Scientists announced last week that novels have taught us how to behave. Victorian books, in particular. The selflessness of Dorothea in Middlemarch, Mr Darcy's transformation from shallow arrogance to lover of a clever woman - all these traits and changes, according to evolutionary psychologists, not only reflected the values of the times but shaped them. The good characters became role models, the bad became what you didn't want to become. So which books can provide role models today?
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
A bunch of teenagers find themselves stranded. Because they are male teenagers, they decide to invent misremembered un-slights about their non-differences, creating tribalism, just because they can. They decide to kill each other. Just because they can.
Paved the way for: Israel and Palestine.
The Great Shark Hunt - Hunter S Thompson
Someone who's quite creative takes lots of drugs. Gets arrested. Takes more drugs, then starts making the drugs and drink and arrests the whole caboodle, rather than the creating. Then starts becoming less creative. Remembered by up-their-own-bottoms people who didn't, ever, know them.
Begat: Amy Wineglass.
Diary of a Nobody - George and Weedon Grossmith
A man pretends to be unconcerned by class values. Even though they obsess him. He attempts to rise higher in his profession by agreeing with everything that everyone says, always, while inwardly despising all of them, always. He never, exactly, lies. Nor is he ever, exactly, honest.
Begat: David Cameron.
Being Jordan - Katie Price
A pretty, bright teenager decides her mammary glands, if enhanced by pink bubble foam to become less responsive and less sexually beguiling than Hitler dressed as a nun with an ashtray for a face, will get her more headlines than war. Men being men, she is proved right.
Begat: the careers of at least seven ageing male newspaper editors.
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
A man wakes up as a beetle.
Begat: Ringo Starr.
Those improving books, greatly condensed | Books | The Observer