of society aiding and abetting it was more than I could bear. A painful but empathetic read for me.
I'm listening to the serialisation of A Thousand Splendid Suns at the moment on Beebs Radio 7, Nazneen, and I can't wait for the next instalment. Truly gripping, eye-opening and heartbreaking - this is going on my Amazon wishlist for my next can't-wait-to-read.
I agree with a previous post that all books should change your life otherwise what's the point? But to single out just a few:
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Grapes of Wrath
Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories
The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W E Bowman
No one book has changed my life, but one that I have read several times and marvelled at is Christ Stopped At Eboli by Carlo Levi. I first heard it serialised on the World Service of the BBC when living and working in Italy, and in many ways it opened up the Italian psyche to me. It is not a religious book, but it is spiritually up lifting and remarkable for its telling of the fortitude of those who lived, or should that be existed, in Italy under Mussolini. Described by the New York Times as " ... a diary, an album of sketches, a novel, a sociological study and a political essay ... a beautiful book".
Well I have a slightly different comment to make on the subject.
I can see all the amazing fiction that is so inspiring but the book for me has been 'Master the art of swimming' by Steven Shaw.
This book has certainly changed my attitude to water and improved my swimming no end. Even more it has introduced me to the 'Alexander Technique' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique). This has changed how I move and also how I look at life.
So this book has literally changed my life.
The counselling books i read when doing a post-degree diploma in counselling helped to change me (for the better!).
Especially W.R. Bion's 'Experiences in Groups and Other Papers'. I was astounded at the clarity of his words compared with the difficult and tortuous interpretions by other people!
Other books which can change how i feel (my comfort reading) are:
Gerald Durrell's 'My Family and Other Animals' (always makes me laugh)
Anne McCaffrey's Dragon book series (exciting)
George Mackay Brown's 'Beside the Ocean of Time' (gentle and lovely)
Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' (dryly witty and elegant)
Happy reading to you all! :)
I tend to agree with the correspondent below that reading is an ongoing process, and that usually after reading a memorable book, another one comes along which seems to take its place. It is hard, in any case to identify with fictional characters who, despite Realism, still appear divorced from real life.Novels can affect you in different ways but as Derrida points out, meaning can never be pinned down, and can often be interpreted in an infinite variety of ways.
Karl Marx: COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, and Grunderisse der Politischen ökonomie (sorry can't count).
I read these years ago when I was a mason (bricklayer); though never a communist I was drawn, neverthless, to his way of seeing the world, the point being to change it! The world hasn't changed much, but I have.
I was interested that someone listed Carlo Levi's Christ stopped at Eboli, a book I read first as a teenager living in Italy. I bought it years later and was impressed with the way he describes his meeting as an exile with what seemed like an unknown culture, the mediaeval superstitious peasant of southern Italy compared with his upbringing in northern urban Turin -- but then he comes to understand, appreciate and love what had seemed so foreign.
On the subject of different cultures and exile, Michael Ignatieff's The Russian Album has had a growing effect on me over the years. He is writing from the diary of his grandmother (whom he never met) about his aristocratic Russian family's escape from Russia during the Revolution. His parents and grandparents were exactly the same ages as mine, who escaped from a comfortable middle-class life in Russia after the 1905 anti-semitic pogroms -- an uncomfortable comparison because Ignatieff's great-grandfather put many of Russia's anti-semitic laws in place. But however different the two families may have been, they experienced the same feeling of exile. I realised how similar their experiences were looking at the last photograph of Ignatieff's grandparents taken in 1944, standing in the snow outside their house in Canada, his grandmother wearing an overlarge, long winter coat and bedroom slippers, very much like a photo of my grandparents standing outside their house in New York in 1934, in which they look like tiny, weatherbeaten peasants, my grandmother wearing an old-fashioned long shapeless skirt, and a shawl draped over her never shoulders. Ignatieff ends his book:
"When I look at the final photographs in the family album, standing in front of the bungalow on a snowy afternoon, I want to be there to walk with them up the path to the house, to help them out of their coats, to make them a cup of tea and sit with them by the fire. I want to hear them speak, I want to feel the warmth of their hands…I have not been on a voyage of self-discovery: I have just been keeping a promise to two people I never knew."
Possibly he gave me the idea that I too have a promise to two people I never knew.
Awareness by Anthony de Mello
The Mersey Beat by Brian Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
I've got to agree with Donal's choice of Under Milk Wood; what a wonderful use of the English language. Another poem I love by Dylan Thomas is In my craft or sullen art which packs so much self awareness and feeling into so few lines.
Whilst undertaking a degree course I studied many different subjects and the year of literature read so wonderful books that I would never ever have considered if it hadn't been for the course. The one I found I couldn't put down even though tears streamed and that was Germinal, the tale of the French miners. I regret at moment the author escapes me, but I know that I read this many many times . It was a book that normally I would never given a second glance too. Also due to the course I read many Shakespeare play's such as Othello and Henry V and amazed myself how interested I became in them. OU literature courses opened my eyes to a wealth of wonderful classics which I am ashamed to say I have now abandoned but as I have been studying upto October this year with my reading consisting of heavy course books, my light reading comes from 'trash' books at the moment.
'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Gibbon. I was 21, on state benefits, with a baby and a toddler. I kept renewing the library book in the hope that one day I might finish it.
On about the 8th renewal the librarian asked me if I had ever considered studying with the Open University. He gave me a leaflet with the contact details.
I graduated BSc Hons 2.1 nine years later.
I will always be grateful to that kind librarian. 'Decline and Fall' changed my life.
J Bronowski - The ascent of man. It fired my imagination with all things scientific!
I loved 'To Killing a Mockingbird' But in the life changing stakes 'An Evil Cradling ' by Brian Keenan - his account of being held hostage for four and a half years has to be one of the best.
Janet and John, book one, in or around 1950something. Must have been life changing since the only thing I did seem to learn at school was how to read, and now I read everything. Since then some highlights, though not life changing in a dramatic way, but I belive that every book is incrementally life changing. Among my fav's: Wind in the Willows, The Silver Dagger ( can't remember the author ), Great Expectations, Aquarius Rising, A High Wind in Jamaica, Ulysses, Our Man in Havana, Madame Bovary, David Copperfield, Animal Farm, Goodby To All That, Cider With Rosie etc etc. Yes, they have all made me what I am, a reader, and we readers are a little bit different from the rest of the herd. Am I right, or am I right, as The Singing Detective said?
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" A truly uplifting book.
Ah yes, Zen. A great book, which I read in or about 1973, I think.I was working at Foyles in London at the time. I havn't read it since then, but I still remember the author's name, Robert M Pirsig. That it is still in print-I think-is testament to it's lasting appeal. Can't say that I've been able to apply its philosophy to my own life though, much too sloppy a thinker! Nice to be reminded of it though.
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