This is going to be a whirlwind tour through six books that really touched me and made me think, whether they’re fiction or not. These books have genuinely changed my life and how I have read books, and how I view the world around me. I will probably do a Part 2 and a Part 3 and so on with this blog, because there are so many beautiful stories and non-fiction books that have changed my life and perspective. I also imagine that there will be many more…
Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari
I read this book for the first time in 2016 and absolutely loved it. It was fascinating. It is a journey through the history of humankind, interspersed with anthropology, philosophy, geography, and politics. It is really really good and eminently readable, not weighty and bogged down in technicalities at all. It really opened up my eyes to a non-Eurocentric way of looking at history and exploring aspects of human development that I’d never really thought about before. It’s one of those books that I will go back and reread again and again because I always learn something new each time I read it.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind on Amazon books.
Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
It might seem a bit strange to have this book on this list, it being a children’s book, and also pretty much everyone I’ve ever spoken to has read it (although there are a crazy few who haven’t!). But that’s not the point – it completely changed my life in that I remember reading it vociferously, and becoming completely emerged in that world and with the characters. When I was in primary school, a friend and me used to play “Quidditch” on our bikes (throwing a tennis ball to each other up and down the street), and we also used to nick my mum’s chopsticks, pretend they were our wands, and that the house was Hogwarts. Behind the sofa became the Chamber of Secrets, and we had imaginary battles with the Basilisk. I remember my parents having to take the fifth book off me until I’d finished my homework the day it came out, because otherwise I wouldn’t have done any of it! I’m sure it doesn’t need me to tell you, but it was a fantastic book (and series) for childhood imagination, and kept me entertained for hours. To be honest; it still does.
Harry Potter on Amazon Books.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This book is about the history of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geology. It is a whirlwind tour through many of the great minds in these fields, and in talking about their discoveries the book seeks to explain what their discoveries were and what they led to. It’s also very interesting because it makes it plain that most scientific discoveries are scorned or not believed before they became mainstream accepted (usually by the Royal Academy or equivalent). If you think back to most of the famous scientists you can name off the top off your head, most of them were either hermits, reclusive, ostracised, or even persecuted, for their discoveries and ideas. This was especially true at the time of majority church control.
Pair the interesting content with Bryson’s fast pacing and literary style it makes for a very enjoyable and informative read, and one that taught me that non-fiction and/or science books didn’t have to be dry and boring. He even manages to get a joke or two in there with it.
A Short History of Nearly Everything on Amazon Books.
Tropic of Capricorn by Simon Reeve
This is a stunning book. Written by BBC Journalist Simon Reeve about his travels circumnavigating the globe around the Tropic of Capricorn. The imaginary line he traverses runs through Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. The book accompanies a television series of the same name and details Simon’s journey through these diverse and incredible countries. In his own unique way Reeve draws attention to both the human and natural issues found around the world.
He talks to prostitutes outside AIDS ridden Windhoek, travels across the Okavango in Botswana before meeting the San people who have been driven from their homes in the Kalahari desert by the government who favour the Tswana people. He then journeys into the northern part of South Africa, where he learns that Apartheid is perhaps not as far into the past as it should be. In Mozambique he discusses the toll that civil war had on the native elephant population, and in Madagascar talks about the travesty of tavi (slash and burn), eats zebu penis (yup, you read that right), and visits some of the gem mines that have created a Madagascan “gold rush”. Crossing the Indian Ocean, Reeve meets whale conservasionists in Western Australia, delves into the tragedy of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, before looking at the affect of Global Warming in Queensland. In Chile he crosses the Atacama and up to the Altiplano, before seeing the awful treatment of native people’s living in rainforest that is under threat from deforestation.
It is one of those books that I lent to all of my friends, basically demanding that they read it. It is a wonderful book and really really opened my eyes to the trials and tribulations of people around the world, and to the struggles they had to survive in their different environments. The book talked about exploitation, greed, survival, and also people’s traditions, joy, tenacity, and strength. It is a wonderful book; I urge you to read it.
Tropic of Capricorn on Amazon Books.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Let’s face it – I am never going to stop talking about this book. I think readers of this blog should probably steel themselves to me constantly going on about it. This book is a love story, and covers all the emotions of new and wonderful love, and the heartbreaking consequences of love when it has to end. It is raw, it is intense, it is heartbreaking. I will be doing other posts about this book when I’ve reread it, because the imagery and phrasing in it is stunning and beautiful. It had me in tears, it inspired me to write various poems, it made me smile, and it reminded me of all the different loves I’ve had. I urge you to read it. It’s beautiful.
Call Me By Your Name on Amazon Books.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
This is a stunning fiction book about the First World War. I read it for the first time when I was studying my English Literature AS Level. It is a book that brings to life the world of pre-war France in a beautiful love story, and then juxtaposes this with the horrors of trench warfare. When I was reading it I felt like I was in the mud and the filth with Stephen, drawing me down into the cloying soil of wartime France. It is a book that really highlights the futility of war, and the completely heartbreaking pointlessness of it all. It is a claustrophobic, intense, and deeply uncomfortable read. But it also highlights the beauty of human friendships, on the intensity of love, and of the deepness of courage held by the men in the field. If you haven’t read it, I think it’s definitely one for everyone’s book list.
Birdsong on Amazon Books.
Which books changed your life? Are there any books that hit you like a two tonne truck? If so, why? Let me know in the comments!