What Books Made a Difference? (Yes, We’re Talking to You)

We’re trying out something a little different today, and we hope that you’ll participate because by giving more, you’ll get more in return. (So far we have 18 people participating, now it is your turn.)

We want to draw on the collective wisdom of our readers and find out what great books you’ve read, and which particular one made a difference in your life. That is, what book has led you to look differently at literature, thinking, career, love, friendship, death, or whatever you consider important?

At some point later next week, we’ll bundle the submissions and post them for you. We’re hoping that this will give everyone a list of great and important books to read.

If you’d like to participate, please make a submission in the comments below, or via email. In whatever you write, please list the name of the book and the author, and then mention why the book mattered to you. (Your explanation can be as brief or as long as you like.) When we post the replies, we won’t use your names unless you otherwise consent. And we’ll otherwise protect the privacy of your email addresses.

Finally, we’ll randomly select one name from all of the submissions, and send that contributor a nice $50 gift certificate from Amazon.com.

We look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for taking part.

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  • alex says:

    Several books have impacted my life. One that sticks out would have to be the Autobiography of Malcolm X(As told to Alex Haley).

    This book inspired me to read more, and look up every word unfamiliar to me. Malcolm X is an incredible man who certainly had an impact on history. I would recommend this book to everyone.

    Another is A history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson. Wow this book is incredible. At close to 500 pages Bryson covers everything from the moment the universe expanded from the intensely dense matter that was(aka the big bang) to mans origin. Reading this book has impacted the way I look at everything from bacteria to Asteroids.

    I’m most proud of these two books in my collection. I hope others appreciate them as much as me

    • sioban says:

      none of you seem to realise, but you are changed and affected by each and every book that you have ever read, and so it will continue until you either cannot read anymore or die.

  • Jamie says:

    I read “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens when I was 15 and it had a profound impact on me. I related to Pip so well. At 15, I was shy. And a hopeless romantic. I think it was the first time I had felt such a bond with a character. I triumphed with his successes, felt the blow of failure in his defeats, and felt sorrow when he broke his own principles. I saw values in Pip that I wanted to emulate in my own life — a dedication to pursuing my dreams, overcoming my weaknesses, and treating others respectfully regardless of what frustrations I may have in my own life. Pip’s realization that “throughout life our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of those whom we most despise” struck a chord with me and has been in the back of my mind ever since. And who could ever forget the heartbreaking rejection when he finally confesses his undying affection for Estella?

  • Andrea says:

    Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is one of the best books I have read. The book describes the authors imprisonment in several concentration camps. Faced with terrible suffering and loss he
    survives by finding meaning in the midst of this. He discovers that all of our freedoms can be taken from us….except one….the freedom to choose how we think and act under the very worst of circumstances.

  • Tim says:

    One title that has had a big impact on me throughout my teaching career has been Neil Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. His concepts of helping kids develop their instincts for evaluating and analyzing all the messages tossed at them during their lives (he called it their crap detector) are more valid today than when he wrote the book in the 70’s.

    If I can toss in a second but related (and relevant) title it would be Postman’s classic from the 80’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.

  • Ellen says:

    The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – This novel touched my heart deeply.

    The Stranger by Albert Camus – I love it so much. This book is for me pure philosophy.

    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – The novel showed me the utter cruelty of the war.

  • Francesco says:

    The book that most influenced my life was “The Lord of the Rings” that I read when I was 15 years old.
    That book introduced me to the world of fantasy books. Ever since I keep reading this genre of books (plus a lot others of course), both in English and in Italian.

  • Dave says:

    The Illuminati Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. It’s chock full of free-thinking anarchism and did a lot to push me towards my current semi-libertarian view point.

  • Spamboy says:

    Depending on my age, different books mattered to me at different times in my life. Most recently, “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut reignited the pilot light of my imagination like no other book had done in quite awhile. The whimsy of its narrative, which ended with the utter destruction of our world thanks to mankind, was stark, shocking, yet refreshing when it seemed every other book I read was just an exercise towards getting to a happy ending. Great book!

  • Papermaven says:

    “The Chaneysville Incident” arrived in my library, as part of our rental collection, in the mid-70s. Since then, I have given away at least half a dozen copies, boughtit for other libraries I’ve worked at, and had a brief correspondence with David Bradley, the author. It’s about time for me to reread it.

    This is the story of John Washington, a black history professor who is called home to bury his father’s friend, Josh; and, by the way, finally tackle the mystery his father left for him to solve. John occupies his father’s office, reads his books, recalls Josh’s stories, tracks game through the hills, drinks toddies, avoids his girlfriend, and tries to make sense of his father’s hunting accident.

    There’s a something here for everyone: mystery, family, love, hate, secrets, history, and outdoor pursuits. Bradley tells the story in the first person, from John’s point of view. John combines intelligence and keen analytical skill with an anger that makes his other attributes burn hotter. As an historian, he needs to understand, even though he knows history is always too complicated to understand fully.

    Why is this book important? First, it’s an excellent story, well told. It’s gripping. Second, it tells one story of historical atrocity based on race. Only one story, but it’s a parable for so many, many stories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, orientation, …. Since I read it, I look at history more critically (and maybe more sympathetically), knowing there is always at least one hidden backstory. I believe — I hope — I better understand the social legacy of slavery, which still deeply divides this country. I also look at hunters with a little more sympathy, and I fell in love with mountains I’ve never seen. I also became interested in storytelling and in telling my own stories.

    John is a very real character, a black man living in academe, a world constructed by “enlightened” white men. He feels considerable tension; how much of it is “real” and how much “in his mind”? His colleagues admire his brilliance but don’t understand his anger. He’s doing well, why is he still so angry? Why can’t he let go of the past and enjoy the present? He’s earned it.

    Don’t forget the girlfriend. She matters.

    Interested? It’s still in print. Hound your indy bookstore, go to Amazon, butter up your local librarian. Get it. If only one of you, reading this, gets the book, I’ll be satisfied. Even if you don’t get past the dissertation on long distance public transportation.

  • Papermaven says:

    Two corrections: Pub. date is 1981, and dying friend is Jack, not Josh. Sorry. I told you it was time for me to reread it. And, no, you may not borrow my copy.

  • Amanda says:

    When I think about all the books that have changed my life and made me a better person, writer, thinker, teacher, etc., I feel so overwhelmed I’m dizzy. Literally. Like right now.

    In this present moment I’d have to say the book that has has the most impact on me lately is Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I love Oscar. I love Oscar’s journey. I love the messing of Post-9/11 culture with “third-generation memory.” It’s as though that book has taken so much life from the past and made it all tangible to us here in the present. I love the emotional complexity that’s replicated in the grandmother’s and grandfather’s manuscript and letters, how they show how memory is fragmented, overwhelming, and some times incomprehensible.

    Seriously, I could go on and on. And I can think of hundreds of other books that have changed me just as much. It’s just this one has been at the forefront of my mind ever since I read it a couple of months ago.

    Thanks for your blog. It’s awesome.

  • Darcy says:

    A book that first opened up my eyes to the fact that there are many ways that one can examine things:
    “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger.

    An amazing story that, though written before 1900, is still relevant today as it speaks to our general ignorance of what really is going on behind that curtain:
    “Flatland” by Edwin Abbott Abbott.

    One last one, hard for me to pick a favorite story or novel of his, so I’ll just pick the author:
    Kurt Vonnegut

    I’m a big fan of Open Culture. Keep it up.

  • Harish says:

    Like most people have mentioned its hard to pick The One book that changed my life. But if I really had to, It will have to be:

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
    by Robert M. Pirsig

    Although I am not too much into philosophy, this book really made me see a lot of things differently!

  • Greg says:

    While I know it’s probably not the type of book to fit the criteria of what you are looking the following book has had a big impact for me:

    How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

    Quite simply it has enabled me to get more out of the books that I’ve read.

  • regina says:

    many: the first one was when I was nine years old:”sitio do picapau amarelo” and I dont Know if it has a english translate.It is a children brasilian book write by Monteiro Lobato . It is delicious . Since that I love books.
    Another:
    Amor no tempo do colera de gabriel garcia Marquez.Its for me like: “lives is like art” (in portuguese: ” a vida imita a arte”)because an old lover appears in my life after 31 years. And if I dont had read that book I think I would refused him.
    * I hope you can understand my english. I would prefer write in portuguese.

  • Megan says:

    A stellar book released last year that I believe will quietly grow to classic status on par with Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel, is Richard F. Mollica’s “Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World.”

    Mollica is the founder of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, and weaves his own memoir as a first generation American growing up in the Bronx together with the hopeful stories of survivors of extreme violence from around the world – refugees from the Khmer Rouge, survivors of horrific sexual violence, torture and more.

    Mollica’s thesis, radical for a professor of medicine, is that humans have the tools to heal themselves from even the worst imaginable traumas. He gently shows the recipe for self-recovery, and reveals that the “survivor” is, in fact, the greatest hero for us all.

  • Bob Price says:

    As mentioned before, the first book to help me evaluate ideas and explore thinking was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. Secondly, I must mention Hermann Hesse for his “Journey to the East”. For a young reader, this became a portal for enjoying books.

  • Carol Jurd says:

    For non-fiction – Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”; a “how-to” manual of human behaviour, one that should be required reading for all aspiring politicians and leaders.
    Fiction – what a tough choice! “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco? , Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows”? “The Lord of the Rings”? Finally I think I must choose Dicken’s “Our Mutual Friend”. Several plots woven together, human emotion & passion, humour and dark despair – it’s got the lot!

  • Allan says:

    From Kindergarten to Current:

    The Hardy Boys – Franklin W. Dixon (et.al.)

    All Creatures Great & Small – James Herriot

    The Little Prince – Antoine du Saint-Exupery

    Battle Cry // Trinity – Leon Uris

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    The Hobbit & LOTR – JRR Tolkien

    The Star Thrower – Loren Eiseley

    One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Chaos – James Gleick

    The Bible – ed. God

  • Terry says:

    S.I. Hayakawa wrote a book called “Language in Thought and Action” which provides a whole rationale for reading fiction that I have never forgotten. I grew up in a time and a household where reading fiction was analagous to wasting your time. Hayakawa writes of fiction as a tool to increase your experience of life, to increase the number and variety of experiences in your life, your appreciation of those experiences, to understand others and so much more!

    Joseph Campbell has also written some seminal books that get at our appreciation of universal stories.

  • chris says:

    Over the years, many books affected me.

    Gardner’s _Grendel_ – Popped into the world, it isn’t like the monster had a choice of parentage, ethnicity, learning environment, or appetites. This one helped me with empathy.

    Bolles’ _What Color is Your Parachute_ – Using strengths to select a career instead of focusing on developing weak areas seemed brilliant.

    Rodriguez’ _Hunger of Memory_ – Unlike Grendel, this guy whines. That made it absolutely impossible to feel empathy for him. I had to read this for a credentialing class, and I abhorred it. Hating it has allowed me to avoid similar whiney writing in subsequent years. Whiney student writings are also a source of annoyance. [Thank goodness the angst of Goth has nearly passed. I can’t take much more prepubescent knuckle biting. Oh, woe is me! Get over it.]

    E.A. Poe’s collected works – Short and punchy, his macabre tales pack a visual whallop that modern longer stories lack. He can create mood and tone in less than a page. When I need a break from student narratives, I read a short story by Poe. There is a reason the guy’s writing has survived.

    Terry Pratchett’s novels about Discworld – These are pure escapism stories with a wry twist of humor. Not many books can make me laugh out loud when I read them. His have that effect.

    Anything James Joyce wrote tends to turn my stomach. Akin to knuckle biting, the spiraling inward introspection gyre requires too much caffeine to digest. This has allowed me to also avoid most recommendations from _The New Yorker_ and other elitist publications.

    Marzano’s _A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works_ – I don’t need anecdotal cutesy stories or voluminous pages of theory. Handbooks work. Handbooks based on research are even better.

  • Morgan says:

    “Hiroshima” by John Hersey

    Hersey retells what happens when an atomic bomb falls on your city. Culled from interviews with survivors of the atomic bomb attack, this narrative was originally published as an entire issue of The New Yorker magazine. Haunting

    “Timeless Way of Building” and “Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein

    A new language and approach to creating the spaces where we live. Brilliant.

  • Cyen says:

    I see that Dave has also listed this book that I’m about to list also: The Illuminati Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I would imagine this book had a similar effect on a lot of people who read it. This book really changed the way I think and introduced me to a lot of really great information. I went on to read almost all of Robert Anton Wilson’s books. He was a great philospher who wasn’t afraid to state his mind. He recently passed away and I know a lot of people will and are missing him. His greatest effect on me was the introduction of “maybe logic”.

  • Praise of Idleness (Bertrand Russel)Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)
    Stranger (Albert Camus)
    LES IDENTITÉS MEURTRIÈRES (Amin Maalouf)

  • David says:

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert Pirsig – The first book of philosophy I read (at 18) became the most significant, but Lila is by far the more far-reaching. After 18 years exploring philosophies I still return to Pirsig for clarity. Although I see many parralels now with more “respectable” philosophers, such as Hume, there is also a very human dimension to these books which manages always to move me. There is a sensation for many who read Pirsig of re-connecting with some long-forgotten wellspring of wisdom long lost to the reductionism of our daily existences.

  • Merlene says:

    So many books have made a difference for me it’s hard to pick just one but at the moment the stand out for me is “Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction” by Laura Berman Fortgang.

    I’ve read this book 3 times over the past 2 years and it’s allowed me to overcome my fears, realize my dreams and start working toward new goals in my career, relationships, etc.

    It’s given me the courage to leave the things (marriage, career, etc.) that weren’t working for me and to face the fear of the unknown to start working toward a new future.

  • John says:

    If the devil were alive he would be writing the works of James Purdy. ‘The Candles of your Eyes’ changed my outlook on literature forever.

  • Charlie says:

    A quarter century ago, I set out on a bicycle trip across North America, and a friend stuck a paperback copy of Basho’s ‘Narrow Road to a Far Province’ in one of my panniers.

    ‘Narrow Road,’ or ‘Oku-no-Hosomichi,’ translated into English by Dorothy Britton and published by Kodansha International, is a diary kept by the Japanese poet Basho in 1689 as he made a journey into the northern provinces of Japan.

    When I was in the Sierras, delayed by snow, I read through ‘Narrow Road’ two or three times. I don’t know whether the book affected me more greatly because I was traveling or my traveling affected my perception of the book (one of those zenny questions), but I came away with a much better sense of the journey that we all make through life, both the physical and philosophical journey, and a more humble sense of my place among the sojourners.

  • Valentina says:

    100 years of solitude, gabriel garcia marquez. epic. beautiful. my inspiration to become a writer.

    solitaire mystery by jostein gaarder
    i read this when i was about 14. i would sit in my room and truly become part of the story, it became almost a a journey into adulthood

  • regina says:

    I read a book by brazilian author Monteiro Lobato: ” o sitio do picapau amarelo , that I dont Know if it has a a english translation , when I was nine years. It is delicious and since that I live book.
    The book that change my live was ” o amor no tempo do colera ” , a fantastic love story by gabriel garcia marquez. And lives
    is like art for me : after 31 years and old love appears in my live too. And I think I let he comes to me because of the book.

  • Jason says:

    Chronologically, I had have to say:

    Any Title by Dr. Seuss-These taught me to read, sound out words, have imagination, and stand up for ideals (e.g., The Lorax)

    Choose Your Own Adventure-the whole series

    Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut-Read at 12 or 13 this book certainly opened my eyes to whole new world

    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Excess, materialism, alcoholism, and the iminent threat of depression. Oh, and what great parties!

    To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee-need I say more?

    The Prohet by Kahlil Gibran-Simple, elegant, this book reached me deeply.

    Tao Te Ching attributed to Lao Tse-After reading the Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur’an, this just actually struck a rationally spiritual chord inside.

    The Sandman by Neil Gaiman-Gaiman combines comparative religion, philosophy, social commentary, and fantasy all in one package. Great read in a completely different format!

    I’m sure I could keep this up all day, but these titles jump out of my memory the fastest.

  • Don Smith says:

    I’d have to say my list is pretty short:
    1. The brothers karamozov
    As a teenager I was mystified by the audacity of the grand inquisitor. I’d never read such a succing indictment of faith. As I got to my twenties I read the whole book, but in my late twenties I began to appreciate it. I’ve never read a more powerful and realistic testament to faith in my life, and as I’ve grown, my reading of the book has grown with me.
    The power of myth:
    Again, another religeous book from my teen years that made sense, but again as I’ve grown, I’ve delved further into campbell’s work and always been rewarded with insight.

  • Alicja says:

    Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery – that’s the book I read while feeling depressed. A sentence “Fear is the original sin. Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that someone is afraid of something. It is a cold, slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.” helps me live with eyes and heart open to the world, taking risks, loving and feeling joy whenever possible.

  • Am I the only Michel Foucault fan here?

    _History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction_

    _Discipline and Punish_

    Both of these books philosophically ushered me into the modern world, changing the way I saw power, sex, sexuality, school, and nothing less than the Modern Self.

    Also…

    _Mr. Bligh’s Bad Language_ by Greg Dening

    Dening narrates the story of the mutiny on the Bounty, slipping in and out of 1st person narrative, ethnography, cultural analysis, and archeology. In short, the MOST impressive combined work of historical scholarship and philosophy I have ever read.

  • Pietro says:

    The Lord of the Rings
    The Chronicles of Narnia
    Harry Potter (all seven)
    The Bible

  • Tim says:

    1984 by George Orwell
    Was the first book I actually enjoyed reading. It completely blew my mind at the time (I was 16) and it opened my eyes to the power of ideas and to the joy of reading a good book.

  • Jan Oonchitti says:

    I have two books that impacted my life; one from childhood and one from early adulthood. In the sixth grade, our teacher read The Secret Garden to us every day. I was captivated by the imagination, compassion, and touch of fantasy that this book awakened in me. Later, I read Michner’s Hawaii and fell completely in love with the historical fiction genre. I LOVED coupling creative storytelling with historical facts. I felt I was being entertained and educated at the same time!

  • Disturbing the Peace, by Vaclav Havel.

    I read it as a junior in high school, picked up on the bargain pile at a B. Daltons. It impacted me because it illustrated the concept of learning throughout life and how people can life with dignity. I’ve loaned it out several times and re-bought it at least three times.

  • fuzzo says:

    i read The Grapes of Wrath in the 7th grade. that was 43 years ago. steinbeck’s tender and loving prose and voice have never left me.

    i don’t think it’s too much to say that i actually, factually, love that book, and its author, very, very much.

  • Judy says:

    “The Chosen” by Chaim Potok. I read this book as a teenager. I remember being completely fascinated with the Jewish culture portrayed in the novel, but the main impact came in the way Potok emphasized the values of intelligence, intellectual achievement, and compassion for others. I was incredibly moved by the conflict between these values, and find myself re-reading this novel and the sequel “The Promise” almost yearly for over 20 years.

  • Jack says:

    I’m going to go back to high school and say that Catcher in the Rye had a big impact on my life.

    While the content of the book in terms of character and story were accessible to me at 16, that isn’t really what made the difference.

    It was only after reading some criticism and talking with others in school and out that I began to see all that was going on in a novel beyond the plot: symbolism, irony, language and the rest.

    When I saw how much could go on in a book, how many things were going on simultaneously, I became very impressed with the complexity of literature as art. From then on I was pretty well hooked on books.

  • Davide Mana says:

    A few books that made me what I am, in no particular order…

    . Richard Feynman – The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
    A collection of assorted writings by a great scientist, shows the full palette of a sharp intelligence animated by all-around curiosity.

    . Charles Darwin – The Origin of Species
    A brilliant mind working out a complete paradigm shift from assorted clues, just like Sherlock Holmes but better. This one got me hooked on palaeontology, still my main line of work.

    . Thor Heyerdahl – Kon Tiki
    Read it when I was ten or twelve.
    True life adventure and exploration – what more could a kid ask for?

    . Alan Watts – The Way of Zen
    The beginning of a life long interest in Zen phylosophy, I caught this one while in high school. Sure got me a few weird looks from classmates…

    . Tom Robbins – Still Life With Woodpecker
    The core topics of the book might seem dated, but the language fireworks are still as effective as they were at the time of publication.

    . David Brin – Earth
    Massive and demanding, a novel that shows what science fiction really is and what could achieve as a tool for exploring possibilities. Great read.

  • Luella says:

    The Secret Life of Bees really did something for me. It’s a story of love, especially womanly love, a love that is so lacking in a world of angry men seething with prejudice and the desire to kill people over superficial differences. Having grown up with men myself and without a mother, it made me realize that I really do have this love in me and just need to find it and stir it up. It has changed the way I think of my mom, who I have been spending time with as an adult, and activism. It really sends a beautiful message about changing the world through love and celebration of diversity.

    Another book that has changed my life is “Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki”. Although I am not practicing Zen (yet), this book is like my Bible in that I plan to always read over it and reflect upon the messages therein. Suzuki had a humble vision that in order to change this world, we need to change the way people think and live, not just to change the symptoms of what is wrong. Not just to get rid of pop-prejudice and hatred, but to get rid of labels entirely, to “fight” war and injustice with peace and understanding instead of anger. And so, so much more in this book. That’s just some of the stuff that is shaping the way I think right now.

  • Luella says:

    Sorry, I forgot the authors… “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd and “Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki” by David Chadwick.

  • Amanda says:

    After reading through these suggestions, I realized there’s a big hole: Poetry! So much poetry has affected my life: Sylvia Plath’s _Ariel_; Campbell McGrath’s _Road Atlas_; James Wright’s _Above the River_; Brenda Hillman’s _Cascadia_…Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Bly…

    Reading Lyn Hejinian’s _My Life_ actually opened the door to my emotional understanding of language and memory. It’s a gorgeous book.

    Poetry may not be the “winning pick” here, but it definitely should be celebrated! And not just in April.

    Thanks for reading my rant, and I hope you check out some of the books I mentioned. :)

  • tharu says:

    The important books in my life include the following:

    “Black Like me” -J.H. Griffin -Important because I was raised by white people and I am an African American.
    I led a sheltered life. In Jr High—it provided an understanding of the pain associated with what it meant to be Black in the real world.

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X because I was intrigued by his courage and he made more sense to me than MLK at the peak of their leadership-and Malcolm’s metamorphosis gave me hope!!

    Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham–first encounter with love as a hopeless passion and tinged with cruelty.

    Exodus-Leon Uris, The Slave- by Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged-Ayn Rand,

    Rand was my first encounter with an organized articulation of my own difficulties with organized religion. Finally, any book that takes me into a different time and cultural context have an influence on my understanding of the world (people and life). Bless the minds that make those experiences possible.

  • Two books that may have changed my life were Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” – my fist adult book (at 14) that I read upon graduating to the adult section of the Municipal Library in Krakow. Having read all the classic science fiction on the shelves, Capote’s matter of fact prose was as disturbing to me as it was new. No aliens here among far away stars but a world almost ordinary and within reach, tangible and so totally frightening. Reading it felt like being caged with a wild animal, a quick fear followed repeatedly by the mind’s pangs of pride to subdue the brute. This was no fiction yet it read stranger than anything else up till then.

    The other book was “The Second Krishnamurti Reader”. Having awakened to the boredom of a world full of ME, I was perhaps ready for this psychological release and a process of “unlearning” a rather ego-centric world view. To learn to do each thing with “love”, that is with the deepest engagement yet at the same time to be able to step back in experience to allow attention a broader perspective was a revelation and it continues to this day.

  • […] and we got a great response. Many of the titles are listed below. (The full list can be found at the bottom of this page.) As you review the list, a few trends will leap out. First, our readers have good taste. […]

  • jay says:

    Leaving Las Vegas
    by
    John O’Brien

    only submission i can offer is that this
    book
    offers the most beautiful
    and
    horrifying

    writing
    story
    life

    you’ll read in quite a while
    (maybe ever..)

    horrifying
    in the sense
    of
    my god.

    beautiful
    in the sense
    of
    my god.

    hope you try reading
    what he wrote.

  • Kevin says:

    Enders Game. Orscon Scott Card
    Ender taught me that no matter how small one may be. No matter how meaningless your existence might be. No matter how small you are on a universal scale you have the ability to impact the world for good or evil. No matter who you are, where you are, and how you came to be you have a chance to make your mark on humanity. The book has had a giant impact on my life and I try and look to it everyday for inspiration.

  • Mundane’s World, by Judy Grahn.

  • Mario says:

    I can’t help myself. I feel so jealous when I get to know people who have read lots of books -not to mention those who have written them. That’s the reason I must pick “Farenheit 451”.

  • byzie says:

    Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts and Macroscope by Piers Anthony.

  • RoRo says:

    “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman.

    This book is one of the rare books that changed my life in that it helped me, as a health professional, “get” what cultural diversity means and the ethnocentrism of Western Medicine. It is about a Hmong family in Modesto and their struggles with our health care system. True Story.

  • Aurelius says:

    While there are several books I consider important, I want to highlight just one here.
    “Martin Eden” by Jack London. It’s not only a masterfully written novel, but also it’s considered his autobiography.
    Read it, and let it put your world upside down for good or for a while.

  • NIc says:

    “A quite life with woodpecker” Tim Robbins

    It spoke to me on many levels critiquing the way I thought about the world.

  • virr says:

    LMM’s books. All of them, but specially the Emily of New Moon series. The Blue Castle is also amazing.

  • alice says:

    The book that I loved in my teens was ‘A Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley.
    In my 20’s, ‘Midnights Children’ by Salman Rushdie
    In my 30’s Jane Austen for me and ‘His Dark Marterials’ by Philip Pulman, for me and my children.
    In my 40’s – the book I have enjoyed most this year is ‘ A very easy Death’ by Simone de Beauvoir.

  • dave says:

    “Around the Year with Emmet Fox.” A daily compilation of Fox’s other books. Read it and them 25 years ago, and this again now.
    Spirutuality in two syllable words that a two year old can understand. As was said to me years ago, “The world is filled with books and they all have answers in them. Find one.” This is the one for me.

  • Alexandre says:

    Many books have made an impact in my life, but none as much as “The Timeless Way of Building” and “The Nature of Order”, by Christopher Alexander. They gave me a new and wonderful vision of what the world is made of.

  • Listen ToYourMotherEarth says:

    The Ringing Cedars Series, especially Bk 5 Who Are We? nnThese books have made a bigger difference in my life than any others. nI found is while looking for books for my teen daughter however, which leads me to write that The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy book So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. The Xanth series by Piers Anthony also brought me laughs during dark periods of teenage hood. nnHere are my Ramblings on these booksnnAloha – With You my beloved, I could create a Space of Love to last for eternity!nI am so in Love with the Ringing Cedars Series of books and I would like to find another person, or many people, who are also interested in these concepts of living in harmony with Nature and turning this Earth into a paradise garden in one generation, by passing laws to give the land back to the people, especially to the children.nnSome of the fantastically amazing things I have read in these remarkable books are soaking a seed under your tongue for 9 mins while standing barefoot where you will plant it, telepathic children leading a world race to neutralize all bullets and bombs, and prisons that have women and children trying to break in because of the beautiful Spaces of Love the prisoners have created inside the barbed wire. Some more of my favorite stories are The Billionaire, Flying Saucers, These nine books are filled with many beautiful parables and stories that inspire me to believe that we can turn the earth into a paradise garden and our grand children will live in a world that is more beautiful than we have ever dared to dream!nnThese books are almost like a fairy tale, and yet I believe they are real, and I am looking for others who believe too. If you read them with an open mind, and give thought to the concepts mentioned you will see that it is not mysticism, every action is grounded in logical practicality.nnMost people blow me off as an idealistic. And I Am! Yet, I also look at what is Here Now with a practical and logical mind, balanced with creative joyful imagination, and when I combine the two, I can sometimes see the most beautiful direct actions to make my dreams come true.nnI have recently come to live on My Space of Love where I am planting fruit trees for my grandchildren. I live with 14 yr old daughter in Hawai’i, and I don’t particularly desire more kids, but I might for the right man. A man who desires to create a fully fledged human being, with purity on our Space of Love.nI am also open to having other people here to help keep this land beautiful by hand, I’ve been thinking of using a weed whacker lately, but would prefer not to. Many hands make light work :-)nnI hope everyone will read these books, and get inspired like many other people all over the world have been. Hopefully someone will make movies from them so the message can spread even faster! There are many people who will never read a whole book, much less 9 books!nnA wonderful movie that I’ve heard associated with these books, although it looks like the movie is older than the books, is La Belle Verte, or The Green Beautiful. Its a very funny movie!nnOne of the best and most sensible stories in the books is the Wedding Rite. In this ancient way of getting married, the groom and bride get to spend months together planning and creating their Space of Love, which will be passed down to their children and the next 7 generations.nnThey visit everyone in each of their villages and say only a short phrase while visiting, such as “what a clever cat you have” or ” My look at that beautiful cherry tree”. This is to give a clue as to what gift they would like that particular person to bring to their wedding ceremony.nnWhen everyone is gathered, the groom tells everyone of the plans they have made, and where each tree is to grow, and when he points to where the cherry tree goes, the neighbor that came with the cherry tree, goes and stands in that spot. When he has finished describing their Family Domain, everyone gets to planting what they have brought! Some people have brought seeds and they dance around throwing the seeds into the air to the sounds of the singing of the young maidens. A light and refreshing rain falls briefly.nnAnd in that way, their Space of Love is planted in a very short time, and everyone participating will feel a sense of Joy and connection with that place, which will endow the Space with Love and radiant health. The perfect space to create new human life within! Its so much more beautiful the way it is written in the books.nnI have been inspired to grow my own food, and to create a Space of Love that will feed my daughter and future generations. I want to make this possible for more people, by organizing with others that also feel this dream in their hearts, to create and reactivate the ways that get the land back in the hands of the people, that we may be free once againnnAloha, nListen ToYourMotherEarthnKapoho, Hawai’i

  • Ali Duvall says:

    I suppose the book I would site as being the most influential on me as Solzhenitsyn`s “Gulag Archipelago”. I had read a few books on 20th century history, the Second World War, the Holocaust and so on, but nothing quite prepared me for this vast work from the great Russian author. One reviewer (I forget who), says, “to not know this work, is to be a kind of historical fool”. I couldn`t agree more. It changed the way I see the world. Extremely powerful.
    I will also quickly mention Victor Serge, who it could be said, was even before Solzhenitsyn to break the silence on Stalin`s betrayal of the revolution. Breathtaking prose everytime. His best work being his non fiction in my view. Wonderful writer. ( Men in Prison, The Birth of our Power 1930, 1931 ) .

  • Serene says:

    Reaper man by Sir Terry changed my life, or at least how I view it. Seeing the progress of time and understanding the concept of mortality through the eyes of Death himself is an experience you don’t want to miss.

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