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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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Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, FemiNest Collective agent, Hell Toupee keeper & Intergalactic Meanie
Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, FemiNest Collective agent, Hell Toupee keeper & Intergalactic Meanie
4 years ago

I never read The World According to Garp, but did see the movie. The cult was started by extreme feminists to support a teenager whose rapist cut her tounge out so she couldn’t identify him as her attacker. The tounge cutting was done as a form of protest and as an act of support for the victim.

Garp (the movie) had some pretty messed up stuff in it, starting with how he was conceived to begin with….

Michael Shigetani
Michael Shigetani
4 years ago

Far too much conspiracy theory stuff. I have suffered from insomnia for a long time (related to my PTSD) Short version: If I stay up too late my brain starts to go frantic all over the place. So, one night I just started reading conspiracy theory stuff. I started on Return of Kings, then MGTOW .Somehow I missed Alex Jones; but I swear I read everyone else. I just couldn’t stop. Then I found 4Chan. And that was 12 hours. I forced myself to stop. But gods, sometimes I can still feel my brain going down that path.

Tia
Tia
4 years ago

I’ve been terrified of rats ever since reading 1984, so there’s that. Thanks a lot, GEORGE.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
4 years ago

@Hippodameia: I highly recommend Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. It’s full of wonderful anecdotes about people who felt betrayed when they realized it was Christian allegory. I’m also particularly fond of its anecdote about the fundamentalist girl who was converted away from Christianity by Narnia.

@epitome of incomprehensibility: The scandal that arose the first time an academic pointed out the lesbian subtext to Anne and Diana was something to behold. Not least because of how hard it is to deny once it’s pointed out to you.

Candy
Candy
4 years ago

Deepak Chopra made me think illness is something that you bring on yourself and can be cured by thinking alone. As a chronic pain patient this was just horrible dogma.

PsyConomics
PsyConomics
4 years ago

For me it was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

They had us read it in middle school in mixed class with 6th through 9th graders. This meant that they couldn’t teach any historical context, social context, or critical appraisal in a way that would involve/enrich both ends of the age group. So they just didn’t and instead taught it as a straight forward current event.

Long story short it had a 200X me convinced that everything the book enunciated was still the same type of problem that it was in 1962 when it was first published.

This course overall was a master series in forceful molding of young minds. Other articles and short stories had to where I refused to own more than one pair of shoes (toxic factories and borderline slave labor) or justify even the notion of having a family (over population).

But the center was that book in the following logic:
“Humans need food, food needs ‘chemicals,’ look at this one novel from the early 1960’s to see what continuing to live does to the planet. We wont ever say out loud people need to die BUT, well, *shrug*.”

Lunetta
4 years ago

The closest I guess I’ve had is also with Ayn Rand. I was very much into B noir movies when I was in my teens (still am, but anyway) and I loved The Fountainhead movie of the late 40s. When I got out of an abusive relationship in my early 20s I got hold of an old copy of The Fountainhead and tried, unsuccessfully, to slog through it. I really wanted to like that book. I really wanted it to help me find myself and my integrity after 5 years of emotional abuse. I couldn’t do it. I then gog hold of Atlas Shrugged thinking it was my failing. Wow, that was, if anything, worse. I did the unthinkable and flicked ahead to the last page and was mixed stunned, horrified and laugh-out-loud amused by the ending. I was half-inclined to believe it was a parody, but it was written in dead seriousness. I also (pre-Gooogle, pre-internet access) felt compelled to find out what kind of a horrible human being could write such garbage.

Dvärghundspossen
Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

Whichever book is the last one of the Chronicles of Narnia, where CS Lewis reveals that he’s been tricking the audience the whole time and the lion is Jesus blah blah blah, aren’t you stupid now. I threw the book across the room (it was a library book) and luckily didn’t put a hole in the wall.

I loved the Narnia books as a kid; maybe I’d find them insufferable if I read them as an adult, who knows? Like, I didn’t react to the racism as a kid, but I’d likely find it glaring now…
But I seriously doubt Lewis was trying to “trick” someone. It’s established in the first book (chronologically, even though it wasn’t written first) that there’s a multiverse, and Aslan creates one of the worlds. So you know from the start that he’s an avatar of God (at least given the assumption that you have to be God to create a world). In the second book, he saves the world through being killed and then resurrected (just like Jesus). These are not, like, subtle clues hidden in the background, it’s in the central plot. In Lewis’ multiverse, God apparently does this “incarnation in a mortal form, dying and coming back to life to save the world” multiple times in various universes.

Zaunfink
Zaunfink
4 years ago

Most books I’ve read had a positive effect. In fact, reading the Belgariad and especially the separate book of Belgarath had am enormous influence on my personality, making me stronger and enabling me to survive some of the worse stuff.

Nothing really ruined me, but I did have to sleep with lights on for months and developed a rather solid fear of clowns after attempting to read It. I still have trouble touching the book. Almost as bad was opening a manga in store in which a girl dies by cats eating her face and throat. Never forgotten that one, either.

Oh, and of course the book that introduced me to sex. Basically, the (I think female) lead tries to find out what’s wrong with the rich new neighbour or something like that. He bangs Afaik remember another woman and she is like massively addicted to him because COCK, doing quite a bit of stuff she isn’t really into while he treats her like shit, but she still stays. In the end it turns out he killed and buried his wife. It’s all around weird and it’s been ages since I read it so I don’t really remember – but it took some time to overcome the impressions about how relationships and sex work that were imprinted on my malleable mind.

Said Belgariad actually helped, although it isn’t without its own problems.

Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
4 years ago

I can’t say that any book had such a strong influence as to ruin my life, but the Fifty Shades series’ existence, terrible writing, and origin as Twilight fanfiction makes me somewhat hesitant to tell people that I write fanfiction-I worry that they might dismiss me as being as crappy a writer as EL James, which I try very hard not to be.

Dvärghundspossen
Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

Damn, messed up the quote, and apparently you can’t edit if you mess up that…. The thick letters are supposed to be the quote from Hippodameia, and the block quote is actually me.

Fujimoto
Fujimoto
4 years ago

@Bananananana dakry

CW sexual abuse mention

This reminds me, I was reading Bradley’s foreword to one of her earlier books, The Planet Savers, and in it she came off as very dismissive, even contemptuous, of feminists, and I’ve seen several notices from her claiming she was Christian and wished Neopagans would stop asking her for information. Whatever the case, her own words made her sound terrible.

Her daughter, Moira Greyland, has claimed Bradley was indeed anti-Christian and blames her abuse on Bradley being lesbian, claiming being LGBT equals a higher chance of being a sexual abuser. Vox Day latched onto this, publishing her story so he can paint LGBT folks and non-Christians as pedophiles, and the Sad Puppies use Greyland’s suffering to claim the SF and fantasy writing establishment is full of pedophiles that must be rooted out. It was already a horrible scene, and these parasites are happy to exploit it to score points; they sure didn’t care when Greyland first revealed her abuse; only after she added homophobia to it did they start championing her.

Diptych
Diptych
4 years ago

I was garbage prior to… jury’s still out… but that was going to happen anyway. Far too many undiagnosed issues/delayed developments/closeted etc. for it not to happen. So, I can’t think of any particular literature that had an unpleasant effect.

I did read a lot of Kerouac, but even teenage me managed to pick up on him having a weird attitude to women. Read plenty of anarchist works, which I was insufferable about, but I would have been insufferable anyway.

If there’s any media I wish I’d missed? Early MMORPGs. Those things fucked me up.

Pie
Pie
4 years ago

Redsilkphoenix:

As for C.S. Lewis… much of Lewis’ non-fiction discussed Christian theology, why is it suddenly an unforgivable shock to find those themes in his fiction?

Um, his non-fiction work isn’t really aimed at children, is it?

Dvärghundspossen:

But I seriously doubt Lewis was trying to “trick” someone. It’s established in the first book

It is easy to see the not-very-sub-text in retrospect, but the intended audience is unlikely to spot this first time around. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any of my peers who read it and said “oh yeah, this is a load of barely camouflaged and somewhat unconvincing christian apologetics, isn’t it?”

Anyway, I just found The Last Battle a disappointing end to the series. It just seemed a bit lazy and rushed. It was more the whole “problem of Susan” thing that got to me, and what happens to female characters who are insufficiently meek. Of the six other books, 3 had evil women as the big bads, for example…

latsot
latsot
4 years ago

I find myself weirdly unable to answer this question in a satisfying way, although I’m intrigued by the ulterior motive. Hopefully we’ll learn of it in time.

Many books have taken me to dark places, but none in particular stand out. I think the closest I can come to answering the question properly is to point and yell at a bunch of books with the word “quantum” in the title, usually of the form “The Quantum x”, where x can be literally anything.

I was a completely avid reader of pop science as a kid and read anything and everything sciency. I started off reading things like The Selfish Gene and Gleick’s books and was totally taken in by the sense of authority. They seemed self-evidently true. This did not prepare me for a whole slew of pop science books that are unmitigated bullshit, of which all those ‘quantum’ ones are so representative.

I would have been about 7 or 8, I guess, and my bullshit detector was far from fully developed. I could tell there was a rabbit away but I didn’t understand why. I felt like I was missing something completely obvious to everyone else. Either the books were nonsense, which cast doubt on everything else I’d read or they were true, which cast doubt on my ability to know things. I didn’t like either option and it was a while before I realised that they weren’t the only ones.

This led to quite a profound crisis of confidence for several years until I started to notice patterns. There were books which were nothing other than handwaving, books that were nothing but unjustified analogy and books that vastly exaggerated the importance of something that, if not necessarily trivial, wasn’t always as profound as the books claimed. For example, for some reason I was particularly enraged (many years later) by Bart Kosko’s book on fuzzy logic. Fuzzy logic can be useful, but it’s hardly the jaw-dropping, tripple-take of the application of human thought that the apparently unashamedly self-aggrandising Kosko makes it out to be.

And then there were pop-science books which, you know, just reported the science along with some interesting story-telling about the people involved. It sounds so easy to tell them apart when I say it like that.

So what I’m saying is this: a bunch of terrible pop science books by proper scientists and engineers and journalists collectively had two negative effects on me. First, the previously mentioned crisis of confidence, which took an oddly long time to resolve. Second, this resolution led me into the kind of unrelenting capital-s skepticism that nobody other than another capital-s skeptic can stand for more than about 30 seconds.

I got over it, I hope. I still count myself as a skeptic, but have had to step away from movement skepticism for the usual reason. I’m still an atheist, but have had to step away from movement atheism for pretty much the same reason. Now I can see value in things that make no sense. I can appreciate why people believe things that are obviously wrong and – sometimes – I can resist the urge to correct people.

But for decades I had absolutely no sense of humour about this stuff and was definitely a bit of an arse about it. I like to think I became a better person than I would otherwise have been, but the road was long and winding.

I hope this is the sort of thing you’re looking for, David.

Kootiepatra
4 years ago

I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a young teen. I wouldn’t say it ruined my life, thanks in part to me questioning and outgrowing a lot of it by the time I hit adulthood, and thanks also to my parents who gently suggested I chill out a little bit. But it definitely gave me weird complexes about leading boys on or “giving pieces of my heart” to multiple people or “practicing for divorce” that I had to un-learn later.

Fun fact: The author of that book himself has in recent years recanted it and regrets having written it.

Again in not-technically-life-ruining, I found out that cheap/formulaic romance novels are bad for me. I’m fine with anything that has solidly developed characters who interact with each other in unique ways relative to their personalities (e.g. Pride and Prejudice). But if it’s a tropey Blank-Slate-Self-Fantasy meets Generic-Ideal-Dreamboat thing, it aggravates my tendency towards depression and loneliness.

My roommate had a series of books that she *loved*–and I thought the books were *awful*. It was like the same two characters re-met in every book, just in different costumes and time periods. They’d be introduced as if they were totally different and interesting compared to the last time, but they would go on to use the same vocabularies, demonstrate the same reactions, etc. etc. etc. The writing was *bad*, y’all. Super cliche and trite and boring. I hate-read a bunch of them, with my inner editor railing the whole time about how terrible the books were, because I thought it was a fun exercise to pick apart where they went wrong and how they could be better. But then I put down a book (still critiquing it fiercely in my head), and stepped away, and–*deep sigh* I wonder if anyone will ever love MEEEEEEEE…

I noped away from most romance novels really hard after that. The fact that they could put me in a depressive headspace despite being really poorly written kind of freaked me out.

I think it’s fine that such books exist, and no harm no foul to anyone who’s into them, but they messed with me too much so I just can’t.

Dvärghundspossen
Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

@Pie: Even though my parents weren’t active Christians, I went to Sunday school and so did my friends. It was obvious to all of us, even though we read them as kid. There was never a moment of revelation when we were “aha!”. But if you’re not a religious kid I guess it might be less obvious?

Also, is it technically an “allegory” if Jesus also exists in his own right within Lewis’ multiverse? Hm.

Dvärghundspossen
Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

Re obnoxious atheists with no sense of humour…

Years ago I posted a blog post on Facebook (which I can’t find now, maybe the blog has gone inactive) by philosopher Mark Rowlands, which was very clearly written as a joke, where he argues that the tardigrade proves the existence of God. Just look at it! It looks like some monster from early era Doctor Who, thrown together when they were running out of budget… Ok just throw a tarpaulin over a shopping cart and stick a gas mask at the front and roll it towards the Doctor. The only possible explanation for an actual animal looking like that is that God is sitting there, day six, already a bit tired and he’s like “uh, gotta do the micro organisms too… ugh… Ah well I can half-ass this bit, they’re so small, no one’s gonna see them anyway”. The tardigrade: Clearly the result of intelligent, albeit lazy, design.

So that’s roughly how the blog post went, which I reposted because I thought it was funny. And then atheists come in to explain to me precisely why the tardigrade doesn’t prove the existence of God and how it could have evolved.

Kevin
Kevin
4 years ago

‘…books are dangerous, not just the ones titled ‘Make Gelignite the Professional Way’…’

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
4 years ago

C. S. Lewis specifically wrote the Narnia books to present Christianity in an enjoyable way. He found lots of kids (including himself) were put off by the stale ritualism and therefore didn’t really get it, on an emotional level. To quote him, he wanted the books to lead kids “past the watchful dragons” of everyday religion. The basic idea was that kids would read and enjoy these books, learn good lessons, and really invest in them, and then at some point as they grew up they’d suddenly realize “Oh my God, these Narnia stories are the Christian stories, I never realized how great those Bible stories were, and I totally agree with all those lessons from Narnia which turn out to be Christian lessons, so I’m definitely a Christian now!”

Unfortunately, in many cases the actual reaction was “Nooooo!!! Narnia was my escape from the Christianity that’s being shoved down my throat! And now I find out it was shoving Christianity down my throat the whole time! Everything is ruined! I hate these books!” Oops.

That being said, I still enjoy the slack-jawed bafflement of a certain type of Christian when they discover that I, an open atheist, still genuinely enjoy those books.

Shadowplay
Shadowplay
4 years ago

@PeeVee

And for me, *anything* by Christopher Moore is sublime. I follow him on Twitter…which reminds me, Shadowplay, I just followed you. ?

😀

Be warned – the purveyor of Dad jokes in my bio is accurate. 😛

White Stick of Justice
White Stick of Justice
4 years ago

Not so much a cause but one of the works that definitely didn’t help matters even though I saw it as pretty much gospel at the time.

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. While I still think it’s a pretty decent read it had one of the most notorious ‘women in refridgerators’ incidents in an industry that had many. Of course, being a self-centered edgy wannabe nihilist I saw this comic (or rather, my interpretation of it) as a baseline to how all ‘real’ comics should be: Bleak, unforgiving and completely devoid of joy and mirth (unless it was the cheer of a maniacal villain).

This justifying of my worldview as ‘truth’ kept me from reaching out for help for a long time. I’m not sure what got me into a healthier path exactly, multiple things probably. I still enjoy media with a cynical or nihilistic edge to it, but an amount of optimism is no longer an outright deal-breaker.

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