How have books been a big influence in your life?

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How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#1  Postby Hiddenmorality » February 23rd, 2014, 3:20 am

Books have always fascinated me and I have always come off with a lesson from every book that I've read. Tell me, how books have influenced you into molding and shaping your perception and imagination :)
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#2  Postby A Poster He or I » March 4th, 2014, 3:45 pm

I, too, always take a lesson away from every book I read. I prefer books to movies or TV because of the greater depth and detail, and with fiction I can exercise my own imagination to evision the scenes and characters, making it all more personal than someone else's attempt. Science fiction has always been my favorite genre of fiction because of how it makes my imagination soar. But I also enjoy compelling character studies. Non-fiction, especially Philosophy books, essentially taught me critical thinking in my youth. I also try to keep up on popular science, especially theoretical science, which also fires my imagination.
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#3  Postby Steve3007 » March 5th, 2014, 5:37 am

There's also something deeply ingrained in our culture about the concept of "The Book" as a thing to be revered or even worshiped - as a potent and obvious symbol of captured wisdom. Obviously many, or most, religions have a single iconic book at, or close to, their centre.

The fact that a traditional book format has just the right physical size and information content to act as a focus of reverence helps. If the Bible or the Quran had first been published as non-physical ethereal eBooks floating spirit-like and disembodied around the internet, I wonder if their iconic status would have suffered. (There's a thought: perhaps the internet is the information afterlife?)

There's a pub close to my house which used to be a chapel, and was then a bookshop before becoming a pub. It retains the air of reverence from both of its former uses and combines it with a reverence for real ale. All the walls are still lined from floor to ceiling with wonderfully obscure, obsolete and often musty smelling books. There's an entire wall of political biographies. In principle, I imagine the entire thing could be replaced by a shiny new Kindle!

So, currently, books are a big influence in my life because I sat with a beer the other night and flicked through a biography of former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot - with the musty smells of beer and book combining. Try downloading that!

If our technology eventually reaches the stage where physical books are a distant folk-memory I wonder if we will continue to digitally simulate them as we do now, or will the distant descendants who didn't grow up with them have no need for the concept at all?
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#4  Postby A Poster He or I » March 5th, 2014, 3:47 pm

Nice post, Steve. I'm confident books will survive as a niche market, the same way you can still buy products (if you look hard enough) to spin your own thread and weave your own cloth.

In my twenties I lived a year in a college town where a woman had willed her house just off campus to the school decades before, but by the time I went there it was a beer hall! (we Yanks usually call them pubs only when they emulate UK pubs). In almost every wall nook was a remnant of her hardbound book collection, and on a dare I promised to read the first book I picked at random from where I sat. It was a mystery novel called "The Corpse in the Car" and I actually couldn't read it because the pages were too yellowed and the house lights too dim!
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#5  Postby Steve3007 » March 6th, 2014, 8:05 am

Ha! Great story. Perhaps the fact that you couldn't read it ensured that your imagination about what it might have contained was free to roam!
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#6  Postby Schaps » March 6th, 2014, 11:36 pm

Books - as a schoolchild books represented the ultimate source for information. This impression was reinforced by the appearance of those formal texts whose texture, binding and odour all spoke of authority and respectability . Then there was the quiet dignified atmosphere of the libraries ( both at school and the public city library ) where we were expected to go and research assignments. The tactile process of interacting with books is both reassuring and comforting compared with the nebulous virtual world of internet based information. I find that information presented in books is much more accessible than the digital format. The ability to see and feel the context of a chapter or topic by understanding it's physical position in the book can not be replicated digitally. Because of that studying from books is ( for me ) both more pleasurable and more effective than scanning the digital form. Books remain an essential aspect of my inner life today. In particular accounts of history and autobiographies are much better suited to paper texts where the events of history can be both seen, felt and smelled and are thereby restored to life.
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#7  Postby ALOPIALL » March 7th, 2014, 1:04 am

As a very emotionally troubled child books were an escape from harsh reality. Ultimately it was a book that saved my life and started me down a path of philosophical thinking.


Im new here, in fact this is my first post so ill save getting deeply personal for another time but the book "Fahrenheit 451" saved my life. This middle school required controversial book about censorship opened my eyes to so many things it encouraged me to challenge the norm, to always look towards intelligent independent thought rather than the culturally accepted one, it made me aware that our differences make us strong and to deny them makes us less human.


I read the book at least once a year, each time I learn something new or refine an older view. I carried a tattered copy of the book all through my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and I share its lessons and warnings with anyone who cares to listen, it is safe to say the book means allot to me.


Aside from that little jaunt into my personal life books taught me how to have conversations and how to understand people's emotions. Books are far more powerful then some of us give them credit for, the right book using the right words can convince a man of almost anything.
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#8  Postby Greta » March 7th, 2014, 4:38 am

Much nostalgia to be found here in the charming recollections. My mother was an author and our house was always full of books. We had an Encyclopaedia Britannica (perhaps the only time I can remember that Dad gratuitously spent money) occupying two full shelves on the bookshelf. I always had my nose in the Britannica and was especially enamoured with the see-through, layered anatomical pictures layering skeleton, muscles and organs.

It all reminds me of conversations with other musos comparing vinyl LPs to MP3s. The artwork and blurb, the physical presence - it all seemed rather more dignified than cassettes, then CDs, then MP3s.

The thing is, we humans with our extra dimension of consciousness are becoming ever more cerebral and less physical. We have long been unathletic laggards compared with other animals and this trend is increasing. Still, we hold dear our physical animal origins, still joyously hoeing into food, sex and sport. We value books, LPs and all manner of physical artefacts. We consider hardcopy books superior to ebooks, MP3s inferior to vinyl. We marvel at physical skills of musicians and consider them more talented than electronic musicians. People marvel at sporting achievements and (present company and peers excluded) value and respect them over the mental callisthenics of scientists. We value hand painting to digital art. Old ornate buildings to modern box-like structures.

However, we are moving on, as we must. Older generations may feel nostalgic sadness at the shift from the physical to the cerebral - including many highly cerebral people like your goodselves. Part of me misses those things too because am of an older generation, but I love the advantages of the digital / information age.

I gave away all my LPs many years ago and have amassed a good MP3 collection. They take up no space, don't scratch and crackle, can be replicated and transported and it's much easier to find a place. I have actually lost little because the essence - the music - is still there.

I also sold most of my books and bought an ereader; now it's all on my smartphone. Apart from making my bag less heavy, I have freed up lots of extra space in my home, and in this increasingly crowded world space is at a premium. There is also less material / environmental cost. It's more physically comfortable and convenient to read hardcopy books and, as Scapps noted, context is a little easier. Still, it's early days yet.

As for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I kept it (along with everything else) as I looked after Dad in his final months because he needed familiar things around him, but when he died I got rid of them. Bulky, musty, dusty and hopelessly out of date; Wikis and Google are infinitely better.

Our kids may well one day fondly reminisce about the old Web 3.0, perhaps in the same way as pre-Gutenberg Press people would have decried the impersonal vibe of printed books as compared with handwritten manuscripts. Just as those who started writing would have been decried by those who felt something was lost from the oral tradition ...
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#9  Postby Schaps » March 7th, 2014, 7:10 am

The oral tradition continues to be an essential form of information transmission and processing. By being able to observe the speaker's posture, facial expressions and body language the listener can detect clues about the importance of the information that the speaker is communicating. There is the opportunity for immediate questioning and discussion about the information. The oral tradition is more audience friendly and entertaining than the isolated environment of self study via books and now electronic texts: and is therefore more amenable to transmission of information to children who may relate better to information in the form of stories and performance than dull, dry text. As virtual social media of today are both inadequate and illusionary substitutes for real- life interaction so too written, printed or electronic information is not a substitute for oral discussion and debate. The names given to this experience in which we are participating now "online philosophy club" and "forum" attest to the desire to maintain the presence of real- life interaction. Perhaps many of the misunderstandings and some unpleasantness experienced as a result of attempting to communicate electronically could be avoided by remaining true to our heritage..
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#10  Postby Theophane » March 7th, 2014, 9:58 am

They have nourished my mind, fed my imagination, been my companions, and also they are things I like to collect and have in my home. I have always loved books.

:D
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#11  Postby Greta » March 8th, 2014, 1:45 am

Schaps wrote:The oral tradition continues to be an essential form of information transmission and processing. By being able to observe the speaker's posture, facial expressions and body language the listener can detect clues about the importance of the information that the speaker is communicating. There is the opportunity for immediate questioning and discussion about the information. The oral tradition is more audience friendly and entertaining than the isolated environment of self study via books and now electronic texts: and is therefore more amenable to transmission of information to children who may relate better to information in the form of stories and performance than dull, dry text. As virtual social media of today are both inadequate and illusionary substitutes for real- life interaction so too written, printed or electronic information is not a substitute for oral discussion and debate. The names given to this experience in which we are participating now "online philosophy club" and "forum" attest to the desire to maintain the presence of real- life interaction. Perhaps many of the misunderstandings and some unpleasantness experienced as a result of attempting to communicate electronically could be avoided by remaining true to our heritage..

Agreed. That is why information online is increasingly being transmitted by video. Theoretically, you can even engage in question and answer in the discussion underneath. At this stage many of the exchanges are asinine although I am noticing a reduction in gratuitous abusive nastiness - which is essentially people being excited at having the novel opportunity to anonymously vent without any recourse. More calm and thoughtful discussions with the kind of respect we give face-to-face are slowly creeping in as the novelty of unpunished naughtiness wears off. People are increasingly just exchanging ideas and info and having a laugh

Still, none of this is quite the same quality communication as face-to-face, but in terms of scope it's no contest; not only can we send our memes across the globe but we can access brilliant and compatible people who we'd never encounter locally. As with all technology based changes to communications, we lose sensitivity but gain scope. That's inevitable in a rapidly growing population.
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#12  Postby Steve3007 » March 9th, 2014, 4:06 am

Greta:

After I went on about the virtues of musty old books, your defense of progress in information technology put me to shame! (I'm a software engineer designing, among other things, educational software for mobile devices).

One thing I've always been slightly concerned about is the fragility of information. Books, with all their drawbacks, can't just suddenly disappear in the blink of an eye. A slightly damaged book is still readable. Corruption of one byte in a piece of digitally recorded knowledge can render the entire thing useless unless you have technical knowledge of how to fix it. Information in analogue form tends to degrade gradually and continuously - giving you plenty of warning. Information in digital form degrades suddenly, catastrophically and unpredictably. And then of course there's the constant change of formats.

The classic illustration of this (in the UK) was the 1986 Domesday project, on the children's TV programme Blue Peter. As a celebration of the 900th anniversary of the original Domesday Book, they recorded some contemporary information on "laser discs". Within a few years, the format was obsolete and they were unreadable (although I've read that they've managed to retrieve some of them now). The original Domesday Book is, of course, still readable to this day.

But, actually, on reflection I think these concerns are largely becoming illusory, given the massively distributed way that digital information is stored these days - the "cloud" concept. It means that there is a continuous worldwide effort to preserve the information by constantly moving it around between different media. So information becomes more like life. The medium (DNA molecules; cells; bodily tissues) may quickly decay and die but the information they store can be preserved with astonishing accuracy for billions of years by countless copying operations.

The information in DNA has survived for 1000s of times longer than the oldest types of "hardcopy" information that we have created, like the pyramids. It will no doubt outlive the original Domesday Book.

So now I'll embrace fully the digital age and try to get on with some work. (I have a deadline and am procrastinating. Please slap me if I post here again before Wednesday.)
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#13  Postby Greta » March 9th, 2014, 6:26 am

You raise a great point, Steve. It never occurred to me about the issues you raised, perhaps because of the spread of information, as you said.

At times I've wondered about the loss of information should our electricity infrastructure be destroyed. Definitely a case for diversifying our information formats.

Do not reply until you have done your work (says the hypocrite).
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#14  Postby Zengirl » April 1st, 2014, 9:02 am

I tend to read autobiographies, especially about women living in a starkly different culture to my own (for example, women in Islam, women living under Mao in China, etc). From these books I gain a massive insight into the lives of women across the world living in very different circumstances to mine... and I almost always note how fortunate I am to live in a (relatively) free society, when I can express anything I want to express, and do anything I want to do. After reading these books, I feel lucky.
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Re: How have books been a big influence in your life?

Post Number:#15  Postby Val Valiant Five » June 6th, 2014, 2:16 pm

What an interesting read this thread is.

~Kudos for spontaneously opening up a can of kickin' incite.

I used to read old, tern-of-the-century dictionaries when I was a kid. And I distinctly remember being deeply effected by a dog-eared copy of J.G.Ballard's Crash when I was a young, impressionable teen... I guess that explains much of my twisted skew today. :shock:
Humanity has been galvanized by the internet. Its' a virtual, neural web of collective consciousness. And in this social-electric state, we all have a say; From the darkest corners of thought to the most enlightened. It's a mirror of all our minds.
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