Have you ever been on those personal development courses where they ask you to bring your favourite book, or the most significant book you’ve ever read?
I’ve been on a couple like that and for years I used to take along Jackson and Marsden’s Education and the Working Class, a jolly (it’s so not) romp through the inequities of the education system in the late sixties – you’ll note there are two boys on the front cover which kind of sums it up.
They’re very appropriate because boy’s education was held of higher value than girls’ in the sixties. So much so in fact that 11 plus exam results were altered in the boys’ favour to make sure enough boys passed to go onto selective education, (more girls than boys were passing). In the sixties education for boys was thought to be far more important as the majority thought that it was a waste educating girls who would go onto marry and have kids. As I was born in 1955 I was a product of this thinking. I can remember being overtaken by apoplexy reading that bit of the book!
The book also looked at the impact class had on your educational advantages; as a working class girl that’s something I should have been aware of when only 4 from my class of 38 passed the 11 plus to go on to selective education. But at 16 I wasn’t at all aware; it was just the way things were…
There are very few books that really have an impact like that on you. I can honestly say that it revolutionised my 16 year old thinking about life and it certainly prompted me to call myself a feminist for the first time. It also contributed to my evenly balanced stage of life – a chip on each shoulder! I’m happy to say I’ve moved on.
Nowadays I might add another one as reading this book made me give up eating any meat or fish. My second life changing book is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
A copy was given to me by my son who said:
‘Don’t read this Mum unless you never want to eat meat again‘.
He knew I ate little meat as it was and wouldn’t need much persuading.
Well, Jonathan’s book was most certainly the tipping point. It is a very well written, un-preachy, balanced look at the food industry in the UK and US (although I’m sure the big food conglomerates don’t think it’s balanced). It was the birth of his son that prompted him to look again at where the food he was going to feed his son was coming from.
His arguments are well made, both humanitarian and environmental and the book is a good, if uncomfortable, read.At times it was almost as if he could read my mind. Just as I was thinking: ‘OK, I’ll just eat fish then’, his next chapter begins with something along the lines of ‘So I thought I’d just eat fish then…’ and then goes on to give a gruesome account of the latest research on fish and pain, and how EU laws mean millions of fish are wasted by the industry (cue Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall). It worked. I became a fully fledged vegetarian before I closed the last page. How’s that for a book having an impact?
What books have made a significant impact on your life? If you can, please share the authors so readers can look them up and enjoy them too.
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Posted on July 2nd, 2012 by Jane