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Earthgirl's avatar

What have books given you in your life?

Asked by Earthgirl (11159 points ) November 15th, 2011

How have they taught you in unexpected ways? How have they inspired, motivated and changed you?

Have they been a big part of forming your philosophy towards life?

What are some the key books, if there are any, that you would say helped you to become the person you are?

Did you seek them out or come across them totally accidentally?

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23 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Interesting question. Books have taken me on journeys, educated me, made me laugh, but I don’t think they have ever changed me. Life has done that, but not books. And I absolutely love books.

smilingheart1's avatar

Books are friends and companions. Some fiction books are vacations. They awaken imagination and delight with a sense of anticipation. Non fiction, especially nature and Christian are my main interests. Apart from the Bible, two key books have been Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search F9r Meaning and the other classic As A Man Thinketh by Allen. Reading is a gift one gives oneself in this age when glancing at lines at fleeting moments is more the norm for many of us. I have a library of books but I find the exchange of thoughts and ideas from the diverse collective of minds at Fluther is a rapid way to grow into understanding of other mindsets and is invaluable too.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Books shaped my concepts of the world, helped me understand relationships, and gave me a means of escape when I needed it. Books have been instrumental in helping me form a coherent world view. Some of the key books in my life: The Bible, The Web of Life, The Conscious Universe, Mere Christianity, Ideas Have Consequences, and many others.

blueiiznh's avatar

That Gutenberg really had it going on.

Books have become the basis for much of our learning. Books are so engrained in how and who we are. From intellectual to spiritual.

For me the first books that formed me were two sets of Encyclopedia’s we had in the house when I was a child. One was a current World Book Set and the other was a Ninth edition (1889) Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. As geeky as it sounds, I read them front to back on rainy or snowy boring days. It helped me to not only find out what intrigued me but also to expand my knowledge. I still have both of those sets.
In college it expanded to Poetry and Classic novels. That expanded a sense of spirituality and bit of wisdom.
I can’t even begin to put titles and authors names down as there are too many.

wundayatta's avatar

There are probably three books that have inspired my life more than any others. I read them all probably from ages 11 or 12 to 14 or 15.

One was about a blind boy who learned how to train a guide dog. I think I read “Follow My Leader” a dozen times in my life. I don’t think there was a book I read more often. One lesson from that book was about the dangers of firecrackers. I never wanted to touch the things, and haven’t, until this year. Another lesson was about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself and dealing with whatever hand fate deals you.

The second book was about a boy who stows away on a spaceship. I can’t remember the title or the author. It was a YA novel I found in the library, and I don’t know what about it attracted me so much, but I loved the idea of a boy taking on such an adventure.

Finally there was “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle. My grandmother gave me the book, and I think it was the first truly serious science fiction book I ever read—that is, not space opera. This book opened me up to a completely different way of seeing the universe—to multiple universes and different societies and to the kind of ties that some families have.

I have to also give special mention to Heinlein’s “A Stranger in a Strange Land,” which taught me about sex a bit, but mostly about observation and about making assumptions—or not making them. In other words, the scientific method. I had no idea I was learning that until right now, but that’s what it was. It is a scene that has stayed with me all my life.

The other special mention goes to Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy. The idea of psycho-history I think gave me my first true glimpse of the idea that it is possible to model the complexity of the universe in a useful way. That we can understand human motives and interactions and model them on a large scale with helpful results. I have become a social scientist, I suspect, due in no small part to the kinds of idea I picked up out of novels.

In fact, I believe that novels carry more information that factual literature. I think that humans understand things best through stories and science fiction writers take facts and arrange them in a story in such a way that readers learn without really being aware they are learning. As such, it is effortless.

stardust's avatar

Wonderful question :) Books have given me so much in my life. They’ve provided me with a sense of adventure, inspiration, a passion for the written word.
When I’ve been low, they’ve provided me with another world into which I can escape. They’ve educated me, taught me about life, along with living life if that makes any sense.
They’ve reminded me what I crave, what I desire, etc. I could go on forever.
When I was growing up, my Mum used to read us segments of novels before bedtime. It was a fabulous part of my childhood. We ventured through encyclopedia’s and the like too. They are in a sense best friends.

warka1's avatar

books are fountains of wisdom.and good for allign your thoughts to great weathers.

janbb's avatar

They basically have given me my life.

mazingerz88's avatar

Enlightenment. Entertainment.

muppetish's avatar

What have books given you in your life? (1) They gave me a voice. Had books not existed, assuming that also means a formal writing system was unavailable, I don’t even know who I would be today. Reading (and conversely, writing) are so much part of my construction of self that I cannot even fathom being a person without those skills. (2) They have given me purpose. I am a student of literature. No other field intrigues me as deeply as this one. I don’t know what I would be studying or what career path I would be tracking otherwise.

How have they taught you in unexpected ways? How have they inspired, motivated and changed you? Books have, in part, encouraged me in the way a friend might that I am not alone. I read passages and find myself thinking “I never knew someone else could feel these things. I have thought them all this time and thought it was just me.” I love moments like those. Books have definitely inspired, motivated, and changed me. Because I am such a private, introverted person, I often internalized my problems when I was younger instead of seeking advice from other people. Reading, and experiencing similar situations through other voices, helped me gradually open up a little more.

Have they been a big part of forming your philosophy towards life? Absolutely. I’m not a philosophical person. I cringe when people quote philosophers. I don’t have the same reaction when people quote books. I think that if I were to grant the title of “my life’s philosophy” to any one source, it definitely wouldn’t be one of the classics, but Antoine de Saint Exup√©ry for Le Petit Prince. There is so much in that book that has left a mark on me. I find myself revisiting it on a daily basis.

What are some the key books, if there are any, that you would say helped you to become the person you are? Le Petit Prince, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book Thief, O The Places You’ll Go, Catch-22, and just about everything by Tove Jansson (which is currently shaping me.) I read most of those during my time in university as an undergraduate student. For some reason, they tend to overshadow the books I read when I was younger. I wish I had read them when I was younger.

Did you seek them out or come across them totally accidentally? Le Petit Prince was given to me by a friend as a Christmas present. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being on a whim when it was referenced in Everything is Illuminated (a book that I had wanted to have a huge impact on me, but fell a bit short.) I spotted The Book Thief at a local library and was drawn to the cover. I wanted a long book that I could sink into, but did not anticipate that it would have such a profound impact on me. I don’t recall when I first read O The Places You’ll Go but it had a greater resonance when I received it upon graduating from high school. My brother recommended Catch-22 and at first I was drawn to the humour, but certain portions of it struck me much harder. I found Tove Jansson through the Internet. I am eternally grateful.

Mantralantis's avatar

This is an excellant question. But it would take me forever to explain what books have done for me in my life. I can tell you all that my favorite kind of books are the ones that can do more than just entertain. And I would say further that books filled with short stories are my all-time sought after reads. Yep.

Earthgirl's avatar

Mantralantis Pretty please just tell me one or two things! :) You don’t have to name everything! I love short stories too. I like Joyce Carol Oates, Tolstoy, Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a few. What authors’ short stories do you like?

Mantralantis's avatar

@Earthgirl – Well, Earthgirl, for one I like Raymond Carver’s shorts, especially “Neighbors”. It’s a fine model for that form and the fact that it had some smart humor as well.

I may come back sometime and share more later. Be good, Earthgirl.

GracieT's avatar

Books have given me the world. They’ve educated me about what I didn’t know, reinforced what I did. They’ve helped me survive being in new groups(schools) where I didn’t know anyone. They’ve entertained me and helped me while away the hours that I would otherwise spend staring off into space. They’ve shown me places I can only dream about going, things I can never do. Books have given me the world.

MilkyWay's avatar

Books have given me everything I have. If I get deprived of them, or say I never read a book in my life, I seriously don’t know who, what or how I would be. Books mean an awful lot to me, and I couldn’t live without them. I’m a serious bookworm. Hell, I even read non-fiction texts like encyclopedias, human anatomy and modern history just for fun.

flutherother's avatar

My philosophy of life came from books. Some authors have been like friends, or guides. Through books I have come to an understanding of the inexhaustible variety of life and I have seen other places and I have seen through other eyes. Some words hold such meaning for me because of their truth and their beauty that I remember them and they have become part of the furniture of my mind. I cannot imagine how my life would have been without books.

Chinese literature struck a chord with me for some reason and I love Chinese poetry and philosophy. Writers I have enjoyed and whose writing remains with me include Robert Burns, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Alasdair Gray, Primo Levi, Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany and JRR Tolkien. There are many wonderful books.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

So much..it’s hard to even put into words.

GracieT's avatar

I’ve volunteered with the Literacy council where we live to share my love of reading with others. Reading has given me so much.

Roby's avatar

I love books…Sometimes you can find books at Thrift Shops that are dirt cheep or on the free rack. I found books that I only have heard of and reading these books are a real treasure. It’s a way of escape; a fantasy world that is so much better than my own life.

cRazelyCrazed's avatar

Books have given me a chance to improve my writing, relieve boredom, and just relax.

moose234's avatar

do you mind if i use some of your answers for an english project of mine about how bookds have taught people and influenced them no real names or usernames will be included just the answers

Earthgirl's avatar

I see no reason why not. There are some excellent answers here and while some people do value their anonymity I’m sure that they are happy to share what they think with others. If not, they would not be posting their thoughts! I’m glad you found it interesting. Sorry for my late reply but this is a very old question so I didn’t see your post until today. Good luck with your project and thank you for asking. Please come back and visit Fluther again. Welcome!!!

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