Ten Books That Changed My Life

Your mileage may vary

Patrick Metzger

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Recently I’ve thought that my writing on Medium has seen far too few narcissistic self-indulgent listicles. This piece aims to remedy that shortfall.

Below are some books I first read between my early teens and mid-twenties which affected my worldview or my philosophy or the way I string a sentence together. I’ve included a pertinent quote from each book to give a flavour of the thing.

Note: the authors in this list are mostly cis-het-white-male and disproportionately English. I make no apologies, that’s what was fed to me in my youth and I wasn’t wise enough to consciously diversify until much later in life.

1. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

I read a lot of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl as a kid, so I was the only eleven-year-old in London, Ontario who used expressions like “Jolly good, old chap” on the playground. I‘ve remained a literary Anglophile to this day, and one of the books which secured that predilection was Lucky Jim.

Kingsley Amis's first novel is the hilarious and insightful story of a young professor in post-WWII Britain. Some of the attitudes wouldn’t fly today, but it’s surprisingly forward-thinking given the time and place.

He disliked this girl and her boyfriend so much that he couldn’t understand why they didn’t dislike each other.

2. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

You should read this book before your eighteenth birthday so you can impute a higher meaning to your spring break debauches and regrettable one-night stands. I forgive it for spawning generations of roving posers, however — this chronicle of ahead-of-their-time hipsters driving, drugging, and fucking their way across 1940s America has a style that makes it worth reading even as a grownup.

I later read Kerouac’s other books and thought them uniformly awful.

A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.

3. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

I adored this tale of a disgruntled teen back when I was a disgruntled teen, and in…

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Patrick Metzger

Dilettante, smartass, apocalypticist. ***See “Lists” for stories by genre.***