General Question

nebule's avatar

What fiction book has REALLY changed your life?

Asked by nebule (16446points) December 7th, 2008

as a lover of self-help books i was wondering if anyone actually had read a FICTION book that had changed their life dramatically….i.e. a shift in philosophy, outlook, dietary changes, career, relationships…ect anything and everything….

Thought rather than spending more money on endless self-help nonsense maybe i could find some source of truth and inspiration in fiction

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43 Answers

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Probably a basic answer but in all honesty Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. Catcher for it’s honest humor (“He was about as sensitive as a goddamn toilet seat”) and peek inside a lonely person. I was popular in school and while i was not mean to kids I always felt kind of superior. This book brought me down to earth and it has served me well. As for Mockingbird, same sort of thing. Atticus was one hell of a man who went to great lengths for his fellow man. Oddly, I think I fell in love with Gregory Peck. I had read the book and then saw the movie and right away wanted to marry him and be a mother (I was like 15!) to Scout and Jem. I wanted to have Boo move in with us and have one big happy family. Crazy, but I learned a lot and it did change the way I perceived people.

simone54's avatar

Sand Cake.

nebule's avatar

sandman – neil gaiman? and sand cake? frank ashe….???

dynamicduo's avatar

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. I can’t point to a specific thought or page that did it… but since reading that book my mind just feels more open. Highly recommend.

mangeons's avatar

The Hous of the Scorpion. Ever since I’ve read that book, I’m more open-minded about what technology can do. It’s by Nancy Farmer, I believe that technology can acheive things far greater than even we can imagine.

rossi_bear's avatar

Hellen Keller did it for me. It made me think that at any point in time we could lose our vision. i took up sign lauguage and brail just for that reason.

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

A book of short stories by Alfred Hitchcock. Strangely enough, it has given me deeper insight into the minds of others. Most of these stories are mysteries in which the answer is right under your nose, but it requires serious thinking to discover it. The explanations of who the culprit is and how they were discovered are extremely vivid and reveal what is both hidden and obvious about other people, some of whom you would never suspect had you met them in real life.

mrdh's avatar

Crime and Punishment

shadling21's avatar

@dynamic- I feel very similar to you sometimes. Maybe it’s the Canadian connection.

Stranger in a Strange Land didn’t do anything really special for me (though I love the word “grok” and try to throw it into conversation every so often), but a different science fiction novel did. I read the book Hominids (the first of the Neanderthal Parallax series by Robert J. Sawyer), and suddenly I felt that I could grasp an understanding of how the world could have been (better and worse) given the hypothetical that humans had remained a hunter-gatherer society. It really helped shape my understanding of human relationships, and I feel that it made me the open-minded person that I am today.

Another important one to me was a fantasy book called Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs. Horrible title, but it’s actually an amazing book. The protagonist, Ward, was beaten repeatedly as a child, until he was injured to the point that he had difficulty speaking. Everyone (wrongly) assumed that he’d suffered brain damage, and Ward played the role of idiot when he noticed that his father stopped beating him so harshly because of his condition. When his father dies, he struggles to tell them the truth. Adventure and drama ensue! The book is about the shifting identities we take on and how the way we are perceived affects who we really are. It changed my perception of the masks that we wear every day, and awakened my own

A third book I’ll list is Lord of the Flies. It allowed me to understand some of the dynamics of civilization a bit more clearly and to look inside myself and draw out some of the aspects of each of the characters. I don’t think I need to go into much more detail, as it’s already an influent novel.

I’ll stop now. Really.

@flyaway- Sounds interesting! I’ll have to find a copy.

steelmarket's avatar

As a kid, it was A Wrinkle in Time. Really opened my mind up to the whole possibilities of other realities.

laureth's avatar

This is silly (and really, it’s technically more than one book), but Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series really rocked my world. I found the first one in about ninth grade and ever since then have waited that long horrible wait between books in the series. There are still two more to come out, and since I’m gently pushing 40 this has been a significant portion of my life.

They’ve helped shape my outlook on life, from religion to medicine to what I make for dinner. At various times I have been inspired to learn how to make stone tools, weave, spin, gather herbs in the wild, research paleolithic art, you name it. I’d always been vaguely interested in these things, but her books really pushed me over the edge.

While I totally can’t wait to read the last two books, I think I will be very sad when the last page is turned. They’ve been a good friend to me for so long. You know how books can be friends, comfortable and familiar places to revisit, and where you care for the characters like they’re real people? These totally do it for me.

I’m usually a nonfiction lover, too. I don’t much like the made-up stuff, but these? Oh yeah.

nebule's avatar

wow…as a new fluther member I am overjoyed at the lovely thoughts and insights that people have here and want to offer..but never guessed that I would get such amazing information… I love this site…thanks all for contributing….

Will be looking into getting Dragon Bones, Alfred Hitchcock, House of the Scorpion and Perhaps some Jean Auel too…thanks again all xx

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

@shadling: Good luck! It was my mom’s when she was young…I doubt you’ll be able to find a copy, but good luck trying! It really is a great book.

90s_kid's avatar

well idk if To Kill A Mockingbird is fiction of not because it could go either way, but that book was sooo good. I havent read A Wrinkle In Time Steelmarket but I think i would like it because I dont like those big home developments where every house is the same….sry that was really random

delirium's avatar

Yep, gaimans sandman.

madcapper's avatar

The Bible has changed my life so much…

rossi_bear's avatar

@madcapper.. I totally agree with you. there is nothing like the good old bible! @lynneblundell… welcome to fluthers.

Judi's avatar

I read Animal Farm when I was in Jr. High. It helped me form my healthy skepticism.

simone54's avatar

I’m glad we all know the Bible is classified as a fiction.

delirium's avatar

Hahahahahahaha. I was carefully not mentioning that, simone, but was grinning silently.

amandala's avatar

In high school, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I don’t care what anyone says. This book is phenomenal. As an out-of-place fifteen year old who didn’t know what to do with myself and with everything I felt, this book put everything into new perspective. It was relevant to me at the time, and is still relevant in different ways. I like to pick it up every now and again, if only to remind myself of the power of good fiction.

madcapper's avatar

ahh the “subtlety” of my comment has been noticed…

steve6's avatar

On the Road (the original scroll)

shadling21's avatar

The Bible’s an interesting read, even as fiction. I was particularly intrigued by the book of “Job”. The poor guy!

wundayatta's avatar

I was sort of bummed to see several people mention A Stranger in a Strange Land, but that was the first book to come to mind. I have memories that I think came from that book to this day. “Grok,” of course, but “What color is that house on the hill?” “White…. on this side.”

That was one of my most important lessons in not extrapolating from too few cases.

There was the Asimov Foundation series too, that I read over and over, dreaming of a time when we would be knowledgeable enough to control our future fairly precisely. You can see that series’ influence in so much of my life. I think I met the good doctor only once, though.

Like others, A Wrinkle in Time is on my list. It is one of the few books I read more than once, in my life. I must have read that book a dozen times or more. I think, subconsciously, I must have totally identified with the family in that story.

Then, I’ll throw in a couple of others from childhood, just to see if anyone knows them. Folly My Leader, about a boy who is blinded by a firecracker and has to go to school to learn how to use a guide dog.

There was another one about being a stewardess, that I read over and over, but I don’t remember its name. There may have been a character named Patricia in it.

Finally, I have to mention the Wizard of Oz. I read the whole series several times, and was absolutely thrilled at the magical world they inhabited. It’s a world I wish I could live in, too.

shadling21's avatar

@daloon- It’s amazing how science fiction can change the way you look at the world. And how can I have forgotten Wizard of Oz? So inventive!

TitsMcGhee's avatar

I really liked Please Don’t Kill the Freshman by Zoe Trope, which isn’t really fiction (it’s diary style, someone’s real diary), but it’s brilliantly concise, which is surprising because it was written by a fifteen year old girl.

augustlan's avatar

To Kill a Mockingbird showed me what it really means to be a good person. Atticus Finch is my hero.

acebamboo77's avatar

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, fascinating book about a man and his son on a cross country trip on motorcycle, and how ancient philosophy can affect philosophy of the everyday.

Knotmyday's avatar

Tales, H.P. Lovecraft.

emt333's avatar

Demian by Herman Hesse
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
and i know it’s not fiction but for my money the best self help out there is the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. happy reading!

madcapper's avatar

@ knotmyday yes H.P is great!

90s_kid's avatar

I removed it

shrubbery's avatar

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pulman
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson.

90s_kid, you could only remove something yourself if it was within time to edit your answer, and could just backspace your work and type ”removed by me” or something. If you have run out of time to edit it, I suggest sending an e-mail to the moderators with a link to the answer and asking them to remove it :)

Trustinglife's avatar

Sorry I’m just finding this question now…

@Lynne, I’m a fellow self-help lover, and am currently reading You’ve GOT to Read This Book: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book that Changed Their Life. So I’m not exactly answering the question, but pointing to a book of others answering the question!

After I got past the cheesy title and got into it, I’ve found myself really moved and opened up by these powerful, short essays. Many of the books referenced are non-fiction, but not all. I recommend taking a look.

augustlan's avatar

@Trusting: I read that book! I loved reading about other’s experiences, and added many books to my ‘to read’ list.

forestGeek's avatar

Catcher in the Rye for sure!

Brave New World is runner up.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Harrison Bergeron (short story) by Kurt Vonnegut

Judi's avatar

@empress, “perfect speed is being there…” Johnathan Livingston Seagull

drdoombot's avatar

1984 really blew my mind. It sort of opened my eyes to the possibilities of how different (and bad) the world could be.

Similarly, Brave New World made me realize that we are probably being manipulated in subtle ways we are not aware of (I’m not a conspiracy theorist, by the way). Also, it seems to me that we’re closer to the drug-fueled world of Brave New World than any other classic, fictional dystopia novel.

A Scanner Darkly, for some reason I can’t explain, has opened me to the possibility of having compassion for people who’ve created their messes of their lives and can’t get out of them.

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