Life-changing books

To Kill a Mockingbird was recently voted the most life-changing novel written by a female. While I really want this to be an accurate portrayal of the world’s feelings on the matter, I can’t help but feel that it is far from the reality.

Firstly, how seriously can we take the results of anything voted by the punters? There are so many society-induced judgements on which books are good and which books are bad, that it’s impossible to expect a completely truthful survey. And you can tell just by looking at the list that there is an element of people voting for books they think should have changed their lives, rather than the ones that actually have.

And what does life-changing even mean? Are we talking about books that have physically changed the way we live our day-to-day lives? Because I know we all wish we were more like Atticus Finch, but the reality is that our actions have probably been shaped more by The Baby Sitters Club than Mockingbird. And all those people suddenly interested in BDSM, are they admitting to the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has physically changed their lives more than any other book?

There are some real head-scratchers on this list. Like The Secret History for example. Really? In what way did that book change your life? You realised that killing your friends is ok? And The Bell Jar? Shit, how are the people that were influenced by this book even alive to vote?

I realise I’m taking the words ‘life-changing’ a little too literally here, but it’s just so vague. Would this list be different if people had been asked for their favourite books? Do you think there’s more scope for honesty in the word ‘favourite’, whereas using words like ‘life-changing’ makes people feel like they should be choosing books that are highly acclaimed and ‘literary’.

I’m not saying for one second that I’m immune to this: I probably would have voted for Mockingbird too. And the countless photos of me in oversize sweaters and leggings as a teenager would have made a liar out of me and proved that Claudia Kishi was way more of an influence on me than Scout ever was.

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3 replies »

  1. I agree with previous commenter. I love ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because it fulfils my requirement of a great book: content (plot) & delivery (character development, grammar etc.). I love the themes presented in the book (racial issues, parenting lessons etc.) because I am passionate about social psychology.

    Perhaps these types of books should be termed “perspective-changing” because the books are more likely to change a person’s views rather than physically alter one’s life.

    Like

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