On Being Influenced by Books
(From a discussion in Linkedin, on books that change people's lives).
I'm sure that books do have an influence on people—that's another way of saying that people do have an influence on people. And, likewise, there may be people who change your life with their ideas. But I think that tends to happen either with people who are growing up and getting to define their ideas for the first time, or perhaps with people who are going through some kind of crisis, and need a last straw to experience a breakthrough, or to guide them through it. A more balanced attitude to books, or people, would not let them have an excessive influence on us, if only because there are so many of them with different views and insights; allowing too much to any one of them would be perhaps unfair to the others; if a person is deeply affected by a book I think it reflects more on that reader's attitude to books, or life, than on the book itself. Fair-mindedness and a balanced view are boring and dispassionate attitudes.