Friday, January 7, 2011

Can Books Change Your Life?

Two memes in one week - that's strange for me. But hey, I'm feeling crazy! If you're hopping by check out my giveaway of Numbers and Violet Wings! (U.S. only).

This week's Book Blogger Hop question is:
 "What book influenced or changed your life? How did it influence/change you?"

I think this is a great question to put to book readers. I once heard an English literature major say she didn't believe books changed people's lives, that a book could not inspire or prompt someone to change. That made me sad for her and made me wonder why she thought literature was important enough to teach if it could not do anything but entertain. 

In my experience, works of fiction have a slow effect. They might not readily alter my way of thinking, but they do get me to think about other ideas. Fictional works also tend to have small effects but they can certainly shift the way I think about something and consequently my actions. Here's an example. It's been years since I've read Steinbeck's East of Eden but I remember this quote:  
I know that it might be better for you to come out from under your might-have-beens, into the winds of the world. And while I tell you, I am myself sifting my memories, the way men pan the dirt under a barroom floor for the bits of gold dust that fall between the cracks. It's small mining - small mining. You're too young a man to be panning memories, Adam. You should be getting yourself some new ones, so that the mining will be richer when you come to age. (294)
At the time I read that I needed a push to stop feeling sorry for myself and to stop wishing things had been different and to just move forward and  make my life what I wanted it to be. This book also prompted me to take my first literature course which was the first step towards the road I'm now on. =)

What about you? Have you encountered a work of fiction that has changed your life? It seems non-fiction definitely resonates with people and inspires them. But as a heavy fiction readers, why do we read them? They must mean something to us, right?

18 comments:

  1. What a lovely quotation from East of Eden. I like the way you describe the slow influence of books. It's not always a lightning bolt but more like the shifting of tectonic plates.

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  2. NIce to see a literary book in this week's response for a change! Wow, I cannot imagine knowing any lit majors who didn't think that books can be influencing or life changing. I honestly think that any book that I read changes me, even ever so slightly--whether I learn something of the world or something about myself, or something on a deeper level than that.

    I wrote about the first book that really changed me as a reader and that was one by Madeleine L'Engle. I'd love to know your thoughts...

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  3. Hmmm...just tried to sign up as a follower and this is the response I got:

    "Request-URI Too Large

    The requested URL /friendconnect/signin/join... is too large to process."

    If you know how to fix it, leave me a comment on my blog and I will try again to follow you.

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  4. Hopping by to say hello and wish you a wonderful weekend!
    http://www.cafeofdreamsbookreviews.com/2011/01/book-blogger-hop.html

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  5. Loved John Steinbeck's work! Thanks for hopping by my blog, and have a great weekend.

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  6. East of Eden is next on my to-read list, and this quote makes me want to start reading it NOW.

    I completely agree with your explanation, that a book can plant a seed that you might not notice until much later...

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  7. YEEESSSS! What an incredible quote! I've never read East of Eden, but that last sentence really resonated with me and where I am right now.

    Books ABSOLUTELY have the power to change lives. I witnessed the power that The Hunger Games had over my students. I truly believe that Katniss and Suzanne Collins turned a whole generation of reluctant readers into book lovers!

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  8. Great quote from an amazing book! This book definitely had a huge impact on me when I read it this past summer.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I love your answer. Books don't change a lot of how I think, but it helps me better understand. If that makes any sense.

    Have a good weekend!

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  10. Hopping through. I should read more Steinbeck, but I read Grapes of Wrath in college and found it too depressing, so I've been turned off him ever since.
    Happy weekend!
    My Hop

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  11. Hi, hopping on by on a return visit. Why would you be a Lit major if you didn't think books could have an impact on people?? Have a great weekend!

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  12. that's a nice blog hop question.

    the book that most influenced me was Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I first read it when I was about 17, and the concept I took away from it was "I better work my butt off, cuz no one else is gonna do it for me!". the politics and philosophy she was pushing in that book didn't register with me for like 10 more years!

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  13. Interesting choice, going with Steinbeck. :) But I like the quote you chose because it is thought-provoking. I actually chose a book of poetry to answer this week's question.

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  14. Diana Gabaldon's "OUTLANDER" did it for me. I cannot stop reading since I read her books last October. She is the reason why I started blogging about books. Have a super weekend. I am your newest follower. Come and visit me at www.mandysescape.blogspot.com

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  15. I think all the books I read influence me in some way, some more than others. For the Hop, I picked Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War, because it helped me realize something I'd thought about before but had never really understood.

    That book may be non-fiction, but I think fiction can tell you just as much about life as non-fiction. In a way, I guess they reflect society and humanity, often in a way that non-fiction can't. It can't all be about entertainment, because meaning is assigned wherever you see it, not where it was "meant" to be.

    Happy weekend!

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  16. I feel bad admitting that I've not read East of Eden, but that was a great quote. I think it's a book that both my husband and I would like to read. But for that English major you knew, she's a terrible English major. As an English major myself, I cannot imagine devoting so much time, effort, thought, and money toward something you don't enjoy. If you enjoy it, it's touched you in some way, it sounds like she's missing something.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

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  17. Lovely response, Chelle. Growing up, I loved Steinbeck's Life With Charlie, and as a teacher can say that my students and I have been moved by both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. I think it's time for me to reread East of Eden, on your recommendation!
    Interestingly, my entire blog is about changing your life with each book you read, so I agree with you and disagree with that lit. major who opined that books don't change people. Bosh! Of course they do!
    Thanks for sharing your response so eloquently, too.

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  18. Thanks for the wonderful responses! I'm encouraged to know that books are in fact making a difference in people's lives!

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