What Books Have Influenced or Changed Your World View?
Last week we talked about books that are so overexposed they left us feeling fatigued, or "Pottered Out". I successfully dodged any attacks of the readers' pitchforks and we all decided that at the very least, vampires whether full of sparkles or just sharp teeth were overdone. No one called me crazy for being tired of Harry Potter or chased me out of the blogosphere for expressing such blasphemy for which I am grateful!
This week I wanted to focus on books that have fundamentally changed us as people. You know, those books that you can endlessly recommend to people until you are blue in the face? I'm not talking about books that you just thought were a nice beach read that you dive into for escape, I'm talking about the books that challenge you; the ones that make you think for years on end and make you want to learn everything you can about the subject. Usually these books tend to be non-fiction, but they can be contained in works of fiction.
There are few books that come to mind when I think about people being fundamentally changed. The first is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. For over a year now, I have had friends on Facebook constantly posting things about how to eat, how evil corn is, how evil the industrial food industry is, etc. after reading this book. I'm not saying this is a bad thing other than I get a little tired of feeling like the only way to avoid all these terrible cancer and obesity causing foods is to become an anorexic and never eat again. To touch a chicken nugget or a can of soda seems to now be akin to wanting to throw myself in front of a train because for goodness sake, I am just killing myself with the food I put in my body. I have had more than a few friends that have been profoundly changed by this book, and they now seem to be much more focused on health than before. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not! We should probably all be concerned about our health and the way our food is planted, harvested, and processed. Without the watchful eyes of those healthy eating people, we might possibly end up eating Soylent Green (well, maybe not Soylent Green, but you get what I mean)! I read the book and think it's an important piece of non-fiction that should at least be read (note that I still indulge in the chicken nugget and soda--just not on a daily basis).
One book that absolutely had a profound impact on my own life was Bad News by Tom Fenton. I continue to recommend this book to pretty much everyone I come in contact with whether they are interested in it or not. For many years, Tom Fenton was a correspondent for CBS News, and his book his about the decline of the news organization in America. What could possibly be more important to read about than how we obtain our news? I turn on the television now or even read my news on the internet and am appalled at how much I have to look for articles that I feel have journalistic integrity. How did this happen? Why do I have to listen to people like Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and a slew of others that admit they are not journalists but are pretty much marketed as such. People listen to these pundits to get their news! What happened to journalism? You know...the actual story that is supposed to be unbiased? This book explores how we ended up where we are today and it is quite frankly, disheartening. I still think it should be read--it changed the way I perceive the news and makes me much more diligent about actually trying to find out if the story that is printed or told on television is true.
There are also many books that may change the way we look at the world philosophically. I remember reading an excerpt of The Brothers Karamazov in my Introduction to Philosophy class that explored the problem of evil by using the suffering of children as an example. Dostoevsky uses a conversation between Ivan and Aloysha to illustrate his point:
[Ivan] "'Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature--that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance--and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, you would consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.' 'No, I wouldn't consent,' said Aloysha softly." ~Part II, Book 4, Chapter 4, The RebellionAt the very least, this passage (this was a very short excerpt from the problem of evil passage) gives one pause and forces them to think about suffering and the idea of a loving God. It may not be a life changing moment, but I think requires a person to examine the problem on a greater scale.
So, my questions to Friday Coffee Chat readers is:
- What books do you think have had the most profound impact on humans throughout history?
- What books have personally challenged or changed you, and tell us all why they had this impact on you (this doesn't have to be a philosophical read either)?
- Do you think that fiction has just as large an impact on people as non-fiction does?
Once you finish commenting, make sure you visit Jennifer at Girls Gone Reading for her (more fun) post on Trashy Reads that we love but keep hidden by newspapers or book covers so that people won't know we're actually reading them.