7 Books That Changed My Life

7 Books That Changed My Life

I love to read and constantly have my nose in a book.  I’m choosy about what goes in my book stack, and always expect a good book to give me something new to think about.

But there are some books that have profoundly changed the way I think and the way I live.  Here are 7 of them:

1.  L. M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon I love the Anne books, but it was Montgomery’s lesser-known Emily trilogy that made me a reader.  Emily of New Moon was the first book I finished under the covers with a flashlight at 2:00 a.m., because my 11-year-old self couldn’t go to sleep until she knew how it ended. (Sorry, Mom!)

2.  Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity.  This book completely changed the way I think about my money and my stuff.

3.  Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of BeingI hated this book.  I wasn’t expecting the heavy sexual themes and felt dirty after reading it.  (I was only 22–I wonder if it would impact me differently now?)  And yet–I’ve found myself returning to the novel’s central paradox of lightness vs. heaviness over and over through the years.  We assume a weighty burden is a bad thing, but Kundera asks if a light existence–a meaningless one–is worse.

4. Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker CreekWhen I first read Pilgrim as a college freshman, I’d never encountered anything like Dillard’s genre-defying reflections on the changing seasons in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

5.  Dallas Willard, The Divine ConspiracyI can’t tell you strongly enough what a huge impact this book has had on my faith, and I have returned to it again and again since I first read it 9 years ago.  (The Divine Conspiracy also happens to be the book I was reading when my son was diagnosed with cancer, and I remember reading it–clinging to it, more like–in doctor’s waiting rooms, airports, hotel rooms, and then back on the couch at home with my recuperating baby.)

6.  Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead RevisitedI came to this classic expecting a dry read, but was completely swept up in this epic coming-of-age story set in Britain between the world wars.  I’ve read it ten times since then, and continue to be entranced by the story of the Flyte family’s unraveling–along with the rest of Britain’s aristocracy–and by its themes of love, loss, and grace.  (Can you see why I can’t watch a single episode of Downton Abbey without thinking of Brideshead?)

7.  John Cloud and Henry Townsend, Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life. I’m a recovering people-pleaser, and reading this book (at the suggestion of my college prof, who told me I was “too nice for my own good”) was my first step on the path to recovery.

photo credit: trint

Would you share a book that’s changed your life in the comments?

7 BooksPhoto via Leigh Kramer

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  1. Faith says:

    Tuesdays with morrie. (Mitch Album)
    The shack. ( Paul (can’t remember the last name)
    Burned. (Ellen Hopkins)

  2. Valerie says:

    When I was little the book that most changed my world view was The Little Princess. I learned that no matter what adversity and trials life throws at you that you must remain true to yourself and compassionate to others. Recently, I would have to say The Shipping News. Its a quiet read that has characters that seem more like real people than fiction and a story that is both dark and hopeful,very much like life. And of course, Dune. That one book has been a constant companion and a source of strength and inspiration for me my whole adult life.

  3. Jeannine says:

    Long before there was a catchy acronym, T-shirts and wristbands; January 1, 1984 as New Years resolution (I had just finished In His Steps by Charles Sheldon) I committed to asking myself,”What Would Jesus Do?” and then doing it. It was a resolution I prayed about and contemplated before hand and it was at times frightening but truly a life-changing book/experience because I did something with it…

  4. Michael Willhoite says:

    I read Auntie Mame as a kid and have returned to it many times. A light comic novel? Yes, but it gave me a taste of a great, sophisticated world outside My small Oklahoma town. It also taught me to savor existence, try new things, and embrace eccentricity. The other valuable lesson I learned is more complicated. In my small town, nobody I knew was Jewish. In the book, an anti-semitic family was held up to scathing ridicule, and their beliefs were thus made abhorrent to a relatively innocent young man — me. And all because of Auntie Mame.

    Another book made me want to be a writer. Rebecca West’s huge tome, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, is a travel book about Yugoslavia. Or rather, it purports to be. Actually, it’s an exploration of why Europe exploded into WWII. Every single sentence in this book is lovingly crafted. It may well be the most beautifully written of the thousands of books I’ve read.

  5. Katie says:

    David Copperfield is one of the main ones on my list. I actually tried to get out of reading this one in college- I thought it sounded boring, and it was over 700 pages so I didn’t see how I would possibly get through it. When I was unable to find a copy of one of the movie adaptations to watch (this was pre-Netflix, and I only had libraries at my disposal!), I grudgingly began reading it, and found myself totally in love. I’ve gone back and read certain passages several times, and really want to re-read the whole thing again soon. (Also, I did eventually watch a BBC movie adaptation, and of course it was a major disappointment!) One of my favorite literary characters is David’s Aunt Betsey. This quote from her addressing David during a rough time in his early marriage was a huge revelation to me, as an unmarried 21 year old who naively hoped a spouse was someone who could be molded to fit one’s expectations: “You have chosen a very pretty and a very affectionate creature. It will be your duty, and it will be your pleasure too—of course I know that; I am not delivering a lecture—to estimate her (as you chose her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not have.” I still think about those words often. It’s so helpful to remember to look for the good in someone instead of dwelling on all of their negative qualities.

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