The Book That Changed My Life

A very long while back, fellow blogger Darren Barefoot published a list of post topics that he wanted us to write. One of the items on that list (#33, to be exact) is “The Book That Changed My Life.” Given that I make my living as a full-time freelance writer, it should come as little surprise that I have been influenced and inspired by other writers and authors.

Since I write exclusively in non-fiction, the assumption would be that the book that changed my life would also be non-fiction. It could justifiably be a guide of some sort or someone’s biography, but neither of those is the case.

Instead, the book that I think had the biggest impact on my life is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. You’re probably more familiar with the movie from 1993 and, if you’re like me, you’re apprehensively excited about the upcoming Jurassic World movie set for release next year.

But why would I pick a fictional story about dinosaurs as the book that changed my life? Allow me to explain.

Words that Educate and Entertain

Like many other young boys, I was fascinated by dinosaurs as a child. Here were these giant lizards that hardly resembled anything alive today (with a few noted exceptions). Their scale was virtually unfathomable and, unlike aliens or monsters, there is verifiable scientific evidence that these massive beasts once roamed the Earth. I read Jurassic Park when I was only around 12 years old, even though it was really supposed to be a grown-up kind of book. It’s gory and it’s violent, but it’s utterly fascinating (and so much better than the movie too).

And that’s one of the biggest reasons why Jurassic Park had such an effect on me. Yes, it is a work of fiction and Isla Nublar doesn’t really exist, but the book is still educational in that it gave me an opportunity to learn more about some of the dinosaurs I already loved, as well as introduce me to some I didn’t know. The book taught me that you didn’t have to choose between a work that is educational and one that is entertaining; it can be both. This has helped to shape my own approach to writing.

The Imagination of Science

You might remember when I previously featured Michael Crichton in a Sunday Snippet post a few years ago. He reminded us that science isn’t about consensus, but rather it is about reproducible results. There may be some “facts” that we take for granted, but science is always up to debate and the next major discovery could completely debunk what we currently deemed as common knowledge.

What’s great about Crichton’s work was that he was able to take what was currently known at the time and stretch it just a little bit further. We know about dinosaurs, but what if we could extract their fossilized DNA and bring them back to life? He did this in his other books too, dabbling in neuroscience in The Terminal Man and swarm behavior with nanotechnology in Prey. Even if you’re a “hard” scientist, you still need to be willing to think outside the box about what is possible.

Nothing Is Impossible

There’s no way to resurrect a T-Rex that’s been extinct for millions of years, right? Wrong.

The “science” in Jurassic Park is imperfect at best, but it emboldened a young Michael Kwan to dream big and to envision a world with limitless opportunities. Ask many people and they’ll tell you it’s impossible to strike it out on your own as a professional blogger and freelance writer, but here I am and I even wrote a book about how to do it. It’s not impossible. You just have to be willing to spare no expense, put in the hard work, and build better electrified fences.