Reading is my favorite thing to do. All the major decisions in my life basically came down to how I could read more books. That goal led me to major in English, teach English, go to seminary, and become an editor. (Of course, there was more to those decisions than reading, but it was a determining factor.) Books have changed my life.

The Bible makes the list of course, being living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). But other books have had impacts also. Here are five of them: (Amazon affiliate links included)

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – My grandma gave me a copy in 1988 and wrote in the cover, “I hope you love this book as much as I did when I was your age.” The next year, I told my 3rd grade teacher I had read it. Mrs. Zech asked me if I cried when Jo died, and I said I did. She smiled and announced I had won our class’s competition for reading the most books, beating my best friend Emily Roberts. I lied though. I didn’t read it back in 3rd grade. I carried around guilt for lying until a few years ago when I did read it and realized Jo didn’t die in the book. Mrs. Zech knew I was lying about reading it and still let me beat Emily. Maybe she liked me. Maybe she didn’t like Emily. Maybe she thought I’d learn a bigger lesson about lying if I got away with it instead of being shamed in front of my class. The entire experience changed me, in 3rd grade and when I actually did read my grandma’s favorite book.
  • Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot – I read it for the first time in high school and it taught me much about love and the emotions that distract from love ( like lust, desire, and loneliness). I didn’t always apply what I learned from the book, but I did keep the ideal in mind and that guided decisions I made before I met and married Lee.
  • Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges – This book and the next one listed helped shape my faith in the years following seminary. Respectable Sins reminded me that the “small” sins we tolerate can be just as damaging as the “big” sins we judge others for. Not only that, it gave me hope. Each feeling of guilt was met with grace.
  • Prodigal God by Tim Keller – Oh, my older brother/Pharisee tendencies took a beating when I read this one. At the end of the story of the prodigal son, the younger son’s relationship with the father is restored but the older brother holds on to his anger. I hope he repented and returned to the party to celebrate. This book made me repent and get back to celebrating God’s work in my life and the lives of others.
  • Speechless by me – It is no understatement that writing a book about the first year after James’s autism diagnosis changed me. The year changed me. Reliving it while writing the book changed me. The community that has developed around the book has changed me. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to write and self-publish it.

What books have changed you?

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