So us book-bloggers, we are always saying that books are very significant. So are librarians, publishers and writers. And that’s because books change lives. This post is stuffed full of books that have changed lives (with links to Bookword reviews). Which books changed your life?
This is the first in an ad hoc series of posts which will all begin The best book for … Some other ideas are … presents for my birthday; … reading in translation; … recommending to book groups; … taking on holiday; … when I am ill in bed; and so on.
The top 10 most influential books in the Baileys’s poll:
Back in November 2014 I found a list of books that had ‘impacted, shaped or changed readers lives’ organised by Bailey’s (who at that time sponsored the Women’s Prize for Fiction). I doubt whether it would be much different if they surveyed readers again today.
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I Captured the Castle by Dodie Smith
Life-changing political books by women
And in February last year the Guardian Review asked several influential women for their choices of life-changing political books by women.
Harriet Harman and Mary Beard: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
Nicola Sturgeon: The Abbess of Crewe by Muriel Spark and The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir
Diane Abbott: Why I’m no longer talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Gina Miller: Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
Jess Phillips: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Caroline Lucas: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Natasha Walter: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
The Best Books for … changing my life
I have chosen just three books, or I would have had to mention 300. Each of these I think about a great deal still.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976): a novel that suggested it was possible not to organised society around gender. (See also, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961): when asked why he had never written another book as good as Catch-22 , Joseph Heller replied ‘Who has?’ That story may not be true, but it is good. This book told me you cannot expect rational behaviour in policy, politics or war.
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff (1954): in which the author showed that history has real meaning when understood through people’s lives. It is the source of my enduring love of history and the reason history was the focus of my first degree.
What would be on your list of influential or life-changing books? What I like about framing the topic in this way is that it bypasses any notion of favourites. Writing this post has made me think about some books I would like to reread. I’ll get on to that.
A related post
You might also look at A Book that Changed my Life by Ursula Le Guin, a post in June 2015 on Book View Café Blog. It is only fair that the writer who has the most references in this post gets to say something herself. And basically she says it’s an impossible task, but here is one list. It’s a good one. I was pleased to see it includes Thomas Berger’s novel Little Big Man. Our hero tells a great story the punchline of which is ‘it’s a great day to die!’ Go visit Ursula Le Guin’s list!
Over to you
So what would you add to the unlimitable list of best books for changing your life?