5 Life-Changing Books
As a reader, I have never underestimated the power of the written word to open people’s eyes and change their way of seeing the world.
How can a book do that? The process of reading is something so profound and personal that it is impossible to predict the way it will affect us: It could be that the book gives us a piece of advice we need at that very moment, or makes us see a situation from a different point of view, or presents us a character that we can relate to, or even expresses some thoughts of ours that we had never been able to put into words. The truth is that every time we read, we do it from our own life experiences, our expectations, and our values.
I am aware that the books I have selected may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I included them for a quality they have in common: They are a challenge. The following books, each on its own time, have changed the way I see the world, my life and myself. They have also changed profoundly the way I read and interpret all the other books, even those I love. They have made me sharper and more critical of the world I see, but they have also made me remember all the things in it that I am grateful for.
Please, proceed with an open mind.
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
In her most celebrated work, Ayn Rand presents an allegory of her philosophy, the Objectivism. Set in a dystopic future, where the world is in the edge of economic crisis, many of the most prominent businessmen, the ones that hold the responsibility for the principal industries of the United States begin to disappear mysteriously. Through our protagonist, Dagny Taggart, and other captivating characters, we get to see every step in the destruction of the world as we know it, all staged by a man who swore he would stop the motor that moves it. A story to make us reflex about the importance of values, and the consequences that the lack of them can have in our surroundings.
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Unlike all the others in the list “His dark materials” belongs to the fantasy genre. There is a world in which the souls of its inhabitants are not inside of them, but walking by their side in the form of an animal. This is the world where Phillip Pullman’s trilogy begins, though not the only one will we get to visit through the story. Despite being a book directed to an infant public, its notorious criticism towards the Church and the Catholicism in general has made it quite controversial. It does not only questions certain aspects of religion, such as life before death and the image of God as superior and omnipotent, but also comes to the extent of contemplating the possibility of destroying Him. Science and religion, love and hate, faith and reason are mixed and defied in this novel.
1984 - George Orwell
This story is set in an undeterminated future when the world is divided into three big states. All the inhabitants have to follow the rules imposed by the "Party” an entity whose power is absolute, and which is headed by the “Big Brother”, who nobody has ever seen in person, but everyone venerates. Any discontent from part of the citizens is considered a crime and all sorts of basic things are also prohibited to prevent people to think by themselves. Winston Smith, a secret opponent of the system, eventually starts to transgress all those rules he has always hated. The troubles and dangers the character is willing to go through for the sake of feeling human are as inspiring as heartbreaking. I have to warn you: The story is cruel, but I think it transmits through its pages a message of hope that not many books are capable of sharing. It will make you wonder about life, that is for sure.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Though the topics of this book are very much related to the ones “1984” presents, Aldous Huxley gives us a different insight, dealing with science in a way Orwell does not. In this world, people are not born in families but produced and prepared for life in laboratories. Society is composed of five castes: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Belonging to any caste does not depend on you, but on the conditioning, you have received. While Alphas and Betas are conditioned to have jobs and a good life, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are simply produced as workers. The members of each caste are conditioned to love who they are and mistrust the ones from other groups. Everybody is completely happy, but for the times that they are feeling a little down, they have the “Soma”, a drug that takes the unhappiness away. The central characters of this story are an Alpha who is unhappy with his life, and a man who was born in a savage territory, and therefore, has not been conditioned. The crudeness of the story-telling can be disturbing and terrifying at times. It scared me to death when I first read it, but it has improved my way of thinking a great deal.
Farhenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Guy Montag is a firefighter. However, his work does not consist of extinguishing the fire, but on creating it. In a society where books are prohibited, the firefighter's job is to find the illegal pieces and to burn them. Montag is satisfied with his way of living, until the moment when, in the middle of a fire, he steals a book. His acquisition will open a new world for him, and make him wonder about the reasons for the prohibition and the real danger behind his actions. Although “Fahrenheit 451” is considered science fiction, I would describe it as a book about books. Ray Bradbury’s way of speaking about them, the place he gives to them in the story is of enormous beauty. An option especially touching for book lovers.
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