When I say modern, I mean modern-ish. I’m talking books written since Shakespeare, by humans who actually speak the same way we do now-eth. Here are 10 books that have had a big impact on my life, and why.
1. A Fortunate Life, by Albert Facey
Holy crap. This simple but stunning heart-on-his-sleeve, non-pretentious and bullshit-free book will make you fall in love with ol’ Albs (but not in a sexual way, more of a grandfather way). Written in 1981, Albert shares the story of his incredible hardships, the kind most of us could only imagine. A few spoilers: His mother abandoned him, then under the care of his grandmother during The Depression he was sent off to go work for some terribly cruel people before his 9th birthday. As an adult he went to war, and on his return when things should have improved he lost many people he loved dearly.
Yet, as the title implies, he still saw himself as having a fortunate life overall. I remember the first time I read this book, gobbling it up greedily in a couple of days. I saw the whole world a little differently.
2. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
It amazes me with the Holocaust being not all that long ago, that America can end up with a leader like Bonald Brump (I don’t think he deserves the use of his proper name, kind of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series). Did the world learn nothing?
I know this book is highly read in schools, but I still think it’s underrated. What a beautiful, intelligent and insightful young woman Anne Frank was. Her story should be read by everyone.
3. Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I know, I know. You freakin’ hated it! She’s too quirky, bubbly and happy (except for the bit where she wants to die at the start), and in Italy when she reckons she gets a bit fat she’s probably a size the rest of us are currently aspiring to. And hello, who has the money to travel all over the world to fix their depression? Adding to that, she ends up falling in love with some handsome, charming foreign dude and lives happily ever after. (Well, as most of us know she didn’t actually stay with Felipe, but she was with him for a long time and I don’t think the fact they eventually broke up means their relationship wasn’t a wonderful and worthwhile one. Just sayin’.)
But I urge you, EPL haters: read it again without the judgement! I get where you’re coming from, though. I didn’t like it the first time, either. The second time I yelled out “THIS IS MY NEW BIBLE!” (Not that I had an old bible). The book is an amazing spiritual journey, full of heart and soul and wisdom.
I dunno… I just think it’s such a great book if you give it a chance. I’m glad I read it twice. More here.
4. The Happiest Refugee, by Anh Do
Quite simply will change the way you look at refugees, racism and the entire world. One minute you’re laughing, the next you’re crying. It’s a roller coster ride but overall very uplifting. I feel like I’m now part of Anh Do’s family, I hope he’s cool with that.
I can’t recommend this book enough.
5. A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
I must start by saying I friggin’ hated The Power of Now. What a dreary book. I’m sorry Ecks. But I loved A New Earth, even though it basically says the same stuff written in a much less dreary way. In fact, it was incredible. If you don’t mind spiritual books (some people find them offensive, because they like to be offended – go figure), then this is well worth a crack.
6. A Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
Oh, what a blessing that Joan Didion opens up her soul and lets us take off our shoes and stroll on in. She shares the year of her life after her husband suddenly dies at the dinner table, and although it sounds very sad (and of course, in places it is), overall I found the book beautiful and uplifting. I tend not to like books that leave me feeling less than what I was before I read them. This one definitely left me feeling more.
I also found her writing style amazing; I wanted to re-read paragraphs just for the beauty of them. More here.
7. Becoming Cliterate, by Dr Laurie Mintz
I’m going to throw this one in not because it’s really a favourite, but because in a world of easily accessible porn, we really need these kind of books in our bookcases. Why? Because sex education for young men only focuses on disease, rather than pleasure. And yet, the pressure is still on them to be “good in bed” (says society). So where the heck do they go for information? Porn, of course. But porn has been lying to them and women have been lying to them too (just to keep the peace and all that.)
Oddly, the book is written for women, but I think it’s a book which is much more useful for heterosexual men. More here.
8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Ahhh! Ohhhh. (Insert other noises here.) This work of fiction was described to me as “a children’s book for adults”. I wasn’t too excited by that description, but it actually fits. It’s just such an immersive, magical book and opened me up to exploring fiction again after many years of only reading non-fiction. More here.
9. Illusions, by Richard Bach.
Here’s the deal: a mechanic who’s actually a messiah quits being a messiah because his sick of all the flocks of people who want help but are unwilling to help themselves. BEST BOOK EVER. Clearly, this book is fiction. More here.
10. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
A sci-fi war novel told in a non-linear order, with flashes back in time and to another planet. The book takes you deep into the experiences of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier in World War II who is a somewhat hopeless but endearing character. It’s a book you fall into, lose yourself within the pages, and come out changed.
So there you go. I’ll probably stroll over to my bookcase in a minute and see another 3 or 4 books that I should have added, but oh well.
Please share your favourites, too!