I'm not sure how I can pick just one book for this topic. Every book I read, at least the ones I enjoy, help shape and form my outlook on the world. When I read non-fiction (or fiction for that matter) about WW2 (for example) I read from all sides because I don't want to become that angry girl who can't look beyond the atrocities that happened in one instance and condemn an entire culture or race because of it. I read novels about drug addicts, pedophiles, suicide because they show me a side of life that I have never experienced and hopefully never will experience first hand. I read novels set in other countries because I am yet to visit them all and I want to know what it is like to live in America, India, Chile or even other parts of Australia. I don't like just one genre or area of books because I'm always looking for something that challenges me and nothing is more challenging than shifting from Charles Dickens to Philip K Dick.
If a book doesn't challenge the way I view the world or introduce me to a new perspective then it's a failure in my mind. It doesn't have to be anything drastic, I'm not talking about a book converting me to a religion or changing my views on a social/political issue, but it has to make me realise that perhaps things aren't so black and white. As I write this I can't help but be reminded of something I read yesterday in The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead. In the chapter dedicated to Night of the Living Dead Tony Williams quotes Barry K. Grant who had said he gained a deeper understanding of humanity and society through watching the film and said that "the film didn't preach this to me, but was instrumental in providing me with an experience with which I had to admit this truth..."
OK so once again I've waffled my way through the topic. Hopefully that made a smidgen of sense for all of you, if not whoops, I'll try better tomorrow!