Has a book ever changed your life?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Many times, I have had this discussion with other bloggers and book lovers. Each time I was fascinated by the choices they mention and by their descriptions of how the book(s) affected them. I, however, drew a blank, because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out a book that had so much of an impact on me that I could call it life-changing. Sure, there are lots of books that got me thinking deeply about the subject matter. Some of the recent ones are The Help, Glorious, White Oleander and The Bell Jar. But I wouldn't really call them life-changing. Sure, they inflated the deep-routed beliefs I had and made me wish things had been different. I've even been motivated to be more civic-minded than I am, but I can't say my life changed because of that, because some of those books only echoed what I had always believed, but in a very thought-provoking way.

But over the past couple of weeks, when I thought about this, I realized that there is a book that although might not have changed my life totally, definitely had such a profound effect on me that my life goals changed. My perspective changed. My focus in life changed. And the book? Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

Reading Anne Frank's diary made me realize how life can change in a day. This is akin to the quotes we frequently hear about living in the present. Of course, each time I just shrugged the quotes off. Hearing a quote is one thing, actually practicing it is a whole level away. That requires more than just illustration. That requires influence and inspiration.

Anne Frank was just like any other girl. She had dreams, squabbles, complaints, wishes, crushes, and life plans. The diary she wrote was just like any teenager's diary, she just happened to be holed up in a house, hiding from the Nazis. I once kept a similar diary that would probably embarrass me if I had to read it today. After reading Anne's thoughts, as you turn the last page, you almost feel as if this is an incomplete life story. If you didn't know Anne, you would ask "What happened to her?", "Did she find love, a career?", "Did she get out of that place?". But the afterward holds a more grim tale.

In so many ways, I am glad that I read this book. Most of the messages in this book are inferred. I've come to understand that there is only so much you can do in life. You can choose to obsessively plan for the next few decades of your life, or wallow in what you don't enjoy. Or you can choose to do what you wish with the time to have here and live in the moment. Much as I had heard this for a long time, I have not felt it more powerfully than that day when I read Anne Frank's diary.

So, did you ever have a book that affected you strongly enough to make you change your life, or feel more passionate about something you never considered before, or change the way you think?


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9 comments:

Ash said...

I think On the Road and The Perks of Being a Wallflower had pretty profound impacts on me when I was a teen, but I don't think they were really life changing. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs might have been life changing for me because it caused me to start writing nonfiction, but I think a lot of nonfiction would have led me to do that. It just so happens I read that book first.

I've still never read Anne Frank and I really need to! If you thought it was life changing then I know I will enjoy it.

Dana said...

Great post! The book that sticks out most in my mind as life-changing for me was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck... it definitely affected my choice of career path. There are lots of books that have impacted me, but like you, I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to call them life changing.

Nadia said...

Love your post! Made me think about which books truly I felt were truly life-changing. Hmmm. I would have to say the following were:

The house on mango street by Sandra Cisneros

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Those books I listed above are books that truly made an impression on me and my life in the sense that they woke me up to the ugly realities existing within our world and also they showed me the brilliance of some of our finest authors and made me see how truly wonderful the written word could be. These books made me read more, learn more, discuss issues/ideas more and write more - truly opened my eyes!

bermudaonion said...

Great post! There are lots of books that have affected me deeply, but I'm not sure any of them changed my life. I'll have to think about this one for a while.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Oh wow. I remember when I first read this it changed my life too. Great post.

Michelle said...

Good question!

I have lots of books that have affected me really deeply, with a recent one being The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but I can't say that there are any that really "changed my life."

I think all books change our lives, in a way, because they help us to look at the world in a different way depending on the subject matter and perspective of the book.

Lynne said...

I love what Michelle said about all books changing our lives because they help us look at the world in a different way. It's so true. I just finished reading Still Alice, about Alzheimer's, and I will never see an Alzheimer's the same way again. I have such a better understanding of its effects. That's what I love about books. So Michelle is right. In a way, all books change your life :)

Medeia Sharif said...

There are many books on my list, but a few that stick out are Albert Camus' The Stranger, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. I remember reading them in high school and feeling a change. These books had a deeper emotional depth than other books I previously read.

Aths said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a 'I don't think any book changed me much' mindset.