A lot of authors claim to write life changing books. I’ve been through my fair share of self-help books, as well as books about positive thinking and books about decoding the minds of men…I’m not usually one to be a killjoy, but none of them were life changing for me. To me, life changing books are the ones that have forced me to challenge my world view a little. This has included literature, real life stories, and biographies. The world of literature is SO vast, I am sure there are many more out there. Still, here are my seven personal favorites:
1. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
My grandma read Brick Lane at the same time as me. If you were to ask her, she wouldn’t agree that it’s one of those life changing books everyone should read. I finished it in my last year of high school as part of an English Literature curriculum. The entire story revolves around the life of a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London to marry a man under an arrangement made by her parents. When she first arrives in London, she speaks two words of English. Following her journey really made me see my country through the eyes of an outsider and awakened me to the challenges women from other cultures can face!
2. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Odd book alert. At first glance, something written by Ray Bradbury doesn’t seem as though it is going to be life changing. However, to my consumerist teenage self, The Martian Chronicles really put my lifestyle into perspective. Over the course of a few short stories, it attempts to depict the outcome of us humans offloading ourselves on Mars after we are done ruining our planet. I don’t want to throw out too many spoilers, but the outcome ain’t pretty. This sci-fi comes with some great political undertones, which I always love.
3. Not without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
My mother recommended Not Without my Daughter to me. It is a real life account of an American woman who marries an Iranian national, before visiting his family with him in his home country. After spending two-weeks there, she soon realizes he has no intention of letting their daughter leave. What’s even worse is that, under Iranian law at the time (I won’t claim to know how Iranian law operates now, it could well be different), she had no legal rights over her daughter. This book tells the story of Betty trying to get her daughter out of Iran. Betty went on to write a book based on the stories of others who faced the same challenges as her in other countries. Until I read this, I had no idea that mothers and fathers could face such a terrifying ordeal.
4. This is Paradise! by Hyok Khang
To the rest of the world, North Korea is this strange spectacle we look in on as the likes of Dennis Rodman trot off there for the odd basketball game. This is Paradise was written by a North Korean defector, who tells the story of life for people inside that secretive place. There are other more gritty books out there, but this one really tackles day-to-day life for people living in the world’s last totalitarian state. I kid you not, there were plenty of tears as I read this. Learning the ins and outs of the North Korean regime really does feel like you are reading a less exciting version of The Hunger Games.
5. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Yeah, this one most likely seems quite odd for a grown up to cite. When I read this book as a kid, it influenced me to stop obsessing over being a Barbie and made me want to be a super brainy child prodigy. I never did manage to recite the times tables into the thousands or throw things at people using my eyes. I did, however, realize that there are way more assets a girl can have than being pretty. Another life changing effect of this book was the way it pushed me into loving Roald Dahl in general!
6. A Labour of Love by Steve Humphries and Pamela Gordon
A Labour of Love is a lot like ‘Call the Midwife’, but from the (far more candid) parents’ perspective. It basically documents oral histories of parenthood from 1900 to 1950 in Britain. A lot of the challenges we faced here were very similar in the U.S. etc, primarily due to the two world wars we were all a part of! Some of the stories are sad, especially those surrounding women’s liberation and birth! The more you read, the harder it is to believe that our grandmothers went through some of these things!
7. Healthy Appetite by Gordon Ramsay
He’s Scottish with a posh English accent, he swears a lot, and he is absolutely terrifying. Still, Gordon Ramsay is also the guy who clarified what I have long suspected but I didn’t want to admit: diets do not work long-term. Okay, so that is pretty obvious. However, Healthy Appetite teaches you how to have an amazing relationship with good and ‘bad’ food. It may not work for everyone, but for me it helped me balance my approach to eating.
I guess what makes a life changing book is absolutely subjective. That’s why I am really keen for you all to let me know what yours are! I love reading, so the more I can pack on to my Kindle, the better. Feel free to share literature, self-help (yes, even those), bios…whatever!