Jo, Beth and Peter

April Love 2021, Day 6: Life-changing Book

I said this in the Facebook Group:

Okay, my problem with this prompt is that I don’t really see how a book can change one’s life. I can see how somebody might think a self-help book or a religious tract to be life-changing, but these are not books that I am going to read. I can handle the idea that a single book might just alter one’s mindset, either a little or possibly more … but change my life? No, I do not think so.

I am going to ponder this one and perhaps speak to my blog, if I can get my thoughts in order.

I find that I have two thoughts that I wish to pursue and the first of them has nothing to do with changing my life, though does have more than a little to do with changing my self.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I have no memory of how old I was when I first read Little Women. What I do recall is how very much I wanted to be poor, tragic Beth. It is no coincidence, I am certain, that when I chose to reinvent myself, I picked Beth as the name that I wished to be known by,

I realise now that I was never going to be Beth. I am, and have always been, a Jo. The awkward one, the misfit, the scribbler. I am Jo to the very core.

My twin is, I am reasonably certain, an Amy – this is interesting as she chose that name for her first daughter.

Little Women had a major impact on my as a young reader and I know that I longed to be a part of the March family. I too wanted a mother who understood the differences in her children, made the effort to understand them, and gave them the space in which to be themselves. Marmee was a positive saint by contrast to my own inflexible parent, whose rigid views required her offspring to be all turned out in a single “proper” mould.

Little Women did not change my life but it did inform my outlook and clearly stamped itself indelibly upon my consciousness.

And now for something completely different…

Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. by Peter Checkland

This book, or rather the Open University course for which Systems Thinking, Systems Practice was required reading, changed the course of my life entirely.

At the time when I commenced the course, I was a part-time barmaid and pub cleaner.

It was in fact the easiest text book that I have ever encountered. For me, it was entirely intuitive and complete common sense. I romped through the course, gained a Distinction, and continued to study further courses in the Systems Thinking and Soft Systems Methodology fields. I was aware that other students found the whole area far more challenging than I did and that seemed strange to me, but I knew that I had found me in this material. This field was where I belonged.

My studies laid the foundation for more than one very good career and I found myself teaching the subject part-time for the Open University following my own graduation. In the meantime I was working at another University, in a senior role, implementing computer systems and training and supporting users. A far cry from barmaiding.

I continued with a study of IT systems in my Masters Degree and hoped to bring my two areas of interest together with a PhD in Human Computer Interface studies. Sadly this was never to happen (though I have not yet given up all hope – it is a fascinating area.)


April Love is all about the photo prompts. SSM is full of diagramming. I could draw a Rich Picture of my progress through this life of Systems and then photograph it but my life is just a little too rich at the moment and I don’t have the time – although it would be a very fun exercise, if only I had.

So, I am stumped for original material and have opted for a simple text response to this prompt.

Further Thoughts

At the outset I said that I did not believe that a book can change a life. I think that I am going to stick to that line. Change comes from within and the only thing that can change our life is our self. A book might create a spark, inflame a passion, give birth to an inspiration – but we are the architects of our own lives.

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