Ten Books That Changed My Life

My niece Margaret tagged me in a Facebook post: list, she challenged, ten books that had a great impact on my life or changed me in some way.

That’s irresistible. And I find, to my great good pleasure, that a copy of each of these books is on my shelves.

1. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

I was in seventh grade when I discovered this book—that must have been about 1968, so Wrinkle hadn’t been hanging ‘round the library shelves all that long. A true hero’s journey, but here the hero was a gawky, awkward middle school girl who put her foot in her mouth and was, sometimes, too smart for her own good. So, obviously, there might be hope for me.

2. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Pure delight: another red-haired protagonist who starts out miserable and wins through. I felt Anne was a kindred spirit.

3. First Papers, by Laura Z. Hobson

This is one of those books I re-read every five years; it never palls. I love the eccentric Ivarins, and their blazing stick-to-it-iveness, their backward house, their awkward but deeply felt love for each other. One can live, this book suggested, a different life,–a life of the mind– and still have ‘normal’ friends and fall in love with brave and awesome heroes.

4. Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy

I was galvanized by this book when I read it as an undergrad. I loved the perspective and I loved the possibility. It’s so simple: we can just change everything!
When I read this fifteen years later in grad school, it seemed dry and pedantic…but at age 20, it was the right book, at the right time, to open rusty doors.

5. The Women’s Room, by Marilyn French

For women who came of age ten years before me, The Feminine Mystique created a vocabulary and a structure for talking about hidden things. The Women’s Room did that for me. I found myself reading and thinking, “Yes! Exactly! Marilyn French said it JUST RIGHT.” I can still quote whole sections of this book.
I recommended this to a savvy female student in 1990’s and she found it oppressively sad. I thought it was imbued with feet-firmly-on-the-ground hope. Isn’t it interesting what the perspective of years does to your reading?

6. Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

I can’t remember how or why I picked this book up, but it truly changed my relationship to money, and my belief that lack of money was the reason I couldn’t pursue my dreams. Aha…there IS a different way!

7. Mike Mulligan and The Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

The quintessential read-aloud for moms and snuggly boys. One of my favorite memories is of reading this to two year old Jim, fresh from his bath in his sweet fuzzy footie pajamas. We sat in the old recliner in the living room, engrossed in the book, and discovered, when we closed the cover on Mike and Mary Ann, that 16 year old Matthew and two of his friends had joined us.
Rob, Matt’s buddy, sighed, “I love that book.”—an almost universal reaction.
And—I love the idea of re-purposing precious technology become obsolete…

8. The Language of Life, by Bill Moyers

Reading Moyers’ book reawakened my love of poetry. It introduced me to one of my favorites: Jimmy Santiago Baca.

9. The Persian Pickle Club, by Sandra Dallas

This is just a perfect book—great characters, great plot, great flaws, great compensation. I love this book.

10. The Vein of Gold, by Julia Cameron

I do my morning pages, take my walks, and treat myself to Artist’s Dates because of this book. And all these practices contributed to a belief that creative things can happen, are really and truly do-able. I ordered this book from BMOC, not even aware that The Artist’s Way existed. No matter: The Vein of Gold was a great place to jump in.

I deliberately did not read my niece’s list until I was done with this, or my brother’s, because I knew they’d have books that I loved too. It’s HARD to limit this to ten.

But I challenge you, anyway: what are the ten books that you can honestly say changed your life?


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