7 Books That Have Changed My Life

7 Books That Changed My Life

I firmly believe that books have the power to change you.  I am who I am today in part because of the books that I have read throughout my life.  As I imagined myself into a character, as I traveled to new places, and as I learned new information–I changed and grew.


There are literally thousands of books that have shaped and formed me.  However, these 7 books have had a special impact on my life.


7 Books That Changed My Life


emily of new moon


1. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

Emily of New Moon is the first of a less well-known series by the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series.  Emily is an orphan girl who is raised by her two maiden aunts and bachelor cousin.  Over the course of the series, she develops a passion for and talent for writing.  Her sensitive nature sees the beauty around her and turns it into poetry, short stories, and eventually a novel.


I wanted to be Emily when I was growing up.  I used her poetry as a model for my own, dreamed of having a book published as she did, and longed to find the joy in simple things that she exhibited.  Emily carried around a notebook of poems, so I did, too.  She wrote character sketches, and I tried my hand at them.  I had a fledgling desire to write before reading the series at age 10, but afterward I could never see myself as anything but a writer.  Do you daughter a favor.  After reading Anne with her, introduce her to Emily.


the cocktail party


2. The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party begins with a mysterious guest arriving at a gathering of friends.  Through his interactions with the other guests at the party, he causes them to think more deeply about their lives and the direction they will take.  One couple examines their marriage and their attitude toward it.  A young woman realizes that she wants to give her life to helping others as a missionary.


The Cocktail Party cemented my desire to become a missionary.  Now, that is certainly not the main point of Eliot’s brilliant work, but it was what my sixteen-year-old self took away.  And, I did become a missionary.  I have spent part of my life serving in Africa, Central America, and on the Zuni reservation in New Mexico.  My deepest thanks to T.S. Eliot.


the orthodox church


3. The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware

When I began dating the man who would become my husband, he told me, “I am pretty sure I will be becoming an Orthodox Christian soon.  If we’re going to date, we’ll have to talk about it.”  So, he gave me Bishop Kallistos Ware’s introduction to Eastern Orthodox Christianity–The Orthodox Church.


I share more of the specifics in my post on How I Became Orthodox:  My Story of Faith, but Ware’s clear presentation of this beautiful faith helped me understand and begin to picture myself as an Orthodox Christian.  If you are curious about the Eastern Orthodox Church–either academically or spiritually–this is an excellent resource.


the book whisperer


4. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

For those of you new to this blog, I am a middle school English teacher.  Yup.  I teach awkward adolescents on purpose!  I love the age group, and I especially love helping them become excited about reading.  A couple of years ago I read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, and it has transformed the way that I teach.


Miller advocates giving students time to read independently in class and basing the class curriculum around student reading choice.  It’s a simple but brilliant idea.  Since implementing her suggestions, my students have become voracious readers.  Some of my seventh graders have read over 50 books by the end of the year.  I consider that a huge victory!  Their test scores also reflect their newfound love of reading.  This is a must-read for any teacher of reading!


168 Hours


5. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is the reason that I started The Orthodox Mama.  No, it isn’t a book about how to start a blog.  The book did convince me, however, that despite the fact that I am a working mother of three young children, I really did have more time than I thought.  And, I should use that extra time to pursue my passions–in this case writing.


Through keeping a time log, evaluating my priorities, and identifying my core competencies, I was able to begin focusing on writing.  We find time for what we prioritize.  So, with the help of Vanderkam, I decided to follow through and make time for writing.  You can see my full review of the book HERE.


building a framework 1


6. Building a Framework: How I Turned My Hobby Blog Into Six-Figure Income by Abby Lawson

Six months ago I had no idea I would be starting a blog.  Seriously.  Then one day I was on Abby’s blog (Just a Girl and Her Blog) and saw an advertisement that promised to teach anyone how to start a blog in 7 days.  I was intrigued and clicked on it.  Through that process, I read Abby’s phenomenal book, Building A Framework, which contains everything she learned during her first year of blogging.  It literally walked me through every step of starting, maintaining, and growing a successful blog.


Because I read this book, I now spend hours each week writing about topics I love.  I get to connect with other entrepreneurs and writers on a regular basis.  And, I get to help my family out by earning some extra income.  Talk about life-changing!


the way of a pilgrim


7. The Way of A Pilgrim translated by Olga Savin

The Way of a Pilgrim is a classic in Orthodox spirituality, which tells the story of a pilgrim who longs to learn how he can fulfill St. Paul’s command to “Pray without ceasing.”  He begins a journey that takes him to dozens of spiritual fathers and leads him to learn The Jesus Prayer.  The Jesus Prayer is a simple prayer that one can learn in a minute, but also a profound prayer that one can pray for a lifetime.


“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, A sinner.”


By praying this prayer continually, inwardly, a person can become transformed.  After the pilgrim learns the prayer, the book chronicles his struggles and victories in leading a life of humility and repentance–constantly in the presence of God.  I read The Way of A Pilgrim for the first time last Lent, and I plan to make it a Lenten discipline each year.



One of my favorite quotes says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only once.”  George R.R. Martin


Living these lives has changed me for the better.  What lives have you lived?  What books have changed you?


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15 thoughts on “7 Books That Changed My Life

  1. Sarah, Really enjoying your blog! Especially the way you layout your posts about what you are reading/viewing each week and the break down of the goals for the week. Love the articles on books, FAITH and family life. Be encouraged today!

  2. Great list, Sarah! I recently read 168 Hours and really enjoyed it. Building a Framework also helped me get started on this whole blogging thing, and I totally agree-it’s excellent!

    I’m also currently re-reading the Anne series, and may have to read the Emily books afterwards.

    Thanks for the recommendations!
    Hannah@SeeingtheLovely recently posted…Books I’m Into: October 2015My Profile

    • Thanks, Hannah. I may have to re-read the Anne books this winter. That seems like the perfect way to pass a cold evening–snuggled up with Anne, a cozy blanket, and a cup of tea.

  3. Oh, Emily Starr. She’s a good friend of mine.

    The Book Whisperer made me absolutely sob, which I’m sure sounds like a weird response, but I read it a few years after I stopped teaching and was just so overjoyed to see the profound love of literature Donalyn offered her students. It’s plain beautiful.

    • I agree! It has totally changed the way I teach reading. Now I approach it as a fellow-reader who shares younger readers my love of and knowledge of books. My kids are reading 40 books each this year, and I’ve been so impressed at their progress and enthusiasm!

  4. I’m really curious about The Book Whisperer. You mentioned its philosophy is “basing the class curriculum around student reading choice.” But what if most of your students are interested in really lousy books? Isn’t part of the teacher’s job to introduce her students to wonderfully well-written books? How is that done if the curriculum is centred around books chosen only by the kids?
    Arenda recently posted…Recent Reads / October ’15My Profile

    • Great point, Arenda. In her books, Miller share the “rights of readers,” which include reading what you want without apology. I know that I read a TON of Babysitters Club books when I was younger, which are not particularly well-written. However, I really enjoyed them. They helped increase my love of reading, my confidence in my ability, and my desire to read more books. The same is true for my students. Yes, some of them are enthralled with vampire love stories right now or poorly-written manga (I think there are some excellent manga series out there). However, when we conference about all that they are reading, they can talk with me about plot, characters, suspense, and all of the elements of literature that we are learning about in seventh grade. I also make tons of book recommendations to my students. Over time they learn to trust my judgment of books, my assessment of their interests, and they begin to try ones that I suggest. I also run several literature circles throughout the year, where the students choose one of eight books to read in a group. I select these books based on the needs, strengths, and interests of my current class. I’d definitely recommend reading Miller’s book to learn more!

  5. The Path of Salvation – this book is my all time spiritual favorite. We read it for a book club and I am sorry to say if it wasn’t for the book club I would have put it away halfway through as it got bogged down a little. It is worth pushing through, it is a life changer.

  6. I love your list! I added many of your choices to my goodreads list! thank you!

    ps. Two of my favorites are Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and The Way of Trust and Love by Jacques Philippe

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