david has questions off topic

Off-Topic Question Time: Did a book ever ruin your life?

WTF did I just read?

I have a bit of an off-topic question for you all: Did a book ever ruin your life?

Well, maybe that’s overstating things a little, so let me rephrase: Did you ever read a book that had a giant effect on your life, only to realize later that this effect was basically a negative one? Maybe you read Ayn Rand in high school and became an insufferable junior Objectivist for a couple of years? Maybe you gobbled up conspiracy theory until it finally occurred to you that Reptilians aren’t the real problem with the world today? Maybe you read a book that inspired you to join a cult that you later had to extract yourself from painfully?

It doesn’t have to be this dramatic. I’m just wondering how many of you all have stories like these, and what these stories are.

I might have a little bit of an ulterior motive. But it’s a good one, honest!

213 replies on “Off-Topic Question Time: Did a book ever ruin your life?”

Thanks Alan!

Started watching your link and it’s already funny, informative and right up my alley. It will probably send me down a history rabbit-hole for the next few days but totally worth it.

apologies if this is a duplicate comment— i read through five pages of comments and didn’t see mine show up, so i’m trying again.

i grew up in a conservative christian/fundie household and remember the heyday of the Left Behind novels vividly. my mother treated them like extensions of the Bible and as a result, i read them as prophesy. i think i fell off reading them around age fifteen, long before the series concluded, but before that i devoured them. there was a “Left Behind Kids” series too which i also read.

the primary way this ruined my life is that it made me terrified of the End Times and particularly the Rapture. i’m in my 30s and i STILL feel a certain anxious unease if i’m driving at night and haven’t seen anyone in a while. did it happen? and i didn’t get taken????? i wish this wasn’t still in my brain!

tangentially related, i got almost nothing in the way of sex ed. i started watching but mostly reading porn at a young age and educated myself that way. in retrospect, not a great way to learn about sex and sexuality. the good news is that i did stumble into fanfic communities where i got to read things by feminist authors who cared a lot about power dynamics and consent issues and intersectionality (south asian harry potter! black hermione forever!). but i waded through a lot of toxic garbage to get there.

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants

Wanted to respond earlier, but it’s been a long week.

Yeah, the whole 60’s and 70’s views of sexuality were really kind of messed up as exemplified by that ‘if you don’t like threesomes you’re a prude’ thing in Joy of Sex.

It went suddenly from “good girls don’t have sex, or if they do it’s because of some deus ex machina or the manly studmuffin ‘convincing’ them into it and if they enjoy it otherwise they’re slutty” to “Everybody must have sex, everybody must like sex, anybody must do it with anybody who wants and if they feel otherwise something is wrong with them. Oh, and everybody’s bi, and sexual preference and even aversion to doing it with family members (looking at YOU, Heinlein) is merely a repressed social construct you need to unlearn.” Twitch, twitch, twitch.

I saw it in sci-fi of the time (and even now) how some authors had this… I don’t like using the term in this context but don’t know what else to use… schizophrenic feel to their work on the subject (Looking at YOU, Anne McCaffrey) where the sympathetic female characters were these pious good girls pre-Mr. Right, ALSO coupled with a condescending ‘there, there, you poor thing, you’re broken and need to learn about the Joys of Anonymous Nookie’. The conflicting messages drove me bonkers when I was younger. The whole Joy of Sex thing just reminded me of all that.

It’s like the pendulum went utterly from one end to another with no in between with the assumption that many people with ingrained attitudes would be able to flick them off like a lightswitch. Quite a few of these assumptions about free love and the early Sexual Revolution turned out to be not quite right, but not before they did damage.

Especially, especially for women. To this day, I keep wondering exactly how much of the Sexual Revolution and free love movement actually was for women’s benefit, rather than for that of men trying to guilt trip or manipulate them into something they weren’t comfortable with just to get their dicks wet now that pregnancy was no longer a real worry. It’s an attitude that I’m still terrified of, and that has left me scarred. Hell, I still don’t know if I’m frigid, ace, just on serious happy pills, or if something is wrong with me one way or another that keeps me from fully enjoying sex.

(And no, I don’t know why and how Mr. Dakry deals with this from me. I just know he’s beyond price for being willing to do so and loving me anyway.)

I much prefer the attitude of ‘you do you’ that’s more prevalent these days. I don’t really give a dang about who or what gender or how many at one time people want to be sexual with, as long as they’re comfortable and happy with it. Just don’t smash it in my face and make me feel like I’m wrong and broken for not jumping into the same behavior with a song on my lips.

I have no damn idea if any of this made sense.
(And aroused by horses’ asses? Um. Right.)

Honestly, it seems like 90% of speculative fiction writers are only there because they have an axe to grind about something ridiculous or appalling. Like, their true passion is bringing about a society where citizenship can only be earned through incest, and the whole “books” thing is just a means to an end.

I have never got past chapter 3 of the last book in the narnia series that book starts with gas lighting and casual mentions of genocide for profit it has sent me into a funk ever time I have tried to read it

I wouldn’t say they “ruined” my life, but I have to admit a lot of “classic” sci-fi from the 70’s-80’s nearly put me off the genre entirely. So much of it just has this icky sexist/racist/creepy pedophilic subtext that makes me feel like I need a shower after I read it.

@Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged:

My favorite description of the sexual revolution remains “Suddenly it was a lot easier to get laid, but women still did the dishes.” Wish I could remember where I heard that…


Couple of years ago I came across this novel called ‘Caliphate’ in the spec fiction section of a Barnes and Noble where I could tell even the premise would give MRA’s and racists a boner. Namely how Europe turned into this evil Islamic empire in the future because people dared to *gasp* tolerate Muslim immigrants and some German chick got forced into prostitution because her family didn’t pay their dhimmitude. The so-called noble American hero in it was not much better in his attitudes towards women, he just didn’t rape them, and said German chick was alll so grateful and love interesty because of it. Totally had a “nice rights there, be a shame if you lost them” thing going on, even what with all the other racist and nationalistic bullshit. Barf. I didn’t even read the thing.

Needless to say *that* author had an Agenda about a parsec wide.

@liminal space

Yeah, there’s some stuff there that still makes me want to shower my soul. In sulfiric acid.

@Rabid Rabbit

…Yeah, that sounds about right. 😛 Along with the whole ‘you’re repressed if you don’t put out’ vibe.

I read some feminist non-fiction about horrible acts of violence towards women when I was way too young to handle the content (8 or 9 years old). I was a sensitive kid, and a few passages I read made me feel literally sick to my stomach. That combined with everything I heard about sex in middle school made me anti-sex and terrified of dating for years.

* Note: I’m not saying to not give your kids feminist readings. Just maybe don’t give your elementary-aged kids stuff describing witch hunts or gang rapes in graphic detail.

The Last Battle is the first time I ever felt personally betrayed by a book. I’ve never believed in an afterlife, so to have my favorite characters killed off just to push a message… it hurt.

@ Banarama – I’m sorry to say I completely bought into the messages in Mists of Avalon when I read it as a teenager, hook line and sinker. That made me feel much worse when I found out that she was a complete monster. I wondered how I could have been so naive.

I really, really wish that sometimes I could have curbed my impulse to look up disturbing stuff on the internet (I think I’ll be okay with it, and then it turns out, nope, I’m not okay with it). There’s some stuff I’ve seen on the internet that I think will be burned into my brain until I die.

Add me to the list of people who read The Bell Jar at a time when I shouldn’t have (because it made me feel hopeless).

@liminal space:

a lot of “classic” sci-fi from the 70’s-80’s nearly put me off the genre entirely

What titles or authors should be avoided?


Eh, no big. Because, really, everybody wants to find a fix of some kind for all the personal and general societal suck in the world. For my own part, I was wondering if I was repressed and too Christian because I felt uncomfortable with it and didn’t want to buy into it but at the same time I wondered if I was in the wrong. Sadly, this is how most abusers get a foot in– they make you doubt your own feelings. *sourly* Obviously MZB had had practice at it. >:(

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