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John Simkin

The novel that changed your life.

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As for books, I'd have to say that almost all of Edward Abby's books have had an affect on me. I grew up in the American southwest and most of Abby's books are set there. Some of his titles are, The Monkey Wrench Gang, Hayduke Lives and A Fools Journey. When I was in grade school my sister to a trip to Europe and came back with a book title The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I would have to count this as a great series because of the humor and his comments on society.

As for other mediums. I would have to say that movies do have an impact on peoples lives. In many cases a movie my cause someone to become interested in a topic and want to learn more. Whether it is a movie about civil rights, the holocaust, war etc. it can play an important part in someones live. As for me, when I was young boy I used to watch "old" movies with my grandmother. Casablanca, The Maltese Falcone, and many, many more. These tended to shape the way I addressed adults and how I treated women. I thought that it was so cool how these guys always opened the door for women, and addressed people with mame and sir. This actually helped alot when I began dating, because all of the girls mothers loved the fact that I said "Yes mame".

Films like Schindler's List can also have a profound affect on people today, I actually show it in my History classes because it allows the students to become involved with the characters and care about what happens to them.

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Three novels that moved my life are

Catch-22. I read this first when I was around 20.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. spoke to me about the oddly appealing need to weight ourselves down to give life meaning. Read it when I was around 24 came back to it with as much meaning for different reasons when I was 33 or 34

A Prayer for Owen Meaning

encouraged me to go into the teaching profession and to reexplore the possibility of the devine. first read about 25 or 26

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As a teenager, I'd have to say "All Quiet on the Western Front" was the biggest influence on my life. Paradoxically, perhaps, it was one of the things that influenced me to join the Marine Corps - in search of the brotherhood portrayed in the novel.

When I got back from the war, we read "Slaughterhouse Five" and it really resonated with me. I still think it's one of the best portrayals of PTSD. Other novels of importance would include To Kill A Mockingbird, Desert Solitaire, 1984.

On becoming a parent, I read (with my daughter) a lot of stuff that I missed when I was young - and those works have had a big influence on me. They include the entire "Oz" series and Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series. I still remember crying reading the "Little House on the Prairie" depiction of Christmas and how thrilled the girls were to get a shiny penny and an orange.

Lately, my daughter has become a huge Tolkien fan (thanks Peter Jackson!). We saw "The Fellowship of the Ring" when it came out, and it was impressive enough to draw her back to the theater 3 times to see it. She then started reading the Lord of the Rings. That summer, our local community theater group put on the Hobbit, and she and I auditioned. I was cast as Gandalf, she as Frodo's mother and an orc captain. That did it, the whole family was hooked on Tolkien. My daughter saw The Two Towers 8 times, and Return of the King 10.5 times in the theater. Her parents only saw those movies 6 and 8 times respectively (Peter, if you're reading this, a significant percentage of your profits came from one family). We all read the Lord of the Rings a couple of times.

I'd say that certainly books one reads as a teenager are significant, but my experience as a parent leads me to conclude that it certainly doesn't stop there!

Cheers,

Mike

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To keep John happy, I'll confess. All I read as a young kid were encyclopaedias and comics. I didn't stay at school long enough for all those "compulsory" books, instead starting work at 14 and was then too busy partying and playing sport to read.

The first novel I read which really got to me was Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen. That was in my early 20s. It inspired me to want to write - which in retrospect, was probably just another excuse to drink... (ah, those were the days...). But hey... 25 years later, I still have an unfinished munuscript.

Since then, Catch 22, Tortilla Flat and Under Milkwood stand out in my mind.

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Not being an English teacher and not having been a great reader as a child I have tended to stay clear of the'greats' of fiction.

The first book that really had a significant impact on me was 'The Shetland Bus'. The author escapes me, but this wartime story really entralled me as a 16 year old and I youth hostelled up to Shetland the following summer to see where everything happened.

The second book that had a major impact was The Birth of New Eve by Angela Carter. It is the only book I have ever read twice. It shocked me rigid the first time I read it.

As a teenager I read Angela Carter avidly and everything I could lay my hands on by Fred Hoyle, Isaac Azimov and Paul Gallico.

Richard

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I remember reading 1984 at school when I was 15 and talking about it to my teacher. I think that was the first book that stayed with me for a while. Since then anything by John Steinbeck is excellent. In Dubious Battle is brilliant although not one of his best known novels. A girlfriend (who I later married) took me to see a play of Of Mice and Men in Eastbourne once. It had such a powerful impact on me I could not stop talking about it for ages and imspired me to read more of Steinbeck.

I agree with John that books we read as teenagers help form out personalities and perhaps our politics later on.

As for my favourite films. I never get tired of watching either of the first two Godfather films with Godfather 2 being the better one. Not particularly imspiring films but excellent non the less.

As for imspiring films you can't beat The Shawshank Redemption or Field of Dreams. I recently watched Mystic River which was superb. Clint Eastwood's direction and Sean Penn's acting were of the highest calibre.

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I was 15/16 when I read "The Unknown Soldier" (In Swedish - "Okänd Soldat") by the Finnish Author Väinö Linna. It did not only encourage my interest of history (which was there much earlier) but it also helped me understand a period of my own peoples history (Finland during the Second World War) and the autrocities of war.

Väinö Linna (in English)

A few years later I came across a book that also stayed in my mind - a book that I have picked up a few times and read again still amused about the intrigue and that's "The Thief" (In Swedish "Tjuven" - and in it's originial language, French "Le voleur") by George Darien. :)

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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I have to admit I read a lot of well written but comparatively light stuff nowadays because I just want escapism in the evenings after heavy days at work, but P D James' novel "The Children of Men" which is a complete diversion from her usual wonderful mystery novels is well worth a read - about a world where fertility stops and no more children are being born - very though provoing.

I also am addicted to biographies of people in the 20s and 30s - at the moment reading Cecil Beaton's Diaries which are a hoot and am about to start on a new biography of the Duchess of Windsor, Don't know why this period fascinates me but it does - The Mitford Sisters, The Viceroys' Daughters (Curzon family), love em all!

But I have to agree that the books I read at 14/15/16 had most impact on me, so i think it's very important that we guide adolescents" reading where we can.

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The the books that altered my perception of life were - 1. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marques 2. A Man for all Seasons - (Play) Roger Bolt 3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson. If you haven't read and of these books I highly recommend them. All historians must also read American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand by James Elroy.

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Its extremely difficult to put my finger on a noverl that changed my life, I have read avidly throughout my life, especially during my teens. I think the two which stand out the most are Wuthering Heights and The Outsider. Both opened my eyes to new ideas. I loved the raw passion of Wuthering Heights, I have re-read it at least once a year since the age of 13 and have always found something new. Studying it at college on the IB course showed me there was even more to it than I realised. The Outsider amazed me, its style, its impact... again I studied this at college in French and English and it really helped open up parts of the story I hadn't thought about.

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Thomas Hardy - particularly liked 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.

Also Chaucer's 'Prologue' to the Canterbury tales ... in the old English with a brilliant teacher who helped us appreciate the wonderfully expressive words it is extremely funny! :)

Also really enjoyed 'The Moon's a Balloon' - autobiography of David Niven which made me laugh out loud on a crowded commuter train!

Also 'The Hobbit' - Gollum scared me rigid as a child. :)

Also Journey to the centre of the Earth, and War of the Worlds - started me on a lifelong love of scifi books.

The list goes on and on!

I wonder how people manage to go through most of their lives not really enjoying books. I know quite a few of those!

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I suppose the first book that really turned me on to reading was 'The Hobbit'. My 3rd Year Junior School teacher (Y5 now), Mr Quick, used to take us out into the school field and sit us under a tree and read the story to us. It gripped my imagination so that I made my mother take me to the central library in Gloucester so I could join the children's library and take the book out.

By the time the class finished the Hobbit I was half way through 'The Lord of the Rings'! By the age of 15 reading had become a little bit of a chore, reading the Silver Sword for the third time at school. A student teacher, whose name I never remembered, introduced us to 'Hobson's Choice' as an 'O' level set book. That was a wonderful experience.

These days most books take  weeks to read as I tend to fall asleep reading them in bed after a long day at school, so the summer holidays are eagerly anticipated as my opportunity to catch up and read all the books I've bought during the year.

Yes! Although in my case it was my Year 7 teacher who read "The Hobbit" to us. It wasn't only the story itself but the world of the novel in which my imagination would wander.

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We were very poor, with my mother raising my brother and I through the great depression as my father left the day I was born. No money for books. A railroad engineer gave my mother an unabridged encyclopedia (about 5 inches thick!) and I truly enjoyed going through that from front to back, attempting to learn as I went and being mind-boggled for a lot of the items (I was 13 years old). I have read one novel in my life - "Black Beauty" - when I was 15 and living in a very dangerous part of Detroit, Michigan. It truly lifted my spirits and I have treasured that book and horses every since, though I never owned one I have gotten to cultivate with and ride a paint to square dances (a beautiful and strong horse) we purchased from my future wife's father by my mom and stepfather (she remarried when I was 15). Robin Moore's "Green Beret" - fiction based on fact is the only other fiction book I have read, perhaps because I was a Green Beret when Robin wrote it. I have enjoyed reading about the impact that novels have had on readers. Thanks!

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I studied 'To Kill a Mockingbird' at GCSE - This book is amazing, I think the character of atticus impacts most heavily on the majority people who read this book. We could all aspire to become a little bit more like Atticus!

I have just started reading a fantastic (so far) book by Kate Atkinson, 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum', a friend reccommended it to me and it is a really fun book to read!

I have just read over the summer, and for my coursework-Catch-22. I am so glad I have chosen this book to study, not only is there loads for me to think and write about, it was a very unique book and unlike anything I have ever read.

Reading Shakespeare's Othello was so much fun and I think this play is genius- I love studying Shakespeare - at the moment we are reading King Lear - another great play!

The books I study impact most heavily upon my life, for the time I study them they heavily affect my life, not only because I am constantly writting essays on them , but because we spend so much time looking at different interprettations and getting to grips with characters that you learn to love it.

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