Can reading a particular book influence our life decisions?
I can unequivocally say, yes. The first book that influenced my life was written by Charles Dickens, The Tale of Two Cities. I read it when I was 12 years old and decided that one day, I would like to write a book that describes our society with such intensity and detail. The opening lines define a time and place that could be here and now.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
I was particularly taken aback by the sacrifice of Sydney Carton. He lived a rather selfish and many could say useless life. Yet in the end he began the hero. To offer a better life to Charles Darnay he takes his place at the guillotine. His parting thoughts are indeed provoking and offer redemption to all of us.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
The Influence of A Book by Hannah Loewentheil (a few selections)
“After I Read It, It Took Me Two Weeks To Fully Recover”: People Are Sharing Books That Have Genuinely Changed Their Lives
“I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting, and I was completely silent for the rest of the day.” If you love to read, you understand the power of books. Whether it’s a frivolous, feel-good beach read, a haunting thriller, or an inspiring memoir, books serve lots of different functions. And, of course, there are the rare books that genuinely change the way we look at the world or inspire us to make a change in our own life. So Redditor u/Vampclaw asked, “What is that one book that absolutely changed your life?” Here’s what people said.
- “One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I still remember the first time I finished reading it. I just put the book down and sat motionless. I couldn’t even explain how I felt other than I wished it had never ended.”
- “The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ll never forget when he writes, ‘A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” The idea that the fabrication of a truth can be truer than the event itself really made my head spin. It says so much about the importance of authors and writing. It’s not a typical war story at all, and more about storytelling.”
- “Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It may have been a forced read in high school, but it changed my perspective on what I’m meant to do during my time on this earth. It helped me see that life isn’t all about personal pleasures.”
- “The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I’ve been saying this for decades, but it taught me that books are so powerful, they really can transport you to a better place…at least temporarily.”
- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I didn’t finish high school, but I read this book when I was 18, and it inspired me get my high school degree and go to college. I wanted to become a journalist all because of that book. I graduated college last month.”
- “Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I can summarize the impact it had on me with this quote: ‘The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.'”
- “The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It made me realize I was living like an Ivan, but I wanted to be an Alyosha. So I ditched grad school and moved to China for a year to teach and become a part of the real world.”
- “We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. As a Jewish American, I always find World War II books to be particularly haunting and inspiring. This book is a fictionalized account of the true story of a Jewish family from Poland. It begins in 1939 and traces the horrors and journeys of four siblings during the war. I couldn’t put it down while reading, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. More than any other book I’ve ever read, this one made me feel so awe-inspired by peoples’ courage and their ability to survive. It also made me feel so grateful for every single thing I have.”
- “Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I’ve never read a book that made me cry like this one did. And it truly has the best ‘if you put your heart to it, you can do it’ message of any book I’ve ever read.”
- “A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. It explains the insanity and complexity of the universe in understandable terms that I can grapple with, and it’s bonkers.”
- “The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I had stopped reading during college, and this was the first book I checked out from the library after I graduated. It’s what got me back into reading and made me fall back in love with it.”
- “The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it in one go, and I was completely silent for the rest of the day. This book explores what death feels like, and it took me almost two weeks to fully recover. Ultimately, it inspired me to reevaluate my life, priorities, and relationships. I still think about Ivan and his death frequently. IMO, it’s one of the most powerful, raw pieces of literature ever written, and everyone should read it once in a lifetime.”