Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Someone recently asked me if I have a favorite book. It's an impossible question to answer. Oftentimes, it's not completely about the book itself, it's more about the reader. The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes is a book that hit me at the perfect moment in my life. As a teenager, I discovered art history, more specifically art of the 20th century. In this survey of modern art, Hughes presents a fascinating scope and sequence of images, reflecting not just the history of art, but also the history of 20th century in general. It was this book which informed the images I later painted and inspired me to earn a degree in art history.
If you have a book which transformed your life, I'd love to hear about it.


pve design said...

Wow, food for thought, I think that it would be very hard for me to note one book, but I really loved "Charlotte's Web!"

Nadine @ BDG said...

a great choice! a lovely way to introduce life's realities to children.

Staci said...

I completely agree with you about it being more about the reader than the book itself. As a pre-teen, "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" was high on the list. But that may be because I was a tweleve year old girl.
Now if you asked, I don't think I'd be able to give a favorite either. For graduation my Hebrew School Principal gave me a beautiful book of Women in Judaism--it's a book containing the biblical stories on the right and medieval paintings of the women on the left...the author recenly passed away and there are very few copies still on the shelfs. Though it's not a novel, it's sentimental and a favorite nonetheless.

But I'd read anything once..twice if I really like it.

And, of course, "Celtic Cross," "Celtic Knot," and "Searching for Moongirl" taught me many lessons I've carried with me over the years :)

Spencer said...

This is such a hard choice, but I would have to say Requiem For a Dream. This book was so unbelievably heart wrenching. It made me cry, when it shows these people, I didn't even know, not in control over their own lives.
As their lives spiraled out of control it was difficult to tear away from the completely raw narrative of Selby. He is by far the best writer I have ever read. His books cause so much emotion.
He can make you cry, smile, laugh, cry some more and pretty much ruin the power in his books have changed my life forever.

So yea Requiem for a Dream wins, with V for Vendetta in a close second.

The Infamous JSiegs said...

It would be too difficult to select one favorite, so I'll list the three books I like the most.
1. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
I like to think of myself as a free thinker, or at least someone who is very pensive. This book really brought to many attention, so many different new arenas for thought.
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
For someone who enjoys finding parallels in literature, I had a field day with this book. It was a pleasure to read a story told by a person who sees society as it really is.
3. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
No explanation needed.

Jesse Neuman said...

Rohinton Mistry's book "A Fine Balance" had that effect on me. One of my all time favorites--it chronicles several fictional characters in a shockingly not-so-fictional India, circle the religious riots and murders in the 1970's. It's the kind of story that you keep praying won't get any worse (and of course it always does) but at the same time you can't help but smile at the resiliency of the characters. It had a profound impact on my perspective on fairness, freedom, luck and luxury in our lives, and even more provided a powerful framework for understanding the strength of the human spirit.

I actually have a list of favorite books in by blog queue which I'm going to post now...thanks N!

Nikko Price said...

I would have to say George Orwell's 1984. Big Brother and the idea of standing up for what you believe in truly changed the way I look at life. Winston challenges authority, even though his acts wouldn't change the dystopian society in which he lives.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and An Inconvenient Truth are also among the best in my opinion.

Although Thurston Clarke's Last Campaign does not rank among the best, its message has instilled in me a different outlook on politics and life. RFK's speeches about violence and the injustice in the world are just as germane to our lives today as they were to people's lives in the 1960s. Also, his true consideration for those who suffer in America really hits home.

Nadine @ BDG said...

Wow-- thanks for such thoughtful and thought-provoking posts!

jennpal said...

Jane Eyre is my "life-changing" book. It was not only the first real book I ever actually read (as I often managed to somehow avoid reading during my Junior High & High School Years), but it was my introduction to feminism (believe it or not). I was blown away by how subtle and yet, how bold Charlotte Bronte was in her feelings about women's rights. I still think of the book often...

Nadine @ BDG said...

I think it's amazing that sisters would discover a love of literature through the very same book, written by one of a pair of literary sisters. Coincidence? I think not.

Goji said...


Tom Judson said...

Here’s a sort of oddball choice, but it really was a life-changer: Dominick Dunne’s “Another City Not My Own,” a roman-a-clef about Dunne’s covering the O.J. Simpson trial. I read it a couple of years after my husband died of AIDS as I passed the days lying on my couch, depressed and lethargic. In the book Dunne recounts his own travails in the 1970s and how after several personal and professional setbacks (he was a successful movie producer in Hollywood) he wound up broke and friendless living alone in a little cabin on the Oregon coast. He pulled together his last bit of willpower, sat down and wrote “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” which changed his fortunes. I figured if someone in Dunne’s position could endure much more than I had and still keep plugging away there was no reason I couldn’t, too. So I got off the couch and drove to S.F. beginning a chain of events that resulted in a wonderful and unexpected 10 years.

Nadine @ BDG said...

. . . and turned it into a one man show! xo

James said...

First, I'd have to say the Bible, focusing mainly on the Gospels.
Second, Martin Heidegger's Origin of the Work of Art introduced me to the concept that a work of art is a manifestation of the divine.