Six great books for a change of perspective
Seeing things from someone else's point of view is usually helpful for reassessing situations. It can also help us recharge by forgetting our own issues momentarily, and investing some time in seeing how things play out for someone else. Through this, we might get certain ideas of how we can act, think, or feel in a different or new way in our own lives, and attempt to solve what is puzzling us in that way.
I have chosen the following books because they are works that tempt me to go back and read more and more times, and every time I tend to discover something new. The characters in these books can be both very different, and at times similar to myself or people I know.
1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
A 30-year-old woman who has been solitary her entire life, due to circumstances and her unfortunate upbringing, is rediscovering how life can be different once you make meaningful connections. Seeing things through the eyes of someone who is not used to a "normal" life can lead one to rediscover how they perceive things in their own lives, apply gratitude to the connections they have, and also revel at the everyday absurdities that life brings.
My favourite passage: ""No, thank you.", I said.
"I don't want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I'm afraid I'm simply not interested in spending two drinks' worth of time with you".
"Eh?" he said, cupping his hand around his ear."
2. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
Nora, an exceptionally talented but depressed young woman tries to commit suicide (yes, trigger warning here, though there are no details of the act itself). In a stage between life and death, she finds herself in a vast library, where she is led by her old school librarian to pick different books, which all lead to trying different lives. Exploring the parallel universes of one's existence is something that we could all imagine doing, prompted by the stories in the book: How would things have panned out differently, had we made different choices?
Favourite passage: "In one life she had a teenage son called Henry, who she never met properly because he kept slamming doors in her face. In one life she only ate toast. In one life she was a travel vlogger who had 1,750,000 YouTube subscribers and almost as many people following her on Instagram, and her most popular video was one where she fell off a gondola in Venice. She also had one about Rome called "A Roma Therapy"."
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Matt Haddon
A teenager who's on the autistic spectrum decides to methodically solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour's dog, but ends up discovering a big secret about his own life, and reconnecting with his lost family. It is a great coming-of-age novel, which shows the world through a young person's eyes, who is used to perceiving things in their literal meaning. What was amazing, was reading this book at a younger age, where I did not really know what the world looked like, so was taking his perception of things for granted. Then, rereading it as an adult, it both helped me reconnect with my younger self, but also understand the struggles of someone to whom socialising and understanding metaphors does not come easy.
Favourite passage: "And then there were another 4 stops and 4 people came and took bags away from the shelves and 2 people put bags on the shelves, but no one moved the big suitcase that was in front of me and only one person saw me and they said, "You are fucking weird mate" and that was a man in a suit. And 6 people went to the toilet but they didn't do poos that I could smell, which was good. And then the train stopped and a lady with a yellow waterproof coat came and took the big suitcase away and she said, "Have you touched this?" and I said, "Yes". And then she went away."
5. Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey
An elderly woman suffering from dementia manages to solve the mystery of her sister gone missing when they were both young adults. It is extremely interesting to look into the thought process of someone who might not remember what happened a minute ago, but remembers exactly how things were in her early adulthood. Incidentally, much like the book above, she initially tries to solve the mystery of her current friend (Elizabeth) gone missing!
""How can I help you?" she says, and I think it sounds like there is a word missing at the end of her sentence, like she wanted to say "love" or "dear" and stopped herself. We look at each other and I try to think of something to say. I rummage in my bag and find a photo of a cat lying in a bed or nasturtiums. I can't think where it's from. "Was it a competition entry?", the woman says. "I think all the winners for this month have been notified. I'm sorry. But you haven't lost. Just give it another try next month". "Lost", I say, dropping the photo on to the counter. "I've lost Elizabeth". "Oh was it an advert you wanted?" Breath floods into my lungs. "Yes. Yes, that's it. I wanted to place an advert." "I'll get you a form. Awful, cats, aren't they?" I nod, feeling as though I've missed some part of the conversation. I nod, but I quite like cats and I wonder what this woman has against them."
6. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
Two women's lives come together: A white, rich woman in her 30s hires a black babysitter in her 20s for her toddler. This book is extremely good in providing natural dialogue, just the mundane intricacies of everyday lives, through which one can see the subtleties of power struggle, racial micro-aggressions, and relationships between people coming from different walks of life. As a parallel, but embeded plot line, we have the toddler of the family, whose life is surrounded by the two main characters. Seeing things through her eyes can be really refreshing - especially when the things she says seem inconsequential: She just has feelings and thoughts, and they do not have to be overanalysed or mean something deep, like adults often think about their own thoughts and feelings!
Favourite passage: "He glanced up from underneath a blue baseball hat and looked at Alix as if she were lost. Briar pointed directly at him and said, "That man is driving the train." "Honey, shh. Emira, I know this is strange", Alix said. "We just wanted to drop off something for you and... just say hi." Briar kept her eyes on the man and shouted, "Choo choo!" Under a dense static, Emira said "Wait, is Briar there with you?" The man was almost at the next street, but Briar cupped her arms around her mouth to yell, "Stand clear of the closing doors, peas!" "Briar is here and she's making lots of friends", Alix said."
7. Hippos Go Berserk, by Sandra Boynton
Continuing with the toddler theme from the previous book - what better for a change of perspective than seeing the world from the eyes of a toddler! This book does not hold a deep philosophical meaning, but it does have really good illustrations! Take some time off, appreciate the detail of the different expressions on all the hippos, and connect with your inner child!
Favourite passage: Although this one is more about the illustrations, "One hippo all alone, calls two hippos on the phone" is the line that starts all the fun, so I am quite fond of it!