Monday, 18 January 2010

The book, the video, the end!

The selection has been made of the stories which will go into the book of 'The Book That Changed My Life' due to be published by Luath in March. The selection panel found the decisions very tough - in the end we have ended up with a marvellous selection of strange and familiar, weird and wonderful stories about a truly mixed bag of books. If you want to know what's in'll just have to wait and see!
We also have a winner of our Viral Video Competition, Wilkes87 with her catchy and quite lovely little one-minute-wonder.

We really liked all the films that were entered and would urge you to take a look at their other films and work.

Other news;
There is a Book That Changed My Life author panel event taking place in the National Library of Scotland on World Book Day, 4th March. See here to book free tickets.

There is also a Book That Changed My Life panel event as part of the Aye Write festival in Glasgow- on Saturday 13th March from 5pm. Details and tickets are here.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dr Seuss Changed My Life!

Another theme in life-changing books is the work of the zany and captivating Dr Seuss- he might not technically be a doctor but he seems to have his finger on the pulse of what people love to read.

Eve Comerford and Marguerita Still both chose books by Dr. Seuss as the book that changed their life. And compelling stories they are too.

Read Eve's story about 'Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?' here.

And read Marguerita's story about 'Green Eggs and Ham' here.

On the Seussville website there is a fantastic game with Sam-I-Am from 'Green Eggs And Ham' which helps kids read and remember. Click here to play.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Radio Scotland Book Cafe talking about The Book That Changed My Life

On Monday The Book That Changed My Life took over the Radio Scotland Book Cafe - and the presenters told their stories about The Book That Changed Their Life -

Bill Whiteford, Newsdrive Newsreader - ' The Children's Encyclopaedia'

Bryan Burnett - 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.' by Maya Angelou

Tom Morton - 'Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom; Rock from the Beginning' by Nik Cohn

Janice Forsyth - 'Waiting For Godot' by Samuel Beckett

Listen again here

Monday, 9 November 2009

1 minute wonders - Inspiration for all of you who haven't yet posted your story!

Scottish Book Trust's viral video competition is now closed! And what fantastic entries we've had! Check out this one, beautiful and very appropriate for these quiet frosty mornings we've been having.

Go to to see the rest and comment on your favourite.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Abelard and Heloise, a passionate love story and a life-changing book.

When author K.M. Grant visited Scottish Book Trust, she told us about the book that changed her life- 'Peter Abelard' by Helen Waddell- considered to be one of the best written and engaging accounts of two of the most famous lovers in history.

Watch K.M. Grant's story below.

It is difficult to outline the story of Abelard and Heloise concisely - not only because there are a lot of twists and turns, but also because there are conflicting accounts of what took place and why, so this synopsis is by no means definitive.

Peter Abelard was one of the most prominent minds of the 12th century, a philosopher and theologian - who fell in love with his brilliant and beautiful student Heloise and had an elicit affair with her under her uncle's own roof (he was her live-in teacher). Their love affair was not simply a torrid seduction of innocent student by dirty old teacher but seemingly a meeting of minds.
The secret affair was discovered and Abelard was severed from her - and his, ahem, manhood - by her disapproving uncle. In fact I don't think 'disapproving' is a strong enough term for his attitude towards poor Abelard. This ruined Abelard's life and ended his career, Heloise lived the rest of her life as a nun and went on to become a successful Abbess. Their correspondence was passionate and moving, painting a picture of their relationship and feelings for each other- disrupted but circumstances beyond their control.

Some people rate this is the greatest and most tragic love story of all time- some don't approve of it's status as a 'love story', thinking of it more as an account of a relationship subject to the rules and values of patriarchal Medieval society.
Heloise was by accounts a remarkably intelligent and brilliant woman who had been given a fantastic education- she had strong ideas of her own and expressed herself passionately. However she was treated like a piece of property by the men in her life- that was simply the social norm at the time.

Is that why this story chimes so much with us - even today? Who could stand to think of a young, intelligent, hard-working and conscientious woman being deprived of her self-determination and having her lover savagely attacked by her relatives?

Just because she fell in love with a partner who others disapproved of?

In Alexander Pope's poem 'Eloisa to Abelard', Eloisa/Heloise expresses envy of the vestal virgins she sees in her convent because they are at peace with themselves - the line with which she describes their contented state is "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind," which inspired the title of a certain film starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

This is another theme which chimes with people today, regretting an action or event so much that it becomes a fixation, envying those who seem to have no regrets.

I think these very human themes and concerns are what has made this story of timeless fascination to writers who have written their own account of the story.

Helen Waddell's version seems to be widely acclaimed as a really enjoyable and engaging novel and the most readable account of the story for discerning modern readers. I will be adding it to my list of books to read - one of many from The Book That Changed My Life.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Books CAN change lives- in a lot of different ways...

"I grew up in the 1960s both Catholic and gay, and couldn't reconcile the two. I ended up denying both my sexuality and my religion. Some years after coming out, whilst managing an HIV/AIDS project, my admin worker - who was also training as a Methodist preacher - gave me a copy of "Dancing on the Edge". Its effect on me was momentous..."

This story was submitted by Kevin Crowe on The Book That Changed My Life project site. It has been just one of many where a book has had a strong impact on someone's life and in a surprising way.
The variety of books chosen has also reflected the diverse ways that a book can change your life. I particularly enjoyed the story posted by Claira Jo about S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, which had a powerful impact on her.

Sometimes when you are in a situation where your surroundings are oppressive in some way and you feel misunderstood, a book can be an escape, a marvellous revelation that there are other worlds and people that you can relate to- and that can relate to you.
These stories show books as a kind of window to a another world, an escape, and inspiration and a comfort.
Hopefully The Book That Changed My Life project will open up this idea to people who feel like they don't belong to reach out to a book and see what happens next.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Highlights of the personal stories submitted so far . . .

As I'm sure many of you are highly aware, there have been a vast amount of entries for the books that have changed members of the public's lives. Whether it be the chilling, psychotic prose of A Clockwork Orange or the dreamy romance that is Pride and Prejudice--people all over Scotland have been wildly inspired by books!

In the field of personal stories related to books that have changed lives, there are mainly intriguing and inspiring ones. However, there are some obvious standouts, stories that are moving, unique and utterly inspirational. These are the ones that personally, I think stand just a bit higher than the rest:



SYNOPSIS: The Wasp Factory is the darkly twisted story of Frank, a profoundly disturbed teenager whose principle sources of entertainment are torturing animals and bumping off unwanted cousins. A Gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality.

Andy calls THE WASP FACTORY "an essential part of my teenage years" that "helped me to re-think everything I thought I knew about books". This is definately a personal story of a book that helped Andy become the person he is today--which is a key reason to why I think it's a very important story. Another reason is quite obvious, Andy was thirteen years old, and being in that messy, awkward stage where he's not quite a child, but not yet an adult called the teenage years, this was the first time he'd ventured into adult reading.

Link to Andy's personal story



SYNOPSIS: A young girl named Alice is sitting under a tree, bored and weary of her history lesson. Suddenly she spots a White Rabbit running towards a rabbit hole. Alice chases after him unaware of the wonderland of excitement that awaits.

Emma's story is definately one of discovering as a child the amazement of the world that may just lie out there. She reminices about dreamily re-writing the novel after she finished but replacing "Alice" with "Emma" and how even know, she "pursued after that was done so with the knowledge that the White Rabbit may just be around the corner" and that "every day is an adventure and nothing is ever quite as it seems". This is definately a story of reading a book that wildly inspired her as a child, and yet never letting go of the wonder and inspiration that the book holds for her.

With a new film coming out, and numerous adaptions already out there, ALICE IN WONDERLAND is quite possibly a national instiution in this country, with the book probably featuring in quite a few peoples childhood fantasies. Check out the new trailer for the latest adaption, hitting theatres in 2010:

Link to trailer

Link to Emma's personal story



SYNOPSIS: The unique story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. How is that possible? Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. The Time Traveler's Wife details the effects of his time travel on their passionate love for each other.

Corinne's story talks about the triumphs and trials of a passionate love, that despite one half of the relationship having a genetic displacement disorder, transcends time completely. She also talks of the hold the book quickly had on her, "I did not expect the obsessive hold this book quickly creates. It draws you in, you are Claire and you so desperately love Henry despite the feeling of hopelessness and finality in his condition." This definitely appears to be an escapist novel, all about managing to lose yourself inside a certain notion, that love prevails all.

There has been a recent heartbreaking, Hollywood film just out this year based on the novel. If you haven't already seen it, I'd definitely recommend checking out the trailer below:

Although, as everyone pretty much accepts, books and films never quite match one another in brilliance, this adaption is quite good, with some very pretty shots, decent acting, and it doesn't venture too far away from the storyline either!

Link to Corinne's personal story



SYNOPSIS: Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with both compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, Atticus, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy.

This is widely regarded as a very important book to our society as a whole, mainly because a central theme is that justice must prevail, no matter what your own prejudice may be. Allison remarks that it's about "all the things we should act on without thinking or procrastinating" and that "this book will always make me so humble". I think that's one of the key messages in the novel, that despite what we think, we all need to be compassionate to everyone, and remember that we are far more fortunate in our comfortable lives than a lot of people. This book also brought us a literary hero, in Atticus Finch, which alone, is extremely important.

I'm sure you've all heard of the Oscar-winning 1962 film with Gregory Peck, based on the novel. Just in case you missed some film dynamite, here's the trailer:

Link to Alison's personal story


PERSONAL STORY BY: Elaine Pomeransky

SYNOPSIS: A personal diary of a Jewish girl living in an attic, whilst hiding from the Nazis in 1940's Holland during World War II.

As Elaine Pomeransky so wonderfully puts it; "this book is more than a diary or a biography." That statement is entirely true, this novel is something of great wonder. It's painstakingly honest, raw, inspiring and deeply heartbreaking. Anne's two-year battle hiding from the German Nazi's is so utterly saddening, mainly because the reader knows exactly what the eventual outcome will likely be. During the war, happy endings were few and far between. Anne's own personal ties with the story is what makes it so heart-rending, "she is honest, naive, naked to her reader; exposing every thought and feeling in her adolescent mind." This is a real story, by a real girl, who once lived in fear every single day--which is quite possibly why it's touched millions all over the globe. As Elaine puts it, this novel is special for different reasons too, "her work made me realise the nature of humanity and the importance of words. Words that could sway a whole nation towards discrimination and worse. Words that could persuade medics, scientists and politicians to exterminate millions of people as lesser beings. Words that can also be used to bring hope, pleasure, education and inspiration to the reader. Words are all powerful. And despite her own tragic death, Anneliese Marie Frank, through her diary, through her words, has become immortal."

There has also been an oscar-winning film adaption, check out the trailer below:

Link to trailer

Link to Elaine's personal story



SYNOPSIS: Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

1984 is a very culturally significant novel, being that it was thoroughly against dictatorship, censorship and Stalinism, among other things. It is prominently set in a fictional, future dystopia, where the world is controlled by a central dictatorship unit, known as Big Brother. One of the most important things about this novel, according to John Gallagher is " the real horror of 1984 is that it is an accurate description of the world we live in today. You cannot place 1984 back in the bookcase and feel the relief of your own life. 1984 awakens you to the horror of your own existential crisis!" This is definitely a book that I would greatly advise reading, as it's incredibly significant to the world we live in today, and a book that I think all people should have a basic knowledge of.

There have been two film adaptions, but the most recent is the 1980s version:

Link to trailer

Link to John's personal story


PERSONAL STORY BY: Anne-Catriona Schaupp

SYNOPSIS: An anti-war science fiction novel in which Billy Pilgrim comes 'un-stuck' in time - travelling at random between his present and past, where he returns to his days as a soldier in WWII.

As Anne-Catriona remarks, I think Slaughterhouse-5 is a marmite sort of book. She notes that her friend hated it, whilst she loved it, and several other people I've spoken to have shared the same opinions of the book. Anne-Catriona goes on to say that the powerful impact of the novel, "As someone who writes and writes in the vain hope of one day becoming that most elusive thing 'a writer', this book opened my eyes to what a truly great author can do." I think that with this message, this must be a book that we can all benefit from trying--whether we like it or not.

There is also a film adaption, which the author seems to like a lot, so any fans of the book shouldn't see any qualms in enjoying it too!

Link to trailer

Link to Anne-Catriona's personal story

I hope this hasn't been too tedious for anyone to read--and I hope the personal accounts may have inspired you to pick up the book in your own time. If not, try and see the films at least! This is only the best ones I think there is so far, and there's still plenty of time for you to submit your own story! What are you waiting for? Click the link below to be taken to The Book That Changed My Life's homepage.


This entry was written by Gina Loughrey, aspiring young writer. You can read her story about the book that changed her life here.