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Day 8: A Book That Has Influenced Your Thinking

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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship (emmadeploresgoodreadscensorship) | 103 comments Mod
What is a book - fiction or nonfiction - that has affected some aspect of the way you think about the world outside of literature? It might be a book that changed your mind on a topic, one that strengthened your prior opinion, or one that made you see things in a new or altered light.

On the fiction side, A Thousand Splendid Suns came out when I was in college and didn't yet have much exposure to people or books from outside my own culture. It made me care deeply about what happened to people in Afghanistan - an effect no book I've read since has achieved to the same extent, probably because I've gotten older and harder to manipulate!

As far as nonfiction, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference brilliantly takes apart the idea that there's some biologically-determined difference between the way men's and women's minds operate. Essentially, there are a lot of studies that certain people really, really want to show that (and we should be suspicious of why people want this so much, because there's a history many centuries long of people insisting that current gender norms are the absolute biologically-determined limit), but these studies are often hilariously flawed, and at best take place in a society that sends constant messages about gender norms, when such messaging has itself been proven to impact performance. This is a really great, scholarly but accessible book and I think back to it whenever these arguments come up.

More recently I read Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions, which argues quite convincingly that research on depression has been overly dominated by drug companies, which want to insist that depression is a biological malfunction requiring drugs instead of a natural human reaction to serious problems in society. This is a challenging book in that many of the problems the author points out would be extremely difficult to solve, but it's an important one that has changed my thinking on the topic.


message 2: by Melindam (last edited May 27, 2020 12:32AM) (new)

Melindam | 162 comments First I thought this would be a difficult question to answer, as normally I don't read that many non-fiction books that would fit this category, but Emma you were very helpful in pointing out that you don't necessarily think along the lines of nonfiction. :)

So my answer is, The Discworld Books of Terry Pratchett, especially my favourite sub-series within, The City Watch books. The best of them in this regard

- Jingo
- Feet of Clay
- The Fifth Elephant
- Thud!

These are the best examples where Sir Terry fought (RIP 😢) / fights against nationalism, racism, religious fundamentalism, territorialism and all kinds of nasty-ISMS invented by men and he does it the way he knows best: by making you laugh out loud and think! And there is no better way to do it!

There are the books of the Tiffany Aching sub-series, starting with The Wee Free Men that also do the same for a younger audience, but still powerful. I will read these with my son, once he reaches the age to start with them. :)


message 3: by Gogol (last edited May 27, 2020 06:38AM) (new)

Gogol | 113 comments Ok, a strange thing happened while I was pondering about how to reply this one. When I was 13, a book was published and then immediately banned here in my country, that obviously made it even more interesting to get hold of. It was translated to committee 300, in Persian. This one book was fundamental in changing how I viewed the world. I tried to research the book right now, there’s a very short Farsi Wikipedia page about it, and then tried to search the name of the writer in English with no success, until I typed the magic words committee and 300, and i saw a pages titled committee of 300, and of course I clicked on it but upon closer examination I found it was the website of the central intelligence Agency of the US!!! Needless to say I am freaked out a bit. I can only browse he internet with the help of VPN, so there’s that. But I don’t know if it’s wise to post the link here? The whole book is in their website and I don’t dare spend more time there to see what they have written about it. But if any of you had time to check it do please let me know why they have it there. Essentially this book is the mother of all conspiracy theories that seem so out there to people in or educated in or from the west.
But some of which are facts. I only vaguely remember the book itself, and I’m certain there are a lot of points there that I won’t agree with, if I should reread it now, But! the main idea is fascinating and solid. Later on I read freakonomics, then I read about a couple of incredibly big corporations, about which most people know nothing, I read about the bilderburg group (I’m not certain about the spelling of the name) and each of these, seem to be fragments of a whole structure to which the book, and other similar books allude to. Freakonomics for example is in itself a book that fundamentally shook the way I saw the world. It broke the close box of thinking about how things worked for me. But at the same time I was aware that there was a parallel between it, and the ideas presented in say committee 300. To summarise, reading that book changed my entire view on ideologies and how things work in our world.

As for fiction, there are many. As I said before, upon my second reread of Resurrection, I was jolted in a way that I never could have previously imagined. Then another significant one was Lady Chatterly’s Lover. The reason it changed my entire perception, was her courage in breaking away from the role defined for her by the society in which she lived. And I was shocked because the book had been written more than half a century earlier than when I read it in the early 2000’s and yet I was still struggling with a similar set of constraints and different but essentially very similar sense of obligations that I owed to society at large. I was in my early twenties when I read that book. At first I was baffled over why she should want to leave the comfort and safety of her life for anything, and then I was shocked into perceiving my own sense of complacency. So reading that book definitely and fundamentally changed my whole outlook in a 180 degrees.

There have been many more. But I think the ones that I remember from the top of my head must be the most important ones.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship (emmadeploresgoodreadscensorship) | 103 comments Mod
Melindam wrote: "First I thought this would be a difficult question to answer, as normally I don't read that many non-fiction books that would fit this category, but Emma you were very helpful in pointing out that ..."

I really need to try the City Watch books! I've read a couple of the Witches books and liked them but wasn't as over the moon as others.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship (emmadeploresgoodreadscensorship) | 103 comments Mod
Gogol wrote: "Then another significant one was Lady Chatterly’s Lover. The reason it changed my entire perception, was her courage in breaking away from the role defined for her by the society in which she lived. And I was shocked because the book had been written more than half a century earlier than when I read it in the early 2000’s and yet I was still struggling with a similar set of constraints and different but essentially very similar sense of obligations that I owed to society at large."

This is really interesting! We often think of history as this steady march toward progress but that's not the case at all. Sexual mores seem to swing back and forth like a pendulum, at least in the western world.

I think the other book you're referring to is Conspirators' Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300? Interestingly, it looks like it's a book of conspiracy theories against the U.S., but half the reviews are written in Arabic, Turkish or Russian.


message 6: by Gogol (new)

Gogol | 113 comments Yes it is the one and the same, but it was on the c i a website!


message 7: by Two Envelopes and a Phone (last edited May 27, 2020 10:39AM) (new)

Two Envelopes and a Phone | 26 comments I guess The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor taught me a way of thinking: it's okay to have scars and live your life at least in part as a reaction to any trouble - major trouble - you have had in your life. It molds you, and you just have to accept that. And if you end up living your life different than most, that's okay; you don't live to conform to some template, especially if it's just not possible. Let them think what they want.


message 8: by Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) (last edited May 29, 2020 03:08AM) (new)

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) | 76 comments The City of Joy

I was lent this book by a person I did not particularly like, and still don't. But at that moment English books were in short supply so I grabbed it. When I gave it back, she asked if I liked it. Without thinking I replied, "That's not the sort of book you "like", it's the sort of book that changes your life." If you let it, I would add today. Strangely, one of the things that struck me was how dependent we are in the West on electricity: all our little electronic buddies depend on that current just being available in the walls whenever we want it. The practice of modern medicine depends on computers for everything from patient files to the latest surgical techniques. If an important power station is knocked out, we're all toast. Also, the origin of the real-bone skeleton in the biology classroom of my high school knocked me for six when I realised how small it was compared to the average Midwesterner.

Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

I first came across this book quite by chance killing time in a bookshop back in about 1991. Since then I've read it multiple times and it led me to where I am today. I can imagine St Therese having a quiet chuckle at my expense, up there somewhere.


message 9: by Henk (new)

Henk | 35 comments While reviewing the hard sci-fi book the The Three-Body Problem I suddenly thought back of one very long web article that absolutely fits this category. It's a wonderful insightful reflection on the nature of human progress that I would highly recommend to anyone: https://waitbutwhy.com/2017/04/neural...


message 10: by Gogol (new)

Gogol | 113 comments Henk wrote: "While reviewing the hard sci-fi book the The Three-Body Problem I suddenly thought back of one very long web article that absolutely fits this category. It's a wonderful insightful ..."

I can’t even wrap my mind around this idea yet. It’s amazing thank you.


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