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This is a question This book changed my life

The Goat writes, "Some books have made a huge impact on my life." It's true. It wasn't until the b3ta mods read the Flashman novels that we changed from mild-mannered computer operators into heavily-whiskered copulators, poltroons and all round bastards in a well-known cavalry regiment.

What books have changed the way you think, the way you live, or just gave you a rollicking good time?

Friendly hint: A bit of background rather than just a bunch of book titles would make your stories more readable

(, Thu 15 May 2008, 15:11)
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This question is now closed.

Just started The Wasp Factory........
Wouldn't say they've changed my life massively but all these books have turned me into an unwashed loner for the time I was reading them.
Catch 22- Joseph Heller,
1984- George Orwell,
Crime and punishment- Fyodor Dostoevsky,
The Years of Rice and Salt- Kim Stanley Robinson,
The Dark Tower- Steven King.

Out of all these i'd have to say that, while The Dark Tower is my favourite (i've been known to badger friends and family until they cave in and promise to read it), The Years of Rice and Salt is the one that has stayed in my mind so well. And i've still to meet anyone else who's read it...
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 17:20, 6 replies)
Cars + sex
J. G. Ballard's Crash.

It was this fine piece of modernist erotica that made me accept my inappropriate love for a Mk2 VW Polo. I can't read it anymore as the pages are stuck together, especially at the car wash bit.

I believe Ballard wrote it as a cautionary tale about the fetishisation of machinery.

Fuck it, machinery is sexy.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 17:11, 12 replies)
The Argos book, 1997 Spring/Summer edition.
No, really.

My mum dropped it while i happened to be in it's vicinity.

As it fell, with it's many glossy pages filled with Elizibeth Ardens finest tat along with a fine selection of tube TV's (it was 1997) and Megadrive II's to name but a few of it's lamitated wares, I weakly made an attempt to escape from it's gravity-chosen path...

...t'was in vain. The 1100-odd pages of rack-stored homewares landed on my left foot, crushing my seemingly weak big toe. There was blood from the nail, there were cries of pain from 14 year old me, the were "Sorrysorrysorry's" from my old dear...but the damage had been done, it was too late. The toe, dear reader, was broken.

And now, years on, if the weather is cold and the trainers are tight my toe hurts...just a little.

(, Tue 20 May 2008, 17:11, 2 replies)
Surviving Post-Natal Depression: At Home No One Hears You Scream
I had rather a crappy experience during labour and both me and my son nearly died. I didn't get to hold him till he was almost a week old and i felt like i hadn't bonded with him. This led on to extreme feelings of helplessness and inadequacy followed by lots of time spent crying my eyes out. It was the first time i felt unable to talk to my partner - who wants to admit to less than fluffy feelings about their beautiful new baby.

I had an idea of what i was suffering from but felt too ashamed to talk to anyone about it so i got myself a book and read it on the sly. I finally felt that i wasn't alone and that things might not be like this forever. It gave me the courage to talk to my partner and after a stint in counselling and a course of anti-depressants i was finally able to take joy in my son. It still rears it's head from time to time but now i know i can cope and i always turn to this book for support.

Mumsnet, not a book i know, but this also helped loads, being able to talk to people that had come out the other side was a real help.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 17:11, 2 replies)
Famous books I couldn't read
Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky) - so boring I that wanted to die.
Pride and Prejudice - never got past the first page of smuggery.
The Naked Lunch (Burroughs) - he wrote it on drugs, see? That's why it's incoherent bollocks.
Anything by Faulkner - Nobel prize-winner and acclaimed genius. Three pages and I'm asleep.
Daniel Deronda (Eliot) - 1000 pages that can be summarised thus: "Am I Jewish? Yes."
Anything by Henry James - quite the most boring writer of any century. Some call him subtle - for me he's soporific.
Huckleberry Finn - Twain was a great writer, but this is a kid's book and it's shit.
Anything by EM Forster - dull, boring, slow, vapid, tedious...
Harry Potter - two paragraphs in and I realise I'm reading a book loved by eight-year-olds.
The Diaries of Franz Kafka - "Went to see a play - didn't like it much" repeated 400 times. No wonder he never had any friends.
Finnegan's Wake (Joyce) - "Here's the idea - why don't I make up my own language and see if anyone can stick with it for 600 pages..."
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 17:06, 11 replies)
Changed my life?
i once read a pamphlet on methods of sustainable electricity generation in small townships bt A. K. Muirithi. needless to say it has not changed much, since there is still no electricity here. still, there is wireless and as long as i keep the car engine running, i can charge thos old computer of mine!

i agree with the poster who proponed Fyodor..he is wonderful.
i would say that the books that most influenced my thinking over the last few years have been those of Quine and A.J. Ayer.
i warn thee - they are boring reads.

Evelyn Waugh and Wodehouse rock, by the way.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 16:36, 1 reply)
Another off topic
Call me a snob, but graphic novels are not 'books'. They are just slightly extended comics.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 16:02, 9 replies)
How much have people spent because of this QOTW?
I'm up to at least £45, mainly on Amazon but also recommend:

(, Tue 20 May 2008, 15:57, 8 replies)
Conan The Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Not only did it teach me The Riddle Of Steel but also, what is best in life.

AND the film was ace too!
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 15:54, 3 replies)
Don't think we've had this one yet.
'The Red Shift' by Alan Gardner.

What a fantastic book.

Also, Catch 22 (though I'm sure that has been said before.)
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 15:44, 4 replies)
Are my books trying to tell me something...?
I have tons of books and they're all lined up on the shelves facing my computer. Not long ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads and wondering where my life was going, etc, (as you do) when I took a photo of myself using my computer camera. When I looked at the picture closely, directly beside my head where two books, right next to each other. "What Shall I Do With My Life?" and "Teach English Abroad". Hm, a subtle hint, I believe...
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 15:24, 1 reply)
Big papery things held together with string (or appropriate bindings)

The idiot (FD) - changes forever how you understand the way people see each other. Clever chaps these dead Russians.

Eat the Rich (PJ O'Rourke) - finally made me understand why all my uni friends earn a lot more money than me, how not to be bitter about it, and ways to mock them when they get it wrong.

A Certain Chemistry (Mil Millington) - okay, so the plot wasn't all that, but I learnt me some big scientific words to annoy the romantic. He does have a good turn of phrase though...

(You may thank me for my restraint in not listing "DIY Home sex-changes for Dummies", "Film ye: medieval cinematography", and "The bible")
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:52, 1 reply)
Food Porn.
Where to start? So many influences upon my thinking, my being, my fridge, my bathroom scales.

My top five faves;

1. Delia Smith's "How to cook" Oh God! Her carefully presented treatise on how to slice an onion was a Godsend. I had been living in a fool's paradise until this book came into my possession. I now slice exactly as Delia demands! And so, so slowly, to best enjoy each delightful cut. Even now I hear Delia whispering gently in my ear as my knife gently slices. Tears well, eyes sting, but I persist. And her fish supper? Smells divine.

2. Jamie Oliver's "Happy Days with the Naked Chef" Covert reading by torchlight after lights out in the dorm. Oh, how the chaps begged for a quick glimpse of Jamies's wilted spinach.

3. Ainsley Harriot's "Low Fat Meals in Minutes" Low Fat? My arse! The man is huge. Too much for one mouth, he strides across the gastro-landscape, cheery bonce leering from each page.

4. Keith Floyd's "Floyd's China" Mirth abounds as bon-vivant Keith lurches from page to page, drooling and stumbling in his affable but unintelligible delivery as he none-too subtly backhands the locals for being mere simple peasants.

5. Stephanie Alexander's "The Cooks Companion" Classic raw, direct, no holds barred Aussie cooking. Don't f**k around, just f**cking cook it now ya big poof. And gimmie another beer.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:43, 1 reply)

Couldn't get on with 'Zen and the art...' but absolutely love the Aurelio Zen books by Micheal Dibden. I'm also a sucker for Ian Rankin's Rebus books [hated the TV adaptations! What have they done?]. There are some passages in the Dibden books that make me laugh out loud at the audacious use of the English language - I have to go back, read them again then read them out loud to Mrs G. If I remember, I'll dig one out just for you lot to show you what I mean. Meanwhile, if you like crime fiction and you like Italy and you like good writing, try them.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:33, Reply)
Off Topic
But who likes books better than the film of the book:

With me, reading a book I get the entire "sense-around" experience. In my minds-eye, I can see,smell,touch,feel...

The films never get it right.

But, in a few, they come close.

(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:32, 13 replies)
James Herbert's "The Fog"

This was the book that taught me a valuable lesson at the age of 13. The lesson? Read the blurb before reading the book. Oh, and don't ever trust an elder brother with a sick sense of humour.

The parents had gone out for the night, and 16 year old brother had been entrusted with my well-being, by two mature, sensible adults. What the hell were they thinking? It wasn't that I would get up to mischief if unsupervised, more that I was such a wee scaredy-cat I'd be weeping in terror before they left the house. He'd happily accepted the proffered cash, and said nothing of his plans. The parental car was barely round the corner (about 150 metres away) when he had his coat on.

I asked what I was supposed to do until he came back (hoping he'd take me with him - aye right!) and he threw me said book, commenting that it should "keep my mind occupied" until his return. Sick, sick, boy.

I sat down and started reading.

A very short time later I was huddled in the corner of the room (still reading the book, because I had to know how it ended) and stayed there until he came back. By the time he returned I had almost finished the bloody book, and was near-prostrate with horror. Mum and Dad came home not long after, to find their first-born child still trying to coax his red-faced wee sister out of the corner. I flew into Dad's arms, babbling nonsense about fog and school buses. Mum picked up the book and figured out what had happened.

It was a long time before we were left unsupervised again, about a year if I remember right, and my bro was left in no doubt that any repetition of the "book-lending incident" as it became known, would result in swift and painful reprisals.

I actually finished the book a couple of days later, in broad daylight and sitting on the floor between Dad's feet - my favourite "safe place" in the world at the time. Many years later, I spotted it for sale in a second-hand bookshop and in a fit of unbelievable stupidity, bought it. For about 20p (bargain). I really thought that as an adult I'd be fine reading it, but the damn thing dragged me in again. I ended up reading it sitting on the floor between my husband's feet - my new favourite "safe place"!
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:25, 28 replies)
I Suppose..
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance"

The Loon has mentioned it but, I think, a lot of people here won't have even heard of it.

It's got little to do with motorbikes. It's got a lot to do with attitude.

Try it.

(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:19, 3 replies)
these books MADE my life
when my mummy and daddy were much younger, and pre-me, they decided one summer to read a load of intellectual/classic/literature type books. mummy chose 'Moby Dick', daddy chose 'Midnight's Children'.
they both found the books so tedious that they put them down and did something else.

ta-da! 8 months later, I was born. a little premature, maybe, but without those books, I may not exist. I've since tried to read both books, and haven't finished either. but i haven't made any babies as a result.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:15, Reply)
Believe It Or Not
As a young impressionable wee nipper of 14, I was a massive fan of reading. I read anything: cereal packets, trashy magazines, classic books...pretty much anything I could get my hands on.
Then one day, whilst lamenting the lack of scary horror books, an English supply teacher recommended the Books of Blood by Clive Barker+ as pretty damn terrifying.
So off I pop to my local library to check it out...however it's not there....someone already has it!
'Damn' I think to myself and pick up another by the same author:

Coldheart Canyon

This book was pretty much porn under the guise of a novel, much worse than ordinary porn where the plumber comes to fix the sink or whatever. I had picked up a dirty book!
And as an impressionable 14 year old I read it and all the erotic passion contained within.

Two months later I came out to my friends
...Yes....this book turned me off the opposite sex for life*!
And that is how a book changed my life

*may or may not be due to this book*
+And i never got round to reading them anyway
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:08, 3 replies)
"An enquiry into meaning and truth", by Bertrand Arthur Russell
... because all the fantasy/scifi books are a bit lowbrow, eh?

It was bloody hard work, I had to read most sentences twice to get the point (I was only in my teens). It helped give me such clarity of thought and precision of language that no-one can understand what the hell I'm talking about, what with all the caveats and special cases I (tend to) load each sentence with, designed to make sure I don't impart misinformation. Either that or my writing becomess brutally terse, or wilfully obscure. I write with a sledgehammer.

I'm not sure there's much of a story; but at least I didn't become a philosopher (as long as you exclude Natural Philosophy from the category of Philosophy, that is).[1]

[1] Damn. But it's more the Scots who like to call physics "natural philosophy"[2]

[2] But then, I do have a PhD.[3]

[3] That damn Bertrand Russell! See what he's done! The b*****d!
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 14:04, Reply)
My humble list
This is in danger of becoming a list of my favourite books rather than the book which changed my life but I ask your indulgence.

In no particular order:

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

Read in a single sitting whilst crossing to Dublin by Ferry - it was the only time that pure creepiness jumped off the page and into my brain.

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

Basically "Apocalypse Now" without the helicopters and the Vietnam War (which is no surprise as the film is a bald retelling of the novella). It knocked the pretension out of me. Conrad was a Polish immigrant writing in English (his second language!!!) and he still wrote a haunting, brilliant book. I am merely a nematode worm in comparison.

I am Legend - Ian Matheson

Still my favourite book (for now). It speaks to my soul! what a lonely bastard I am. Like all the very best ones I remember exactly where I was when I devoured it. Curled up in a third storey bed-sit, overlooking the high street, in my University town. People outside going about their business totally oblivious to the desperate plight of Robert Neville. I was mortified when Hollywood shat it onto the silver screen last year. The final act was like a drawn-out violent arse-fucking for anyone who treasures the book. Cunts!

The Time Machine - HG Wells

My very first science fiction. It inflamed my passion for the most underrated genre in fiction (yes, I'm going to be a twat about this point - science fiction is nerdy? Good, Nerds are the world's clever people). It made me want to become a writer, something at which I have failed dismally for years.

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Yossarian lives! Turned me into the cowardly liberal I am today. Except…. Yossarian is actually pretty brave outwardly. Catch 22 made me see the sordid nature of war and the human condition (getting right up my own arse now aren’t I?). It’s pretty bleak out there.

A Scanner Darkly – Phillip K Dick

This is my favourite P.K Dick book and pretty much kick started my adoration of the unappreciated genius. It made me laugh and cry and question what is real. Thirty years before the Matrix got everyone frothing their panties Philip K Dick was smashing reality into disturbing pieces. Oh, and there’s a pretty decent adaption by Richard Linklater which preserves the mood of the book and retains the dedication at the end. I think P.K. Dick would have been proud.

Non Stop – Brian W Aldiss
Hot House – Brian W Aldiss

Another wonderful British Author. Both books are clever and entertaining. Possibly not “great” fiction but I’ve included them because me and my dad wasted hours talking about them together.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

The next time you watch your 50” Plasma television think of “The Family” (Big Brother would probably be a good approximation). Ironically this posits a future altogether without books. There’s no B3ta though so it’s a pretty grim world. Also, can anyone think of anything as horrendous as being chased down by the Mechanical Hound which has a hypo for a face?
The last act where an innocent bystander is sacrificed to make the government seem competent is eerily reminiscent of Dr David Kelly’s suicide over the Iraq Dossier. Life grimly imitating art.

1984 – George Orwell
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

All three of my copies are battered from re-reading. These three books should exist as a canon on their own. They scared the hell out of me as a teenager and their prescience terrifies me daily. When O’Brien tells Winston in 1984 that the stars can exist simultaneously as burning gas a few thousand miles away and gigantic bodies in space trillions of miles away (for the purposes of astronomical calculations) it says everything you need to know about the state versus the citizen. Depressing and brilliant. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever”

The Stand – Stephen King

This is a guilty pleasure. It changed my life because I was convinced at the time that 99% of mankind was going to buy the farm any minute. As a thirteen year old I had been subjected to “Threads” (BBC Drama shot in semi documentary style about a nuclear attack on the UK) by my R.E. teacher. The Stand seemed perfectly plausible to me.

And so endeth the sermon….. there are many, many more and hopefully some to add in the future. Books are awesome. I hope they live forever.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:56, 2 replies)
Hmm... Difficult one this.
Not even the course books Ive read have changed my life, the way I think or the way I live.

Not even Gillian McKeiths "You fat bastard, eat some fruit" did much.

But I DO love Hi Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

I think its because it gives me a vague insight into the mind of a weird, miserable bastard type bloke, who likes to organise his cd's in alphabetical order one week, and chronological order the next (not the order they were released, but the order they were purchased).

The kind of guy that has top five lists for everything, and wont commit because a better arse could be right around the corner.

Basically, it helps me understand my boyfriend.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:41, Reply)
There's so many books I love, books I've read and re-read dozens of times, but none of them have really changed my life - with one exception that I'll mention in a bit.

But, as people seem to be mentioning their favourite books, I think I'll mention mine.

Legend by David Gemmel.

I've bought it at least 20 times (no exaggeration) as I keep thrusting my copy onto people and saying:

"You have to read this"

It has no special message, it's not complicated and full of hidden meaning, it's simply a good story, very well told.

The basic plot is that DEATH comes to visit an aging warrior who's living alone on a mountainside and offers him a choice. He can have another 20 years of life on his hillside or he can go off to fight one more battle. One more battle where he will, without any doubt die. He's told that no matter what he chooses, the battle will be lost. Him being there won't affect the eventual outcome.

Just read it. Magic, magic book and I speak as someone who's read, probably, about 20K books in my life.

Oh - and the book that changed my life:

"The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist"

But that's another story and one I don't really feel comfortable telling here...

(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:25, 11 replies)
Making a killing
Thomas de Quincey's Murder, Considered as one of the Fine Arts is great. And it has the potential to seed some fascinating Turner prize entries...
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:07, 37 replies)
Books for learning and whatnot.
I love books, me. Although usually just for fun, I don't think that they've ever really changed my life per say, but they've provided me with some of the most entertaining ways of killing time.

One book that I found amazingly insightful was the new scientist book "How to fossilize your hamster (and other armchair sciences)" - It's pure genius. It's explained so much about science that I'd forgotten, or wondered about and never looked into, or had just pondered about. Now, I know that you can actually extract iron from a bowl of frosties, and that it is entirely possible to see DNA using nothing more than a glass of Salt water and some premium spirits!! I found this incredibly cool.

.... I am such a geek...
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:05, 3 replies)
of the dump. And when it was on Jackanory. Ace.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 13:00, 1 reply)
OK, I admit it
I have a few 'self-help' books. Everyone needs a little support sometimes. and if you're too much of a hardman to talk to friends, it helps to turn to such titles as:

Heal Your Life with Balance - I bought this one a few years ago. It teaches how most of life's problems can be solved by standing on one leg or leaning forward at a precipitous angle. The idea is that the position takes your mind off your troubles. I used it when I was fired from my last job for taking covert pictures of my female boss defecating. As the police arrived, I simply opened my arms and leaned forward on one leg to embrace the calmness.

Smell Your Way to Joy - This cult classic teaches that we should learn to open our senses by smelling as much as possible. Nothing really smells bad when you have trained your senses to find the joy. When all of my immediate family was burned alive by a band of marauding motorcycle convicts, I took solace in the delicate aroma of jasmine. When my pet cat was eaten by conger eel, I was comforted by a phial of frankincense. And when I was set upon by a pack of pitt bulls, I turned my mind from the pain by sniffing at the pheromone secretors around their anuses - an act that seemed to infuritate them all the more.

Find Your Inner Jew - I'm a firm believer that we can choose whatever religion we like. Everyone knows that the Jews have one of the best religions and that they they always throw a lot of money around, so this book helped me to fit in at my local synagogue. By plaiting my sideburns, wearing a fedora and carrying a pocket Torah, I soon discovered that the Jews were not as welcoming as I'd imagined. and instead bought a copy of Happiness Through Allah.

Soothe Your Rage with Fruit - this masterwork really changed my life. Before I read it, I would often attack people on the street and beat them into a coma with repeated screams of "Why! Why! Why!" But I soon learned to eat a piece of fruit whenever I felt the rage coming. In no time I was walking around with pockets stashed with kiwis, cherries and passion fruit. Unfortunately, it backfired when I was accosted by a bouncer when all I had was a carrot. He now breathes through a straw.

Find Your Passion in Muesli - Dr Fanny Bumalott's book on the chemistry of muesli changed my sex life. Before, I was listless and willing to whack off all day to porn on the Net. But after I learned to combine oats and wheatbran in a balanced muesli, I was humping pets, colleagues and even strangers non-stop. By adding some pumpkin seeds, I could go all night with a boner like a baton.

The Pleasure of Poverty - selling my house and all my possessions to send a cheque to author Brian der Hoore was the best thing I ever did. Suddenly I had complete clarity and was able to seem my life as it truly was - over.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 12:56, 3 replies)
The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett
When I was a 12 ish, I was an avid Prachett fan. I read all of his books. There was something magical (pun not intended) about the Discworld. The sarcastic tone the books were written in and the comparisons between the real world and that of Ankh Morpork. These made me laugh out loud and I'll always remember the footnotes that seemed to stray off on weird and wonderful tangents.

Whenever I have turned my hand to writing I find myself slipping into the same literacy style as Pratchett. With the recent news of his illness I regret giving away his books all those years ago. I don't read anymore as I have the attention span of a goldfish but I am glad that my early teens were not wasted by drinking in parks and fumbling around with girls, but reading the best books I'd ever laid eyes on.
(, Tue 20 May 2008, 12:47, 1 reply)

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