Can reading a book change you?

As a Role Model for Books in Homes I worked with Year 6 students from Auburn North Public School in 2018 to help them write, illustrate and publish their own book.
It sure can.

I was reading Phillip Adams’ column in The Weekend Australian a few weeks back (I am sorry to see him hang up the microphone on Late Night Live – LNL) and he talked about a book that changed his life.

Among other insights he shared he noted that:

My life as a teenage Bolshevik did not begin with reading the communist bibles of Marx or Engels but via my first ‘grown up’ book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was handed to me by a librarian…who decided that, at the age of 12, I’d exhausted the possibilities of Just William and Biggles. Steinbeck’s novel….changed the life of a kid living on a tiny farm outside Melbourne. And the rest is history.’

It got me thinking about what books have changed me, well, let me more specific, what books that I have read have changed me. (I’ve written 37 books and each one has had an impact on me one way or another).

And, I’ve used the plural, books, as there are a couple.

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

I had to read this for my second year of Russian Literature. It has THE BEST description of a bureaucrat that I’ve ever come across or as Wikipedia says ‘the central character of the novel, portrayed as the ultimate incarnation of the superfluous man, a symbolic character in 19th-century Russian literature. Gosh…the superfluous man/person could describe so many….!

Gertrude by Hermann Hesse

I remember exactly where I was when I read this slim book. The beauty of the writing and the exquisite expression of inner thoughts remains with me to this day.

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse is just a game changer.

Interestingly, the Glass Bead game is essentially an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics. Sounds a bit like my book writing and book coaching life. And yes, I went on a bit of a Hermann Hesse expedition for a while.

The island in the mind, Rodney Hall

A stunningly evocative and captivating book. I must go back and read it again.

The Bone People, Kerri Hume

I clearly remember a wet weekend at our farm over 25 years ago when I, finally, picked up this book. It had been published some 10 years before but I didn’t read it at the time. Well, I picked it up, sat in front of the fire and started reading and crying. I missed lunch and dinner was bought to me as I simply couldn’t stop reading and crying.

The Inevitable, Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape our Future, Kevin Kelly

This book has forever changed the way I thought about the future of writing, books, knowledge and technology.

PLUS, anything by Umberto Eco and most books and commentary by Christopher Hitchens.

And, if you’re keen to see what books changed some author’s lives you can’t go past the series in The Guardian, A book that changed me.

And then there’s a list and commentary from The New York Times that’s well worth a read.

This list got me thinking about the books that were precious to me as a child.

Gosh, there’s so many, but my favourite series are:

Winnie the Pooh, A A Milne. Here’s a photo of the books I read…and still have

The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham closely followed by Watership Downs by Richard Adams

Snoopy and Peanuts, by Charles Schulz, (my original boxed edition).

Reading books can change lives

I am passionate about books, reading and writing as anyone who knows me or who has worked with me knows.

It’s also why I am a Role Model for Books in Homes…and next year is my 10 year anniversary in this role. If you’d like to make a positive difference in the life of a young Australian and help them discover and develop their love of reading and words you can donate here.

What book changed your life and why?