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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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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