Books, Learning, Life, Writing

How Books Challenge Our Perceptions

What are perceptions? What impacts them? How books challenge our perceptions? These are some of the questions I attempt to answer here based on what I know and read and researched.

Perception (from the Latin perceptio, meaning gathering or receiving) is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or environment.

Or in simpler terms, perception refers to the way you take in the world through your senses. So your perception of something is the way that you think about it or the impression you have of it.

And perception is different from reality, or is it? Is your perception of something the correct one, or mine? Which one is real, if any? I truly found this quote by Nietzsche interesting and it was one that got me thinking, about what it says, and about perception itself.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

In one of my previous AtoZ posts, where I attempted to find cool words starting with the featured letter, I came upon the below word.

Kinephantom (n). A misperception of visual movement, like when your vehicle is stationary and the one next to you moves. And other optical illusions.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? And it is so fascinating that though we are utterly sure that we are not moving, just the fact that the car next to ours moves makes us feel we are!

As I got to thinking about how easily perceptions alter realities, I also got to thinking about these perceptions can be altered, and thus change our realities all over again.

How Books Challenge Perceptions

Books are definitely one way we can challenge our perceptions. Of course, reading is an escape, a way to learn new things, to gather information, make us feel all those warm, fuzzy, happy feelings, or a whole other gamut of emotions too as we choose.

But because perceptions are formed based on the what we know and receive and experience, reading definitely impacts how we perceive the world around us and beyond.

The Everyday

For instance, when I scrolled through my Facebook feed and read about as well as saw all those bountiful produces from backyard garden, I was tempted to post a picture of story bought produce instead of the measly yet totally delish produce my garden had yielded. To put this in perspective (!), reading these posts made me feel I was the backyard gardener with the least green thumb. But then I thought about all those other “me”s who did not post either!!

The news articles, news feeds, and newspapers from around the world definitely change our perceptions bit by bit on a daily basis.

Those Books We Read

And recent reads like The Book of Lost Friends made me look at the Black Lives Matter movement with a fresher, brighter, wider pair of eyes. Previous reads like Lest We Forget and The Underground Railroad as well as Uncle Tom’s Cabin were also major perception changers.

Another picture book I just finished reading — Why Are You So Quiet? by Jaclyn Desforges (review coming soon here) — will change the reader’s perception of those quiet ones around us; the ones who prefer to listen and not fill up silences with words (I myself move between being the quiet one in my room to filling up every silence I can).

Maria Popova of BrainPickings (one of my favorite places to visit on the WWW) talks about how the books ‘most real to us fundamentally alter our relationship with reality‘ and discusses books that altered her perception of reality. And when she talks about her grandmother reading Alice in Wonderland to her as a child, I realized how even fantasy can impact perceptions. (I have added the other book she mentions to my list of books below.)

To give you another example, a ton of Mills & Boon (or similar) have definitely contributed to perceptions of romance and that dark, tall stranger who will swoop into lives of so many women reading them over the years. I do read romances (simply because) but have learned to glean just what is needed from them. I know that well-researched historical romances have taught me a lot about life in past-centuries England at the least.

To Sum This Up

These are just some of the ways books can challenge our perceptions. Each book does it in its own subtle way, and the sum total can create a whole new reality for us, or more specifically, our perception of it!!

I know that reading books changed my perspective of the world even as a young girl in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

What about you? How have books changed or challenged your perceptions?

Books That Challenge Perceptions

On to the list of books that leave you feeling like a different person when you reach that last page. The ones that cause a shift in how you perceive yourself and the world.

Some of these books are gleaned from other such lists, while others are based on my personal recollections of the books. For those that I have not reviewed, I hope to review or summarize them in the near future on my blog. And the ones I am yet to read: they are now on my TBR. (Sources are listed at the end)


I read parts of this book and listened to other parts of it. While I am yet to fully read this book, the words I read made an impact, changed many perceptions I had, and left me inspired and hopeful.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie’s books in general are among those books that help changed my self-perceptive. One of the first books I read ages ago was How to Win Friends and Influence People. And while I thought I did make friends easily, I learned things here that helped me become a better friend too.

The Alchemist

A book I never reviewed but one that left me with a wondrous feeling when I was done, and wanted me to start reading it all over again so I could hold on to that longer.

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

This is the book Maria Popova mentioned in her article; and one I have since started reading. It is certainly proving to be an interesting read!

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

This is one of the books in one of those lists I linked below. I simply had to add this here as well. Escher’s illusions have fascinated me ever since I first saw an article in Reader’s Digest when I was maybe about 10 years old. And that is enough of a hook for me to attempt to read this book (and I normally do not

Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work

The title had me scrambling to add this to my TBR… Sure to change my perspective on “creative thinkering!”

And More to Come

Of course, there are so many more books that I need to add here from my own reading lists and will do so as time progresses (and memories of those books return!)

For now, check out the lists included below!

Further Reading Recommendations (Book Lists, Articles, etc)

How Books Challenge Our Perceptions
& Perception Challenging Book Lists Too

14 thoughts on “How Books Challenge Our Perceptions

  1. I love this! I actually read books opposing my thoughts to expand my perspective. Some books that have opened me up lately are “Fahrenheit 451” (reread), and “So, You Want to Talk About Race.”

  2. The fact that books can change your perception of reality is one of the things I love best about reading them! In fact, I sometimes seek out books in order to get some help with letting go of perceptions I know need to change.

  3. Books totally change my perspective on the world because they are written from a different perspective than my own. They put you into a different world as an observer and you are looking through someone else’s eyes (the narrator’s). It is a great experience and, sometimes, very intense.

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