This week’s question comes from Jackie at Farm Lane Books Blog who asked:
Which book has changed your opinion of a subject, making you look at something in a whole new light?
This was a hard one to answer! In looking over the books I’ve read in LibraryThing, these were the ones that jumped out at me for various reasons.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri changed my opinion about short stories. Before reading this collection of short stories, I was NOT a big fan of the form. I found them unsatisfying and unfufilling (with the exception of Dorothy Parker). Then I read Lahiri’s short stories, and I saw what was possible with the genre. Her stories felt complete and whole and satisfying. I never felt like I wanted more. Lahiri has a real talent for including all that is necessary and no more, and her writing is delicate, beautiful and strong all at the same time. She made me want to give short stories another chance!
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner changed my opinion that books about economics were boring. After suffering through the driest courses on economics ever presented during college, I was permanently turned off to reading about economics (or so I thought). Then I took a chance on this book and realized that it is all in the presentation. This fascinating and controversial book held my attention from start to finish … and I’m planning on reading the follow-up, Superfreakonomics, in the next few months.
The Economist Book of Obituaries by Kenneth Colquhoun and Anne Wroe and The Dead Beat by Marilyn Johnson made me look at obituaries in a whole new light. I never gave much thought to the literary value of obituaries until I read Johnson’s book, which examines the world of obituary writing and the true “art” form it can become. This led me to read the “creme de la creme” of obit writing in The Economist book. In the right hands, an obituary can become sly social commentary, comedy, creativity unleashed, and an arbiter of historical significance.
Bill Bryson changed my opinion about non-fiction writing. I wasn’t always a big fan of non-fiction until I read Bill Bryson. Bryson writes with such wit, joy, creativity and verve that he made me willing to follow him anywhere he wants to go (whether on a trip down the Appalachian Trail or exploring science or examining how the English language evolved). Bryson makes learning fun …. and if he was in charge of writing all textbooks for schools, kids would look forward to learning about any subject. Whenever someone tells me, “I don’t like non-fiction,” I ask them “Well, have you read Bill Bryson? If not, give him a try. I pretty much guarantee he will change your mind about reading non-fiction.” After discovering Bryson, I became open to other non-fiction writers that have mastered the art of “edutainment” such as A.J. Jacobs and Mary Roach. I’m always on the lookout for other writers in this vein. Any suggestions for me?
So how about you? Have any books changed your opinion about a subject, genre or type of writing?