How many book blurbs have you seen which trumpet the claim that ‘this book will change your life’? Dozens, at least. And how many such books really have had a life-changing impact on you? One? Two? None?
I can honestly say that there is no book (and I’ve read a fair few in my time) that of itself has had a material impact in altering the course of my existence. Perhaps that’s got a lot to do with the fact that most of the vaunted life-changers are what could perhaps be politely described as ‘self-help’ titles and I’ve never wasted either money or time in buying or reading any of them.
That isn’t to say that there are some – many – books that have had a lasting effect on me, but only in the sense that they were the first ones that I read by a particular author which I enjoyed so much that I wanted to read more.
Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ was probably the first of them. I devoured the rest of Anthony Trollope’s oeuvre after I read ‘The Warden’. On a less serious note, Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Colour Of Magic’ made me want to read all the subsequent Discworld novels: which I have. Genuinely life-changing though? No.
Not even the mighty Proust has managed that trick and I’ve read ‘À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu’ all the way through, not once but twice.
One book I haven’t read, however, is Alain de Botton’s ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’. Apparently (or should that be ‘allegedly’?) it’s hilarious and practical. Unlike me.
Not even you, Marcel. Not even you.