Books That Changed My Life – Part Three: Adulthood to Now

Aged 26

The Children of Men by P.D. James

In Earth’s dystopian and infertile near future a University Don must choose between family, political ties and a group of terrorists while the continuation humanity hangs in the balance.

The Children of Men

Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on Earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years two months and twelve days.”

One of the best opening lines of a novel I have ever read. It is set in the future, the youngest man on the planet is, sorry, WAS 27, what happened to all the children?  I was  hooked.  The book is not merely a race to survive but deals with the physical, political and psychological effects of a world where the human race has become barren. Family relationships, political worth, scientific and religious effect of global infertility are explored. I had never come across a sci-fi novel that was infused with such deeply thought human emotion. I read this on a holiday to Tunisia with my then girlfriend, on the last day we disagreed over something in the morning and spent the day on the beach. I became lost deep into the last third of the novel and hours sped by. “Ben”, she said, ”I am still angry with you”, I looked up from the book, searched her face, looking for clues to help me remember what we were arguing about. “Don’t you realise that I haven’t said a word to you for hours? ”. “No”, helplessly, I added, “This book is amazing”. That was the beginning of the end.

Aged 32

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

The adventures of Lyra Belacqua from a parallel universe and Will Parry from our own world as they strive to stop ‘The Authority’ form Lyra’s world destroying all parallel universes in their quest to understand the physics behind the mysteries of The Dust.

His Dark Materials

How I wished I had read this trilogy as a teenager but I have enough youth left in my heart to lose myself in Pullman’s imagination. The reason I picked them up was because of the film of the first book “The Golden Compass”, though I found it somewhat confusing there were a few concepts that drew me to the trilogy, in particular the idea that the people from Lyra’s universe had daemon’s. These are an animal familiar, a mixture between a conscience and a soul, who accompanied them throughout their lives who could never stray too far. As a child the daemons are constantly changing shape, from animal to animal but once you reach maturity they choose one animal form. This concept drew me in and opened me to the fullness of the adventures between multiple universes, incredible characters, angels, witches, warring bears etc. For the first time since Tolkien I realised that the fantasy genre could be reshaped and reformed with brilliance.

Aged 36

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

A mother writes a number of letters to her estranged husband to trace the growth of their son who has, as a teenager, carried out an atrocity.

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Kevin’s mother relates the tale of how she met her husband and how they started raising their son highlighting the difficulties every parent must feel at one stage or another but as her story unfolds we see that this family have a disturbing and unique problem which is not revealed straight away. Shriver crawls under the skin of a mother who is afraid she has not bonded with her son; a mother who goes through periods of questioning the bond between herself and her husband. The tone of the book begins ominously and continues with the same threatening tone throughout. Yet she gives us so many clues along the way that you just have to find out what happens.  Never before has a book stayed with me for so long. Shriver’s writing didn’t just dig her way into my head, it build an small flat, interior decorated, invited its friends over and threw wild parties. It has been years since I read it and still to this day and as I write these words I shudder when I think of Kevin.

What are yours?

Books That Changed My Life Part One

Books That Changed My Life Part Two

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5 responses to “Books That Changed My Life – Part Three: Adulthood to Now

  1. Always liked Children of Men. Found the film very different but a very good adaptation

  2. Really liked We Need to Talk About Kevin. Very haunting and as a student of the Columbine Massacre and psychology, found it deep and insightful. Made a fair-ish film, though Tilda Swinton was really good in it.

  3. Children of Men and We Need to Talk About Kevin are in my top 10 as well! Perhaps there are more than 10 novels in my top 10 though – I have a feeling too many qualify.

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