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Author Topic: Books that changed your life  (Read 10817 times)

Offline jwest

Books that changed your life
« on: January 16, 2012, 08:25:36 PM »
I saw this topic on a different forum, and I just had to ask it here!

I was wondering if anyone had a book that changed their life, for better or for worse.

I remember when I was little I would read everything I could get my hands on. There was always a western or romance book laying around somewhere. Then, when I was 13, my aunt gave me The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I knew right then I wanted to be a writer. That book set me on a path that has literally defined my life.

What are some of your experiences?

Best wishes,
James
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 04:30:45 PM by jwest »

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2012, 08:34:59 PM »
Lady Chatterley's Lover
The Real Powers That Be

Offline FrnchDp

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2012, 08:47:05 PM »
Probably C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe..  first full book I read in English in my pre-teen years.

That series was followed shortly by David Eddings' Pawn of Prophecy and Margaret Weis / Tracy Hickman 's Time of the Twins.

Offline Dornish First Sword

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2012, 03:32:05 AM »
Dune has been a pretty large looming book in my life I would think, it's hard to really say but that definitely comes to mind, also alot of works by PKD.
 On the fantasy side Magician and Pawn of Prophecy loom large in my formative years
"Still, it may have been a blessing. He would have grown up to be a Frey" - Wyman Manderly

Offline Bahl

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2012, 12:00:33 PM »
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Blew my mind first time I read it. Mind you, I was 13ish at the time and I think it was my first speculative fiction book.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
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Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2012, 02:53:44 PM »
At the risk of being predictable, Lord of the Rings.  I read it when I was 15, at a time when you rarely saw fantasy in bookshops, and it completely changed everything for me.

There was also a book I used to get out of our local library at every opportunity, when I was around nine or ten, I think, called The Story of Knights and Armour by Ernest E. Tucker, which essentially followed the development of the fighting man from the Romans (and some bits before) to the advent of gunpowder in alternating factual and fictional chapters.  It was simplified for kids, but as far as I'm aware, nothing in it was wrong, and I learnt an incredible amount from it.  My parents tried to get me a copy, but it was unavailable.  I finally tracked down a second-hand copy a few years back.

Offline tcsimpson

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Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2012, 10:56:33 PM »
Black Sun Rising - C.S Friedman

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2012, 05:53:51 AM »
Two books changed my life.  The first is not fantasy, but it was the first 'real' book I ever read: Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch.  I was always a terrible student in elementary school.  I was in the dumb reading class and failed spelling (for the year) twice.  Then in fourth grade, our class had required library period.  I had thought that I was a terrible reader and didn't really get grown-up books (I still loved picture books), but stuck in the library for a whole period with nothing to do, I finally picked up a book.  Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.  I think I even skipped dinner that night because I needed to finish the book!  I found out then that I could read perfectly fine and I loved it.  I found out two years later that I had dyslexia and the reason I couldn't pass reading was I couldn't write down good explanations of what I read, so all the teachers' just thought I was stupid and stuck me in remedial reading because that was the easy out.

After I exhausted all the Nancy Drew books in the library, I was at a loss as to what I should read next.  I found the answer to that question on my dad's bookshelf.  There I found the first fantasy book I ever read: The Last Unicorn.  I mostly picked it up because I had watched the movie a million times at that point and thought it was really cool that there was a book about it. ::)  Anyway, after that I was hooked on fantasy.  Sure Nancy Drew was thrilling and mysterious, but she didn't have unicorns, flaming bulls, dragons, or magic.  And it’s all well and good to have adventures in the real world, but fantasy worlds showed me real worlds that were more amazing then I could have ever imagined.  After that, I plowed through my dad's fantasy collection (including Lord of the Rings) and even read a bunch of his sci-fi books too.  The rest is history.  Reading changed my life.  Fantasy changed everything else. :)

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2012, 09:42:37 AM »
Somewhat predictably, my parents read me The Hobbit and the Narnia books when I was small, and I've been a fantasy nut ever since.

Later on, Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker blew my mind, and remains my favourite book. Rich, thought-provoking, moving, linguistically exciting/challenging, and experimental in the best of ways.

Offline Elspeth Cooper

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2012, 11:02:16 AM »
I was still in primary school, so couldn't have been more than 9, and we had a beardy, sandal-wearing, guitar-playing teacher for the final year, whose name escapes me but if he's still alive I'd love to track him down just to give him a copy of Songs and my heartfelt thanks.

Anyway, Mr Beard sat us down in the library corner one day and started reading us a book. It was full of adventure: it had Vikings and monsters and snow and heroes and swords and and and . . .

I was riveted. Utterly captivated. When he'd finished, I asked if I could borrow the book because I wanted to read it myself. He gave me a "yeah, right" look but he already knew my appetite for books by then, and handed it over. It was a translation of Beowulf, and I was hooked.

I already had one foot on the slippery slope of fantasy - come on, what kind of parents read their little daughter Ivanhoe as a bedtime story? Oh, yeah, mine - but Beowulf gave me the two-handed shove over the edge. And it was all Mr Beard's fault.

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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2012, 11:48:09 AM »
Mine was a similar teacher (Mrs White, IIRC), in first year of junior school (so I would have been about 7), who read The Magician's Nephew by C S Lewis as one of our end-of-the-day stories. Like Elspeth, I was entranced by the story of magic rings and talking lions, and it was all downhill from there :)
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Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2012, 02:54:34 PM »
It's not genre fiction and a somewhat polarizing choice... but...

Atlas Shrugged... ok.. it's kind of genre.  Can't say I agree with a lot of Rand's ideas, but the book opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about the world and how to use fiction to communicate a world view (even if that world view is rather disturbing).  I read it as a college sophomore and it began my passion pursuit down the road that led me to the great post-modernists.
Justin
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Offline Dornish First Sword

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2012, 04:17:07 PM »
Well I feel i must say a book tha not so much has but IS changing my life or rather the changes from it are still manifesting themselves and that would be On the road by Jack Keruoac
"Still, it may have been a blessing. He would have grown up to be a Frey" - Wyman Manderly

Offline AllegedlyWriting

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2012, 09:31:33 PM »
I don't know if changed my life is the right phrase for this "shaped" my life may be better. For me it honestly was the Harry Potter series that made the biggest impact on my life it opened me up to a larger realm of books than I had been reading up until that point. As for my wanting to become an author I think that that change would have to go to some of the truly bad books out there. When I saw and read them I knew that I could do better and so I plan to try.
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Offline Funky Scarecrow

Re: Books that changed your life
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2012, 12:46:20 AM »
Three books, Two Decades, One life in fantasy novels:

1990s (Part One): Redwall, by Brian Jacques - I had a difficult and confusing childhood. I was a bookish and imaginative child with too much in my memory that could colour my imagination in unpleasant shades and too much time for it to happen in, having cleared out the interesting bits of the school and both municipal libraries. Out of desperation, I turned to a book in the school library I hadn't noticed before. It was about talking animals battling each other. It swallowed me whole, gave me a place to escape to; a life raft at a time when I felt like I was drowning. For many years afterwards, long after I should have really outgrown such childish books, I still turned to Redwall when things got too much.

1990s (Part Two): Legend, by David Gemmell - While the Redwall novels gave me somewhere to escape from the world, I was still me while I was reading them. I really didn't like me very much back then, so I tried to be someone I wasn't. I got into fights, lots of fights; started stealing things, not in a cry-for-help way but in a make-a-quick-profit way; learned the pleasures of intoxication and went a little bit mental with it, drugs, booze, glue, lighter fluid, the gas at the bottom of aerosols and so on. A lot of teenage girls love a bad boy, so I wasn't shy about taking advantage of that and using girls in an emotionally manipulative way that turns my adult stomach* when I look back at it. In short, Public Me was the kind of dickhead who would give Secret Me a kicking for being a weird little nerd.

As you might imagine, it wasn't working out too well for me. I had problems with misdirected rage, culminating in an assault on a schoolteacher, an arrest, an expulsion from the school system and a life placed firmly on a particular track.

I'd tried Legend once before, when I was about ten or so, and really didn't get it so took it back to the library not just unfinished, but barely started. I'd continued visiting the library in secret over the years since Redwall of course and had run out of SF&F and horror books to read, so decided to give Legend a second chance. For all its faults, and they are many and easy to see - even to a fifteen year old forbidden from taking his exams, it chimed; rang through me like the vibrations of a tuning fork when the right note is played. Druss' determination to die as himself rather than live on as a pale shadow, Rek's journey from cowardice to acceptance of the fear that dominated him and learning to control the berserker side to his nature all had parallels in my own life. Even that embarrassingly clunky scene where Druss 'cures' a rape survivor's traumatic break-induced murderous inclinations with his sheer manliness had a certain... resonance I'm not going to dwell on too much; suffice to say that scene didn't 'cure' me of my rage issues, but it shone a torch on the place to start looking for one.

Within a week of finishing the book, I'd applied to go to college after my sixteenth birthday to take the GCSEs my actions had left me restricted from, approached my GP for some help to begin the process of dealing with some things and informed the street gang I was in that I was leaving. If the gang hadn't given me multiple and severe beatings for leaving, culminating in my being hospitalised and then forced to leave the town I grew up in for my own safety, this would be a tale with a happy ending. Life's never that simple, of course. There were a few more years of terrible mistakes on my part, but when my moral compass began spinning too wildly and I had no clue where to look for guidance I would read Legend again and reaffirm my decision to be the person I wanted to be, rather than the person my background, upbringing and experiences would lead people, myself included, to expect me to be.

More than any other I could name, Legend is a book I owe a debt to.

2000s: Talon of the Silver Hawk, by Raymond E. Feist - I'd gotten into something of a rut with my fantasy reading. Always the same kind of thing, always by the same authors. Gemmell, Feist, Pratchett, the very occasional book from Neil Gaiman (The man's highly gifted, but not what you'd call a prolific novelist) and the odd bit of forgettable Epic Fluff plucked at random from the library shelves. Fantasy was, in my mind, for only three things; consolation, satire or entertaining but slight fauxry tales and the only substance was satirical in nature. Being in a consolatory action frame of mind I picked up Talon, started reading and it occurred to me that the novel in my hands was, not to put too fine a point on it, crap. Not enjoyable, pulpy crap; just crap. The genre that had got me through the bad times seemed irrelevant when I was a happily married man with his life on the right(ish) track. Surely that wasn't all fantasy was good for?

I went to the library and began reading all the fantasy novels I'd dismissed as 'boring', 'slow' or 'faffy' in my younger and more turbulent times (Mythago Wood?! I'd once dismissed Mythago Wood!). To my surprise, fantasy as whole was broader, deeper and filled with greater meaning than I'd ever realised, being too wrapped up in my own troubles to read anything that didn't provide some kind of anaesthetic from, or mirror image of, my own life. I haven't looked back since.

So there you have it, three books. One escape hatch, one catalyst for change and growth, and one which encouraged me to read more widely in the genre that, to get a bit forgivably hyperbolic, ensured I didn't end it all, either by my own hand or through self destructive habits.

Please forgive the long post, but it's a question that deserved an honest answer and honesty is sometimes lengthy.

* Yes, I was just a kid myself, but I was a kid who knew better than to treat people as objects. I just didn't care, which is the part that still shames me years later.
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