When learning about people, either through biographic readings or in person, I'm very interested to learn which "object" has had the single greatest effect on them. For example, what has made an indelible mark that changed their life, or "altered the colour of [their] mind", or imputed unto them a goal or a passion they've been chasing ever since. I suppose a person can have more than one of these objects, but we usually have only one for any given context.

These type of objects are usually books or music albums, and I want to know which of them are esteemed in this way, because those are exactly the objects I want to add to my personal collection.

I liked "lodestar" for a bit, but it implies an everlasting guide that one can reliably call upon, or to extend the metaphor, implies something that one still necessarily believes in.

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    The terms I have heard most often used for this are simply life-changing book and life-changing music/album.
    – Erik Kowal
    Feb 2, 2015 at 0:21
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    Life-changing poem? ;)
    – Erik Kowal
    Feb 2, 2015 at 0:24
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    Hazelnut macchiato.
    – Mazura
    Feb 2, 2015 at 0:43
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    You could use the adjective "pivotal", or any of its synonyms -- central, crucial, vital, critical, focal, essential, key, decisive.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 2, 2015 at 1:22
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    Or perhaps "climax" or one of its synonyms -- climacteric, turning point, corner, landmark, milepost, milestone, watershed. "Watershed", especially, is often used in the sense of a life-altering event.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 2, 2015 at 2:07

8 Answers 8


When I think of books and albums that really have an effect on someone, I think they're transformational. Is that what you're going for?


You can consider influence as a single word.

a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way [MW]


Livingstone’s interest in science and nature led him to investigate the relationship between religion and science and in 1832 he read Philosophy of a Future State by science teacher and minister Thomas Dick. The book was a big influence on him and helped reconcile his faith and science.


However, the usual phrase is life-changing < something >.

life-changing: (adj) having an effect that is strong enough to change someone's life [Cambridge]

For example, goodreads.com has a section called "life changing book lists".

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    Yeah influential or life-changing. Those are both good.
    – Rob Grant
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:14

Perhaps seminal as the ellipsis of the phrase seminal event.

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    Seminal is more starting something than altering it, which is a slightly different perspective to look at something from.
    – Rob Grant
    Feb 2, 2015 at 8:19
  • @RobertGrant I won't claim to be the first person to mint a seminal, only a person. Once coined, the value is that for which it exchanges. Fungible are words as money. Feb 2, 2015 at 12:51
  • I'm not if that's meant to be a haiku, but I don't understand it :) Fungible means that it doesn't matter where something comes from, it's worth the same, e.g. oil is oil. Just as it shouldn't matter who's saying a word, it means the same thing. Are you trying to say that words can randomly change their meanings? Seminal is to do with a seed or semen-like act, event or object. One that starts whatever it was seminal for. The seminal act for a person is fairly obvious.
    – Rob Grant
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:12
  • Fungibility is a measure of the variety of goods and services for which something can be exchanged. Cash is more fungible than fill dirt. A word newly coined is more fungible than "dextrose." Some words provide more flexibility than others. None provide more than those we invent on the spot. I invented or reinvented "seminal" as ellipses. It is not yet so ossified that yoga will break it. Feb 2, 2015 at 13:22
  • So you're saying that some words can randomly change their meanings. I'd suggest that the 1350-1400s word "seminal", which is clearly related to "semen" is not one of those words, and if you use it in a different context you might happily think that you said "lifechanging" (in this case), or "hamster" or whatever else you decide it means today, but to the person on the other end you will still mean "originating".
    – Rob Grant
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:39

Fetish in its technical sense from social science is close. It captures the idea of an object carrying symbolic importance. The sexual connotation accumulated through contemporary common use may or may not cater to the kink of a particular communication.

Juju's metaphysical flexibility makes it about perfect, and extends naturally to collections via juju bag. But only if we are willing to step abroad from European word origins so far as to set foot in Africa.

Personally, I like the Ojibwa totem even though using it in the context of the personal rather than that of a community is perhaps a bit of legacy "me" generation narcissism. Like juju, totem captures the idea of collection and totems points to the collection rather than their container. But what I really like is that totem as a carved pole conveys ideas about order among and dependencies between the items.


red–let·ter \ˈred-ˌle-tər\ adjective

of special significance

From the practice of marking holy days in red letters in church calendars.
First known use [of the word]: 1704 -MW

The Romans had marked days in red going back to 509 BC.
Red-letter day -Wiki


REDIRECTOR - (something) that directs (something) to a new or different place or purpose


might the word be: profound.Please see:




A watershed is a turning point, or historic moment.

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