Five books that changed my life

An old fisherman who battles a massive fish, a drunken journalist and his equally drunken friends, a college baseball star with stage fright, an essayist who changes the way you look at photographs, the way you look at everything, and an epic, epic western. Once in a while you come across an extraordinary book. The characters are like old friends and the story world seems realer than the real world. Once you’ve finished a book like this, it feels like you’ve lost something, but you know you’ve gained something too.

I’ve joined TOAST’s Enrichment of Other project to celebrate the ways in which books have enriched our lives.

Here are five book that enrich my life:

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and The Sea is a novella about an old fisherman, his friendship with a young boy, and his battle with an absolutely massive fish. I really love this book. It touched me, and, although it’s not a sad book as such, it made me cry a bucket-load. The book is full of symbolism. But, for me, it’s the little things about the book which make it great: the beautifully simple way Hemingway writes, the friendship between the old man and the boy, and the never-say-die attitude of the fisherman.

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
The Rum Diary is about the misadventures of a journalist who moves from New York to Puerto Rico, drinks too much, and falls in love. It’s angry, frenzied, and disturbing. This book and the exotic, quixotic lives of its characters gave me wanderlust. The Rum Diary made me want to fly off to Puerto Rico, drink rum, and eat burgers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Art of Fielding is about a young baseball star, Henry Skrimshander, and his life at college in Wisconsin. The book is seemingly a baseball story, but it’s about much, much more than that. It’s about a group of characters, their relationships, struggles, and hopes. It’s brilliantly addictive. I got well and truly sucked into the plot and found it really hard to move on after I finished it. Sort of like how you feel after finishing a really great television series. A bit lost.

On Photography by Susan Sontag
On Photography is a collection of essays written by the American writer and film maker Susan Sontag. It changed my view on photography and on being a photographer. It got me to question every photograph I’ve ever taken. Photography is so complex and subjective, so it’s a difficult subject to analyse and explain, but Sontag does a superb job. Anybody who makes pictures or who has an interest in photography must read this book.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
All the Pretty Horses is an epic western about a young lad and his best friend, who travel from Texas to Mexico on horseback. This book has everything: adventure, violence, love, with the added bonus being that it’s written by Cormack McCarthy, the world’s best living writer. It’s a really cinematic book – as cinematic as the best Sergio Leone or John Ford film. At the end of the journey, you’re left feeling like you were really part of the adventure.

I’d love to know about the books that have made a difference to your life. Click here to join the conversation and to be in with a chance of winning £500 of TOAST stuff and a year’s subscription to Persephone Books.

This post is in partnership with Toast, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “Five books that changed my life”

  1. These sound like great books! I really need to read more of Hemingway’s stuff. I did purchase Susan Sontag’s book, and have yet to open it up, but your post inspired me to begin it right away. 🙂

  2. I haven’t read the Old Man and the Sea since high school, and now you’re making me want to hunt it down again.. And McCarthy is a great writer, though I’ve yet to read All the Pretty Horses. It makes me panic sometimes how many books are out there that I still want to read!

  3. Oh I added In Photography book to my list 🙂 From all books here I read only Hemingway but all of them sound interesting. My only concern is, I hope in ‘All the Pretty Horses’ none of the horses was injured 🙂

  4. These is my words by Nancy E Turner. I still cannot read it (and it’s subsequent novels) without being so deeply touched, changed and also bawling my eyes out lol

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