Broadened Horizons: Two Books to Challenge Perspective

The ability for a book to alter and change society is sometimes forgotten now that such a magnitude are accessible, and when this capability does make itself apparent, people are oftentimes shocked at what they read. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Common Sense completely changed people’s thinking at the time on subjects and topics that were extremely pertinent to the current events and affairs of the periods in which they were written. 

While the two aforementioned books changed societal viewpoints in important and impactful ways that have reverberated through time and continue to affect society, other books also possess the ability to challenge perspective. 

This perspective shift can be small and short lasting, but the affect of it is the most important part. As a person reads a book, the reader is aware that what they are reading is important in some way and as they work through the plot, they understand the perspective of the author. More than that however, their own perspective is completely changed because of the acknowledgement of what the author was trying to convey with his or her story. 

Two books in particular highlight how authors can completely alter a readers perspective in a number of different ways. 

The first is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The book has been read around the world and translated into countless languages because of the effect that the book has had on those who have read Coelho’s tale. The story is about Santiago, a shepherd boy who goes on a seemingly normal journey. The journey is for a treasure, but as he makes his way through the world, Santiago changes and learns an array of knowledge that he never would have experienced had he not set out into the world and witnessed its locale. This is the important and lasting part of the tale that Coelho creates with his monumental and classic work. The book challenges its reader to change his or her own perspective on life just as Santiago did and just as Coelho did when he first began writing this book. The book pushes and promotes not only confidence, but also the idea that with the right mindset, virtually anything is achievable. “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” writes Coelho in The Alchemist

The second book worth reading if a changed perspective is being sought is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This book has taken flack for a couple different reasons. Ithas become a celebrated book by the far right of the political spectrum due to the fact that the story told by Rand is so stark and set in its ways. The story Rand tells is one of a complete and utter change to how society functions. All the major business owners - imagine the founders of every major oil company, every major energy business, and all of the Silicon Valley millionaires, just disappeared. The book follows two main characters, but the work is something much more grand than just a story of rich people leaving town. The book serves as a manifesto of sorts for Rand for her to explain her ideal and perfect economic situation for the United States. 

This is why the book is so talked about these days; the economic theory that Rand promotes is extreme beyond all measures and because of this, it is usually met with either complete acceptance, or complete rejection. However, if read with an unbiased viewpoint - one in which the reader accepts that Rand has this unique theory for how the economy should function, considers it, acknowledges her viewpoint, it may pose some merit in comparison to one’s own opinions. “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all,” Rand states. “Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. It’s yours.”

These two books challenge readers because they offer unique and incredibly passionate viewpoints that are oftentimes not considered. The perspective offered in The Alchemist is one of the confidence in one’s worth and their goals while Atlas Shrugged tells a much different story. Though Rand’s story of a bleak society following the disappearance of every major businessperson champions an absolute free market economy, it differs from the uplifting themes of Paulo Coelho’s story; the book still serves a purpose for readers who seek personal freedom (even economically). Altering and challenging one’s own viewpoints is important in becoming a more complete individual and these two books effectively do that by presenting their own views and opinions to counter against one’s own.