I came across this old thread on Books that changed your life and thought it was amazing that nobody mentioned The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. When I was 14 those three volumes hit me like a ton of bricks and its fantasy world has stayed with me ever since.
A few others:
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu … the classic of the Tao
Buddhism for Dummies … read this very much later but it was a very good intro
Falling into Grace by Adyashanti … the clearest writing on non-denominational foundations to the search for enlightenment
The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown
Reptiles of the World by Raymond Ditmars
The Bafut Beagles ,et al, by Gerald Durell
The art of Andrew Wyeth - not a book, but quite influential nonetheless.
The art of Louis Agassiz Fuertes - same notation
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
All I can think of at the moment.
The Hardy Boys, Famous Five and Secret Seven when I was a Tween.
The Art of Happiness when I was an Adult.
As a child
The Secret Garden
The little White Horse
The little White Sea Horse
Horsemen on the Hills
As an Adult
You can Heal Your Life
How to Meditate by Kathleen McDonald when I was 25
The Chuang Tzu when I was 21
On the Road by Jack Kerouac when I was 16
Every book I have ever read and will ever read, in one way or another has done and will continue to change my life...Especially the books I read when I was starting to learn to read...like the ladybird books... Peter & Jane books come to mind...
I must admit I wasn't a very good student when in came to reading and writing at school, I preferred books with lots of pictures in...Well every picture tells a story so they say
When I was a teen the Dragonlance series of books I suppose changed my life. They weren't inspirational or anything. Its more that reading them (there's dozen's of them in that world) led to friendship bonds and activities that shaped my youth.
After that I think I have to be a contrarian here and say that books didn't really have that sort of impact on my life. At least I can't think of any that opened my mind or heart in new ways. The majority of my spiritual experience and learning came through in person learning and groups. Books I read generally just reinforced those experiences. I suppose the most influential books at that time were Pabonka Rinpoche's Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand and Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva.
Now that I write and move through my life, I think Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion really helped open my eyes to the ways and "whys" people differ in their world views.
Not a bad selection @Jeffrey. We don’t tend to encounter so many life changing books when we are older but what we read as a young adult can have major influences.
I’m reminded of this quote by John Rogers: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings [by Tolkien] and Atlas Shrugged [by Ayn Rand]. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
I’ve never actually read any of Ayn Rand’s books, but its interesting that people would call them life changing.
I remember those too yeah. They had pathos. But I am surprised you didn’t just give a shout out to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook. They kind of went hand in hand in my experience, especially as Dragonlance was also an AD&D adventure setting.
Lord of the Rings - sparked my love of reading, esp. fantasy
Dune series - loved the mix of religion, politics, philosophy, and it goes off the rails later on, started my interest in sci-fi
Food for the Heart - teachings of Ajahn Chah, which got me into Buddhism
Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha
Notes from Underground, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Demons - Dostoyevsky is my favourite writer and every book has an impact on me
A History of Western Philosophy - got me interested in philosophy
The Magic Mountain - a good philosophical novel
Meditations - transitioned my love of philosophy into an appreciation for civic engagement
A People's History of the United States - opened my eyes to the parts of history often overlooked, esp. from the POV of movements vs. 'great men' and from side of the oppressed vs. the victors
Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist - shaped my political consciousness, made me realize what my politics were
Gospel of Matthew - made me appreciate the story of Jesus and the radical themes underlying it
The Seven Storey Mountain, Sign of Jonas- sparked my interest in Christian monasticism
In the Pursuit of Happiness, The Cloud of Unknowing, The Pligrim's Way - sparked my interest in Christian contemplativism
As a child, Black Beauty helped to stoke up my lifelong hatred of cruelty.
Mid teens, George Orwell's 1984 and Summerhill by A.S. Neil both made me think about freedom and what shapes us. I am forever grateful to Mr Shepherd, the English teacher who gave them to me.
Late teens, Lord of the Rings. This book put me back in touch with a part of me that was dying for lack of nourishment.
I found Luke Rhinehart (AKA George Cockcroft )'s "The Dice Man" helpful ...I went with the flow of the dice for a while....
I asked this question of my father and mother (both sannyasins in Osho’s tradition):
Any book by Osho
In Search of the Miraculous by PD Ouspensky
Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
The Lord of the Rings
The Forgotten Realms books (50+ books) but more specifically the Drizzt Do'urden series by R. A. Salvatore
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
The Basic Dungeons and Dragons Rule Book (and later the Advanced D&D Handbook)
The Enders Series by Orson Scott Card
I wonder if there is a kind of generational difference, between the people born in the late 1940’s - 1950’s and those born a generation later in the 1970’s.
It's weird seeing the word books and still thinking it foreign. The only difference is I dine using the ears.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J. K. Rowling
I read this at a pivotal age and delighted in the freedoms and mischief, and lamented deeply in the heartbreak.
Children of God - Mary Dorian Russell
I forgot how I came across this, but we find teachers in the strangest of places.
Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins
Distracted me from a bad break-up
Alcoholocs Anonymous - Anonymous I think?
It's amazing this one didn't do it for me. I might re-read this one soon.
More spiritual in nature:
Bhagavad Gita - Eknath Eswaran
The first piece of literature that truly sparked my spiritual thirst.
Buddha - Karen Armstrong
Thoroughly in love with the story telling. It consumed me as I listened. The spark was lit aflame.
No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners: Clear Answers to Burning Questions About Core Buddhist Teachings - Noah Rasheta
I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
The Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha - Urgyen Sangharakshita
I was determined to get to the bottom of these too!
In The Buddha's Words - Bikkhu Bodhi
Because I thought I was tired of hearing other people talk.
Of course what they're all about is only as good as my memory...
What book hasn't changed your life?
@Jeroen The difference is we ask "What video game changed your life?"
Maybe a subject for another thread? Although I think you’d have to ask along with it “why did it change your life”, its not always so straightforward with game titles to get a feel for what the game is about.
Does anybody remember the Observer Series of Pocket Books? They were aimed at enthusiasts of all kinds and were popular with swotty schoolboy types.
Aged 9, I received my first goldfish. My garden-loving family bought some aquatic plants for the fish tank and these introduced snail eggs. The aquarium went from an interest to a passion.
Somehow this led to the Observer's Book of Pondlife. A whole new world opened up to me, flora and fauna, microscopic and highly visible. I could, and still do, stare into a body of water in the same way others study space. My world was never the same again.
Whenever I come across Blake, " To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower", I think of ponds.
Such a delightful way to view the world! You bring forth memories of mine looking through old family encyclopedia books and the majesty of some of the contents of the pages sparking my young sense of wonder. The details! The details have details!
I’ve been reading In Search of the Miraculous lately, I managed to find a pdf copy on the net, and have been finding it a bit of a curate’s egg. I wonder if anyone here has read it?
Every time I think of a book, up comes another one... I'll compile a list and edit the post as I go along (A luxury I, as a Moderator am privileged to have, and do not abuse.)
(*I can edit anybody's post, whenever I want....)
It’s interesting to consider fiction versus non-fiction in this context. I think that fiction more rarely is life-changing, although it often is a significant event. You read a book and its a great experience, but it doesn’t very often change your thinking to such an extent that afterwards you might make different decisions.
I wanted to add a few…
I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, for opening my eyes to Advaita Vedanta
Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor, saving me 10 years as a monk
In the Buddha’s Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi, showing me where I did not agree with the Buddha
Between the ages of 13-18 I was heavily drawn to Michael Moorcocks series on the Eternal Champion. He was always being screwed around with by the gods to keep the balance between order and chaos. One life he would be a powerful instrument for good and another he would be an evil war lord. Sometimes a few incarnations meet and even fight together. Sometimes they know they are incarnations of each other and sometimes they don't. I really enjoyed them.
In a different vein and in order there is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Zen in the Martial Arts by Bruce Hyams and Zen Keys as well as The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I love reading but those were the life changers.
Still looking forward to your contribution @federica!
I’ve been thinking for a while on which books of fiction have significantly influenced my life, and there have been a few, so I decided to make a short list of what and especially why:
Suske and Wiske, by Willy Vandersteen: these comic books lodged in my mind at an early age the archetype of the inventor Professor Barabas, who was always coming up with airships and time travelling machines. I believe that is what was responsible for me choosing to study Mechanical Engineering.
20000 Leagues under the Sea, by Jules Verne: this book was a wonderful juxtaposition which stirred in me the love of inventions, of the sea and its creatures, and of adventure. It was pretty much my first encounter with science fiction, and that ended up being a life long fascination.
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson: this book was an early cyberpunk-like volume which predicted many inventions of the nineties and noughts. The modern internet, the metaverse, a world where corporations take the forefront, fast and capable portable computing hardware. It changed the way I looked at technology.
The Discworld novels, by Terry Pratchett: that man was endlessly inventive and just so funny, his turns of phrase were just hilarious. His humour lightened up some pretty dark patches in my life, it was a turning point for me.
I'm currently reading "To You" by Kodo Sawaki. Highly recommendable read. Zen snippets to be slow-cooked with side-kick Cushion Dharma-buttocks.
I've been slowly Learning How to Learn with Idries Shah via audiobook. I'm learning I didn't know how to learn very well at all which is always fun.
I've been noticing some very good recommendations only currently exist as paperback books vs audio books. This one piqued my interest. I'll see this one finds its way to me soon.
One more to add, to the fiction list:
The Player of Games, by Iain M Banks. One of his best sci-fi novels, because this one is about games it carried a special meaning for me. I’ve re-read it quite a few times, and still haven’t got to the bottom of it.