10 Books That Might Change Your Life
I posed a question to my Facebook friends: What book(s) would you say changed your life?
My plan was to use the most common answers, which I expected would overlap my own a bit, then create a list of books to recommend as definitely life-changing.
Thirty people responded to my post. Only one person said there wasn’t a book like that for her. Most people listed one title, a few gave as many as three. Out of all those titles, only five were named by more than one person.
It didn’t occur to me to add “and why” to my question until I started reading responses. I couldn’t help but wonder how some of these books could change someone’s life.
Because “life changing” is a subjective concept, isn’t it? Responses to any book are going to vary based on the individual reader’s life experience.
I have no doubt now, that any book can change someone’s life. One person close to me names The Sword of Truth series as life-changing because it completely changed his views on organized religion. For me, it’s The Happiness Project because it not only taught me to that only I am responsible for my happiness, it also gave me the permission I needed to behave in ways others see selfish in order to improve my quality of life.
I’ve recommended The Happiness Project to countless friends, acquaintances, and even a few strangers. I’ve yet to find anyone who had as strong of a response to that book as I have. Similarly, several people have recommended The Alchemist to me with claims it changed their lives. I’ve tried reading it twice and quit because I don’t “get it.”
I can’t create a list and promise what your results will be, so my advice is this: Read a lot of different books throughout your life. The ones you need will find you at the right time.
What I’ve done here is list the books that were named more than once by my friends, along with a few by authors who came up more than once.
1. The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley
Three different people mentioned this book on my post, and even had a discussion among themselves about how powerful it was for them.
From Goodreads: Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind. An established classic of modern America, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was hailed by the New York Times as “Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book.” Still extraordinary, still important, this electrifying story has transformed Malcom X’s life into his legacy. The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.
2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
This classic had two mentions on my post. Apparently, it inspires young women! I got halfway through it about 5 years ago, and then my mother-in-law talked me into watching the movie instead!
From Goodreads: Margaret Mitchell’s epic saga of love and war has long been heralded as The Great American Novel. Gone With the Windexplores the depths of human passions with indelible depictions of the burning fields and cities of Civil War and Reconstruction America. In the two main characters, the irresistible, tenacious Scarlett O’Hara and the formidable, debonair Rhett Butler, Margaret Mitchell gives us a timeless story of survival and two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet. Gone With the Wind is a thrilling, haunting, and vivid book that readers will remember for the rest of their lives.
3. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
This is the only title from my list that two other people mentioned on my post. The first time I read it I liked it a lot, but I had to read it a second time to get the message fully. It’s a simple, understandable approach to some complex concepts that when followed can make a huge difference in your happiness.
From Goodreads: In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. The Four Agreements are: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best.
4. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I was surprised to see this series mentioned twice on my post. I was an adult when I read the series and I find them amazing works of literature. While I can’t say I find them life altering, I suppose I can see how introduction to the Harry Potter world and characters could certainly change one’s way of thinking.
5. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
While this title had only one mention on my post, I have encountered countless people whose lives have been improved by the work of Brene Brown, and this in particular. My bookish bestie (who is not a writer) was inspired to pen a post about how this book affected her.
From Goodreads: Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?In The Gifts of Imperfection, Bren頂rown, PhD, a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living–a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, and to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.
6. The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind
This series received two mentions on my post, and I know a couple other creative types who credit this series with being inspiration for some of their writing endeavors.
From Wikipedia: The books follow the protagonists Richard Cypher, Kahlan Amnell, Nicci and Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander on their quest to defeat oppressors who seek to control the world and those who wish to unleash evil upon the world of the living. While each novel was written to stand alone, except for the final three that were intended to be a trilogy, they follow a common timeline and are linked by ongoing events that occur throughout the series.
7. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
The reason my friends give for loving this book is the reason I haven’t tackled it yet, even though I’ve owned a copy for several years. I know it will change the way I eat!
From Goodreads: Though created by a handful of mavericks, the fast food industry has triggered the homogenization of our society. Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning. Schlosser’s myth-shattering survey stretches from the California subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many of fast food’s flavors are concocted. He hangs out with the teenagers who make the restaurants run and communes with those unlucky enough to hold America’s most dangerous job — meatpacker. He travels to Las Vegas for a giddily surreal franchisers’ convention where Mikhail Gorbachev delivers the keynote address. He even ventures to England and Germany to clock the rate at which those countries are becoming fast food nations. Along the way, Schlosser unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths — from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate. He also uncovers the fast food chains’ efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities. Schlosser then turns a critical eye toward the hot topic of globalization — a phenomenon launched by fast food. Fast Food Nation is a groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that may change the way America thinks about the way it eats.
8. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway appeared on my post several times, though not with the same title more than once. I chose this one because I’ve read it and found it extremely moving. While some of my female friends find Hemingway’s writing sexist and masochistic these days, I can appreciate the power in these stories and the significance they held at time of publication. His writing about wartime, while archaic now, should be read in our current times to remind of us of all that has come before us.
9. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
This is another instance of an author appearing on my post multiple times for different works. While I haven’t read anything of Lewis’ that doesn’t involve Narnia, I know many folks who say his work has had a profound affect on them.
From Goodreads: The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as “the Patient”. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy (“Lowerarchy”) of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter. In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.
10. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I couldn’t make this list without including the book which has had the most impact on how I live my life. I’ve written previously about Rubin’s role as one of my personal gurus, and while this is the book that introduced me to her work, all of her books are just as insightful and enjoyable.
From Goodreads: Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.
So of course, now I want to hear which book changed your life!
Have you found any of the books on this list to be impactful?