DO BOOKS CHANGE LIVES?
Our family New Year’s celebrations are tame (and aren’t they all these days?). We dipped fondue around a fire, “Zoomed-in” absent family members, and answered questions that forced us to reflect, reminisce, and prophesize. One question asked us to name a book read in 2021 that had changed our lives.
Do books change lives? My husband claimed he was too old to be changed by a book. But after listening to the rest of us report out, even he admitted that reading could change his life, at least a bit.
Our Family Favorites
Within a blink of the eye my daughter named named Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, a book about fungus of all things that offers a profoundly new way to view the world and our place in it. Her husband had to think a bit longer but soon identified George Orwell’s 1984. He didn’t have to say much for us to understand how its new and eerily relevant meaning changed him.
My son cited Max Tegmart’s Life 3.0: Being Human in an Age of Artificial Intelligence. His fiancée confessed to Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time, a book on modern physics she read to appease him after surfacing from George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
My own answer was easy: Marcel Proust‘ s In Search of Lost Time. These 3 long volumes changed my life merely because I finished them–and abandoned my 2021 habit of reading 10 pages a night no matter what! Anyone who has read my prior blogs know how long this duty has nagged at me. Finishing Proust not only cleared my literary conscious but at last revealed to me why I bothered.
And my husband? His claim about being too old for change upset me given that he is over six months younger than me. Eventually, though, he realized he had been changed by reading Joel Colón-Ríos‘s Weak Constitutionalism. This work likely won’t change you unless political or legal scholarship fascinates you–but, fortunately, my husband fits the bill. Discovering that another human being conceptualizes democratic institutions more or less his way transformed him.
Finding Books That Change Lives
This discussion was so much fun that I thought I’d ask Late Last Night Book readers as well. So, please think back on the past year or so, and let me know if a book has changed your life recently.
I’m also wondering whether my husband is right, and whether you can ever be too old to be changed by a book (or by anything). Or whether books ever really change people at all. Thoughts on that?
You can let me know via in the comments section below, the contact form on my website, my Twitter account (@terraziporyn), or the Late Last Night Books Facebook page. If you want to add a short comment explaining why you picked a particular book or article, all the better.
I’ll share the results in my next blog!
TERRA ZIPORYN is an award-winning novelist, playwright, and science writer whose numerous popular health and medical publications include The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, Nameless Diseases, and Alternative Medicine for Dummies. Her novels include Do Not Go Gentle, The Bliss of Solitude, and Time’s Fool, which in 2008 was awarded first prize for historical fiction by the Maryland Writers Association. Terra has participated in both the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Old Chatham Writers Conference and for many years was a member of Theatre Building Chicago’s Writers Workshop (New Tuners). A former associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), she has a PhD in the history of science and medicine from the University of Chicago and a BA in both history and biology from Yale University, where she also studied playwriting with Ted Tally. Her latest novel, Permanent Makeup, is available in paperback and as a Kindle Select Book.
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