Books can change the world.
But sometimes, reading a book changes the way we see the world. What I love about reading is that it can challenge and even provoke you.
In this blog post, I’ll recommend some books that wield the power to change perceptions and beliefs about the world, for better or for worse. Here’s to the books that will change you!
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Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
There are novels that invite you in with simple promises of pleasure. Atwood does not do that, Alias Grace is a stark depiction of poverty, class, womanhood, gothic Ontario, and criminality. As we see from the viewpoint of a doctor, we get lost in the confusing mind of an individual trying to mediate female history. The end result is a spellbinding novel that is gripping but also gets you thinking about something you may have dismissed.
After reading Alias Grace, I observed the nuances to which we construct history. Our narratives of events can be flawed, and Atwood understands that. A fantastic book.
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
I’m an Australian. Therefore, I’ve heard of and read Cloudstreet, Winton’s call for cultural inquiry and to find greater meaning in life. However, what Tim Winton is really good at doing is demonstrating the difficulty and awkwardness that exists in day-to-day life. Through the Perth setting, Cloudstreet is akin to a Shakespeare tragedy and a comedy. There’s also a refreshing innocence to Winton’s work, that I think will translate well to readers outside of Down Under.
It’s a book that changed how I look at people who try to start their life from nothing. Cloudstreet is a celebration of empathy and the small triumphs we can make. This book sounds emotionally taxing- and it partially is, but it also feels familiar and welcoming. Highly recommended.
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
There are books that haunt you, and Clarke’s masterpiece is one of them. The premise is simple: overlords on Earth have straight forward demands of peace and brotherhood. However, the result that stews from this are complex and intriguing. Also, Clarke is an author who likes to engage with geography, politics, biology, and history, which makes this book a delight to those who want to know more about the world.
Childhood’s End taught me to never be complacent, never to be still, and always question what is going on. A powerful point Clarke makes is one regarding responsibility and how people fail to take it. Because of that and other reasons mentioned, Childhood’s End deserves its place amongst the very best of science fiction.
Discworld – Terry Pratchett
There are those series that engage with your imagination, and cause you to think in ways you haven’t. I have not read all the Discworld novels- I have only had a taste- but like a child eating sweets for the first time, I am sucked in. Pratchett’s tone is mostly comedic, but there is a serious underbelly to Discworld. Whether it’s warfare, murder or justice- Pratchett wants us to engage with the fantasy genre on a non-superficial level.
Discworld changed how I view the world. Although I have to say, the Milky Way is quite ordinary compared to a world on the back of a turtle. Yet somehow, Discworld tells me that humans are capable of fantastic greatness who can achieve quite a lot. I’m not talking about any character here- I’m talking about Pratchett himself.
Empire of the Sun – J.G Ballard
Sometimes- what motivates us to change our viewpoint is history itself. Ballard’s novel ‘Empire of the Sun‘ is both chilling, remarkable and heartbreaking. The war setting is distressing, yet the emotional payoff is worth it. This is not a novel of childhood games or wartime glory: it’s a stark, brutal depiction of the events that shape others. It’s also poignant.
This book changed the way I view the relationship between children and warfare. I’m glad it did.
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Quite possibly the greatest argument ever made against the mass media, Bradbury is an incredible storyteller and commands language in ways that remind me of Orwell. Often misinterpreted to be a tale against censorship, Fahrenheit 451 reveals our core flaws, our vanity, and obsessions as well as our instinct to let things burn. When you imagine a dystopian hell- know that it could be you who helps set the first fire.
Fahrenheit 451 changed the way I viewed mass media, entertainment and reading itself. Out of all the books depicted here, this change in worldview is the most brutal. Therefore, it is the most necessary. We need authors who do not hold back, and Bradbury is a treasure. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
To say Harper Lee didn’t challenge our expectations for the sequel to Kill A Mockingbird would be incorrect. She destroyed them, and that is her strength as an author.
Lee challenged my viewpoint of storytelling. I always knew characters could change, even beloved Atticus Finch, yet I never wanted to accept that. As readers, we want our perceptions to be affirmed- even if they aren’t true, or don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Lee has a thorough perspective on justice and the mechanics of society, that reading her work sets a chill down my throat. A masterful storyteller.
It – Stephen King
There’s something sinister and sick in the town of Derry.
I’ve discussed in a previous blog post about what writers can learn from Pennywise, the dancing clown, and how horror can express fears and terrors that exist in our own reality. It should not be viewed as a simple horror tale, but as a story that confronts child abuse, neglect, and trauma. As Stephen King has a knack for crafting stories that give you goosebumps and cause your blood to rush, it’s apt that he covers those dark themes.
It taught me more than to look under the sewer, but to observe the ways evil manifests in daily life. Pennywise may be a cosmic clown, but there is something so real about him. He’s the monster under the bed, but also the adult who kisses you goodnight.
Thank you, Stephen King for scaring the daylights out of me. I needed it.
We – Yevgeny Zamyatin
Some books are prophetic. Some books represent dreams and fantasies. Zamyatin’s censored book is the former. Paving the way for Orwell and Huxley, Zamyatin is brutal in how he depicts ‘harmony’ and totalitarianism. It was also written before Stalin and the horrors that unraveled in Russia. We may seem like a crude joke in that regards, but it’s a vital book to read.
This book taught me to always be aware and cautious of the political and social systems that define us. I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but it’s incredible and you can see why it’s influential on the dystopia genre. Because of that, I recommend it. It’s a superb argument against tyranny and control.
What books changed the ways you view the world? If someone asked you, what are the books that will change you, how would you respond? Comment below, I’d love to hear it!