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 Post subject: Books that made you who you are/most challenging books
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 7:47 am 
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You know the one I'm talking about. When you finished it, you felt like you had summited Mt. Everest.

For me, it was probably Volume 1 of Capital by Karl Marx. Holy shiitake it was hard. Over 1,000 pages and dry as fork. Even though I was listening to an iTunes course as a companion piece, I understood only about 25 percent of the book and retained about zero. So it was probably a waste of time. But I'm still proud to have trudged through it!

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How about you? What have your big accomplishments as a reader been?


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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:09 am 
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Mine was 'First Manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty' by Antonin Artaud, contained within the first volume of collected works

I was writing my thesis on it's relevance to modern theatre and there was one concept that I struggled with throughout my research, which was the 'terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us.' I covered five productions within my thesis, one per chapter, and was on my way to see the final one (A rare one-off performance by Sankai Juku, on the other side of London to where I lived at the time.) and a tube strike was called for that day. If I didn't see the show I lost material for one fifth of my document and as I waited at a crowded bus stop I finally understood the terrible and necessary cruelty the tube strike had exercised against me.

I also forced myself through 'American Psycho' but thought it was drivel.


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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:41 am 
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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:48 am 
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Probably a Dostoyevsky.


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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:58 am 
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I guess it depends on what you mean by challenging.

My biggest accomplishment as a reader was figuring out that if I wasn't connecting with the material, it wasn't necessarily that I wasn't trying hard enough or wasn't smart enough. It could be a bad translation (Heidegger makes sense to me when I read it in German but not in English), it could be that the writer isn't writing clearly, their style has shifted (Tom Robbins: love him pre-Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and can't stand him after), I don't connect with the material, or that I'm not the target audience (Bret Easton Ellis) or that I just don't like it even though everyone else does (God of Small Things). Either way, I don't wrestle texts anymore. The world is full of great books, and life is too short to fiddle with something you don't enjoy.

I love Haruki Murakami and Rohinton Mistry and both of their books touch something in me that made me cry. That was painful and emotionally challenging, but very cathartic. They are not intellectually difficult to understand because the writers (and Murakami's translator Alfred Birnbaum I think) are amazing and very clear. Rohinton Mistry makes the entire complicated and convoluted history of India so easy to understand. Its better than any history book I've read on the subject.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:11 am 
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Leibniz. I kept falling asleep.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:21 am 
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War and Peace. I was not impressed.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:24 am 
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War and Peace. I was not impressed.


Translations of the Russians make such a huge difference. You might still hate it though. I loathed Anna Karenina until I read a newer translation than the moldy old a penguin classics version. Ditto a Dostoyevsky or two. Now Crime and a punishment is one of my favorite books.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:28 am 
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I remember reading Crime and Punishment and enjoying it.

I also agree that life is too short to read a book you don't enjoy but I've had a few times I've pushed through a book for certain reasons. Other books, I'd drop in a second.

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 Post subject: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:51 am 
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What are the non-fiction books that have really shaken you up, changed you, and helped form your world view?

When it comes to animals, it's really easy to trace all my thinking back to Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation." I've read all the other major animal rights authors since then, but it was Singer's classic that made me feel like the scales were falling from my eyes. An entirely new perspective that I'd never before seriously considered opened to me. It was like a new reality. No single book has probably ever influenced me more. I've been vegan off and on, but since reading it I've always known in my heart what the right path was, whether I was following it or not.

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When it comes to my socialist politics, it's a lot less clear. There was no single book after which everything just "clicked." But huge influences were the works of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Together, Chomsky and Zinn taught me that socialism did not mean Stalinism, and that in fact socialism was an extension of democracy to the economic realm.

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How about you? Hopefully we can all get some good ideas of books to read from this thread!


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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:58 am 
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Not non-fiction and not a book but I think Simpsons has molded my life.

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:59 am 
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linanil wrote:
Not non-fiction and not a book but I think Simpsons has molded my life.


Lol! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:02 am 
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The Bible? I live in a country where laws that dramatically affect my life are made based on it as though it were non-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:04 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
The Bible? I live in a country where laws that dramatically affect my life are made based on it as though it were non-fiction.


Wait, it's not non-fiction? :P


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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:11 am 
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Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It made me realize that I rule and everyone else sucks and the reason I'm not in a position of great authority is that I'm being dragged down by moochers and looters.

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:12 am 
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Secrets of the Great Pyramid by Peter Tompkins. Terrible, awful, ridiculous pyrimidiot book, but I gobbled that thing up as a small kid and went on to read better stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:23 am 
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Here's another great one.

I wouldn't say it made me who I am as I only read it this year and I'm still very, very ignorant of race as an issue. But "The New Jim Crow" definitely started me thinking in a new direction. Before reading it I almost completely conflated race and class. Anyway, this is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:26 am 
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diet for a new america.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:38 am 
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Varieties of Mystical Experience by William James. Dry and heavy handed. It was exhausting. I have read plenty of things that were in the same genre that were much more approachable.

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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:50 am 
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The diary of the third voyage of Christopher Columbus. So many rumored cannibals, so few actual cannibals.


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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:57 am 
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supercarrot wrote:
diet for a new america.

John Robbins really impacts me, too. I just weep whenever I hear him speak. His heart lives where I want to be. His son Ocean was so fortunate to have him as a father, and he really captures John's heart.
If my soul ever turns out anywhere near the quality of these guys, I will have done something *right* with my life.
Great choice, SuperCarrot!

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:09 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:22 am 
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Cured my superstition when I was a child. The documentary wasn't available here.

I have experienced more paradigm shifts, not caused by books, but by simple ideas often expressed in a single sentence, that made me say "Well, of course."

When I became a vegan, it was because of industry's treatment of animals. It took me several years to realise that not only abuse, but also use, any use, of sentient beings (without their consent) is the problem.

The main idea behind one book, expressed in a single sentence, caused another paradigm shift, turned me into a philanthropic antinatalist, but I haven't read the whole book yet:

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 Post subject: Re: Non-fiction books that made you who you are
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:30 am 
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 Post subject: Re: What's the most challenging book you've read?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:38 am 
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"Quantum Physics" by Slovenian physicist Janez Strnad, when I was 13. I couldn't understand a thing but I forced myself to read it.

Now, it the author were Chopra, or some other charlatan, I would definitely have understood it. :P


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