Regime change: the books we read in adolescence.


The books we read in adolescence often have an extraordinary effect on our lives. They are, among other things, an attempt at regime change….we free ourselves of our parents’ ideals for us by using the available culture to make up our own ego-ideals, to evolve a sense of our own affinities beyond the family, to speak a language that is more our own. In the self-fashioning of adolescence, books (or music, or films) … acquire a subtle but far-reaching effect that lasts throughout a person’s life.

Adam Phillips Against Self-Criticism , in the  London Review of Books vol 37 no 5 5 March 2015



19 thoughts on “Regime change: the books we read in adolescence.

  1. It’s funny how I thought about the books I read in adolescence, after reading your post, and find that they were indeed life changing for me. Particularly I speak of Madeleine L’Engle; after finishing A Wrinkle in Time I read every single book of hers I could find. I still buy one when I find one, and own practically all she’s written. But to the point. I remember writing down long passages of her books, and J. R. R. Tolkein’s too, in a yellow spiral. They seemed beyond wisdom for me, utter enlightenment. I’m not sure if the were, yet I know part of who I am today is a credit to their thinking. Oh, and Ayn Rand, too. Who reads Atlas Shrugged at 17 and adheres to it completely?! 🙂

    1. I can see you as a lovely girl always reading, reading. It is not surprising Gert is a little strange as we spent so many years reading our father’s books. P G Wodehouse, Hilaire Belloc and co.

        1. One can always find authors still to be read. I have learned to keep blinkers on. Life is short and literature is long. I can only admire the quality and extent of your reading as it is.

          1. I can’t imagine how you deciphered my comment, not sure these contacts are working properly! But I’m glad you give me the benefit of the doubt. xo

  2. The book I remember the most was about Egypt and it always left this feeling of – I really have to see this for myself. Many years later my husband had conference in Israel and I mentioned that it was only a few miles from Egypt. Well, he took the bait and we went. I think we both were blown away with the culture and history of Egypt.

    1. How fortunate you were able to go (I assume) a few years ago. Not so easy now.I think my wanting to go to Egypt came from reading Agatha Christie. Still haven’t got there though.

      1. It seems like we managed to go to places just before the SHF. We even drove down the West Bank in Israel. Oh, the memories we have!

  3. Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series springs to mind here. All of a sudden I had discovered a new and exciting style of prose and a completely different view of the world. Such a refreshing change from the classics I was studying in school at the time!

  4. A wonderful book called “When Jays Fly to Barbmo” which I think big bro won in a school prize. Set in Norway above the artic circle during the war, I can still remember whole passages. Now I find books slip from my mind much more easily, but books read during my adolescence I can remember every detail.

    1. I just looked up this book and it is still getting 5 stars on goodreads. Sounds just our cup of tea,’the story of Ingeborg, a young Norwegian girl, who lives on a farm on the remote island of Draugoy…’ An early version of Knausgaard?

  5. It has been of great mystery to our family how a book we enjoyed as children called Leith and Friends by Claire Mallory remained a constant source of enjoyment to our academically and professionally gifted father from the time we had it as children throughout his life.. Maybe there was some mystery in it that we didn’t recognise.

    1. I have read the book of which you speak, Sally, from memory it was set in Dunedin, New Zealand and concerned a girl going to a new school. I couldn’t begin to imagine what your father saw in it.

  6. Gert is a very lucky girl to have read P G Wodehouse as a teen – I was an adult before discovering P G Wodehouse, and now I eat it all up. Particularly good on audio…

    1. We just about imbibed it with our mother’s milk. It’s old-fashioned now but still in our view so funny and clever. Bertie and Jeeves and Gussie Fink-Nottle and Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright are as real to us as any living being.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s