Books that Changed My Perspective
It's no secret that I'm something of a book worm, but my English degree (which feels like forever ago despite the fact that I graduated a little over a year ago!) has helped me encounter some novels that I probably otherwise wouldn't have even glanced at in a bookshop. I thought I'd take some time to share a small selection of books that left a lasting impression on me and changed the way I think, in the hope that some of you will pick them up and have the same experience.
George Orwell, 1984 (1949) - A 20th Century classic if there ever was one. To me this novel is one of the greatest works in existence. Not because of it's literary prowess (the language is fairly simple and easy to understand, for good reason), but because of its revolutionary content. The first time I sat down to read this I thought I was in for a boring few hours, but I quickly became absolutely hooked. The story itself is exciting and sinister, as Winston Smith quietly rebels against a futuristic totalitarian regime and ends up exposed, captured and tortured. The work Orwell puts into constructing this future is astounding and really made me think about the government, the reliability of information and just how much we are watched and monitored. I think we could all use a wakeup call where that's concerned. This is a must read for everyone ever.
Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (1958) - If you're an Arctic Monkeys fan you'll have already heard a direct quote from this 1950s classic. The album 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' quotes protagonist Arthur Seaton directly. And rightly so. This book explores the humdrum existence of a northern factory worker in a very working class Britain. The novel is widely cited as being part of the 'Angry Young Men' movement of the 50s and is a tale of affairs, fist fights and drunken shenanigans. For the most part it's really entertaining and quite funny, but it is also touching in it's portrayal of a working class divided by submissiveness and anger, as well as the plight of the women of this world. If you have grandparents who were young adults in this era this might make you see them in a whole new light.
Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) - This book eventually became the cult classic film Blade Runner and is one of the most popular sci-fi novels of all time. It's kind of hard to sum up the plot without explaining the whole thing but it really made me think about our relationship with technology and the way television, phones etc have turned us into zombies. It's a fairly short book and well worth a read on the train to work!
Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991) - If you've never read Bret Easton Ellis before, be prepared. This is not material for the faint of heart. This novel is one of my all time favourites and is very heavy going but makes some hard hitting points about modern life that make it totally worth trudging through. If you've seen the watered-down screen adaptation starring Christian Bale you'll be familiar with his character, Patrick Bateman. Patrick is a sophisticated, affluent wall street psychopath, who adores designer products, is rather off the rails and loves nothing more than to chop up the odd prostitute on the weekend while high on cocaine. Yep. You heard me right. It isn't an easy read but American Psycho presents an amazing criticism of the accelerated lifestyle of the American professional and the relationship between sex, drugs and violence. Again, not for the faint hearted!
Which books have left a lasting impression on you?