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Topic: Perspective Changing if not Life Altering Literature

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Subject: Perspective Changing if not Life Altering Literature
Date Posted: 12/1/2008 8:11 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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A friend posted this to another forum. Thought it would be good here.

I am interested to know what books really opened your eyes. Whether that be to another culture, another political belief or ideology, or a fact that you overlooked or didn't realize to be true.

Last Edited on: 12/1/08 8:42 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/1/2008 8:28 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, I didn't enjoy the book, but it made me think more than any other book I can recall.

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 8:42 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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I read this years ago. I enjoyed it.

Did you not enjoy it because the story didn't interest you or was the story difficult to read? How long ago did you read it?

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 10:09 AM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2007
Posts: 5,637
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Uncle Tom's Children by Richard Wright. 

I can't say I enjoyed the book (the subject matter is not really something that one can enjoy reading about, I don't think), but it profoundly affected me.  It is not a book I would have likely picked up on my own, but I read it for a class.  Though it's fiction, it filled in a lot of the information left out of my history textbooks about life in the Jim Crow south.


Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:04 PM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2008
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I have to agree with Vanessa on Things Fall Apart. I read it 2 years ago for class. I have never really read anything about Africa and so it made me think just because I had never heard some of the cultural events that went on. It was an interesting read.

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:04 PM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2008
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I have to agree with Vanessa on Things Fall Apart. I read it 2 years ago for class. I have never really read anything about Africa and so it made me think just because I had never heard some of the cultural events that went on. It was an interesting read.

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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L.B.- I read it during my sophomore year of high school, and thinking about it now, I don't know if I was mature enough at the time, I'll have to try it again in the future.  I liked the characters and I liked the story (we read it alongside the Oedipus cycle, comparing them as two different examples of a tragic downfall), but I found the prose style didn't keep my attention.

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 8/8/2007
Posts: 4,460
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I love these types of books and have a few:

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn definitely tops the list

Story of B by Daniel Quinn

Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

Date Posted: 12/1/2008 1:49 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Thanks for posting. Could you elaborate. How did the books affect you? Even if we read summaries of the story that doesn't provide any insight why you listed them or how they affected you.

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 12:58 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,862
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WORKING by Studs Terkel

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 2:01 AM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,804
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Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Author: Muhammad Yunus, Alan Jolis

This book gave me a completely different perspective on what it is to be really poor.   Also showed me that ONE person (even me) can help change lives.        I give this book to people all the time and often recommend it on here.    I quit saying I grew up poor after reading this.   I had NO idea what poverty really was!

Last Edited on: 12/3/08 2:02 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/3/2008 3:33 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Next of Kin by Roger Fouts.  It's a book by a  man who was the first grad student to work on the project to teach chimpanzees sign language - their first chimp was Washoe.  There is so much humanity in that book, it's incredible.  It will make you laugh, cry, get angry, feel redemption and every other emotion there is.  For me, it motivated me to work for non-human primate welfare and rights, and I became an activist in the field.  It changed my life in so many ways.  It is a must-read for anyone who loves animals.

The other book is Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.  I have never cried so hard and felt so upset by injustice than when I read that book.  There is a scene involving a mother who cannot get to her starving infant that left me *broken*.  I still cry when I think about it.  People don't really understand what it meant to be an African slave in the United States.  This book gives the reader a minor taste and the reality portrayed in the book is unreal.  I better understand, but I will never be able to truly understand.


Date Posted: 12/4/2008 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
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The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood - I read this 20 years ago as a young adult, and had never given much thought before to a.) an apocalyptic world; and b.) one in which women would be greatly comprised.   It helped me become more of a feminist.

When I was in college, apartheid was still going strong in South Africa.  It was abhorrent to me that such a ugly system was still happening in a modern world.  I read a lot of books about it, all very good, but My Traitor's Heart, by Rian Malan was very moving to me.  He wrote so candidly about his life as an Afrikaner (he's even related to apartheid regime Prime Minister D.F. Malan), and the guilt he had for his people imposing apartheid.  A similar book that was equally moving was Country of My Skull, by Antjie Krog.

Another book I read as a young adult was Peter Singer's classic, Animal Liberation.   It was my first inside look into factory farming, and how utterly cruel and abusive it was.  When I finished the last page, I became a vegetarian, which I've continued now for 22 years.

Continuing on this theme, I read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation five years ago, which confirmed my food belief system, at the same time educating me more on other aspects of it, such as worker abuses (mostly immigrants) and food sourcing. 

Edward P. Jones' The Known World placed me smack dab in the heart of slavery.  Very compelling.  This book was about the little-known aspect of when slavery was ending, where in Virginia blacks are allowed to own other blacks as slaves.  Very eye-opening, and the writing is gorgeous and authentic.

Gregory David Robert's Shantaram is based on his own life as an escaped convict who goes to Mumbai, India and has many different journeys there.   Beautifully written - 900 pages of very compelling people and stories.

Another book about India that continues to stay with me is The Bandit Queen by Phoolan Devi, a first-person account of an Untouchable girl who faced incredible savagery and abuse within the caste system and in her own family, and how she eventually seeks revenge.  Gives a whole new meaning to feminism - and to strength and courage as well.

I love unique animal stories - so many touch my heart.  Favorites are Modoc and The Good, Good Pig.


Date Posted: 12/4/2008 3:18 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2007
Posts: 1,235
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I will scond Fast Food Nation. I have not eaten sausage since I read the book several years ago. Also I'll never look at a french fry the same way lol.

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 5:56 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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We have slave title in our library. I haven't read it yet.  Have you read Roots? I read the book and watched the series in the eighth grade. I can't descirbe how real it made slavery for me. Can you imagine eighth graders reading it today?


I read The Handmaid's Tale and I am surprised at how other readers have said the story was too outlandish or shocking. To me, what was scary was how plausible I could see a world like this happening.


I may have to check that out.

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 10:58 AM ET
Member Since: 6/12/2008
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I'm thirding Fast Food Nation. It totally got me off of fast food. I haven't eaten at McDonalds since I read that book, which was around 5 years ago. A brilliant book. Omnivore's Dilemma is what convinced me to go vegetarian again after reading about the effects of factory farming on the environment. Also, The Kite Runner made me reexamine the immigrant experience in a way I really had not before. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel was another perspective changer; Frankel was able to find meaning in life in the most barren and difficult circumstances one can imagine. This book made me see that even in the most difficult of times we still have control over who we are, what we choose to believe, and what lies inside of us.
Date Posted: 12/5/2008 11:23 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2008
Posts: 115
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Red Azalea by Anchee Min really made me understand life in China under Mao and gave me some insight into how growing up in that kind of environment shaped a whole generationof Chinese people.  With China such a presence in the global economy, I think that is a valuable insight.   

Brick Lane gave me similar insights into the minds of middle eastern immigrants and people of Islamic faith.  The huge differences between our cultures in our rapidly shrinking world make books like these so important because all of us are coming into closer contact with each other and needing to have that understanding.

I also read The Handmaid's Tale about 25 years ago and it affected my feminist sensibilities as well.  Roots came along at about that time too, and I saw the tv series and then read the book and that did make slavery seem much more real to me.  The Known World however, was drier and more stark and didn't affect me nearly as much.  I'd like to reread The Handmaid's Tale  and Roots  now and see if they still have the same effect on me as I am today.  I think it is always interesting to compare how things hit you when you reread them from an older perspective. 

When I read Gone with the Wind at 16, I thought Scarlett O'Hara was glamourous and brilliant and just like me.  When I read it as an adult, I saw how sad and desperate she was.  But it is still a favorite of mine for all its romanticizing and lack of realism.  Escapism is good!

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 11:45 AM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2007
Posts: 5,044
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Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.  It made a point about how many relationships are troubled because one partner expects the other to act in the exact same fashion that they would in a given situation, and then gets mad when they act differently.  I would get mad because I would say, speak up to a boss, but the other person wasn't doing speaking up too--instead they were rolling over and taking it.  made me realize that just because what someone else does is different doesn't make it wrong or any less effective.

Books like A Thousand Splendid Suns, Kabul Beauty School, and The Bookseller of Kabul have made me thankful to be a woman in America.

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 1:51 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2008
Posts: 12
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Great topic! I've added several of these titles to my wish list, and am looking forward to reading them!

To add my own: Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir. Provided me with a realization of what true hope and courage is. She and her family lived through 20 years of jail conditions...jails in which they were basically left to die. The story of those years and the ultimate freedom later profoundly moved me, and I am constantly recommending this book to others.

Date Posted: 12/10/2008 11:12 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I read the James Tiptree, Jr short story, The Women That Men Don't See in high school.  Totally changed my reading habits and choices. 

Date Posted: 12/11/2008 12:40 AM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2007
Posts: 1,807
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Down & Out in the Great Depression by Robert S. McElvaine.  This book is a collection of letters written to the president and city officials during the depression.  I've always known the depression was bad, but reading some of these letters brought me to tears, as I had no idea just how bad things really were. 

Date Posted: 12/11/2008 9:04 AM ET
Member Since: 8/14/2006
Posts: 626
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Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  Although fiction she teaches you about the environment and the impact our actions have on it.  For example, did you know that at one time there was one bird that ate the cockleburs that stick to your pant legs when you walk in certain fields?  That bird is gone now and those cockeburs are a menace.  But on the flip side.  The guy that invented velcro got the idea from those dang things sticking to his pant leg.

Date Posted: 12/12/2008 3:01 PM ET
Member Since: 11/6/2005
Posts: 642
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"The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair - I read it in high school and haven't eaten processed meat since!

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou - As a middle class teacher living in the rural south, after being raised on the coast, it truly opened my eyes to the poverty and culture around me.

"A Framework for Poverty" by Ruby Payne - I am in a mixed marriage - my husband was rural, southern African-American, born in the late 30's.  This book, along with the above book, truly helped me to understand his perspective much better.

Alexander Solzenytzin's (spelling) books about communist Russia made me a more careful person - I try to hear the "unspoken" message when a polititian or administrator speaks.  I think his books made me a much better citizen - I don't blindly accept everything I am told.

Last Edited on: 12/12/08 3:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1