Author Topic: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.  (Read 10545 times)

wealthviahealth

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I have been on a big reading kick for the past 2 years but most of the books I have been reading have been the in categories of
investing, entrepreneurship, health, and business.

I am just now starting to get comfortable with the idea of carving time out to read fiction ( primarily before bed, to drowned out brain chatter)
and am looking for suggestions.

What fiction books have you read that you feel have greatly increased your knowledge, broadened your world view, inspired positive change,
or have made you a more interesting person to talk to at cocktail parties, etc..

Just got my first kindle and look forward to putting it to action with your suggestions. ( Bonus Q: How many books do you normally read at once?)

midweststache

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I grew up in a church, but would consider myself agnostic, so Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Story of Biff, Jesus's Childhood Friend has always stuck with me as a book worth reading. Is it pretty silly? Yup. But it's also a fascinating fictionalization of the Christ story and puts some important things (adolescence, humor, etc) into the story. It's my number one book recommendation to those not easily offended.

Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, My Ishmael, and The Story of B are probably too didactic to be considered fiction, but they're shelved that way so I'll throw them in. In Ishmael a telepathic gorilla explains to his human discipline (Quinn recognizes the inherent ridiculousness in this premise) of how things came to be. It's a pretty great example of how we narrativize the world and consider it truth.

I just finished up a Kindle plod through some science fiction (if that's you're thing) and I really liked Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.

Generally speaking, Margaret Atwood's Orxy and Crake. Toni Morrison's Tar Baby. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (although this is a memoir, I had to include it).

I'm usually only into one fiction book at a time, but am plodding through numerous nonfiction texts for my PhD.

Kriegsspiel

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I thought these were all very good.

Traveller, The Dark River, and The Golden City, by John Twelve Hawks

Daemon, Freedom, and Kill Decision, by Suarez

Confederacy of Dunces by Toole

Alas, Babylon by Frank

Gates of Fire by Pressfield

1984 and Animal Farm, by Orwell

Brave New World by Huxley

Atlas Shrugged by Rand

The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and The Hobbit, by Tolkien

All Quiet On The Western Front by Remarque

Dune by Herbert

Starship Troopers by Heinlein

All of the books in the Ender's Game universe, by Card

For Whom The Bell Tolls by Hemingway

Cryptonomicon and Anathema, by Stevenson

A Song of Fire And Ice/Game of Thrones by Martin

The Foundation series, by Asimov


thedayisbrave

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

A somewhat weird one, but another for me is My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares.  I've read and re-read it at crucial times in my life to try to get a grip on if I truly believe in what the book is about... reincarnation/past lives.  What's odd is the main guy character in the book is named Daniel... I believe it was a week or two after the second time I re-read it that I met and start dating my first boyfriend... named Daniel.  Coincidence or not? That's up to you :)

Joan-eh?

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I did not grow up in a church and i think Lamb is brilliant! Not many books have me gahaffing (is that a word) aloud. Soooo funny! Witty! Insightful! It's available on audiobook too, but the book is better. Our family copy is almost in ruins, it takes an elastic to put it back on the shelf.  (I wish Moore would write another one just as good)

Love Ishmael too!

Actually, great reading list midweststache. Even Margaret Atwood! Love her environmental work!

I could add 100 books - but how about this... Because it's unexpectedly good.  There are great (true) science fiction short stories that I love! The penguin omnibus of short fiction is great. (Edited by alldis)  One story a night! But be careful they are so clever, you can't stop thinking of them!

Linette

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Terry Pratchett, Disc World novels

Fine black humor and when you figure out all the references it's even funnier. Gives you a different view of your environment.
 
Although I have to admit I usually don't get all the play on words due to not being a native English speaker.


intirb

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Terry Pratchett, Disc World novels

+1.  Or if you're more of a sci-fi person, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Master and Margarita by Bulgakov is probably my favorite novel of all time - absolutely fantastic in the literal sense.  Also, Catch-22 by Heller.

All these books are satire, with varying degree of dryness.  On a more serious note, I recommend Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is only loosely fiction and only nominally about either Zen or motorcycles.  It fits in really well with the mustachian ethos.

Future Lazy

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Starship Troopers by Heinlein

+1 to this suggestion. Starship Troopers was actually a book written by Heinlein for teenagers, which makes it a short/quick easy read (imo). I would also recommend you seek out some of his more adult novels, like Stranger In A Strange Land and Time Enough For Love.

Likewise, Hyperion, The Fall Of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise Of Endymion by Dan Simmons are a very good science fiction series.

Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 are good sci-fi classics by Ray Bradbury that will probably tickle your mustachian fancy.

Also going to reccomend Pygmy, Choke, Haunted, Invisible Monsters and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - All very weird, so... Proceed cautiously. :0

If you like philosophy and mythology, I would look into Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

If you like children's stories, I just picked up a copy of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition that I've liked so far. Partial to this version because it's translated from texts that predate the changes made to the stories to make them more mainstream/have monotheistic religious aspects/better for kids/less scary.

Good luck, OP!

ruthiegirl

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Catch 22

The River Why

I also limped through Gravity's Rainbow.  Not sure if it made me smarter, but I stuck with it to the end.  I still think about that book and it has been 20 years. 

I thought of another.  The Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 07:53:11 PM by ruthiegirl »

Spork

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I loved Lamb and have started reading his other books.  They are all enjoyable, but maybe not as much as Lamb. 

Others I've loved:
* Atlas Shrugged.  You'll either love it or burst into a rage and hate it.  I was the former.  I also loved Anthem -- which will take you only an hour or two to read. 
* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.  Yes, it is silly.  But it is more than that.  (If you like Lamb -- this is the same type of humor/insight.
* Shop Class as Soulcraft - Okay, I cheated.  This isn't fiction.  I found there some things I disagreed with philosophically, but these were overwhelmed by the things I agreed with.  If you are one with a mustache...  I think you might like it.

homehandymum

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2015, 11:35:53 PM »
+1 to Terry Pratchett and Orson Scott Card.

I wasn't impressed by Ishmael, I have to say.  If the concepts are new to you, then they're mindblowing, but the whole book is a giant strawman argument :)

I really like historical mystery fiction as a genre, and recommend Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholemew series.  There's nothing like being immersed in medieval times to bring perspective to the 'exploding volcano of wastefulness' of modern life.

lakemom

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2015, 06:11:48 AM »
Have you considered Biographies?  That's about all my husband reads, and I've read many of them too.  You can hit all kinds of information that way!  For dh its because he always feels like he's "wasting his time" if he read fiction but he loves to read.  If you are outdoorsy and like humor a family favorite author for us is Patrick McManus.  His books are loved by both dh and I and all of our kids from the 8yo on up.

Joan-eh?

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2015, 08:22:34 AM »
Have you considered Biographies?  That's about all my husband reads, and I've read many of them too.  You can hit all kinds of information that way!  For dh its because he always feels like he's "wasting his time" if he read fiction but he loves to read.  If you are outdoorsy and like humor a family favorite author for us is Patrick McManus.  His books are loved by both dh and I and all of our kids from the 8yo on up.

Warren Buffet's Snowball gets you a biography, finances and the frugal lifestyle!  It's 1000 pages or so, but it was so good I read it in 4 days.

Metta

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2015, 08:36:25 AM »
One of my favorites (funny and mustachian):  Christopher Buckley's: God Is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth

This comes under the category of made me smarter and more skeptical.

lifejoy

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The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

takeahike

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2015, 09:53:27 AM »
I thought these were all very good.

Confederacy of Dunces by Toole

COD is the funniest book I've ever read!

Anna Karenina, War and Peace by Tolstoy (I'm obsessed.) --these you can find free

Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky) -- can find free

Catch 22 (Heller)-- will cost ya on a kindle

I really enjoy books that have quirky and memorable human characters.. such as in Confederacy of Dunces and Catch 22..

The Russian novels are meaty, but you will never look at people or the world in the same way. Tolstoy is capable of developing a character so richly, that you will live and breathe them.

My husband's favourite book is "I Know this Much is True" (Lamb) DH read this during a time that his first marriage was falling apart and during a time that he felt ostracized for leaving a particular church.

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
« Last Edit: January 04, 2015, 10:05:19 AM by Loren »

Eristheunorganized

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2015, 10:37:47 AM »
The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Not for the easily offended, it is the strangest book you will ever read.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2015, 11:02:51 AM »
Medieval who-dun-it - Ellis Peters' series about Brother Cadfael, a Welsh crusader who joins a monastery near Shrewsbury (not so odd in the context of the times).
 
SF/regency romance/political commentary - A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold.  It is a fun romp and then there are zingers.

deborah

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2015, 11:38:40 AM »
John Scalzi - Lock In, Old Man's War, Red Shirts and the one about aliens visiting earth - all challenge conventional views of things like aging, disability...

DeltaBond

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2015, 11:48:09 AM »
Way of the Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
Yaqui Way of Knowledge - Carlos Castaneda
Mutant Message Down Under - Marlo Morgan
Dark Dance - Tantith Lee
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
English Language for Students of Russian - yeah, sounds odd, but understanding my own language better has made my life so much easier, and helped me get numerous promotions as an adjudicator in my job.

madgeylou

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2015, 12:21:04 PM »
Island by Aldous Huxley. This is my favorite book of all time -- written 30-odd years after Brave New World, it details Huxley's ideas about utopia, and how a human society could be structured to support the development and happiness of the humans living in it. (Shocking idea, right?)

This yeah I also got into the works of Octavia Butler, and she is killing me (in the best possible way). So far I have adored everything I read by her (Kindred, the Xenogenesis trilogy, and the Parable books) but I think Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents have made me feel like doors to new places have been revealed inside my brain. I'm trying to pace myself because she died tragically young and I've already read half of her books and I dread the day when I will have read them all and have no new Butler worlds to read about,

lizzie

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2015, 12:22:14 PM »
Master and Commander (and all the books in the Aubrey/Maturin series) by Patrick O'Brian. Historical fiction about the naval side of the Napoleonic wars. Don't think of the series as just "genre" fiction, though. The writing is superb, O'Brian's depth and breadth of knowledge about everything from naval customs to natural history brings a whole world vividly to life, and his insights into human nature are amazing and moving. If I were stranded on a desert island I could be happy forever with these 20 books. (Plus they'd likely be useful in figuring out how to survive!)

Happy in CA

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #22 on: January 04, 2015, 12:27:09 PM »
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig: the essence of quality.

A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe:  stoicism and the folly of ego based on money.  Loses steam at the end, mostly hilarious.

1984, George Orwell:  one man's fight against big brother.

"The Dead" (a short story from Dubliners), James Joyce:  mastery of language building to an emotional climax.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy:  It's the journey, not the destination.

NinetyFour

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2015, 12:34:28 PM »
Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

The Outlander, Gil Adamson

Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

The Assistant, Bernard Malamud

Night, Elie Wiesel

anything by William Trevor

The Odyssey, Homer

Plainsong, Kent Haruf

My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok

The Waterworks, E. L. Doctorow

Just thinking about this makes me want to read them all again!

Joan-eh?

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2015, 12:56:10 PM »
and makes me think that I need to retire today, so that I can read everyone's list!

Grateful Stache

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2015, 01:01:09 PM »
Anything by Kurt Vonnegut.

rubybeth

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2015, 03:43:51 PM »
I read approximately one book a week, mostly fiction. This ends up being about 50 books a year, sometimes more, sometimes less. I especially enjoy mysteries, because I enjoy puzzles and figuring out who committed the crime. There's evidence that reading fiction makes you more empathetic, among other benefits, like being a great stress reducer. I read at breakfast, in the evening, and always before going to sleep. I work in a library, so have extremely easy access to just about anything I want for the low price of $0 (and maybe having to wait a bit for the newest books).

Some I've especially enjoyed over the past few years:
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell (kind of like Jane Austen, but different)
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (nom de plume of JK Rowling for her private investigator series)
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (just read it this year)
the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan
Midnight Riot (UK title Rivers of London) by Ben Aaronovitch -first in a series, looking forward to reading more in this series

And one my husband really liked (I haven't read it yet):
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (not to be confused with '50 Shades of Gray')

auntie_betty

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2015, 04:01:32 PM »
Anything by Steinbeck, especially Grapes of Wrath.

Animal Farm and 1984.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Ashamed to say I don't like Margaret Attwood and I've never read Terry Pratchett.

For modern crime Jeffrey Deaver is ace and Harlan Coben is entertaining (I have a crush on Win she says, blushingly, I like 'complicated' men ;) )

EDSMedS

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2015, 08:18:30 AM »
The Castle; The Trial; Amerika; The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Iron Heel - Jack London
Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne
California - Edan Lepucki
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

leostrauss

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2015, 09:47:02 AM »
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood   

Very powerful novel illustrating the dangers of religious extremism and a patriarchal society. Not a cheerful read, however.

Gilead1986

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2015, 09:58:18 AM »
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
The Redwall series by Brian Jacqus
The Change series by S.M. Stirling

Dr. Doom

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #31 on: January 08, 2015, 10:07:27 AM »
Tons.  But I'll list just one here:

Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

Setting:  US 1960s Suburbia
Topic:  How to find happiness in a world dominated by conformity and status seekers

The main character and his wife initially reject present-day society and strive instead to be their own unique individuals -- to travel internationally, to live a freer and more fulfilling life than their parents who were in business for their entire existences and seemed to be joyless and generally unhappy as they trundled through the script of life. The male protagonist is idealistic and feels that there's a better way to spend his fourscore and ten years on planet earth than sitting in an office during the day and buying crap for his home at night, which neither him nor his wife need.

So the two of them make plans to move to France, to become teachers and live on a shoestring budget, for the sake of escaping the stultifying fate of his parents and neighbors.  Much of the drama is centered around their difficulty in actually executing these plans, i.e. it all sounds great in theory, but the implementation proves challenging.

Sound similar to anything we talk about on these boards? 

+a million to Confederacy of Dunces.  Amazing book.  I laugh and think of cats every time I see a hot-dog stand with a bun compartment.


NeuroPlastic

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #32 on: January 08, 2015, 10:44:44 AM »
The Castle; The Trial; Amerika; The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Iron Heel - Jack London
Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne
California - Edan Lepucki
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

I've gotten half-way through The Castle at least a dozen times, and always been confounded in my efforts to reach the end.

EDSMedS

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #33 on: January 08, 2015, 11:05:48 AM »
The Castle; The Trial; Amerika; The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Iron Heel - Jack London
Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne
California - Edan Lepucki
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

I've gotten half-way through The Castle at least a dozen times, and always been confounded in my efforts to reach the end.

LOL!  I bet that would make Franz laugh hysterically!!!  Very appropriate.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #34 on: January 08, 2015, 11:10:44 AM »
"Snow Crash" and "Diamond Age (Or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer)" - Neal Stephenson, jam-packed full of awesome futuristic ideas I never would have thought on my own.  Look up in Wikipedia, I can't do them justice trying to summarize.  Took me a while to warm up to his fast-paced style, but worth the learning curve. 

Snow Crash can be found free online (such as here:  http://hell.pl/agnus/anglistyka/2211/Neal%20Stephenson%20-%20Snow%20Crash.pdf)

And thanks to others for reading suggestions and info, variety is the spice of life.

sheepstache

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #35 on: January 08, 2015, 11:13:35 AM »
The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Interesting themes about how nature and fate are indifferent to us. No one is looking out for you except you. But it's not a downer. I suppose there's also a theme that life is about adventure more so than predictable plans. And that people who bring canned food on Yukon expeditions are stupid.

That one's easy to get on Kindle because it's public domain.

Honestly if you want to be more interesting at cocktail parties, pop non-fiction might be better. Gives you little factoids you can drop into conversation. Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Charles Mann's 1491, etc.

I'm probably reading 2-3 books actively but it's easy for me to put books down and pick them up again so in terms of books I'm in the middle of but haven't picked up in over a month, it might be 15. An ereader has only made this worse (/better).

The Castle; The Trial; Amerika; The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Iron Heel - Jack London
Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne
California - Edan Lepucki
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

I've gotten half-way through The Castle at least a dozen times, and always been confounded in my efforts to reach the end.

Well so was K if you think about. Real form fits function sorta thing.

edit: ha just saw someone saw this too

auntie_betty

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #36 on: January 08, 2015, 10:18:11 PM »


Quote
I've gotten half-way through The Castle at least a dozen times, and always been confounded in my efforts to reach the end.

I started Moby Dick. Got as far as them setting sail. Worked out the next chapter wasn't going to say 'The whale sank the boat. They're all dead'. Ditched it.

Similar reaction to We Need to Talk About Kevin. Wish he'd turned the gun on his mother as well so she couldn't write the stupid book. Put it in the garbage on a plane flights so no-one else would have to suffer it (had cost me 50p from a charity shop).

Tess of the D'Ubervilles took me 20 years to finish. Wish I hadn't bothered.


shelivesthedream

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #37 on: January 09, 2015, 12:07:52 PM »
So many good suggestions!

The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables are my two suggestions that haven't been mentioned before. They are long but will change your life. TCOMC in particular is a cracking read - really exciting. And Les Mis has lulls, but it's really thrilling at times as you see all the narrative three ads coming together.

dantownehall

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #38 on: January 09, 2015, 02:02:14 PM »
-Anna Karenina
-The Brothers Karamazov
-The Good Earth

mlejw6

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #39 on: January 09, 2015, 03:10:56 PM »
++ to previous suggestions:
anything by Vonnegut
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Catch-22
Ender's Game

Also, if you've never read them, I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle.

And, if you can find it, the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. It's gothic fantasy, and the writing is the most brilliant, comic, dark writing I've ever read. It makes me wish I could write worth a damn.

OnTheMoney

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #40 on: January 09, 2015, 09:14:59 PM »
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach

It sounds like a religious book but in my opinion it's actually quite the opposite.

I'd recommend it to anyone who has ever pondered the nature of life, death, the universe and everything.

Happy reading!

justajane

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Re: Fiction books that have made you "smarter" or greatly impacted your life.
« Reply #41 on: January 10, 2015, 07:36:44 AM »
Middlemarch by George Eliot - I've read it three times and still got something new out of it each time.

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrics - the main character is a bridge in the former Yugoslavia and it traces its history (and the people who lived near it) for centuries. It's very moving

War and Peace - I've read it twice and plan to read it again in the next decade. Anna Karenina is technically a better novel (read that twice too), but there's something so grand about War and Peace that it affected me more.

Gone with the Wind - I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but I thought it was incredible when I finally got to it a few years ago and I couldn't put it down.