A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.

Some of them re-doubled my commitment to religion. Others made me question my beliefs in ways I hadn’t questioned them before.

Some made me more reconciled to my lot, and more accepting of my imperfections. Others were darker, and one in particular made me consider suicide when I couldn’t figure out how to get out of religion.

Memory is inherently unreliable, and I’m sure it’s more complicated than I remember. I doubt that I read any of these stories the first time, closed the book, and was instantly enlightened.

Some of the insights probably came months or even years after reading the story. Some of them are stories that I’ve read many times, and it’s quite likely that each time I read the story I noticed different things in it. This continues to the present: I know I see stories I read in my teens very differently now.

Finally, it’s not just fiction: There are some works of non-fiction that I remember unexpectedly changing my view of the world. But where they challenged existing views, I think the works of fiction were better able to slip past my mental defences.

Obligatory spoiler alert

Many of the insights I drew from different stories are important to the plots of those stories. That means spoilers will be required. I’ll try and remember to mark individual posts where necessary.

Series index

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  1. The Last Battle (or: Losing eternal life)

  2. Leaf by Niggle (or: Never getting anything done)

  3. Leaf by Niggle: Discovering the mountains