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This is a question This book changed my life

The Goat writes, "Some books have made a huge impact on my life." It's true. It wasn't until the b3ta mods read the Flashman novels that we changed from mild-mannered computer operators into heavily-whiskered copulators, poltroons and all round bastards in a well-known cavalry regiment.

What books have changed the way you think, the way you live, or just gave you a rollicking good time?

Friendly hint: A bit of background rather than just a bunch of book titles would make your stories more readable

(, Thu 15 May 2008, 15:11)
Pages: Latest, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, ... 1

This question is now closed.

The Deptford Trilogy - Robertson Davies
Anyone read them?

For pure fabulous English language, not many books beat this series.

One of the very very few books I have read, finished and just WISHED I could write just a little bit as good as what he done.

Hey Ho.
(, Thu 22 May 2008, 4:09, 1 reply)
The Cartoon History of the Universe Volume I
Thinking back, I suspect this has really been one of the most influential books on my life ever since I used to sneak into my brother's room to read it. I always liked comics... or then, did I? It's hard to know, because I read this for the first time at such a young age.

This book was full of SCIENCE and HISTORY and, although it would include little details of how people knew things, it would make passing references to huge topics and not explain. And it would be clear that people didn't actually know all the answers; there were theories. It was hugely exciting, and always full of more information than I could take in, and yet the main threads were easy to follow.

It introduced me to so many ideas that seemed mindblowing at the time: evolution, asexual reproduction, how did coins come about, the cycle of history, different views held by Knowledgeable People, that the way we thought things were could CHANGE. And the very idea of starting with a history of the universe that narrows down on the solar system, then the Earth, then animals, then humans... Even though I know a lot of the established views have changed since the book was written (particularly on hominid evolution), that doesn't lessen how excellent it is. And I suspect I only know that views on hominid evolution exist because of this book.

I can never know just how much it's shaped my life, but I suspect it's a lot. Just last year I finally tracked down a copy of The Descent of Woman purely because it was referred to in a brief strip at the bottom of a page in this book and I'd wanted to know more since I was 6. And it looks like that's another book that, while science has moved on, the essential essence and point of it have changed the way I look at things.
(, Thu 22 May 2008, 3:40, Reply)
Weatherwax
This isn't influenced at all by his recent diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease, but I definitely owe a debt of gratitude to Terry Pratchett. Particularly Granny Weatherwax and the way that he seems to use her as a voice to talk about his own approach to life - I mean really, over the last few years I've been exposed to all kinds of corporate middle-management nonsense but you can keep all your Emotional Intelligences and Neuro-Linguistic Programmings if you could just teach people some of the lessons that Granny tries to get across to everyone around her.

The world is a cruel, random and horrible place. Our only hope for making it any better comes from each other. The right thing to do is often hard to spot and even harder to do; doing the wrong thing is almost always easier. Right or wrong, believing in your own judgement and carrying through on that is the best route for personal well-being.

I defy anyone to read the final show-down between Granny and the Elf-queen in Lords & Ladies and not think 'blimey, this one knows what's going on.'
(, Thu 22 May 2008, 0:35, Reply)
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
This book changed my life by making me realise THERE IS NO GOD, you probably know this deep inside but havent got around to realising it yet. If you believe in God or just maybe some magical spirit then please give this book a read!

ps, about 3 months after reading this i tried to explain all this to one of theose crazies that stop you on the street to talk about god... i gave up trying to reason with him after he started talking about the world being 6000 years old ... some people are beyond help
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 23:55, 46 replies)
Just a quick one before shut down
This book really had a great impact on me - it helped me to stop eating chocolate when I needed to, it helped me to give up the demon drink. It even helped me give up the sex and masturbation when I just needed to concentrate.


Self Denial Made Easy by Abner Gation

If you need to learn the art of Self Denial, get this book NOW!
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 23:43, 17 replies)
I'm not sure about changed my life but...
... one of my favourite books is A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

The book is part fact part fiction about the authors time in rehab. There was some controversy about it, as he gained a huge following after it was first published, but many of his disciples thought it was 100% fact. When it transpired he had stretched the truth to make it a better read, they were less than happy. Newer editions have a cover note from the author explaining what changes he made and why he made them.

Anyhoo, I like the book for it's central theme, which is basically about the modern trend for people to blame their problems on other people or their past experiences. He believes people should except the fact that their problems are usually caused by their own choices, and if they except that, then they can change.

A conversation between James and a crack head might go something like this.

Crack head: I'm a crack head because my father used to beat me up and rape me.

James: No, you're a crack head because when you have a crack pipe in your hand, you make a decision to put it to your lips and take a hit. If when you have a crack pipe in your hand, you make a decision to not put it to your lips and take a hit, you won't be a crack head any more.

Sounds harsh, but Frey had a harsh life for many years, and it was when he adopted this attitude that he found the strength to change himself.

Special mention must also go to the excellent John Pilger for Hidden Agendas and The New World Order.

Two books by a very respected and serious journalist- instead of the usual tin foil hat wearing brigade- that really made me question the West's motives with regards to foreign policy, and our so called uncensored media.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 22:55, Reply)
b3ta in relevant-to-exam shock!
Today I took my last final exam at uni - 3 hours of despair to write a 600-word essay in Italian on one of the topics listed on the paper. Of the 8 on there, there were only two I knew I could answer well, and one of those was "What books do you think everyone should read, and why? What makes a book 'necessary' reading?", so I mentioned a lot of lists and how everyone has different opinions and talked about intelligent stuff like history and how important it is to read Anne Frank and Primo Levi (always mention Italian examples), as well as stuff like the Koran so we better understand the other cultures in the world and know that Muslim doesn't mean "will kill you as soon as look at you".

And now I am technically not a student, for I don't study any more. Does anyone in the South East (preferably Kent or easy access in London) need a receptionist/tea lady/office clerk who speaks French and Italian but can't drive?

EDIT: I'm actually slightly more concerned that this may mean the man who set the paper is a b3tan, but it would explain a lot...
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 21:11, 35 replies)
Books.....
I am an absolute bibliophile, I love books, I love reading, and in a habit that I've picked up from my Mum, I usually read for an hour in bed before I go to sleep.
Fiction, comedy, autobiography, drama, poetry, travelogues you name it I have read it, and I have spent more than I care to count on buying the lovely books, looking at the pristine cover, the teasing picture and the fresh paper, all ready for me to open.

Like a road that I've never driven before a good book will take me allsorts of places, and leave me at the end exhilerated and somewhere different to where I was before.

I have ummed and ahhed for ages before deciding which book changed my life, and I have now found the candidate.

A slim tone, my copy of which is probably out of date, but it is still such an influential tome.

A bible in fact for modern days, and as a guide to a certain form of life it has opened so many doors and created so many opportunites for so many people that it could well be the most influential book of the late 20th Century.

What is he referring to? I hear you ask..

Its the Highway Code my friends, the Highway Code.

From first picking it up and using it to help me pass my driving test, everything good that has ever happened to me has been a direct result of this book, which led me to pas my theory test and my driving test.

I wouldn't have got my first serios girlfriend if I hadn't been able to give her lifts to and from work and build it from there.

I wouldn't have been able to get my first proper job in Leeds without having the ability to drive there.

I wouldn't have been able to meet up with some of the good friends I have made online over the years at the drop of a hat without having transport.

At a free weekend I can go anywhere I want to go in the country, see anyone I want to see and take control of my life for the briefest of moments because I have the freedom to drive, the freedom to drive anywhere and anytime.

Driving gives you freedom, and I got to driving through the highway code.

God bless you little book.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 21:09, Reply)
No books have really changed my life....
....but when I was about 6 my grandad bought me a set of Dicken's books adapted for children. These were the books that gave me a love of reading, and from then on I haven't stopped.

I will happily sit and read through four books a week if the family let me LOL.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 20:35, Reply)
Some of the books which changed my life
1. The working man's guide to crotch hygiene - Bernard Manning.

2. Just cook the fucking duck!! (A practical guide to home cooking) - Gordon Ramsey

3. Ethnic Cleansing for Fun and Profit - Graham Norton

4. How to make the perfect Money Shot - Fred Dibnah

5. My Family and other Animals - Alistair Darling

6. Getting away with it (all my life) - Anthony Charles Lynton Blair

7. How to survive 20 solid hours of BBC televisions Cranford without chewing your limbs off - Brian Sewell.

8. Penis Puppetry and other childrens party entertainment - Paul Gadd

9. Faecal Bukkake for Dummies - HRH The Princess Royal

10. 101 Speeches by Douglas Hurd.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 20:35, 6 replies)
book that changed my life
the underground steroid handbook...its a great read..im 36 now and read it when i was 16..it tells you the best steroids to take etc,and what after effects you can expect..by the time i was 20,i was 18 stone,a friendly bouncer,with unlimited females at my beck and call,loads of false friends,my cock never shrunk,i didnt get bitch tits,but i did lose my temper often...im still a lump,and i thank that book for all the fun it allowed me..even the hospital visits for kidney problems,and heart problems seem worthwhile..
steroids...i loved em..and if you dont like my story,
fuck off,or i'll beat the living shit out of you,you skinny pathetic hand pump,cmon...lets ave it....fukin minge,i ll kill ya!!!
see,steroids are cool......
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 19:11, 1 reply)
Diary of Anne Frank
Some interesting quotations:

"Monday, 1st November 1941: Hid"

"Tuesday, 2nd November 1941: Hid"

"Wednesday, 3rd November 1941: Looked out of window and watched marching Nazis. Hid"

What?
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:37, 11 replies)
This Diary Will Change Your Life
It's genius, been getting them for the last few years, but am too wimpy to follow most of the tasks.
Those who know it must love it. Those who don't should check it out.
Not much of an answer, but maybe someone out there will buy a copy and fulfill all the weekly commands.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:32, 2 replies)
Life changing experience
This is the story of how two books changed my life: Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang both by Edward Abbey.

I'd managed to swing a few months working in the USA, courtesy of my university course. I was working in Tennessee but with the money I was earning I decided to spend a few weeks sightseeing once work had finished. I had booked onto a rafting trip in Utah so I got hold of some books about the place, once of them being Desert Solitaire.

Well this book just blew my mind with its descriptions of solitude, beauty, danger and death in the canyon country, also with its scathing attacks on tourism and how national parks are managed. While I was on the rafting trip I talked about this book to anyone who would listen, and one guy recommended The Monkey Wrench Gang. I bought it as soon as I got off the raft and into a town big enough to have a book shop.

If Desert Solitaire blew my mind, Monkey Wrench fired me up for action. It's about a gang of people fighting to retain the unspoilt beauty of the desert states, including acts of what we would now call eco-terrorism such as burning down advertising hoardings, spiking trees to prevent logging, etc. I wanted to be one of those people: I'd seen the beauty of the place and I wanted to keep it that way.

So I phoned my parents and my university tutor, telling them that I would stay in the US as long as my money and student visa would let me, then I dumped all my smart clothes, bought some basic camping stuff and set off to find the right people. After some days of hanging round increasingly dodgy bars I met up with people who looked (and smelt) right and sure enough once I mentioned the magical Monkey Wrench words they suggested they were up for some radical action and would I care to join them?

They were living in a camp in the desert: a few trailers parked around huge red rocks. Finally I felt like I was in the right place! For a few weeks they showed me the secret places in the desert, ancient Indian dwellings and rock art, narrow sinewy canyons, hidden plunge pools... In return I seemed to buy them a lot of beer as they'd worked out that I had money.

After I while I realised that what I was missing was the action - striking a blow for the environment and against the National Parks management, against stupid fat tourists in their cars, and against industry. I was mentioning this more and more, asking when we'd do something, prodding the others into action, rather than just recounting their past exploits.

Eventually I decided I'd just go ahead myself, and I proposed chainsawing a few advertising poles. To my surprise Chad (the closest thing to a leader in the group) suggested going for a bigger target: the pumps sucking water out of the river to provide irrigation for the water melon farms in the region. Sounded good to me so I put the plan together, roping in my new friends and setting a date.

On the appointed night we chugged a load of beers then crept out into the dark. The others were surprisingly cheery: I was shit scared and feeling hyper. We all headed off to our various planned locations. I was on my own with just a giant wrench for company. With trembling hands I bypassed the filter system on the pump then opened up an inspection cover and dropped in some rocks. The pump ground to a halt with a satisfying crunch.

With my heart pumping I started back towards the trailers, but was shocked to see blue and red lights flashing. The cops! How had they found out so soon? I panicked, turned tail and headed towards the canyon. In the dark I stumbled across the desert until I found the side canyon which allowed me in. I slithered down the steep slick rock, splashing into pools and scrambling back out. Eventually I reached an old ranch in knew on the broad canyon floor and threw myself down, breathing hard. I stayed there until dawn, expecting to hear my friends arriving any minute, but no one came.

As the sun came up I took stock of the situation: I was alone, in a canyon with no food, and only the clothes I stood up in. I stayed there a couple of days, starving, trying unsuccessfully to catch fish, and not at all feeling the beauty of being alone in this environment which Abbey had described so engagingly. Then I decided I had to move - I walked to the edge of the canyon, and after dark started to walk back to the trailers. It all seemed quiet: I approached carefully, listening out for any noise. There were voices coming from one trailer and a flickering candle light. I pushed open the door - there was most of the rest of the group, sat drinking beer. I walked in, relieved, then saw a policeman sitting drinking beer with them. I was stunned and didn't move as he stood up, looking grim, and moved towards me. Then he burst into a big grin, saying to the others 'But he's just a kid!', and told me I was under arrest for criminal damage.

I was taken to the police station, given a good ticking off and then soon enough put on a plane back to England with my tail between my legs - the massive pumps used for drawing water were not seriously damaged by the small rocks I'd dropped in. The guys in the trailers were just looking for a good time: they'd seen me as a source of beer and amusement for a while and were happy to get rid of me. My plan to sabotage something had been a good excuse. Bastards.

While I'm still keen on protecting and defending the environment I'm a lot more wary of extremist groups and their aims, given what my own slightly extreme views got me into. I'm also a lot more careful about who I call my friends and who I fall in with. I guess some of this comes with increasing age and maturity. I still read those 2 books occasionally, although the memories they bring back are more embarassing than anything else.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:19, 3 replies)
To those who will know
My Green and Gold
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 15:58, Reply)
one more...
I just thought of another book that had a big impact on me - Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.

I picked it up because of the cool pictures when I was about 10 and it began a 21 year obsession with painting miniatures, building scenery and (occassionally) playing games - which brings me on to something else: Kids who grew up in the late 80s early 90s had more imagination than todays' kids because computer games were expensive and, basically, crap. We rode our bikes, played role-playing games, played with toys and more importantly, played with other kids.

Nowadays, kids live in little bubbles where they are either over-protected couch potatos whose parents read the Daily Mail and keep them locked in the house with an Xbox in case a paedo gets them, or they are happy-slapping little pikeys whose parents can't read and who expect the state to take all responsibility for the fact they were too thick to use a condom properly and the resultant fanny-effluent is allowed to run rampant. Gah.

I feel sorry for kids now, though - if they run around and laugh they are accused of terrorising the neighbourhood, so the alternative is to sit indoors doing sod all but play on the XBox. Now wonder they turn to crime - if you're going to get ostracised, you might as well get a new ipod out of it...
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 15:53, 5 replies)
Back in high school....
We had to do that "prepare a lecture and deliver it to the rest of the class" shenaigans. Not really having any real interests except the search for virgins and smashing windows, I needed some influence.

I trots down the library, and after a bit of rummaging I finds "How to build a formicarium" (home for Ants).

So, I goes home and read just enough to blag my way through the steps of building a Formicarium, and lets face it, I have some scope for bulshitting my way thru if I need to.

The event comes and goes with ease. I am elevated to a new *weird* status in the class, and only one question, which was "how long have you been keeping Ants?", to which I replied "I don't, I just read a book on it".

Roll forward a few years, and I find that the Army like to put potential NCO's and Officers thru such oratory drills as I did in school. We had a Major who dished out usually military topics, but one day, he made the mistake of giving us a choice on what to talk about.

Without the use of notes, I prepared a 10 minute lecture that taught some of the best British Professional Killers how to build a home for Ants out of Glass, Plasticine and Plaster of Paris.

A huge hit... and only one question, which was "how long have you been keeping Ants?", to which I replied "I don't, I just read a book on it".

Incidently, I passed Officer selection but gave it up as I was too working class for the Officer's mess.

But the book "Making a Formicarium" did change my life in oh-so-many ways.

Length: About 12x12 inches, with tunnels in the set plaster, with a removable lid for removing dead ants and detritus. At least that's how the plans described it.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 15:42, 1 reply)
The Compleet Molesworth
It didn't really change my life as such, apart from making me write with deliberately appalling spelling for a while. And calling everyone I disliked a "Fotherington-Thomas", or "uterly wet and a weed".
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 15:11, 6 replies)
Books that made me who I am....
I love to read - in fact, I think it's one of the great pleasures in life. Nothing is nicer than a warm afternoon, a chair in the sun a cold drink and a good book. I'd say it's a sign of getting old, but I've always enjoyed it...

There are many books that have influenced me, but those that really made an impact on how I am today are:

1) Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Yes, I loved Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but Dirk Gently was a book I read at school (from the school library, no less) that was funny, interesting and had enough about computers in it to grab my attention. I was a computer nerd at school and lusted after a Mac (back in those days you could buy a 386 PC with VGA graphics for £1000, or a Mac Classic with a 9 inch black and white screen for rather more money). Besides, Dirk himself reminded me of my best friend at school and, on re-reading it, I still wish that he was part of my life (a long and bitter story - short version: don't start a business with a friend that drinks).

2) Neuromancer by William Gibson. I can read this and literally start over as soon as I am done. I love the pacing, the feel of the society and I ached for technology to speed up to the point that we could jack into the matrix. Again, I read this when I was maybe 12 or 13, so it'd be 1989-ish. In those days there were many more competing computer standards and many esoteric things being created that to be a computer nerd felt like surfing the wave of the future and this book was like a beacon to us youngsters who were coding for fun.

3) Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Given to me by a Spanish girl I met at University. She broke my heart, but this book has always had a great ability to help me get my shit together when things are bleak - I can't recommend it enough if you are feeling lost or alone. Just follow the story and let go of life for five minutes and I guarantee it'll help you get perspective on things.

4) Jeeves and The Feudal Spirit. In fact, anything Jeeves and Wooster, but this was the first I bought and read once I'd grown up enough to see past the initial "Bertie's an idiot, Jeeves is clever, it's a bit of a farce" impression the books create. I rediscovered a pride in my Britishness and Public School education by realising that Bertie is actually quite bright, yet self-effacing (he does, after all, narrate the books in a beautiful style), as well as being unselfish and honest (he'd do anything to help a friend). Basically, if more people acted like Bertie, we would not have 12 year olds stabbing each other. I wish, with all my heart, that I could join the Drones.

4) The Young Bond series of books - less pompous than Harry Potter and a return to the rip-roaring boys' own adventures that are a) good to read and b) a way of getting young boys to be interested in reading - too much has been made of girls' abilities in the classroom when compared to boys in the last ten years, so that boys are seen as under-acheiving hoodies who just want to happy-slap the teacher. By engaging them at a young age with books like these, maybe we'll see the balance returned to the classroom and a bit less aggro on the streets. If we don't, they are still a great little read - ideal for the train ride after work. I can also recommend the Alex Rider books and the Power of Five series (more supernatural/horror than spy, though). They are like a modern-day Willard Price series, which can't be a bad thing.

5) iWoz and iCon: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business - two books about the founders of Apple Computers that encapsulate everything that was so exciting about the early to mid-80s in terms of computing (ok, the 70s to mid-80s. It doesn't matter that, on a commercial basis, Microsoft ended up dominating - so much of their design is stolen from Apple (and others) that it is really what Jobs and Woz did that shaped how the world sees computers. Jobs goes from the Apple/Apple 2 to the Macintosh, to being fired and starting NeXT (a great OS and some drool-worthy hardware back in 1990, much like my beloved SGI), then selling NeXT to Apple to give it the basis for OSX (the second UI revolution). Oh, and he got Pixar up and running and is now a major force in that whole field. Woz left Apple to pursue his passions (after the whole plane crash thing) and now works on teaching computers to kids, amongst other things. Big personalities, a whole new business ethos and a pair of role models for the 30-something tech nerds amongst us.

and, finally

The house at Pooh Corner, if only because it introduces the themes of growing up and the end of that innocent stay-at-home-with-mum period of life. In fact, my mother never read me the last chapter and I can see why - it's genuinely heart-breaking: Christopher Robin tells Pooh and the others that he's got to go away to School and won't be allowed to come back to the Hundred Acre Wood as he has to be a grown-up boy... It made me sad when I was 23 and re-read the book, so it would destroy a four year old!
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 14:51, 2 replies)
"How to give a good blowjob, by Humpty"
Now... I penned this a years ago. It includes excellent advice such as...

"Years of evolution has given humans teeth. Some teeth are designed for tearing and cutting flesh. Bear this in mind when placing the sensitive member in your mouth".

and

"Trying to escape scratching teeth is NOT Thrusting"

Anyway. As the basics behind pleasuring a guy are so simple, and the rules on how NOT to hurt a winkie are so short and obvious, the pamphlet is annoyingly small. It makes little sense getting people to read it because if they can't work out and grasp the fundamentals for themselves, telling them is a waste of time.

So, I had the pamphlet bound into the front pages of a 500-page hard-back that I now keep at the head of the bed.

A swift clout with a 2Kg hard-back seems to knock the point home.... as it were.

I can truly say it has changed my life.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 14:28, 57 replies)
A Blank Notebook
Isn't this the most potentially life changing book for anyone?

*Deep Breath*

Write down your ideas. Develop your business plan. Handwrite your "great american novel" whilst in Cardiff. Copy down recipes. Keep a diary. Compose that love poem which you can't quite get right in your head, and will certainly never come out of your mouth. Make paper planes. Take someone's number. Give someone YOUR number. Stop a bullet (allegedly). Sketch a landscape. Press flowers. Keep photos. Tape in the pubic hair of the man/woman you're stalking. Make snow-blindness goggles. Play music on a comb and paper. Take brass or bark rubbings. Make a "Kick Me" sign and stick it to a football. Draw award winning political cartoons. Recycle it. Write a strongly worded letter of protest.
Filter nitroglycerine (slowly). Roach material. Emergency loo paper (Ugh, scratchy). Perform magic tricks. Last minute confetti. Burn it to keep warm. Make papier mache models of dinosaurs.

*breathes in*

*EDIT*

Forgot one.

Use the torn off corner of a page as the basis of a 30 minute stand-up comedy routine to cheer someone up.

In my case this more or less directly led to the start of my relationship with my girlfriend, now the lovely Mrs Fireflier, around 18 years ago...
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 14:04, 15 replies)
I'm Surprised no one else has mentioned this:
'The Satanic Bible' by Anton Lavey

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satanic_Bible)

Ok, so it didn't actually change my life (since I've been doing the stuff mentioned in the book for years), and in actual fact I have only just started reading it, but its still an interesting an empowering book.

I'ts more of a prop so that if people spot it they think I'm sort of devil worshipping nutter intent of sacrificing chickens and the like.

Muhahahahahaha!!
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 13:31, 3 replies)
I know this has been mentioned...
But SKunkworks by Ben Rich and someone else is a wonderful example of "seat of the pants" development in a high-speed and highly technical world works. It also has many examples where people saying "I Know that this is right, trust me" are trusted. REAL engineering without red tape.

It also coveres a few political and beaurocratic things which bore me, but there are fine examples of what happens when people try to make engineers accountable for everything they do. Death by paperwork.

Essentially the book can be seen as a build diary of some of the most innovative aircraft that the public are privvy to.

As an Engineer I'd recommend this book to anyone. Kids, Lasses, and people who know nothing of engineering. It's a great read.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 13:18, 32 replies)
How about a book of life changes?
Forgive me, but I'm gonna spam here in a good cause:

www.fray.com/

This is a site that features true stories from people, moments that had great impact on them. Some stories are funny, some sad, some wtf- but they are pretty consistently excellent.

Take a look around. Down at the bottom is a link to Issue 1 with some stories you can read. And in the About section is a link to the older site, which is full of stories well worth reading.

If you like it and can afford it, please subscribe. I really do think that this is a cause worth supporting.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 13:14, 1 reply)
Blink: Malcolm gladwell
Probably been mentioned, but this book offers a snapshot into why you're gut-instinct can be trusted.

Many fine real examples, and other subjects are well covered too for example; why too much information is a bad thing.

You know how you can walk into a room and say to yourself "That guy's an asshole and she's untrustworthy" or similarly "I'm really going to get on well with her" ... well this book tells you why that's the case, and explains why you'll be right on your snap judgements... if only you would trust them.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 13:14, 13 replies)
Not life-changing but books.
Here are some assorted books that I enjoyed. Not life-changing but good books nevertheless.

Harry Turtledove's Worldwar tetrology
This is an alternate history series of novels. The book is set halfway through WW2 with the premise being that an alien invasion takes place. Humanity must come together to fend off the 'real enemy'. However, the Jews are in a bit of a dilemma. Should they help save humanity or should they make new allies and get revenge on the Nazis? The books are utterly riveting. Turtledove is such an expert at getting across all the cultural nuances of the different world cultures; in fact, he's so good at it that the aliens seem very two-dimensional in contrast. There are moments of humour, moments when we face the horrors of war, and even some brief erotic scenes. Although it contains the "Show me this Earth thing called love" cliché, it's nicely executed. You feel like the whole world's getting involved. The Worldwar tetrology is just part of the Tosev Timeline (there's another series and an additional book). I've also read Turtledove's standalone book In the Presence of Mine Enemies. It's an alternate-history set in a 2010 where the Nazis won WW2 and WW3. Not as humorous but also riveting.

Voltaire's Candide
This was one of my set texts in my 7th year of secondary school (English) and also my French teacher briefly went over the French edition. Being a science-nerd, I only took English because it was compulsory at my school so only got into it enough to pass English (by then, my arts-side hadn't fully blossomed). 11 years later, I decided to re-read it (it was the same copy I took to school). It wasn't life changing but now that I had had more life-experience, it was a good read. The story follows Candide on an adventure that's full of ups and downs and everyone talking about philosophy. In a way, it seems like a metaphor for my own life.

Love Talk: A Young Person’s Guide To Sex, Love And Life
The book that would have changed my life had I read it a couple of years earlier. I read this aged 18 after I had graduated from school. It explained various truths about relationships and what to expect from them, as well as other aspects of life. Also it gave some encouragement to anyone feeling a bit shy about expressing their love to their secret crush and gave tips on how to handle rejection. By then, I had figured some of it out already, but would have been nicer to have learned this the easy way instead of the painful way. Also, it explains how to masturbate (both boys and girls). Needless to say, I used the boy's techniques while reading about the girls' techniques that day. I honestly think this should be on the school curriculum. Anyway, my sister still had a few years left at school and I thought I'd pass this book on to her. Feeling a bit shy, I did not have the guts to give it to her directly so I left it lying around (so much for being a supportive older brother). Unsurprisingly, the book vanished. My sister had nicked the copy and I had to get myself a new one.

A. K. Dewdney's The Armchair Universe: An Exploration of Computer Worlds
This book appeals to my geeky side. I got this book aged 16 and had fun reading about things like cellular automata and had fun trying to bring these abstract worlds to life on my Atari ST.

Sun Tsu's The Art of War
This was written as an ancient Chinese military instruction manual some 2500 years ago, but the techniques can be abstracted to apply to just about any situation. Also, it contains a couple of amusing anecdotes about Chinese warfare. My edition contained comments by various historical commentators and also a few appendices. One resounding quote written by one of the commentators is "The battlefield is full of standing corpses - those that wish to live die, and those that wish to die live". This means that if you have the will to succeed, you will more likely succeed, but if you think too much about failure, it will get to you.

Foley & Van Dam's Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice
This book explains various aspects of computer graphics. It helped me fill the gap in my knowledge between a BSc in Computer Science and the ability to get a job in the real-world. Also, it finally gave me a good explanation of how to convert between RGB and HSV or HSL colour-spaces.

Michael Abrash's Zen of Graphics Programming
Another geek-book. This also helped me fill in the gap in my knowledge I was so desperately trying to fill and helped me get a job. Talks extensively about 3D graphics on the PC. This book is now somewhat dated, but back in the day, it was handy.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 12:58, 3 replies)
At school I used to love DT
For those of you not au fait with the english school system circa 1991-1996, that stands for Design Technology, basically woodwork and metal work etc.

Now I didn't love it because of the creepy borderline sex offender that ran the class (true story for another time maybe) but it was his pet birds that he used to keep in the classroom with him. Huge birds these were, black as night, with a devilish glint in their eyes. They looked like they would be more at home at the Tower of London than a small woodwork shop.

They were incredibly intelligent birds too. Many a time out teacher would say "I just need a small screw" (I did mention he was a borderline sex offender) when one of his pets would flap over to the rack of small plastic trays and drop a 5/8" No.6 into his outstretched palm.

But the point of this story is that one day, during the practical of my final GCSE exam, I was turning a small bar of metal to build my own threaded bar which would hold whatever contraption I was creating together. The machine was all set up to go, but I was momentarily distracted by a pound coin I spotted on the floor. I picked it up, put it in my pocket and then flicked the on switch.

The machine spun into action, emitted a high pitched whining noise and the chuck whizzed the length of the guide bar and smashed into the end. Bits flew off at random and at that point I knew my chances of passing were hurtling toiletwards.

The teacher came running over. "What the hell happened!?" He yelled "You've set this up a million times, why did you set the gears like that? You know that's what happens if you set the gears like that!"

It was at that point I realised what had happened. Those bloody birds had distracted me with a pound coin before flicking the gear lever when my back was turned.

"Sir!" I yelled "It wasn't my fault, it was your bloody pets! Those Rooks changed my Lathe!"

i'm so very very sorry
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 12:14, 10 replies)
not so much a 'changed my life'
but more of a 'changed my understanding of the world.

The L Shaped Room, by Lynne Reid Banks. Taught me , with my middle class teenage view of the world, that there are other people out there who don't have it so good.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 11:58, Reply)
Moley
"The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4" changed my life in that it showed I wasn't the only sad tosser about. I soon realised this wasn't the case as he was a fictional character. But at least it gave me hope for a while. Years later I tried to do a end of year book review in an English Class. I was bluntly asked to 'possibly pick a better book.'
Fair play!
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 11:48, Reply)

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