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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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Sinkable John : Pansy Ass Pinko, Regicidal Beast-of-Burden
Sinkable John : Pansy Ass Pinko, Regicidal Beast-of-Burden
4 years ago

Books in general sorta kinda helped me fuck up a rather large portion of my life, but they’re not reaaally at fault. I just devoured books as a little kid and eventually started buying into the discourses I heard around me, that it somehow made me smarter than everyone else.

I got better now though.

cornychips
cornychips
4 years ago

The bible. or maybe it was the way it was shoved down my throat with heaping doses of white supremacy.

Francine Rivers – the atonement child. Short version – you got raped bc your mom had an abortion once. and now you are pregnant from the rape and school kicked you out. but you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, (no wic, prenantal care, or welfare for you!!) and some dude marries you anyways. The end.

fuuuuuck I hate that woman

Lucrece
Lucrece
4 years ago

@Kevin

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

“perfectly ordinary books […] sometimes [do] the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader’s brain.”

(Pratchett knew where it was at.)

Lucrece
Lucrece
4 years ago

@Z&T

@ Lucrece,

For you ? ….

I’m going to quote a little snippet of the Amazon review of my aforementioned tome….

Wow. I feel like we could make a game show out of watching people read the world’s worst books. It’d be quite entertaining – and I feel like we could make bets, based on the pool of texts, on which book the competitors are reading based on their facial expressions.

dust bunny
dust bunny
4 years ago

Ugh yes. The Selfish Gene and Exodus (the Leon Uris one, not the Old Testament one).

I read both at an impressionable age, in my early teens. I don’t remember either well and haven’t gone back to check if what I took away from them is actually in any way justified by the books themselves.

The Selfish Gene was my entry point into that one multidisciplinary paradigm slash world view at the intersection of poorly understood evopsych, poorly understood philosophy, poorly understood Econ 101 and ideological capitalism, where libertarians, Skeptics(TM), the manosphere and, oddly enough, tons of real economists come from. It wasn’t the only book from that sphere of thought I read, but it was the first one that started it all. Lacking any previous scientific or philosophical education, I just absorbed the world view uncritically and took it to represent science and some sort of neutral and objective perspective.
It’s an upsetting thought that nothing in my education ever challenged that ideology, or even made me aware that I had an ideology. It was only my ex’s doctoral dissertation that saved me. You, David & the commentariat, helped a lot with the transition, too. Thanks, everyone! <:

Exodus is, as far as I remember, pretty blatant racist, colonialist pro-Israel propaganda. I remember initially being uncomfortable with being propagandised to, it didn't feel normal or honest. But I was unprepared to recognise propaganda so in the end I just took it at face value. I didn't have the tools to fact check the historical accuracy, so even though I wondered about it, I just didn't and then somehow ended up emotionally believing it was true although I knew I didn't know whether it was or wasn't.
So the utterly fucked up result of reading the book was that not only did I come out with the budding belief that brown people are bad and impossible to deal with and colonialism is justified, but also that I unlearned some of my ability to perceive moral complexity and overcame my instinctive dismissal of plain lies as lies, accepted them as part of normal discourse and learned to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Yes I do seriously blame that one book for all that. Given the world we live in something similar would all probably have happened anyway sooner or later. After all, the book was given to me by an adult relative for the express purpose of instilling certain values and beliefs. But I could also have happened to read some nice book about what propaganda is and how to tell when someone is trying to fuck with your beliefs first.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
4 years ago

It wasn’t one book for me, it was a trio that I read when I was 13; over the course of two weeks, I read 1984, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale one right after the other, and they sent me into a deep existential depression – my first depression – for about half a year. In the end, I think that their influence was a net positive, from an intellectual standpoint, but emotionally, they really fucked me up at the time.

…and, of course, puberty didn’t help.

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

The Selfish Gene was my entry point into that one multidisciplinary paradigm…

Wow. All I remember getting out of it was genetics. Looking back, I can see where the rest of what you speak of comes from in Dawkins’ analysis (he really is an awful person). I was already way leftist by the time I read that, so perhaps I just read past all that.

@Gaebolga

Those three in succession?!?!? That’s some Manchurian Candidate level mind-numbing, there!

EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

When I was sixteen I read One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, which led me to Gulag Archipelago. I love Solzhenitsyn’s work, and he was part of the reason why I went into physics, but I think it also taught me a lot of wrong lessons about how to be a dissident. Being angry and self-righteous just isn’t enough, and it took a while for me to realise that.

I had a similar experience with Hitchens. I will still defend some of Hitchens’ work, but the man himself was awful, his legacy has been downright poisonous, and I think he’s led a lot of young men into very bad places.

Like Scildfreja, I also read the entirety of the Sequences at Less Wrong, although even at the time I think I approached them more as entertainment than as philosophy. Looking back I think I found Yudkowdky ridiculous enough that it was a good way for me to shake my head clear of the anti-intellectualism that surrounds the modern tech autodidact movement.

@Lucrece:

Wow. I feel like we could make a game show out of watching people read the world’s worst books. It’d be quite entertaining – and I feel like we could make bets, based on the pool of texts, on which book the competitors are reading based on their facial expressions.

I’ve taken part in a writers’ circle event where we took turns to read passages of My Immortal and The Eye Of Argon until the laughter overtook us.

The red wine helped.

Moon_custafer
Moon_custafer
4 years ago

Nearly ruined my life – not a book, per se, but there used to be an art reviewer for the Globe & Mail who in retrospect was of the generation of critics who considered *any* representational art after 1916 to be sentimental, reactionary kitsch; only abstract art was any good. After a few months reading his reviews every week, I concluded I was stupid and lacking in taste, because I couldn’t see what was so wrong with the works he was putting down, or so great about the ones he liked.

What saved me was that he reviewed a show by an artist he admitted was a friend of his; and I got the distinct impression his gushing descriptions were of her, and not of her artworks (which were big metal abstract things of the sort he liked, yes, but I didn’t think they had the “luminous feminine delicacy” or whatever it was he was ascribing to them). After that, I didn’t have to believe everything he wrote, which was a great relief. I could even sympathize with him a little, for being human.

K.
K.
4 years ago

When you suffer from untreated depression (at that time) as a kid, “The Bell Jar” is NOT a good choice — especially if you’re already aware of what happened to Plath in real life.

Troubelle: Moonbeam Malcontent + Bard of the New Movement
Troubelle: Moonbeam Malcontent + Bard of the New Movement
4 years ago

…Does “Dipper Goes To Taco Bell” count?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
4 years ago

I’m not sure if any of our sad bonered/incel friends are reading this thread as trollish types tend to skip open and/or off topic threads.

But, if they are, I’d like to point to Kootiepatra’s post on romance novels and my earlier one on VC Andrews. Specifically how the way romance is presented clearly sends the message to women and girls that they are failing to properly perform their gender if they aren’t like romance heroines. Note that they made Kootiepatra feel lonely and unloved. I am probably somewhere on the aromantic spectrum so I didn’t feel that way, although I’m guessing that’s common. But since female protagonists are usually so effortlessly beautiful that men were constantly falling in love with them, a lot of media made me feel like I must be fat and ugly because guys were not seeing me and instantly falling in love. It took me until my thirties to start to realize that it was never love and romance I was after, but an assurance that I was good enough to be loved. Because women are so socialized to believe that our worth as humans is in being good enough to be chosen by a man.

It’s not just in romance novels either. I’ve noticed that the majority female protagonists across all genres and medias are conventionally attractive and have guys fighting for her. Examples off the top of my head would be Buffy always having Angel, Spike, and Riley having rivalries over her. Joey from Dawson’s Creek and Rory from Gilmore Girls. Those two shows became almost unwatchable to me because it was so irritating that every male character they were even slightly interested was sure to fall madly in love with them. Or Daenerys from ASOIAF/Game of Thrones. It’s not enough that she’s a queen and a conqueror with the only known dragons in the world at her side. No, she has to also be the most beautiful woman in the world and have pretty much all her male advisors and allies falling in love with her too. No matter how many other things female protagonists have going for them, no matter how much they are well developed as something other than a love interest or sex object, they still have to be super attractive to men or they just don’t really count, do they?

So you see, women and girls get the same socialization that men and boys do. That our worth is intrinsically tied in with success in the romance and sex department. The main difference being that women are supposed to be chosen and fought after men are supposed to be able to win a female prize.

And yet.

There is no equivalent of an incel site for women. No nice girl comics that end in a rage rape or murder of the men who friendzoned them. No WGTOW. No red pill. Sure, women are manipulated into buying books or attending seminars to teach them how to land a man. But we aren’t forming groups dedicated to hating men for the crime of not lining up to pursue us. We’re not fantasizing about enslaving and oppressing them. Or even dreaming of replacing the gender with sexbots. The excuse that misogyny exists because popular culture makes men feel like failures for not being successful at sex or romance is fucking bullshit. Because it’s not just men who get those messages.

Sorry this turned into a way longer rant than I intended. It just struck me and I had to say it!

Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

Re Virginia Andrews and the Flowers in the Attic book series, I read it as a teen and wouldn’t say it destroyed me or anything. It is super fucked up, but I think it’s meant to be? That incest rape scene that the girl later rationalizes (and she’s like really young at the time too, if I remember correctly, like 13 or something), I took it to show how completely messed up all the kids were from their captivity.
But yeah, thinking it back it’s really weird that the main character is so beautiful that everyone is instantly super attracted to her, like grown men fall head over heels for her when she’s 15 or so… I guess I didn’t realize how weird that was when I was a teen myself, because like a lot of teens I thought I was pretty much grown up. And also, like someone pointed out earlier in the thread, all the girls were really slim ballerinas who still had boobs, which pretty much no ballerina has in real life.

Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

@Weirwoodtreehugger: Yeah I felt super shitty too as a young teen about being an outcast whom no one fell in love with. But I can’t really single out the Andrews books, it felt more like society as a whole pushed me into that mind set. I’ve always been pretty conventionally attractive I guess, if you just focus on looks, but because of my mental illness I came across as this really weird person to everyone and so boys shunned me. I honestly used to think to myself that if only boys were more superficial then maybe I’d stand a chance to get a boyfriend through my looks alone, but alas, they shun me because I’m a horrible psychotic person with a horrible personality. I used to lament the fact that we don’t do lobotomies any longer. I used to dream about having a doctor open up my head and cut out all the bad stuff.

Eventually I learned how to “act normal”, and when I started university I was suddenly considered hot and popular. Because of brainwashing by our stupid society I had always thought it would feel really cool to turn men down, because, you know, in pop culture popular girls often really enjoy dissing guys. Turns out I just felt like shit every time some “nice guy” fell in love with me and I had to turn him down. I felt mean for not returning his feelings.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
4 years ago

In that way it’s even worse for women. If you win, you still lose. Conventionally attractive women are mean for turning men down. Or sluts who only accomplished anything by using their looks. Men will be expected to objectify them and women expected to hate them as rivals.
If men are attractive and popular, that’s just a bonus for them. I don’t know of any real downside they experience.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
4 years ago

@Weird Eddie

Yeah, that was *really* not a good idea. I can’t remember why I decided to do that, although I do remember that I thought The Handmaid’s Tale was going to be an uplifting read for some reason, so I chose it to try an counterbalance the other two.

Oops.

Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

Talking about this I just remembered when I was in art school and this guy in my class developed a crush on me which he expressed through feelings art, and I didn’t really know what to do about it, so I just tried to act normal around him, since he never came straight out and said he had a crush.
Then we had a party at the art school, and I was in this poly relationship with two guys at the time, one of whom attended the party. And this class mate with a crush goes up to my boyfriend and asks him if he could be my boyfriend too. He was like “uh you really gotta ask Dvärghundspossen herself about that” but he never did.

Zenobia Augusta
Zenobia Augusta
4 years ago

@Dvärghundspossen
I went through something similar. In addition to feeling mean though, I also had this weird sort of “I must take what I can get” mentality, so when I turned someone down I felt kind of like I was throwing my last chance away. I had similar feelings about friendships. I was about 22 when it finally occurred to me that I could choose my friends.

Dvärghundspossen
4 years ago

That sucks, Zenobia

occasional reader
occasional reader
4 years ago

Hello.

Hmm, no, if some book had ruin my life, i could not be here to speak about it…

But some had an impact (short or long).

– It is risible, but “the hound of baskerville” was the first that give me a nightmare, due to the first description of the hound (it was hellish, and i was quite christian at the moment).

– The one which had really impress me when young was “Lord of the Flies”. It was mandatory at school, and reading how all was going from bad to worse both because of a combination of both genuine credulity/superstition and bad faith left a bitter taste in the mouth when you are young.

– To my shame now, i had read PUA “E-books” (in french). None as bad as Roosh ones, but yet, during a period, i have tried their “routines” and “techniques”, in parallel to some self-improvment books (there are a lot of links between both sets of mind, i think). As i have never been educated in a way of crushing other peoples under my ego, i had difficulties to apply what was written, but when you really would like to have a couple and/or sex life, the “toughts” (of redpillers, incels, PUA and the like) that all of you and David are mocking here can easy find their way in your brain. So i have been an asshole for some years. I hope i have recovered, but i am not sure i can judge that by myself.

Have a nice day.

Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ WWTH

If men are attractive and popular, that’s just a bonus for them. I don’t know of any real downside they experience.

This seems to be the only time it’s a problem.

https://www.mgmt.ucl.ac.uk/news/handsome-men-more-likely-be-rejected-competitive-jobs

Conventionally attractive women may also be at a disadvantage when applying for male coded jobs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20575336

But overall being conventionally attractive is correlated with better job prospects and higher salaries.

Nequam
Nequam
4 years ago

@K. — Oh shit yeah. I was wrestling with untreated depression and extraordinary stress in college and having The Bell Jar assigned in a class did me no favors.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
4 years ago

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
The excuse that misogyny exists because popular culture makes men feel like failures for not being successful at sex or romance is fucking bullshit. Because it’s not just men who get those messages.

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Popular culture doesn’t cause misogyny it’s a result. And the good ol’ “He’s mentally ill” “he’s just a kid he’ll grow out of it” etc. We have got to stop making excuses for guys. Like you said women and girls are fed these messages too and proven to be diagnosed with mental illnesses more than them and we still don’t go full blown Elliot Rodgers mode.

I can’t believe I live in a world where people have more sympathy for guys who have been rejected than women and girls who have been harassed, abused, raped and murdered.

Dvärghundspossen
I’m so sorry you went through that don’t ever feel bad for turning someone down, you are never ever obligated to date somebody.

Zenobia Augusta
Zenobia Augusta
4 years ago

Now that I think about, reading The Bell Jar wasn’t good for me either. It definitely set me back when it came to asking for help, because it made me afraid I would be hospitalized.

Katamount
Katamount
4 years ago

Missing from previous comment:

The Handmaid’s Tale — Read this one the same year as Slaughterhouse-Five and in the midst of the Bush-era ascendancy of the religious right, definitely had an impact on my gender politics. In addition to the ongoing backlash to women’s emancipation, offered a plausible and terrifying vision of what could happen if the excesses of the religious right were taken to their logical conclusion.

ETA: Great, looks like my giant-ass dissection of all the books that influenced me was eaten by WordPress again. Now I’m a sad Katamount.

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