Books can change lives. There is something about analysing someone's thoughts and ideas that makes reading magical. So this week, we asked Team YP about their personal life-changing reads:
Wolf of the Plains, by Conn Iggulden
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because Wolf of the Plains is the first in a series about the rise of the Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, and his sons and grandsons.
It changed my view of life, making me a lot more pro-active, ready to step up and take chances. Iggulden is a master storyteller and it's not hard to visualise events as they happen. But more than being just a historical novel, it piqued my interest in Genghis Khan, his leadership, his diplomatic and military skills, and sent me on a really interesting path that I never would have dreamed of.
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Interpreter of Maladies is about homesickness, culture shock, diaspora, marginalisation, and racial integration. It's a book of short stories about different Indian people adapting to their lives in the US, and the emotional turmoil that can cause. One of the stories is about Mrs Sen, whose determination to buy a fresh fish - really her inability to accept American culture, especially its food - leads to a car accident.
It reminds me of the time when I studied in Australia. Food was a big problem for me then. I had to find Chinese food to satisfy my appetite, to link me with Hong Kong and remind me of my own identity. The book has many sad stories, but they help me understand that life sometimes is not smooth. On a bad day, the book always reminds me to move on and fight for survival.
The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, by Arnold Schwarzenegger
When I was 13 I wanted to be a professional wrestler alongside Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. But there was a problem: I was only 1.48 metres tall and weighed just 40kg. My older sister didn't think I could reach the big leagues (she was right), but she didn't want to crush my dreams, so she gave me this guide to physical training from Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who obviously knows a thing or two about putting on muscle. I never made it to the WWE, but the book helped me understand a lot more about the human body, and how to make myself stronger and fitter. A must-read for anyone - male or female - who wants more control over how their body develops.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
This is a book about a Spanish shepherd boy who travels from Spain to Egypt in search of treasure. The book is written in a simple style, but it offers profound insights into human nature and life's dilemmas.
I read The Alchemist for the first time when I was debating whether to leave Scotland and come to Hong Kong. Trying something new and taking risks is the hard part, but you shouldn't be so afraid of change or the unknown that you let it stop you from reaching your potential in life.
The Holy Bible
If I had to pick THE book that changed my life, I would have to go with the Bible. There are definitely parts that are repetitive and confusing, but it's the best-selling book of all time for a reason. It's steeped with history and wise philosophy, and there are a tonne of fascinating stories that have inspired artwork for thousands of years. Even if you're not a Christian, it can inspire you to become a better person through gratitude, faith and love. It also contains lots of awesome quotes to encourage friends and family when they are down. Studying and arguing the text also provides a fun challenge for anyone.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
A modern classic, it's on so many syllabuses in countries around the world. Catcher in the Rye revolves around a teenage boy, Holden Caulfield, who struggles to come to terms with growing up. It was written from the perspective of a teen, and realistically reflected the way boys at the time thought and acted - which wasn't something that was discussed honestly in the 1950s when the novel came out.
It changed my life because Holden is the first protagonist I remember really, truly not caring about. I was 13 when we read it in class, and I hated the story, hated the writing style, and didn't care what happened to Holden. But it also made me realise that you don't have to love everything you read, and that not liking a character is actually a sign that the author has done a good job - they've created someone who challenges you, and the way you think. I owe it a lot, for opening my mind to a wider range of books, and forcing me to read more critically. I still haven't reread it, though!