Books That Changed My Life?

This was a postaday2011 subject.   I gave it quite a bit of thought before writing this disappointing response…

I don’t think that any book has actually changed my life though some may have had an influence on how I do some things and how I deal with others.   Many years ago, fearing perhaps that I was not left wing enough, a fellow Union Branch Officer loaned me the book ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell.   He insisted that it was a good read, though I suspect what he really meant was that it was an important read for those who might otherwise slide in their commitment to the struggle.    I have to sadly admit that it didn’t light my fire, though the day-to-day issues that our members experienced as they went about their work always did – I guess I was a ground floor Trades Unionist rather than one whose mind was set on higher things 😦

In the mid 1970’s I purchased two books which have had a deep influence on my photography.  The first was The Amateur Photographers Handbook by Aaron Sussman.   The book stands out among all the semi-technical camera books I have seen and read for its clarity of information about every aspect of photography.   Despite its pre-digital camera origins it still conveys so much helpful guidance for a photographer and unlike many of its contemporaries and some later offerings, I retain it in my library whilst the others have long since gone to the charity shop.   I remember a couple of key messages that I took from this book – One is that a better camera doesn’t mean better photos, it just makes them easier to achieve.   The other is that no location, no matter how bare, is devoid of photographic opportunity.

The other book was Decline Of Steam by Colin Gifford – this is a coffee table book of photos taken in the last decade of steam on British Railways.   Gifford is one of those artists who will make you review your work even if you only vaguely share an interest in their subject matter.  Much of my railway photography and transport photography since has been affected by the style of his photos in that book.   He shone the light and I have followed the path, though with my own interpretations as my experience grew.   His approach has even impacted in a distant manner on my football photography!   As a footnote, his other book was Each A Glimpse.. , taking the title from the poem by Robert Louis Stephenson and referring to the rapidly disappearing engines of his youth.  I have never owned it, but feel I ought to get a copy.

One thing that did change my life was the decision to get myself a Private Pilots License.   So, I guess that the books involved in the training for that should get a mention 🙂   They were the Trevor Thoms series, much loved (?) by student pilots all over the UK.   And, if I hadn’t learnt to fly, I wouldn’t have met my wife!   So after all that… The Trevor Thoms Air Pilots Manuals were part of changing my life, though it was me that took the decision to learn to fly and the books came after!


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