Speaking of books that make a difference . . .

It’s easy enough to assert that books “make a difference” — now Alain de Botton has gone a step further to explain how:

One effect of writing . . . is that, once readers have put the book down and resumed their own lives, they may attend to precisely the things that the author would have responded to had he or she been in their company.

Thanks to a book, their minds will be like a radar newly attuned to pick up certain objects floating through consciousness. The effect will be like bringing a radio into a room that we had thought silent, only to realize that the silence existed at a particular frequency and we, in fact, shared the room all along with waves of sound coming in from a Ukrainian station or the nighttime chatter of a minicab firm.

Have you ever experienced this by reading a novel?

What novel, and how did it affect you?

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2 Responses to Speaking of books that make a difference . . .

  1. Ron says:

    My brain is rejiggered to a certain extent whenever I’ve spent significant time with a piece of writing. It’s usually the language that does this — specifically, the rhythms, tones, cadences, etc. It’s almost as though my thought processes have been reformatted to a certain extent. Weird how that happens.

    And since language and style often go hand in hand with a writer’s way of seeing the world, a lot can follow from that.

    A good example of a writer’s style having a big influence on the culture is movie writer Pauline Kael. Her manner of writing about movies was so compelling that a lot of later movie writers seemed to have a hard time separating themselves from it. I suspect this partly explains why some of her followers lashed out at her as they got older.

  2. Kirsten says:


    I first noticed it when I was a kid. I used to immerse myself in books for hours on end, and when I emerged later I definitely noticed the writer’s “voice” influencing my own thought patterns.

    That said, I suspect writing can actually nudge consciousness itself, even if the effect is subtle and perhaps even, in most cases, short-lived . . . anyway I like to think that may be the case ;-)

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