10 Books That May, or May Not, Actually Change Your Life

I’m not advocating a sudden shift from literature or pulp fiction to the self-help book, and none of these books in my opinion would be something your therapist, if you have one, would recommend you to read; but each in their own way contains something that may cause you to take a moment and think.  If it does, and by taking that time to think subtle changes occur in you, then I guess you could say theses ten books actually changed your life.  As for me… well that’s a different story for another day.

bell and butterflyTitle ~ The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Author ~ Jean-Dominique Bauby
ISBN ~ 978-0375701214
Publisher ~ Vintage (June 23, 1998)

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young children, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem.  After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father’s voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an “inexhaustible reservoir of sensations,” keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This book is a lasting testament to his life.  It’ll make you realize how important the people in your life are, and how precious every moment really is. Did I mention you might weep through the whole thing?

Comment ~ to be reviewed in 2014

ZenTitle ~ Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Author ~ Robert M. Pirsig
ISBN ~ 978-0061673733
Publisher ~ William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 30, 2008)

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called ‘yourself.'”

One of the most important and influential books of the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live and a meditation on how to live better. The narrative of a father on a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest with his young son, it becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions. A true modern classic, it remains at once touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.  Read this philosophical novel, and Robert Pirsig will help you realize how important it is to actually care about what you’re doing. In other words, if you’re fixing a motorcycle, then really fix it. Don’t listen to music, or do something else simultaneously. Do what you need to do, and take pride in it.

Cat's CradleTitle ~ Cat’s Cradle
Author ~ Kurt Vonnegut
ISBN ~ 978-0385333481
Publisher ~ Dell Publishing (September 8, 1998)

Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny. A book that left an indelible mark on an entire generation of readers, Cat’s Cradle is one of the twentieth century’s most important works—and Vonnegut at his very best.

Of all the Vonnegut you could possibly read, this is the one that will raise the most questions — in a great way. Jonah, our narrator, wants to write a book about the inventor of the atomic bomb, Dr. Frank Hoenikker.

This book will make you question whether or not there should be a limit to the pursuit of knowledge. And it’ll get you to think about the power of weapons, and how even the most competent people can make mistakes with them. Plus, with all of that science comes the exploration of religion, or the futility of it, really.

dog in the nightTitle ~ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author ~ Mark Haddon
ISBN ~ 978-1400032716
Publisher ~ Vintage (May 18, 2004)

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This book is special because it gives voice to a type of person that often isn’t written about in fiction. That narrator is a 15-year-old boy named Christopher John Francis Boone, and he’s a brilliant mathematician who also happens to suffer from a behavioural disorder. (Some say Asperger’s, others suggest autism, but author Mark Haddon is adamant that it’s not about any one specific disorder.) Either way, this will help you think about prejudices and preconceived notions.

Comment ~ to be reviewed in 2014

100 yearsTitle ~ One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
ISBN ~ 978-0061120091
Publisher ~ Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 30, 2006)

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women — brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul — this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

It is so easy to forget that One Hundred Years of Solitude isn’t just a masterpiece of magical realism. It’s an allegory for colonialism, the human condition, and the political strife in Latin America.

invisible monstersTitle ~ Invisible Monsters
Author ~ Chuck Palahnuik
ISBN ~ 978-0393319293
Publisher ~ W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1999)

Love, betrayal, petty larceny, and high fashion fuel this deliciously comic novel from the author of Fight Club.

She’s a fashion model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden freeway “accident” leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge that she exists. Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from becoming a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better. And that salvation hides in the last places you’ll ever want to look.

white oleanderTitle ~ White Oleander
Author ~ Janet Fitch
ISBN ~ 978-0316284950
Publisher ~ Back Bay Books; Mti edition (May 1, 2000)

Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes-each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned-becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

in cold bloodTitle ~ In Cold Blood
Author ~ Truman Capote
ISBN ~ 978-0679745587
Publisher ~ Vintage; First Edition (February 1, 1994)

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

middlesexTitle ~ Middlesex
Author ~ Jeffrey Eugenides
ISBN ~ 978-0312427733
Publisher ~ Picador; 1st edition (June 5, 2007)

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Comment ~ to be reviewed in 2014.

play itTitle ~ Play It As It Lays
Author ~ Joan Didion
ISBN ~ 978-0374529949
Publisher ~ Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2nd edition (November 15, 2005)

A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, Play It as It Lays captures the mood of an entire generation, the ennui of contemporary society reflected in spare prose that blisters and haunts the reader. Set in a place beyond good and evil-literally in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the barren wastes of the Mojave Desert, but figuratively in the landscape of an arid soul-it remains more than three decades after its original publication a profoundly disturbing novel, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis and stunning in the still-startling intensity of its prose.

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2 thoughts on “10 Books That May, or May Not, Actually Change Your Life

  1. I think that’s a great selection of books!
    I watched the movie ‘The Diving Bell and the Diving Bell’,but have not yet read the book!
    Hmm,Invisible Monsters and Middlesex are from two very great authors and very often I considered buying them,but in the end couldn’t,as I was short on funds.
    As for 100 years of solitude,it’s lying on my shelf and I’ll soon read it! (I read my books by order of purchase)
    Oh,In Cold Blood too looks great!

    • There are a few on there I’m going to attack, but so many more that I didn’t include. I just hope I didn’t sound too hippy by posting this kind of a list.

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