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Books that mess with your head

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Threnody posted 9/7/2010 10:34 AM

I'm two books into a trilogy by Phillipa Gregory and I can feel it affecting my brain. The first book, Wideacre, was shocking with some of its depictions of depravity and pure evil. The second, The Favored Child, continued to mess with me in a different way. I'm going to the bookstore this evening to pick up the third and I expect it's also going to do a number on me.

This has me trying to recall the last time a book, or series of books, twisted my brain around.

With the exception of one book, all of K.J. Parker's books have done this. I'm reading The Folding Knife right now so the jury's still out on that, but Parker's Engineer's Trilogy had me tied in a mental knot for a week or more. Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory nearly put me into an asylum for a week. His Culture books are brain-bendy, but certainly not to that extent.

I don't read horror novels or thrillers. I stick with straight literature, sci-fi/fantasy or historical fiction, for the the most part. I find it amusing, in a way, that even these staid, pedestrian sorts of books can somehow twist around inside my head. I think it's because they all illuminate some facet of a personality that is so unlike mine, and when I start getting further into the book I can't fully detach myself from the character and find myself in a strange conflict.

Does this happen to anyone else? If so, what books caused it?

I can't tell if I should be concerned, or if I should seek out more books like this.

wifehad5 posted 9/7/2010 13:51 PM

The book that messed with my head the most was called The Gold Coast by Nelson Demille. I've always loved his writing, and have read everything he wrote.

I re-read The Gold Coast about 4 years ago, and actually lost sleep for about a week after finishing it. There is a strong infidelity theme, and a lot of the book is from the viewpoint of the main character dealing with the fallout.

When I read it, I had no idea that I was also dealing with infidelity, but maybe at some level I did

manAscending posted 9/8/2010 00:35 AM

In my first year of uni, I read Atlas Shrugged. Little did I anticipate how much it would skew my thinking. It took about five years of the pendulum in my brain to swing from far-right, to far-left, and now settle somewhere more in the middle. Sorry, there's just no better way to describe it. I hear a lot of impressionable young minds are heavily influenced by this book.

brooke4 posted 9/8/2010 03:09 AM

Brat Farrar by Josephne Tey. Because even though the reader knows the answer to the mystery you start to doubt what you know.

Romeo and Juliet. Because I'm always convinced that this will be the time that their timing isn't off and it will end happily.

NewAttitude posted 9/8/2010 07:46 AM

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Both of which I would love to reread but am too afraid to.

Helen of Troy posted 9/8/2010 07:49 AM

Oh I love heady books!
Have read Sophie's World.
I'm not into horror so might try the others mentioned here. Thanks.

WhiteWolfWinning posted 9/22/2010 19:45 PM

For reason's I cannot explain, Rose Madder by Stephen King burrowed into my brain. It is, by no means, is best known book ... it wasn't even really that good, but it just drove me insane! Maybe it was the time in my life... I'm not sure.

Also The Handmaide's Tale by Margarat Atwood. I could not stop thinking about it.

Usually, though, I get invovled in what I'm reading to the point of ... not obessison, but immersion? I dream about the characters , go back and re-read passages ....

In other words, most books mess with my head!


Threnody posted 9/22/2010 20:12 PM

Oh gosh, yes. Handmaid's Tale. I was in half a panic just talking to my fundamentalist step-father on the phone for a while after that, since nearly every conversation starts with him talking about the latest rally for this-and-that he went to. I read it when I was 23 or so, and it took a long, long time for me to snap out of a "zOMG it's happening NOW!" kind of fear.

Still not done with The Folding Knife. It's not messing with me so far, though. I'm really, really enjoying it.

Very, very tired posted 9/22/2010 21:18 PM

Stephen King's "The Stand."

I read it when I was about 18 or 19. It still messes with my head.

sad12008 posted 9/23/2010 06:43 AM

I agree about The Handmaid's Tale...disturbing, and scarily resonant where I currently reside (I get what you said, Thren!).

Back when the earth was still cooling, I read a short story -"The Lottery"- which still is with me to this day.

jjct posted 9/23/2010 07:09 AM

Though I have recently obtained a few "Get Out of Hell Free" cards. I don't think I'll be using them by reading these books.
Thanks for the heads-up!

punky posted 9/23/2010 07:49 AM

Definitely The Stand.

I guess I like my head being messed with because I've read it several times.

Probably need to again.

heart_in_a_blend posted 9/23/2010 10:06 AM

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

This book messes with my head. I was wondering if anyone else has read this.

veritas posted 9/23/2010 12:13 PM

I can't remember either the name of the author or the book, but it was a mystery novel about a black woman, some dead cats, and the narrator who follows the story (as a nosy neighbor) for a number of years and finally solves a murder mystery. It was so Rashomon and twisted.

I read Wideacre and couldn't bring myself to read the others.

Brain Fart Ended: The book is The Shape of Snakes and the author is Minette Walters.

[This message edited by veritas at 12:43 PM, September 23rd (Thursday)]

yewtree posted 9/23/2010 16:43 PM

Right now I'm listening to a Wally Lamb book - "The Hour I First Believed" - the first 1/2 is about Columbine - pretty heavy. The 2nd half is supposed to take a turn into the past all the way back to the Civil War. So far I just want to keep driving around all day so I can keep listening! I'm hooked!

punky posted 9/24/2010 20:09 PM

The Hour I First Believed...oh's a tough one.

Heartless Bytchh posted 9/25/2010 05:41 AM

There's been so many over the years I can't remember them all. I should've kept a list.

I think it's a good thing in a way to have a book get into your head and shake it up a little. It makes you look at something inside yourself you may have not known you had there.

I think the first story that got to me was Edgar Allen Poe's "Tell Tale Heart". I was like about 6 or so when I read it. Wow! Totally blew me away. Got me hooked big time on Horror.

I read "Sybil" when I was like eleven or twelve. My mother caught me reading it and took it away. I waited a week or two until she forgot about it and snuck it back. That one got in my head on many levels. I found out I wasn't the only person that had an abusive mother. And the possibility that she had some kind of mental illness was a new thought for me.

Recently I've discovered I like stories with a lot of angst. I think this is a new thing with me. I think the whole horror/angst thing I've got going is possibly a way to process some inner stuff I've got happening these days.
Maybe it's a way of helping to put my own personal monkeys/demons into perspective.

I do know that Robert Heinlein's work has greatly influenced me. His "Stranger In A Strange Land" for instance. TANSTAAFL

And his "Number Of The Beast" with the whole time travel thing was awesome. I reread that one several times.
And his "Lazarus" books. Oh wow, I need to go back and reread those again. It's been awhile.

So yeah, I think those books that get in there and bend our brain can be good for us for the most part.

Cally60 posted 9/25/2010 22:02 PM

Back when the earth was still cooling, I read a short story -"The Lottery"- which still is with me to this day.

I had exactly the same experience with a short story by John Wain. It was about a small child who had the mind of an adult man, and was unbelievably moving. I have never been able even to contemplate reading it a second time.

And the second is a novel by the Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing, entitled "the Fifth Child". It's about the upending of the idyllic life of an earth-mother type, whose fifth child has an autism-like disorder, However, it was first published over twenty years ago.

[This message edited by Cally60 at 10:03 PM, September 25th (Saturday)]

fairyfriend posted 9/25/2010 22:24 PM

"His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Heavy.

caregiver9000 posted 9/25/2010 22:38 PM

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The Green Mile by Stephen King

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

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