Books that Changed the Way I See the World

Some random speech I wrote for the final presentation in ENGL 1033 tomorrow. I think I like this, being random and all.


When was the last time you sat down with a good book? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be transported through time to a place where words are magic, or to a place where dreams seem so real? Was it a few days ago, a few months, or perhaps a few years, counting on and on and on, until we lose sight of them all.

One of the many things they taught us when we were young is to learn how to read. And when we learn, we read everything: from storybooks to newspapers to magazines to comic books to telephone directory to computer manuals to cookbooks and college books, until we are old enough to think on our own and to understand more about the world than the authors we so loved and idolized. But isn’t this a mistake, an arrogance, that for the most part  separates us from our understanding and acceptance of the world, even life itself? Who knows why we stop reading sometimes.

When I was a young girl, people laughed at me for reading too much. While girls my age would dream of becoming Disney princesses, I would be in my room reading away the books I stole from Daddy’s closet, the books about the many evils of the Inquisition. I didn’t understand much back then. But when I look back now all I remember is her curiosity and how it nearly burned her yearning mind. My mother thought that I needed to see a doctor because at one point I was crying my heart over the Diary of Anne Frank and the next day I was singing the Nazi Hymn and proclaiming my heart for Adolf Hitler. But I hated the Holocaust just the same. In highschool, I was the bookworm of the batch. My classmates believed that I would follow the footsteps of J.K. Rowling but it was so funny because I never loved Harry Potter. No, not even once.

Now in college, I dig into a lot of classical literature and feel sometimes that it’s too late for me to ever love Dickens. But I find salvation in Plato and his many Dialogues and realize that there is no such thing as too late for a person who is willing to open up his heart to literature, or to philosophy for that matter. I could be a 70 year old woman now and would still love the adventures of Alice in Wonderland.

I realize that the greatest books that changed the way I see the world are not the ones that talks about religion, politics, economics or even the Heideggerian question of Being. It’s Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Camus’ The Stranger, Orwell’s 1984, the many adventures of Hemingway and the genius of the Russian giants that allow you to see the world in a different light and to experience life in its most beautiful expression. And for that, I salute Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin. I applaud Murakami. I sing my heart for Fitzgerald. For Kafka and Nabokov and Hawthorne. These masterly bastards, they just don’t tell stories. They change lives.


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