The books that have changed our lives

Posted on March 05, 2020


World Book Day is here and what better way to celebrate than by the gift of reading? To mark the date, the Clearbox team has been busy collecting old books from home to donate across local charity shops in Holywood. 

We also wrote about books that have changed our lives and the selection could fill a bookshelf. From the wizarding word of Harry Potter to timeless classics like To Kill a Mockingbird or life guides such as Who Moved My Cheese, it is clear that we love books and the adventures we can have while getting tucked into a page turner. 

 

Vicci Keenan | Of Mice and Men

I studied Of Mice and Men for my English Literature GSCE and after reading a few uninspiring books for this subject I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. How wrong was I? This was the first book I couldn’t put down and the first time I had ever felt such emotion for the characters and the challenges they faced. I think the themes within the book really opened my eyes at such a young age, with it exploring friendship and shared dreams, along with loneliness, deprivation and sacrifice. This book opened my eyes to both my love of reading and also what happens in the world around me.

 

Alex Symington | The Great Gatsby

There have been many books that have changed my life over the years, by changing the way I view things, changing how I interpret people’s actions and giving me new passions and interests. But for me, The Great Gatsby (and the stellar line up of English teachers at Portadown College circa 2012) changed my life because it changed how I viewed literature. Suddenly there were not only words on a page but there were hidden meanings in the descriptions, comments on the socio-economic culture and parallels in the text and the author’s life. It was that book that proved to me how important literature is. 

I love the Guilty Feminist podcast and the host, Deborah Frances White, often says it was a book that changed conditions in the UK. After Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist was released people were presented with the harsh realities of workhouses and how easily a person could slip into the system. Dickens used literature to explain the complexities of humans, their struggles and how sometimes people just don’t have any other options. While the book may not have forced immediate change, it did create public outcry which enabled change to happen. Literature can comment on society and change people’s views. It also acts as a reminder to future generations about what can happen if we forgo empathy. So, I am forever grateful to The Great Gatsby for teaching me that a novel is not just words on a page but a chance to open a person’s mind to a new world and an opportunity to change society.

 

Anna Irwin | Harry Potter

I was in my late teens when I first discovered the wizarding world of Harry Potter - starting with The Philosopher’s Stone. Although I was about to start university, I totally wasn’t above a regression to my childhood reading habits with an irresistible mix of boarding schools and wizardry - it was Mallory Towers meets Lord of the Rings! Straight away, I was hooked. What I love is the detail that JK Rowling was able to go into to describe a parallel universe where Quidditch and Basilisks exist in a school called Hogwarts. It’s an unbelievable level of creativity that I, to this day, continue to be in awe of.

Nowadays the books have had an even bigger impact on my life as my ten year old son has started reading the series and I’m able to relive the magic through his eyes. We started off reading the books together every night but now he reads on independently in class, the car and anywhere he gets the chance which has developed his reading skills immensely. In a world where YouTube and Fifa rule, only a very special book can tear a ten year old boy away from the screen! I love that Harry Potter can transcend the generations and bring families together with a story that both young and old can enjoy. 


Charlotte Goss |It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

A book that impacted me was, 'It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be' by Paul Arden.

I received this dinky little book as a gift before I moved to London for my first job in PR, and I was feeling very nervous about it. I was entering completely new territory in a new city with new people, and this book gave me a little boost of confidence to jump right in!

It’s not that the book itself provided any mantras or life-changing philosophy to live by, but it gave me some words of encouragement when I needed them.

 

Rachel Reilly | Anne of Green Gables

My favourite book would have to be Anne of Green Gables, the first novel I chose to read in primary school outside of the classroom. Anne, the eleven-year-old, red-haired heroine taught me some valuable life lessons: embrace your imagination, friendship is crucial, and of course, girls are just as good as boys. It’s one of those books that I have only read once but I still remember it almost page to page.

 

Amy Robinson | Grief is the Thing With Feathers

There so many books I could pick to answer this question. I was the sort of child who read under the covers with a torch when I was supposed to be asleep, and I raced through books at a pace that I can now only dream of having the time for. The book that has made the most recent and significant impact on my life, however, is Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers. I adore this book. I wrote my entire undergraduate dissertation on this single 120 page novella and it’s still my all-time favourite. It’s a strange little book about a Dad, a dead wife, two little sons, and a Crow - it’s incredibly beautiful and absolutely devastating. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I consider it as having changed my life, but it deepened my love of literature in a really profound way and I love it for that.

 

Claire Best | Who Moved My Cheese?

I’ll be honest, I rarely get any time to read. Pre-children, I loved a good book and could actually read more than 5 pages without falling asleep! Nowadays, my reading repertoire is made up of children’s books as my 5 year old loves a good bedtime story. However, I recently got a break from “The Highway Rat” and “The Snail and the Whale” when my good friend, esteemed colleague and all-round nice person John Megaughin, gave me the book “Who Moved my Cheese?” and assured me I could read it in less than an hour. I was intrigued by the title and when I asked him what it was about, his reply was “just read it!” 

"Who Moved My Cheese?" is a short, light-hearted fable about change and how to deal with it. It follows the journey of four characters as they search, find, lose and must rediscover their favourite food, cheese! The cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life - whether it’s a great job, a loving relationship, money or health. The core message is that things are constantly changing so we must adapt with these changes - and the quicker we adapt, the more satisfied we’ll be. 

A very interesting, motivational and useful book - and I read it in 50 minutes. WIN WIN! 

 

Kerry Gardner | To Kill a Mockingbird

A book that has changed my life - a big statement but it has to be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ I should start by saying that the first time I read this book, I was studying it for GSCE English and I did not love English at school, I actually really hated it. My teacher, however had a passion for this book like I’ve never seen before. We were the only class in the year group to study it, as he fought every year to have it on the syllabus at our school. 

It’s a beautifully challenging story that tackles prejudice, civil rights and racism in 1930’s America. A story so complex that I couldn’t even go into how much it explores and the emotion it provokes. For me, the one defining reason it “changed my life’ so to speak, is that there is one quote from the book that guides a lot of my thinking in life: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I can’t articulate how much these words resonate with me and they really don’t need to be explained. It’s a wonderful book and is as important a read in 2020, as it was when it was first published in 1960. 

John Megaughin | Who Moved My Cheese?

A book that changed my life…that’s a hard one as my life hasn’t really changed that much over the years. Don’t believe me? Look at my wardrobe, my favourite music artists or my unwavering passion for Angel Delight (butterscotch). I’m not proud of this but I’m just being honest with you, dear readers.  

However, in the interest of getting involved in this post, I’m going to choose a book that I really enjoyed reading instead. That book is called 'Who Moved My Cheese?' I don’t really know what it’s about to be honest (it features mice in a maze) but it gives you a fresh perspective on how to tackle change in a fun and engaging way, and it’ll make you sound very well-read in the kitchen at parties. An added bonus is it’s quite light and can be read in 30 minutes.

Honourable mentions also go to the Damned United, Bravo Two Zero, I am Pilgrim, Oasis: the truth and the Little Vampire. I know what you’re thinking. There’s a man with a cultured library. 

 

Claire Hamilton | Madeline

Every book you read becomes a little part of you. As our interests, needs and goals change in life, so do the books we read. This reflects the types of books we seek out and lessons that we hope to learn from stepping into a new world through a page turner. In terms of life-changing books, I’d say the first one is Madeline. It is the first book I ever read alone as a child and it is wonderful story of a young girl who is the bravest and most daring of her friends. The second book is Little Women. This book tells the timeless story of the March sisters as they transition from childhood to womanhood and I will forever cherish this story. Last, I might as well say the book I am reading now which was gifted to me by my husband’s grandmother. It is Mary Portas’ Work Like a Women. It is a sassy manifesto for change that calls out alpha culture in the workplace. It is jam packed with stories of her career and shares tips and advice for navigating a work life balance. Looking at the books I selected, there is certainly a constant in my reading through the years – female empowerment! 

 

Darryl Campbell | Halfway Home

When I was at GCSE level at school, we had an assignment to write a book review for History on a famous Irish person – although it had to be about someone of merit, our teacher was very against pop stars and people of 'fleeting fame'. Devastated, because I couldn’t write about B*Witched or Samantha Mumba, I turned to my father for advice.

Dad handed me a book called ‘Halfway Home by Ronan Tynan’ (the most removed suggestion I could have possibly gotten tbh). I regretfully read this book and found myself enthralled. Ronan was diagnosed with a lower limb disability at birth, had his lower limbs amputated at 20 years old, and within a year was winning races at the Paralympic Games – taking home eighteen gold medals and fourteen world records. He then started a career in Medicine, obvi. Then, deciding he simply hadn’t accomplished enough, decided he wanted to study vocals, go on to win a tv singing competition, release an album, and join the infamous Irish Tenors.

As much as Ronan Tynan’s Halfway Home is a seemingly strange selection for me, this book really changed my outlook at a particularly interesting time in my life. Ronan faced such diversity, and yet didn’t just overcome it, but decided to exceed expectations again and again, not letting anything hold him back. 

We stan a true icon, Ronan Tynan.