The power of one great book, one fine idea

Posted: 12 March, 2012 in Reading
Tags: , , , ,

“One great book, thoroughly mastered, may become a turning-point in your life. One fine idea, entering into your very being, may transform your existence.”
Pelmanism, Lesson XIV (p5)

Apparently, when this thought was put to a group of students in the early 1900s most said they would choose the Christian Bible as the book they would master to make a difference in their life.  While there are probably a lot of people who would make the same choice today, it got me thinking about what book I could master (def: to gain a thorough understanding of) to transform my existence.

I asked a few friends and their responses were very different. One, who is studying psychology, said she needs to master the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders) for her studies but she would probably prefer to master the complete works of Freud if she had the time. One said she would choose A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.  Another said she would love to master the complete works of Shakespeare because of his amazing insight into human behaviour.

I agree that one fine idea or one great book can change your life. I’ve had a few turning points over the years that have come from reading a book that has shown me a new perspective or introduced me to a new concept that has changed the way I think.  I just can’t think of one particular book that has everything.  I was inspired to find a new way to earn a living after reading Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara Winter.  I learned how to better understand conflict after reading A New Earth. I learned so much about tolerance and understanding in Ed Husain’s The Islamist and Anh Do’s The Happiest Refugee. These are all books that helped me look at things differently or be more accepting and sympathetic. They all “transformed” me in some way.

There are books that I have enjoyed so much I’ve re-read them (Pride & Prejudice, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Imperfectionists) but they are books to be enjoyed, not mastered.

Maybe as a writer I would choose a writer’s guide, but with so many on the market these days which one deserves to be mastered?

I guess if I never find a book I want to master, the “fine idea” of there being one book that could some day make such a difference in my life is now always with me. And that thought in itself has changed how I will look at every book from now on.

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