09 September 2011

7 Books that Changed the Way I See the World

After reading this post on Bobbi Newman's blog, and then reading the original post on The Happiness Project, I decided to create my own list.  Only it turned out not to be as easy as I thought it would be.  Answering the question "What is your favorite book" is difficult because I love lots of books.  But answering the question "which books have changed the way you view the world" is different.  It doesn't mean I had to like them - they had to change how I saw the world around me.  So here my list in no particular order.

1. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay:  I know, you're probably thinking get over this book already lady!!! But it really did change the way I viewed myself, the world, and reading.  PeeKay doesn't set out to change the world around him, but he does.  I learned that all of our actions have an impact on the world around us - an impact that often we can't control.  I also learned that the only way to accomplish anything is to be yourself.  And, as I stated in this other post, I fell in love with reading through this book.  This was the first book I ever read multiple times, and it is one of the few books that I will continue to read throughout my life.

2. Lamb by Christopher Moore:  Though I read this book long after my view of the church and God had gone through some major changes, I loved this book.  To me, this is what Jesus' life would have been like - kinda.  I don't think Jesus did it all by himself - I think He had friends who supported, helped Him, and challenged Him when He wrote the beatitudes (my FAV part of the book).  And by friends, I don't mean the Disciples.  I mean He had a BFF like Biff.  The truth is, no one knows what happened during the 30 years of Jesus' life when nothing is written about Him, but I like Moore's take on it - that He struggled, whined, got annoyed with the Disciples and eventually came to His senses and did what needed to be done.  Though this book is completely irreverent, I loved it, and it helped me see Christ in a more human light. 

3. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain: another book that challenged what I believe.  This book was given to me by one of my mother's childhood friends.  I grew up seeing her not often, but always enjoying being around her even though I thought she was a kooky feminist.  Before I read this book, I'd never considered the differences between how men approach the world, problems and issues versus how women do, and I'd never considered that there could be factors in society that would shape the way we view women.  When I started reading the book, I wanted to disagree with it, hate it and dismiss Shlain's claims as "kooky" and, well wrong.  But man he makes a compelling argument and it makes sense.  I've never viewed feminism or reading in the same light.

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera:  this was one of the first books I picked up of my own accord and absolutely positively hated.  Ugh, it was awful.  It depressed the crap out of me, and I felt like the characters in the book were truly miserable and just wanted everyone to be miserable with them.  I don't want anyone to be miserable, but most of all I don't want to be miserable.  I knew after reading this book that life is entirely too short to ignore or not deal with depression - a piece of wisdom that has served me well in life.

5. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron: have you ever read a book that makes your soul smile?  What an amazing book.  I am a dog lover, and I've read just about every book written from the point of view of a dog (including The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog's Life), but none of them even come close to this book.  We all know the human reasons for having a dog, but this book made me see the world from my dog's perspective - why are dogs such great companions?  And why can't they put the damn ball down?!?  I look at dogs differently now and, honestly, I love them more after reading that book.

6. Die Entdeckung der Currywurst by Uwe Timm: this was the first book I read in German that was not translated from English.  When I lived abroad, I felt that it was important to immerse myself in the language - including in my reading.  But reading original German texts was difficult because every culture has its own accepted writing style (anyone who has read The Girl with the Dragon Tatto knows that in Sweden, starting a book of with 80-100 seemingly pointless boring pages makes for a best seller), so I found myself reading tons of Nora Roberts books because the layout was already second nature.  When I read Die Entdeckung der Currywurst (the discovery of the curried sausage), it was like the language - and to some degree - the culture clicked in my head.  I wasn't stumbling over passages anymore, and I began to see how the culture is reflected in the writing style, but that's another post for another day.

7. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Polan: I love food.  I love eating it, sharing it with loved ones and preparing it.  This book changed the way I view what I put in my body and how it affects the world around me.  I won't even attempt to claim that I am now a locavore who despises all things fast food (thank you to my dear sister who cured my doldrums today with a Wendy's lunch of awesomeness...sorry Mr. Polan), but I will say that I am more food conscious now and I make more of an effort to buy local and stay home and prepare fresh meals when I can.  The saddest part about reading this book is my changed view of corn - it's no longer an exotic vegetable that I only get in the summer when my favorite Olathe sweet corn is in season.  It's everywhere, all the time in everything.

Which books have you read that have changed your world view?

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Feel free to add your opinion of this or any books you've read here. Proper APA citiation style preferred (ha!)