Changing a Reader’s Spots

Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, with a series of questions to kick-start discussions about reading habits. Anyone can join in. Just choose a question and leave a link to your post here.

Today I hope my post will act as a lead-in for discussion.  I’d love to hear your views, opinions, memories and stories.  Respond with a comment or post an extended response on your blog and leave a link in the comments.  Respond to each other.  I want to hear what you have to say, and I’m sure others do as well.

It’s amazing how  a book can change your life.  A certain selection of words arranged just so, that forms an idea that penetrates your mind and changes the way you think.

Sometimes it’s instantaneous. It just hits you, and you walk around for days feeling like the wires of your mind and indeed reality itself, actually have been blown apart

But sometimes  it’s slow.  It nags at your brain – maybe for weeks, maybe for months.  You don’t notice the change because it creeps in so slowly. The wires inside your brain are moving, rearranging themselves into a newer you. It might be less dramatic, but it some ways it’s the more powerful change. The subconscious change.

No matter how the wires are reorganised, the eventual end point is the same: you have changed.  An intricate pattern of lines, letters and words that have been in development for thousands of years just changed how you think.  If you think that this has never happened to you, you’re not looking deep enough.

The change I’m most aware of in myself came from a peculiar place – from a book I still to this day have been unable to finish: Moby Dick.  I don’t know why I find this book so difficult.  Maybe it’s my lack of historical knowledge.  I certainly struggle with the concept of two strangers sharing a bed because the inn is full.  But as the two men – a hopeful sailor and harpoon-wielding cannibal – share the bed, Herman Melville shares an interesting thought:

Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so for a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable anymore.

moby-dick-coverAs our protagonist, Ahab, lies in bed with the cannibal, they poke only their noses out of the cosy blanket cave.  If their noses weren’t cold, the bodies under the blankets wouldn’t feel comfortable.  This quote barely registered with me when I read it, but the idea comes up over and over in my life – in my bed, in my car, in the shower… And it has changed how I act. I’m no longer bothered that my nose is cold as I fall asleep in winter.  Or that my feet are hot as I blast the air conditioning in my car. Or that my neck gets cold in the shower.  Because if that wasn’t happening, how would I know the rest of my body is comfortable?

I’ve read to halfway in Moby Dick, and it’s the most a book has ever consciously impacted my life.  Sometimes I wonder how much each book I’ve actually finished has changed me.

Now share your stories with me.  Has anything you’ve ever read had an impact on your day-to-day life?  Are there any books you just haven’t been able to finish?  Share your experiences in the comments.


5 thoughts on “Changing a Reader’s Spots

  1. First off, great post!

    There are a lot of books I’ve not finished — to name a few: “Love in the Time of Cholera“, “One Hundred Years of Solitude“, “The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime” (all very popular books, but ones I just couldn’t get into).

    But yes, I’ve definitely had books change me, and my outlook.

    Two in particular:

    Thin Within” by Judy & Arthur Halliday — this teaches about Intuitive Eating (how to eat only when you’re hungry, and stop when you’ve had just enough to refuel). It completely changed my view on diets and the whole industry, and I’ll never go back!

    Practicing the Presence of Jesus” by Wally Armstrong — a sort of memoir, where former pro golfer, Wally, tells us about his experience of “practicing the presence of Jesus” by imagining Jesus sitting in a chair with him, having a conversation, and how it revolutionized things for him. It did the same for me, when I tried it… I used to think Jesus was “off somewhere” (up in Heaven, or wherever, taking care of things), when I prayed… this book made me realize that He’s always here… waiting to connect with me in relationship. Completely changed my faith! 🙂

    So, yeah… Books definitely change lives. I’ve always been a big believer in that. 😉

    Thanks for this!


    • That’s fantastic. I’m not religious myself but I love how you’ve taken a more proactive approach to your faith. And it’s such a massive change to get from just one book. It’s interesting that yours are non-fiction, too. I hadn’t thought of that perspective.

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