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Old 10-22-2008, 05:33 PM   #1
rhadin
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Books that changed something in your life

What book(s) have changed something in your life? Let's exclude the self-help and religious books that are intended to change you.

For example: David Weber's Honor Harrington series changed my daily routine. As she was being poured her first cup of hot chocolate I thought to myself, "Hmmm! That actually sounds good." By the second book, I thought "I much prefer hot chocolate to coffee, and my coffee is laced with chocolate anyway, so perhaps I should drop coffee for hot chocolate." The third book did its duty: I stopped drinking coffee altogether and now have hot chocolate with my morning newspapers.

So has a book/character/author influenced your behavior in some fashion?
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Old 10-22-2008, 06:44 PM   #2
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What an interesting question, rhadin.

1. Delia Smith and Elizabeth David taught me how to cook quite well.
2. Descartes and Jean-Paul Sartre got me interested in philosophy and were partly responsible for my entering academic life.
3. But the most significant recent change was buying the Sony Reader. Yes, I know it's a reading device, so not technically a book. But it caused my to try and convert my library of public domain books; led me to this forum (where I spend far too much time, though that's not a complaint) and to developing new skills on the computer. And I've met a lot of interesting people here.
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Old 10-22-2008, 07:19 PM   #3
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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary

I'll never taunt my short tempered sister with a book in her hand.

Oh and
Hamlet. It really opened my eyes to relationships.

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Old 10-23-2008, 01:08 AM   #4
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Zen & The Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig - the first time I read it, it opened my fact-accumulating mind to how much I didn't understand anything of reality or philosophy. The second two times it just reminded me more forcefully. Ironically, I have never fully understood the book, though I had at the last determined that I had achieved all that I could understand from it.

It's given me a much deeper level of ignorance then I'd had before.

Bliss, by Peter Carey - its beauty and hellishness and humour gave me the metaphor of absurd but necessary sacrosanctity of the human and inhuman suburban and beyond. It evolved my moribund belief system into an ever-expending and elaborated and filigreed atheistic metaphor that occasionally-and-briefly granted self-conscious spirituality to an unbeliever willing to let part of his mind be soothed by illogical, irrational non-sense. That is, it let me imbue the inanimate and animate with animism; the momentary with hallowed momentousness, and the momentous with an inviolable and inescapable gravity, all accompanied by presence and certainty of my wry and disbelieving, godless grin and barely-muffled, inappropriate laughter.

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene - the universe is really, really, really BIG! We don't know how it works...like really don't know. We're learning though...slowly. It's kinda complicated.

An Imaginary Life, by David Malouf - every single event in your life - every curse, every challenge to yourself, every achievement no matter how minor, every failure, every emasculation, every love, every denial of that love, every death, every innumerable uncontrolled thing that sits on the timeline ahead of you and diverts you from expectations...they make you change, grow...metamorphose. Death is the final metamorphosis, that changes you into something else that is irrelevant to you, and you irrelevant to it. "Dust to dust".

If This Is A Man/The Truce, by Primo Levi - it showed me what it is to be human, and what can be done to you to take away your humanity from even your own concept of yourself, and the long journey through absurdity and irrelevance it can take to find your own humanity again (with the unwritten, despairing postscript, considering the ends of the author, that you might never be granted peace from that search). It tells you the worst that humans are capable of, what endurance means, and it warns just how easy it is for us to become part of either end of that spectrum of oppression-to-oppressed, humanity-to-inhumanity, and how close we always are to it. It terrifies and depresses me more than any other book I've read. It is reluctant genius.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams - it's all funny though...life, the universe, everything. It's just that sometimes the entirely unexpected gratuitousness and brilliance of the universe's humour doesn't make you at all feel like laughing.


Cheers,
Marc

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Old 10-23-2008, 09:50 AM   #5
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"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" (Robert Heinlein) confirmed for me that "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" (TANSTAAFL) but also changed the ways I look at marriage and people in general.
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Old 10-23-2008, 10:22 AM   #6
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"Watership Down", by Richard Adams. I am not a vegetarian, but I cannot eat rabbits because of this book. I also frequently think of cars as hrududus.

"How Does a Poem Mean", by John Ciardi. Poetry is an art. Art is artifice. It doesn't simply "flow". There are skills to learn. Learn them. Similarly, "The Poet's Handbook", by Judson Jerome.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:27 AM   #7
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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary

I'll never taunt my short tempered sister with a book in her hand.

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So it made quite an impact on you?
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:29 AM   #8
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I'll add three more (although I have lots of books that have influenced me after 60+ years of reading ).

First, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. I first read this book in the early 1960s and thought, it really can't happen here in the United States. Then came Richard Nixon and Watergate and I realized that it can happen here if we are not diligent about protecting ourselves from the extremists on both the left and the right. This caused me to subscribe to newspapers and magazines with divergent viewpoints so that I always have more than a single viewpoint on an issue, which has led me to choose causes more knowledgeably (or so I hope).

Second is the trilogy I am currently reading. Written by Taylor Branch, the trilogy begins with Parting the Waters, and is followed by Pillar of Fire and At Canaan's Edge. It is the story of the times of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States centering around Martin Luther King, Jr. It is not his biography per se; it is more a biography of the years 1953 to 1968. This trilogy -- which is available in ebook format (I bought my copy from the Sony bookstore), each volume separately -- shattered several perceptions I had about those times. Perhaps the biggest change for me was the shattering of the belief that President John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, the US Attorney General, were pro civil rights and actively worked to advance those rights. The second shattered belief was in regards to the unity of the civil rights movement leadership as to purpose and tactics. If I had known then what I know now about Roy Wilkins and the NAACP as a result of this trilogy, I would have had a much different view of the NAACP, and it would not have been a postive one.

This trilogy has shattered several other beliefs I had about the era, and I expect more will be shattered as I complete the second and third volumes.

One final book, at least for this message , would be Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, also available from the Sony bookstore so probably available in other formats. This book increased my already high esteem for Abraham Lincoln and his abilities. But more importantly, it made me wonder why modern-day presidents are so incapable of emulating Lincoln's footsteps in regards to assembling a cabinet that is in the best interests of the US as a country. One of Lincoln's cabinet members was a rival for the party nomination, something not done today for fear of giving a rival a platform. It changed the qualities I look for in a candidate and made me focus on more than the news soundbite when deciding who to vote for.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:30 AM   #9
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So it made quite an impact on you?
*groan: That was worth some Karma, but I can't give it to you without spreading it around a bit first
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:39 AM   #10
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A book I read recently: "Bread matters" by Andrew Whitley. The first section is about the state of modern baking, especially with regard to supermarket bread, and was truly eye opening for me. The second section is various bread recipes and advice, which has changed for the better my own bread.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:44 AM   #11
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A book I read recently: "Bread matters" by Andrew Whitley. The first section is about the state of modern baking, especially with regard to supermarket bread, and was truly eye opening for me. The second section is various bread recipes and advice, which has changed for the better my own bread.
Dont you mean batter my own bread?
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:52 AM   #12
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Dont you mean batter my own bread?
:groan:

And now of course I'm craving fresh buttered bread.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:54 AM   #13
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Dont you mean batter my own bread?
I think she probably meant "butter my own bread"

Seriously, folks, thanks for the lists. I'd kinda forgotten about "Zen and the Art...". I haven't read it since the year it was published, but even now I sometimes think about "gumption traps". Maybe I'll give it another go.

My reading list gets longer and longer (but that's not a bad thing).

Regards,
R.L.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:56 AM   #14
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I think she probably meant "butter my own bread"

Seriously, folks, thanks for the lists. I'd kinda forgotten about "Zen and the Art...". I haven't read it since the year it was published, but even now I sometimes think about "gumption traps". Maybe I'll give it another go.

My reading list gets longer and longer (but that's not a bad thing).

Regards,
R.L.
Yeah, would have worked with butter as well, but that was too obvious, I like my puns a bit more sophisticated
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:58 AM   #15
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The food in the cafeteria where I work is generally inedible, but the chef left for a year and studied pastry. Ever since he came back, the food is still awful, but the hot rolls and such are devine! (Reference my many cheesecake posts)
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