Name a book that changed your life.
Another one suited to this blog that I couldn’t not answer it. This has given me a lot of pause for thought but I’m not sure if any one book has changed my life so profoundly as to give it that much credit. Many books force me to reassess my world-view but these in particular have fundamentally forced me to change how I see the world:
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde – helped me identify bad writing in my own work better than any critique or comment on any individual piece of my own work ever could. Within the story is a humorous look at bad characters, dead-end plots, cliché story-lines and ideas waiting to be born.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond – Many archaeology books look at the rise or the pinnacle of complex civilisation but this one explores how they fail, usually at the hands of poor decision making on behalf of the people or the leadership. It also highlights how humans go for the irrational option, how we would rather sacrifice livestock or build another temple than make small and fundamental changes to how we live in order to save ourselves. There is a stark warning for the naysayers of climate change as we blunder blindly into the same trap all over again.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov. A dense book to say the least but one that puts into fiction form human civilisation’s cycle of rise, peak and decline. The novel (which is really a series of continuous short stories) tackles the slow decay of the Galactic Empire and how scientists attempt to preserve the knowledge its citizens have accumulated and break the empire up so that it could come together again in the future. Looking back, I can’t help feeling that it is a direct challenge to the general ideology of Exceptionalism and how it inevitably leads to the downfall of dominant nations without reform to halt the decline.