How books can change you

Ever closed a good book and felt changed by what you’ve read?

You’re not alone.

At some point in our lives, most of us have picked up a book, become hooked and by the very last chapter become a different person.

Whether it’s relating to a character, picturing ourself in a particular story line or becoming lost in the powerful imagery or emotion, some of the best reads are sure to leave a profound effect on your life.

Think of some of the most famous books ever written.

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For me Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird comes to mind.

56 years and 40 million copies have passed since the iconic novel was published, but even today it continues to have a profound effect on those of us who have read it.

To Kill A Mockingbird has inspired thousands of authors, and several have opened up about how it changed them as writers.

Author Matthew Reilly told the Sydney Morning Herald he enjoyed the book too much.

“It was the first novel that made me lose track of time,” he said.

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“It made me mad as hell. It made me care.”

Fellow author Hannah Kent expressed how she returns to To Kill A Mockingbird to “expand her understanding of what it means to be a good and decent human being.”

“I find it difficult to believe that anyone could read it and remain unaltered: no more empathetic, no more thoughtful,” she said.

Similar could be said about other books that continue to resonate with audiences the world over of all ages.

From Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings to the phenomenon of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and timeless classics such as Lord of the Flies and Robinson Crusoe, books continue to shape and changed our lives.

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Some books, such as The Diary of Anne Frank, tell our history, and as such become a part of our history.

And of course books are also at the heart and soul of some of the world’s biggest religions.

Many Christians would say the Bible changed their lives, as many Muslims would share how the Koran changed them.

Don Stewart, the Bible Explorer, summarises the Bible as “unique” in its power to change lives.

“To the believer, it is life changing in its truth,” he said.

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“No other book has such ability.”

Whether you agree with Don Stewart or not, there’s no denying that the ability for books to change our lives is testament to the power of the written word.

What is it about books that allows us to make such a deep, emotional connection?

According to researchers, digesting a character or a series of events in a book can change you as a person.

Through a process called experience taking, researchers have found that when we read we do more than understand a character – we keep a little of them inside ourselves and change ourselves.

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The process is described as subtle as seasoning in a soup, something that simply happens spontaneously as we read.

Researchers have found experience taking is so strong that it can even change how likely someone is to vote and how they perceive people of different races or sexualities.

We’re constantly told as we grow older about the importance of reading, perhaps this is why.

Have you read a book that’s changed your life? What do you think makes the books we read so life-changing?