Per Jon Stewart, “Read a F**king Book”

Barbara Vey -- October 2nd, 2012

I was watching The Daily Show the other night and Jon Stewart made a reference to the book Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes.  He immediately told his audience to “Yea, read a f**king book.”  It was obvious that many had never heard of the book or even seen the movie, Charley.  I have, which made me feel strangely superior.  Kind of like when you know the final Jeopardy answer and all the contestants get it wrong.


It’s always seems odd to me that books that have made a real impression on my life could have been missed by so many.   I know it’s an important book for me when I retain so much of it.  The story affects me in a personal way, has stayed with me for years and I feel for the characters.  They are unforgettable.  There are several books that do that for me including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee,  1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  They all made me think and question.  Some scared the heck out of me with their realism.


Of course, this is probably why I moved on to mostly romance.  I don’t want to be scared anymore.  I love my happily ever afters.  It’s nice to be comfortable.  I like knowing all will end well and I can have a few moments in my fantasy world.


Does this mean I regret my reading past or I will never read a book that makes me examine uncomfortable subjects?  No.  I gained a lot of insight into the world and want to keep informed and up to date.  Talking to people on a variety of subjects interests me and if I wasn’t well versed in it, I might as well lock myself up and just watch some of the crap that passes itself off as reality tv (Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo).


Reading a variety of books, discussing and sharing them with others including our kids brings about understanding and can lead to other topics that may never have been breached before.  I wish I could reach out and touch everyone with the gift to love books.  It shouldn’t be considered a burden to read, but a joy.  Something we can share with one another, no matter the genre of the book.

The scariest book I ever read was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  It still scares me today.  All those burning books make me shudder.  I try to do my part by talking about books where ever I go.  I pass them out, I share my love for them, I give them as gifts.  It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it feels right.


What about you?  Any books made a profound impression on you?  Any you wish you could get others excited about?  Any that made you realize that reading was as necessary as breathing for you?


Bottom Line:  “Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.’”  ~ Helen Exley

62 thoughts on “Per Jon Stewart, “Read a F**king Book”

  1. SteveA21

    That’s a pretty awesome effect of a book on one’s life.

    It’s surprising, to me, since in Atlas Shrugged – and Fountainhead – Ayn Rand portrays the ideal male/female relationship as one where the woman is “taken” by the man. It just goes to show you that the effects of books – and all art – is so much more than the surface content.

  2. Susan Carlisle


    Before I even got to the end of your post I was already thinking about Fahrenheit 451. It made a real impression on me. Would I/Could I stand up against the burning of books or banding of books. I think I could and would when necessary. Books do add value to our lives.

  3. Stephanie Scott

    Interesting how many of the books mentioned by Barbara are on banned books lists. Just think how even fewer people may have read these books not out of lack of interest, but because the book was taken off the shelves by censorship.

    It’s Banned Books Week, so a very timely post! More at:

    1. Karin Kallmaker

      Exactly my thought, Stephanie. So many of the books on the banned books list are one with the power to change minds and lives and the ones Barbara named have all been challenged, and are still challenged today.

  4. Theresa M. Moore

    All the books you mentioned were required reading for literature classes back in the day. Now, many have been banned, and why? Because they made people think. The politicos nowadays don’t want people to think; they want loyal little sheep who will support them no matter how egregiously ignorant and greedy they are. It is important that people acquire a broad knowledge of the world so their eyes can be opened to the hoodwinking going on, and how it affects their lives.

  5. Bertrice Small

    I think the books that made the most impression on me were “real” stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. Shakespeake, odd language when I was reading him, but very good. The novelists of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. Anya Seton, Jan Westcott, even Frank Yerby. I loved historical novels. Anyone out there particularly surprised? LOL

  6. Jill James

    The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark I don’t usually read westerns but this was a class assignment. The idea of just assuming someone was guilty without all the facts and then hanging them horrified me. That book stayed with me all these years.

    Flowers for Algernon was pretty awesome too.

  7. Liz Lincoln Steiner

    The Little House on the Prairie series of books, because they started me on my lifelong love of reading. There have been some profound books as an adult, but nothing like that. I still remember the moment in the library when my mom handed me Little House in the Big Woods.

    And Laura, kudos to you for finding the courage to walk away. I used to work with domestic violence survivors, and I have an amazing amount of respect for the strength it takes to get out.

    1. Jen

      The Little House books made me A Real Reader, too. I was gone, completely lost in that world. I feel like I’ve spent the last 38 years trying to recapture that magic. Thank you, Laura.

  8. Kitti

    Books that have changed my life drastically (they all change me to some extent!)

    Lion Witch & Wardrobe
    Stranger in a Strange Land
    Lord of the Rings
    Dance of the Dissident Daughter
    Many Lives Many Masters

  9. Sue Kelso

    On The Beach. No other book that I have read haunted me for so many nights sleep after I finished. And that happened both times that i read it.

  10. james rollins

    Dune by Frank Herbert blew me away.
    Lord of the Rings and Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara
    The Vampire Lestat
    Salem’s Lot (still the scariest King story I’ve ever read, with a close second The Shining)
    The Fafyrd and Gray Mauser series by Fritz Leiber
    Watership Down by Richard Adams (everyone should read this book)
    More recently (sort of):
    The Game of Thrones
    The Life of Pi (looking forward to the movie)
    and on and on and on…

    1. Ted Thomason

      Loved Dune. It was funny to see the movie and hear some of the prounications that were quite different from how I was prounouncing them in my head.

    2. Jennifer Probst

      Salem’s Lot is def the scariest of King’s I adored but also The Stand. The Island of The Blue Dolphins made a huge impression, along with Where the Red Fern Grows. Loved the Great Gatsby. Lion Witch and Wardrobe. Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain was sheer brilliance and I keep rereading it.
      Fantastic post. Love thinking of life changing books.

  11. Carin W

    I can’t believe anyone made it through high school without having to read Flowers for Algernon.
    A couple books that I love that made me stop and think are:
    Illusions by Richard Bach
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Tom Sawyer
    The Stand by Steven King
    The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
    Gosh I could go on forever

  12. Christine

    Guess it depends on the reading circumstances–can’t tell you how much I loathe 1984 and Brave New World to this day after being subjected to then in high school. Same goes for Lord of the Flies and The Pearl. Golly, I hope that last one is off the reading lists! However, there’s Little Women and I got my romance fix starting with the Brontes. Also Mary Renault, especially The Charioteer.

  13. Sandypo

    I think between junior high and high school I had to read Lord of the Flies four times and I hated it every single time. The Odyssey was required freshman reading at my high school and I never would have touched it otherwise but it was a great book. But my favorites as a child were The Secret Garden and Mary Poppins. I was an early reader — had a library card at age 5 and have always, always loved to read. I can’t imagine a life without books!

  14. Kat Kan

    This may sound a little weird, but Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss is the one book that has stayed with me all of my reading life; it’s one of the very first books I read independently. And Horton’s line “a person’s a person no matter how small” has also stayed with me as a great life truth. And yes, I knew, back in first grade, that I couldn’t live without reading.

  15. Kim G.

    I have been thinking about The Handmaid’s Tale a lot this past year because of all the vitriol about women trying to control their own bodies. When I read that book I would never have thought we could be this close to having it come true!

  16. Kelly Hawkins

    Stranger in a Strange Land.

    I came out of the closet after reading it and I was only 12. It allowed me to be okay with my bisexuality throughout high school when my other friends were struggling with their sexuality. Although I am not a fan of his politics or his sexism later in life, and I would probably hate the book now, I will always be grateful to Heinlein for showing me that being attracted to both girls and boys was okay.

  17. leighmorgan1

    A Tale of Two Cities did it for me. Questions about justice and disparity in how people live still impact me greatly. I never thought about it much before, but it could have been a factor in my choice to study law and ethics. Something about Pip in Great Expectations also struck such a cord in my childhood. The Lord of the Flies made me sick and I still have issues with how quickly empathy dies. Gave me shivers. Great post. I prefer romance and thrillers now, but that could also be a product of wanting to enjoy myself more in my leisure time :)

  18. Mary Pearson

    Many of the ones already listed (Fahrenheit 451!) but another that has stuck with me and holds up to rereading (and is just as horrifying in many ways as Fahrenheit) is The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I don’t think it’s on school lists anymore but it is stunning, sad, and entirely memorable.

  19. Debbie Kaufman

    One of Mae Nunn’s books, Amazing Love, got me through a difficult time in the PICU waiting room. Fairy tales got me through childhood. Funny, I’m blogging today about those connections we make with books over at the Southern Magic blog in their blog blitz leading up to your (Barbara’s) appearance at their upcoming Readers Luncheon!

  20. Faith Bicknell-Brown

    This is one huge reason why I adored my Kindle (that I gave to my 64-yr-old mother who is in love with it, lol) and why I am so protective of my new iPad2. I’m able to read books that I never had a chance to while growing up. Recently downloaded Dracula and Frankenstein. Yes, I know. It’s tough to believe I’ve never read those before, but I haven’t. One old title I think was years before it’s time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin–awesome book!

  21. Caroline

    The book that changed my life was ‘Well Done Secret Seven’. It might sound funny but that book made me fall in love with reading. After reading dull school-prescribed books, I was so captivated by the sense of adventure and mystery, it blew my six-year old mind! I must have read about 150 of Enid Blyton’s books afterwards and I think they were a form of escape for me during an unhappy time while my parents were splitting up. I definitely trace my lifelong love of reading and writing, my literature degree and published work back to the moment I opened that book.

    I fell in love again when I discovered the first Harry Potter book at the age of 11. The last book came out just after I finished secondary school and the release of every book and film in between was greeted by lots of excited discussion among my friends. It was such a great bonding experience and it book-ended my adolescence so it was a big part of my experience growing up.

    More recently, I fell head-over-heels when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’. As I turned page after page I became more and more convinced it’s the best book I’ve ever read. A re-read hasn’t changed my mind! It confirmed what I like to read and how I want to write.

    Of course, many other great books have affected me (lots of them already mentioned by Barbara in the article) but I think those are the ones that have made the biggest impact…so far!

  22. Sheriffwegottaproblem

    The Fire Next Time.
    Notes of a Native Son. (And everything James Baldwin ever published.)
    The Bluest Eye.
    Jazz. Beloved.
    Song of Solomon. (And everything Toni Morrison ever published.)
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Juno Diaz
    The Secret of Joy. Alice Walker
    Killing Johnny Fry.
    Fearless Jones.
    Bad Boy Brawly Brown. (And everything Walter Mosley ever published.)
    The Souls of Black Folks.
    The Negro. (And everything W.E.B. DuBois ever published.)
    Quilting The Black-eyed Pea. Nikki Giovanni
    A Call to Conscience. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Ragtime. (And most of the works of E.L. Doctorow.)
    Freedom. Phaidon publishing.
    Danse Macabre. (And most of Stephen King’s published work.)

  23. Michael Walter

    Weirdly, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman had a pretty profound effect on me.

    I say weirdly because they’re young adult books: not the sort of genre where you expect to find genuinely scary themes.

    But in fact, the trilogy is a vast, ambitious work that spans philosophy, spirituality and theology, but all contrasted against this incredibly intense thread of teenage love. I read it at what was probably just the right age, and it resonated with me more powerfully than perhaps any other series I’ve ever read.

  24. Debbie

    The “Left Behind” series was life changing for me. One other book that has stayed with me for several years is “Winter Garden” by Kristen Hannah. It was haunting and had a twist at the end that really took me by surprise.

  25. Natalie

    It is great to see the list of books that have stayed with people. Here are some of mine that impacted my lifelong love of reading through the years:

    Anne of Green Gables
    I know why the Caged Bird Sings
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Bell Jar
    Pet Semetary
    The Red Tent
    Interview with the Vampire
    Memoirs of a Geisha
    Pride & Prejudice
    Life of Pi

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