One book that changed my life

One book that changed my life

Most books, in their simplest form, are words on a page, designed to get their readers thinking. Some even have the ability to make time stand still while transporting you to a whole new dimension.

Every once in a while, however, you stumble upon a book that captures more than just your imagination. In fact, for some, there is that ‘one book’ that has captured their head and their heart, with positively life-changing consequences.

If you are yet to discover your ‘one book’, as part of this year’s World Book Day celebrations, Bath Spa University staff are sharing theirs. Who knows - their recommendation might just change your life!

1. The Open Sea by Alister HardySue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor
“It is a description of plankton, by the leader of the first expedition to study it, a brilliant and passionate scientist.”

2. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – Lucy Stone, Communications Manager
“I first read this book when training to be a meditation teacher in India seven years ago. It changed how I view life and made me realise how we can be overpowered by the stories we tell ourselves. It was a case of right book, right moment.” 

3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – Megan Roberston, Equality Officer
“The whole book is such a simple concept but it made me laugh and cry throughout. It makes you think about your life, and how the smallest decisions could change your entire path, it is unbelievably beautiful.”  - Megan Roberston, Equality Officer

4. The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker – Mark Langley, Head of Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
“Once you understand how language works from the brain outwards you understand so much more about thought, about expression, and about thinking.”

5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Zainab Rahman, Senior Communications and PR Officer
“This was a book I first read 20 years ago, while on holiday in Spain awaiting my GCSE results. The themes of change, resilience and the magic of the unknown have stuck with me ever since, and continue to inspire me to this day.”

6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Georgina Andrews, Provost of Bath Spa University
“Sparked my interest in the Law, but also fascinated by how novels translate, and the glimpse into another era in another country. It also stretched my vocabulary - I was a kid at the time and still remember having to look up the word 'incongruous'. That was my favourite word for a while…” 

7. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Adele Milton, Bath Schools of Art and Design Receptionist
“I feel like women in my generation were brought up believing that feminism had won and everything was fixed and the world was our oyster. As a result, we stopped fighting, we dropped the feminist ball and the whole fight took a few steps back as a result. This book was the beginning of me realising that wasn't the case and have been a fully paid up, strident feminist ever since. I'm happy to see the next generations are staying very much on the case and are evolving the movement into a more inclusive space.”  

8. Adventure Lit Their Star by Kenneth Allsop – Stephen Moss, MA in Nature and Travel Writing Programme Leader
“This novel, by Allsop, a celebrated broadcaster and journalist, is about teenage boys saving a rare breeding bird, the Little Ringed Plover. When I read it as a teenager, they were breeding near my suburban home, in "that messy limbo that is neither town nor country”. It inspired me to write about birds.”  

9. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell – Katie Friedlander-Boss, Fashion and Sustainability Development Leader
“It allowed me to see that it is the small things, combined in the right way at the right time that have the power to create lasting impactful change and that nothing will last forever.” 

10. The Dark Is Rising book collection by Susan Cooper – Melissa Mulhall, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Academic Planning
“This collection has travelled with me from childhood to adulthood. For me these stories represent my absolute joy and love of reading, the power stories have to transport me into different worlds and the lives of those within them as well as evoke memories of my childhood of reading late into the night with a torch! A love of reading is a love story that will last my lifetime.” Melissa Mulhall, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Academic Planning

11. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Corrina Mackenzie, Marketing, Communications and Digital Coordinator
“The language made me fall in love with literature and it's the reason I went to university to study writing.”  

12. The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters – Rachel Garman, Student Experience Project Manager
“We were taught how to use it to win in competitive racing, and it’s used by the British Cycling team to visualise winning. Control your chimp to access your computer…it's quite fun.”  Rachel Garman, Student Experience Project Manager

13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Amethyst Biggs, Marketing, Communications and Digital Coordinator
“I read this for the first time when I was doing my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, and fell in love with Nabokov's writing. He used language in such beautiful and clever ways - even when he was writing about an absolute monster like Humbert Humbert - and you just can't help but be seduced by it.” 

14. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel – Laura Bold, Students' Union Vice President of Education
“I think Bechdel was instrumental in me coming out when I did. I started reading her books after two people in my life - unrelated to each other - asked 'have you heard of Alison Bechdel?' in the same week. Life = changed. This book was a catalyst into me understanding myself and my relationships, and one of my earliest forays into psychoanalysis which pulled me into a fascination with peoples internal worlds. If I had not had Bechdel, Winterson, Lorde (this list could go on) with me throughout lockdown, I don't believe I would be here today with this confidence or with the haircut I have now.” 

15. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter – Neetu Karwal, Students' Union Vice President of Welfare and Community
“It is a gothic take on fairy tales that people probably read as a child. It highlights the grotesque and the beautiful. As well as being a massive book on feminism.” 

16. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Guy Robinson, Catering Assistant
“It is a classic, a great story about Christianity. Robinson thinks he is alone, until he sees a footprint and then meets Man Friday. It is a wonderful read, and I dip into it every night.”

17. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – Suzanne Harris, Bath Spa Live Audience Experience and Development Leader
“Dad recommended it to me when I was about 14, moving from children's books to more adult reading. (No Young Adult books in those days!)  It taught me that talking about books can be the way we talk about ourselves.” 

18. Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson – Charlotte Senior, Senior Campaign Officer
"It opened my eyes to life in Afghanistan for women under Taliban rule and is based on a true story. I read a few more books by the same author which helped spark my interest in volunteering resulting in me teaching English to refugees." 

19. Benefits by Zoe Fairbairns – Sara Gallagher, Head of Student Wellbeing Services
“I read this book when I was about 16 and at a time when I was developing my political beliefs. The concepts within the book, which include state benefits, control and ideology, opened my eyes to feminism, which informed my early steps as a student activist and involvement in student politics.” 

20. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien – Sophie Colman, Marketing, Communications and Digital Coordinator
“The way O’Brien uses trauma theory and an unreliable narrator to describe the events of the Vietnam War is something I’d never seen before. It makes you want to reread the book over and over to find out what the real truth is!”

21. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein – John Curry, Senior Lecturer in Computing
“In The Lord of the Rings the weakest, most insignificant characters, hobbits, go on to achieve great things. It inspired me to always remember I have no idea which of the students in front of me will go on to achieve great things. Years later one of my 'hobbits' is in charge of building submarines for the Royal Navy (and she still wears her pink bobble hat when it is cold on the dockside).” 

22. Selected Poems by W.H. Auden – Andy Salmon, Pro-Vice Chancellor External
“For the first time in my life, here was someone who knew exactly who I was and why. I missed my bus, and the next. He's been like a marvellous grandparent ever since, advising, cajoling, teasing, and loving. For better, for worse, without him I'd never have become me.”

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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