Mar 31, 2017

Books that changed my life

by States Deputy Emilie Yerby

No book has changed me more than Amartya Sen’s “Development as Freedom.” Lent to me in sixth-form by an insightful teacher, Sen’s take on international development, his insistence on human agency and dignity, and the principles of justice and freedom, blew my mind. It gave me a new way to look at economics, one I’ve carried with me into activism, politics and even higher education. Sen is philosopher and political thinker as well as economist and writer, and his books are a treasure trove of powerful and challenging ideas.

I was changed differently by Jeanette Winterson’s “Written on the Body” – or rather, she gave me the language to express a change I was already living through. Discovered as a student, the same summer I fell in love with another woman for the first time, Winterson’s words were the window through which I could see the strangeness and beauty and hopefulness of that love.

Finally, Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita in Tehran” is the best example of a genre of books I love. The story of a clandestine book-club in post-revolutionary Iran, it revisits western literary classics through the eyes of young eastern women, who are also working through the impossible question of how to live with dignity and integrity under a repressive state. It’s a book I keep returning to for courage, hope and inspiration.