The books we love and how they changed us
One takes us down memory lane while another warns us of a Dystopian future
You never forget your first. The first time you snuck a sip of your father’s whiskey, the first time your heart broke — the first time you stood up for yourself and said ‘no’. Your first drag of a cigarette. The first time a book stirred something inside you. That first book that made you feel different after flipping over the back cover. Putting it down, staring at the wall — you feel different. Because language imprints on our psyche and souls in a way that is hard to explain.
New worlds open up through written words that leave a lasting impact. And it’s the books that strike a chord that we find ourselves returning to time and time again — they teach us how to laugh in the face of sadness, thrive when we’re bogged down by doubt and help us feel safe when we’re floundering.
Century-old classics and the burgeoning publishing world (and the internet) have given us access into the imaginations of diverse writers from around the world, and an unending pool of inspiration. So we asked our Tweak family about the books that changed them and came away with everything, from philosophical essays to magical realism and a guide to living. They’re all going on our reading list for the new year.
1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tolle’s book espouses the daily practice of mindfulness, encouraging readers to focus their energies on the present. It encourages letting go of past pains and future worries because the only thing you can control is your present and how you live it.
“This book has changed my entire perspective on life. It made me more compassionate and gave me a sense of direction in life. Of course, it wasn’t in a single day. I have read this book many times over a period of 3 years, each time learning something new.” – Amandeep Verma.
2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Albom’s memoir documents several visits with his former Sociology professor Morrie Schwartz in his final days with ALS. We learn about friendship and forgiveness, death and life, money and marriage through the experiences and conversations between the two.
“I finally realised that I need to keep in touch with the people I care about. Not for anyone else, but for myself.” – Sanchayan Bhattacharjee.
3. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay written by Camus and translated to English by Justin O’Brien. Sisyphus is condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down again. He’s condemned to repeating this seemingly futile task for all eternity. Sisyphus accepts his ‘fate’, taking away the power from the God that punished him, and smiles.
“Camus has this one line, ‘One must imagine Sisyphus happy’. That is one I’ll never forget. Reading it was part of my college coursework but it definitely changed me. I’ve gone back to reading it multiple times. Sisyphus is condemned to a life of mundaneness but he makes his own meaning out of it. He could easily spiral into misery at his predicament but he says, heck, it is what it is I’ll roll this rock the best damn way I can and I’ll be amazing at it. That’s what I guess it’s all about. There’s no meaning of life, you face that absurdity and chaos of existence and find joy and meaning in what you do, you control that. It reminds you that even when things are going horribly, there’s no divine reason for it, no greater power to blame or look to for a change. You have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. ” – Sara Hussain
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman’s book follows a man’s journey back to his hometown for a funeral and all the childhood experiences that come flooding back with his return. In the author’s typical fantastic style, we gain insights into the human condition, showcasing the power that stories hold when we look back at our lives. Hauntingly nostalgic, it highlights the disconnect between our mature ‘adult’ selves and our childhood.
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” This poignant quote is from Neil Gaiman’s Ocean At the End of the Lane, possibly the most poetic, evocative book I’ve read in a long time. Like most of Gaiman’s work, it blends fantasy and realism, and ends up leaving you with lifelong lessons, that creep up on you long after you’ve finished the book. A tale about self-identity, it follows a grown man as he returns to the village he grew up in and finds his memories, and reality in a bit of haze. Aside from the quotable quotes, it immerses you in a world of nostalgia and nudges you to look at your own life, just a little bit differently.” – Chandni Sehgal
5. Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman
Kramer vs. Kramer is a realistic, nuanced story about the breakdown of a family and the effect it has on everyone involved. A mother walks out on her young son and husband, leaving the father as breadwinner and primary caretaker. She returns two years later, wanting her son back in her life. It was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman.
“Of course, I read it after watching the film. But reading the book was an even more intimate experience because it lasted longer than just three hours. I’m far away from marriage or parenthood, but that book made me realise how often moms are reduced to being just moms. And how, as a society, we feel fathers can’t be caregivers of kids, like mothers can. The book makes me cry every time. Strangely, I cannot find one character to blame — both the Kramers have shades of grey, and they live with their choices. The book hasn’t made me rethink my life choices (yet) but made me more open about the decisions that other people make.” – Arundhati Chatterjee.
6. 1984 by George Orwell
1984 is an eye-opening read written by Orwell about a dystopian future that’s not much of a dystopia or future for readers of today. The world has broken up after war and conflicts. Big Brother is always watching, surveying and history is being rewritten by Winston Smith and the ‘Ministry of Truth’. It shows the turmoil of the proletariat under controlling regimes, the fluid ‘truth’ under such governance and a bubbling resistance filled with distrust and spies.
“This book is about the past, present and future. It will always be relevant. It opened my eyes to a whole world that exists around us that we’re blind to. Maybe it’s the bliss in ignorance, but once you’re aware of it you can’t stop thinking about it. It changes the way you see politics and the people that indulge in it.” – Chhavi Sahni
7. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince is the story of boy who leaves his home to travel the universe, learning (and teaching) many life lessons along the way. His encounters are documented and then shared with the narrator of the story who crash landed in a desert.
“The beautiful thing about this book is its simplicity. As a writer it taught me that impactful writing doesn’t need to be complex, that’s the impact it had on me. I read it for the first time as a teenager and have gone back to it many times at significant stages of my life. I think each time you take something away from it. It inspired me as a writer and as a human. This is how I aspire to write. To leave people with the warm and fuzzies, make them introspect without the need for jargon.” – Koyal Iyer