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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!

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Iseult The Idle
Iseult The Idle
4 years ago

I did read Siddhartha in high school and was probably somewhat insufferable on the subject for a while afterwards. But ruined, no, I wouldn’t say that.

Sarah
Sarah
4 years ago

In 2016, I tried reading 2666. Though Bolaño is my favorite writer, I just could not with the endless rapes/murders/mutilations. I understand what he was doing with that, it was just… too much, that year, with the election, with Don Tump’s pride in sexual assault. It’s still on my bedside table, I haven’t given up on it. I’m just not ready for the onslaught, again.

Stevie
Stevie
4 years ago

It didn’t ruin my life but the story “The one’s who walk away from Omelas ” has had a profoundly disturbing effect on me. The first time I read it I literally three the book across the room because the reality hit me so hard. Decades later I got the nerve to reread it and was seriously triggered when I realized that, in my childhood as the impoverished and abused child of uneducated parents who had a literal shotgun wedding when my mom was 15, I was the child in the closet. We all had to suffer for my mothers transgression in order to provide an example to other girls and keep society working the way conservatives wanted it to.

Laugher at Bigots
4 years ago

Some of you may know that I used to listen avidly to conservative talk radio. My first foray into politics was the 2008 presidential election and its run-up; influenced by my mother and her parents, I became a right-winger. I received from them two books by Glenn Beck, Common Sense and An Inconvenient Book. At the time, I liked them (I am sorry to say), so much that I got two other books by him as they came out: Arguing with Idiots and Broke. These, along with such luminary radio personalities as Michael Medved, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, and the one and only Rush Limbaugh, defined my worldview for the next six years or so. It helped that I grew up in Texas.

Shadowplay
Shadowplay
4 years ago

Answered you on twitter, because I’m an idiot and didn’t see the link. 😛

Dreamer
Dreamer
4 years ago

Yeah, the Bible. Gave me weird ideas of women’s roles.

Knitting Cat Lady
Knitting Cat Lady
4 years ago

Hmm.

Not one single book but…

In my last two years of school we read one or two books or plays per term.

Most were from the publishers ‘reclam’ and ‘Hamburger Lesehefte’.

For the non Germans: Both publisher’s books are made of very thin paper, have tiny print and have a cardboard binding that can be drawn on.

There have been exhibitions of the doodles students tend to draw on them.

My mum still has some of my books. One with a very prominent and detailed lettering of a question:

‘Warum lesen wir immer Bücher, in denen Frauen ermordet werden?’

‘Why do we always read books about women getting murdered?’

I also drew a blood dripping knife next to it.

Yeah. That pattern was a bit disturbing.

I’ve read 1.5 Dan Brown books.

My gran loved ‘The Davinci Code’, so she badgered everyone to read it. I gave up halfway in because I just couldn’t stand it any more. I could feel the book melting my brain and making it dribble out of my ears.

I actually read all of ‘Angels and Demons’.

I did a student internship at a chair for nuclear physics. And also did my diploma thesis there.

The grad students convinced me that as a nuclear physicist I just had to read it because it was totally hilarious.

So I read it. It was atrocious. And I really laughed my head of about plenty of it.

But generally I’d say I haven’t read any books that had a huge impact on my life.

Zenobia Augusta
Zenobia Augusta
4 years ago

Probably not exactly what you were looking for but several years ago I had to stop speaking to my Aunt. She was very big on The Secret at the time and began needling me (at an Easter dinner, if I remember correctly) about what a failure I was. After several minutes of berating me, I told her I was doing the best I could. She said I obviously wasn’t, and that I needed to start making lists of goals, and an idea board. I told her something along the lines of “I don’t need any of that Oprah self help bullshit”. IDK why, but she hated Oprah, and started screaming at me. My Grandfather told her to calm down, and she shoved him. My brother got between them and she punched him and stormed off. It took a few years, but that was sort of the beginning of the end of our relationship. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in about three years.

MrsObedMarsh
MrsObedMarsh
4 years ago

For me, it was Atlas Shrugged – but for the opposite reason you might think. I hated the book so much that I went trawling for facts that confirm the hypothesis that Ayn Rand was a garbage person who should not be admired or listened to, which I will repeat at the slightest of provocations. In fact I typed out one of those facts in this reply box, but deleted it because it doesn’t really matter. All the facts I found are just a Google search away if you’re actually interested. If you’re not, well lucky you, you’ve got a lot more self-control than I do.

Chris Oakley
4 years ago

I endured The Heart Of Midlothian in one of my college lit courses. Almost made me give up reading for good.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
4 years ago

At least the real world (apparently) lacks such things as Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon”, Marvel’s “Darkhold”, the “Book of the Dead” from The Mummy, or the ominously-not-otherwise-named “The Book” from Anathem

Austin Loomis
4 years ago

On a chicken-poxy early-morning drive from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Jackson at the age of 14 (for the state finals of the first-ever MATHCOUNTS competition), I basically inhaled Atlas Shrugged. I went the kind of obnoxious Objectivist that only a teenager can, particularly a teenager in 1984 when the Soviet Union looked like a real threat, particularly an undiagnosed autistic teenager who wished he didn’t have to keep relearning how to human with each individual specimen he met. I envy MrsObedMarsh having had the good sense to realize she’d read a crap book by a crap person, and I can relate to feeling the need to inflict the truth on anyone who can’t run away from you fast enough. It has taken me a long time to achieve that level of self-control, and it’s not so much “self-control” as heeding “Bob’s” advice that you have a right “to flee from unwinnable fights.”

I didn’t begin to extricate myself until eight years later, when I tried to read The Way Things Ought to Be and noticed that the main difference between Limbaugh’s philosophy and Rand’s was that he leaned much more on God (or at least Gawd) as justification for his insistence that anything left of him was objectively pro-Communist and willfully anti-freedom. I’m pretty sure I’d pried my brain out of that mold by the time the Lewinsky scandal broke, just by seeing what the people who were in it were really like. (It’s like the bit in The Fifth Elephant where we find out that Lady Sybil went to school with Angua’s mother, and learned there that the right side of any given argument was probably the one that didn’t have Serafine Soxe-Bloonberg on it.)

Am I making sense? If so, I apologize.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
4 years ago

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was an ardent Richard Bach fan as a young teenager.

Viscaria
Viscaria
4 years ago

I definitely upped my douche quotient for a while by uncritically absorbing The God Delusion at about 16/17 years of age. Looking back, though, there were parts of the book that helped me develop nuanced opinions as an adult, so I don’t regret reading it. I just wish I’d come across it a bit later in my development as a human being.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Hmm. I went through a flirtation with astrology and devoured books on it in high school. I’m a little embarrassed about it, looking back. I don’t think it caused any harm though.

Eyes on the Right
4 years ago

The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Largely seconding Viscaria’s comment.

Batgirl
Batgirl
4 years ago

Loooooong time lurker, first time commenting, because I find this topic really compelling.

When I was nine, my aunt gave me the Flowers in the Attic book series. A brief(ish)/spoilerific description: four kids are locked away in an attic by their mom after their dad dies, to hide them from their hateful grandfather. The first book alone contains a sadistic grandmom’s beatings, the mom poisoning her own kids, and the oldest brother raping his sister – but she decides later on it isn’t rape because she didn’t really try to stop him. The rest of the series is just as twisted, with more rape, sadistic versions of Christianity, and the siblings living as husband and wife.

It was a really really adult/intense series for a nine year old to read, and it messed up my view on sex, consent, and religion for a long time. I honestly didn’t realize how it affected my thoughts until I read it again in high school, understood how screwed up the stories were, and took time to analyze my feelings. So the “damage” wasn’t permanent, but I have to admit the series stuck with me. I haven’t read it in over a decade and it still pops into my brain sometimes.

sunnysombrera
4 years ago

Not my book but my parents, and it lead to the loss of a significant sentimental item.

My parents have on occasion veered towards Weird Christianity types of books. Over spiritual, practically superstitious, with the occasional conspiracy theory thrown in as well. I always rejected them because they’re bollocks and I have critical thinking skills, but this one time I actually took this book semi seriously and made a bad decision due to its influence.

It was basically a stupid hysterical tome listing a load of brand logos and claiming them to be “inspired by satanic symbols” therefore owning anything with these logos would “attract evil spirits into your life.” Yeah. Bullshit. And I knew it when I looked at it out of curiosity.

But then it was the time we were packing up to move house. I selected a bunch of key childhood toys/items to put in a box and keep basically forever, and I decided to choose between two stuffed animals to put in said box. Why I didn’t just decide to keep both I don’t know, but I like I should really downsize my stuff and there wasn’t much time to ponder on these things.

One plush was a Nemo toy I got from Disneyland, another was this adorable purple dragon that I had never seen in any other shop. I was reaaally thinking about which one to keep when something from the book popped into my head: “dragons are pagan animals thus spiritually bad blah blah.” WHY DID I TAKE IT SERIOUSLY WHEN I HAD UP UNTIL THEN KNOWN IT WAS BULLSHIT. But still it was the tipping point that made me give away the dragon plush and on and off I seriously regretted it for years.

I redeemed the error last month by buying a smaller version of the toy from eBay (the big one was nowhere to be found – just my luck that the toy is now considered a rare collectible) and I feel much better, but kind of want my old toy back a little as well. It’s a fading feeling, but I shouldn’t have given it up when it was a beloved feature of my younger years.

Angela
Angela
4 years ago

High school objectivist right here. I even subscribed to a “magazine” but I’m blanking on what it was called.

Weird (thumper of trumpanzees) Eddie
Weird (thumper of trumpanzees) Eddie
4 years ago

I read “1984” my senior year in H.S… I remember standing in the boys restroom (don’t remember why…)finishing the last page of it, when I read the last line, (paraphrase) “He had finally won the battle with himself… he loved Big Brother.”

I felt hope drain from my soul.

Katamount
Katamount
4 years ago

Books haven’t really been life-changing things for me, at least not as I can recall. I’ll digest them, take some meaning from them and apply it to my life, but literature in general doesn’t provide life-altering concepts for me.

I did read the entire Sharpe series and then became a huge Napoleonic Wars dork though, so I guess that’s something.

Virginia Howard
Virginia Howard
4 years ago

I read Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” when I was fifteen, while I was babysitting someone’s daughter– and there it was on the coffee table, beckoning. The chapter on “Hate” mortally wounded my romantic notions about men, permanently. I wouldn’t say that it ruined my life, but it was a crisis in faith and a loss of innocence.

Benterati
Benterati
4 years ago

Nothing too outlandish has managed to stick. I have discarded irrational ideas, focused on science, become irreligious, non violent, focused of being a steward of nature, my fellow man and the Earth. Enjoy the ride.

Button
Button
4 years ago

I never quite recovered from reading The King in Yellow. I still wake in the middle of the night sometimes, half-dressed, with no recollection as to why I’m covered in pus.

Moggie
Moggie
4 years ago

Not ruined, no, but I think I dodged a bullet a couple of times.

First: one of Erich von Däniken’s books, in my early teens. I can’t even remember which one, but it was probably Chariots of the Gods? It was such horseshit that I ended up throwing it on the fire. But then I said to myself: is that who I am now? Burning books, so that others won’t be corrupted by them? You know who else used to do that, right? So, I remained a judgemental little prick, but at least one who didn’t try to suppress ideas.

Second, a few years later: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. What I would have taken away from this novel if I’d read it as an adult, I don’t know, but as an alienated and depressive teenager, it made me feel that I would always be an outsider, and that suicide was my inevitable solution. Not a good state of mind to be in when you’re full of adolescent melodrama.

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