Books that Have Changed Me

A friend asked me recently which books have changed my life.  I’ve been thinking about that question more since that conversation, and I want to share a few of them.

The Bible.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.  This book is the amazing true story (much of it told through the journal entries of the survivors) of Shackleton’s attempt to reach the south pole.  This book– along with Annie Dillard’s essay "Polar Exploration"– started my fascination with polar voyages, and I read multiple others… none as good.  Despite Shackleton’s crushing disappointment, he is able to change his goal.  This changed how I look at my own goals. 

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard.  She writes about about childhood, but this book is also about the topography of our inner life.  (My dad’s most groaner joke also makes an appearance in this book, which endears it to me.) Dillard’s ability to capture the moments in which we as children wake up "midstream" into ourselves and the world takes my breath away.  Again and again.

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Shaffer McAuley.  This book began our journey toward home schooling.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.  Her desciption of the persistence of Jesus in pursuing her is beautiful and has stayed with me for years.

Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire.  I reviewed it here but will just add that it is a book about forgiveness and redemption– without ever trying to say that things weren’t as bad as they really were.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.  More on this book here, but it was the book that jump-started our stalled process of eating locally again.  Deep Economy and Kingsolver’s book continue to come to my mind as I seek to live responsibly and gratefully with all I’ve been given.

Streams of Living Water and The Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster.  The first is a book about the different streams of focus and tradition that form the river of the Church over history.  It gave me a good framework to house my understanding of the strengths and weakness of the "evangelical movement" and the "social justice" movements within the Church.  The Freedom of Simplicity speaks to me on so many levels… in fact, I think it’s time for me to reread it.

What books have changed you?

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4 thoughts on “Books that Have Changed Me

  1. I'll have to think on this some more, but right off the top:

    The Bible (duh. But I can't NOT mention it.)

    Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (Cymbala)- really revitalized my prayer life. I loved that book.

    Believing God (Beth Moore)- blogged about this one after I read it. Really challenged me to believe God's word- He is who He says, He means what He says. Period. This has come up so much since then, and I'm so thankful I've read it.

    No Compromise (biography of Keith Green)- years ago, this book impacted me. Talk about someone who was bold and passionate about their faith! Love that.

    I love these kind of questions.
    I'll let you know if I think of any more. I'll have to read some of your suggestions. I've never read Anne Lamott, though I've wanted to.

    ~Stacy

  2. The Bible. Especially Job, John, Psalms, Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ephesians.

    Mere Christianity, which I first read in high school while also reading entirely through the Bible for the first time. I wanted to make sure that I knew what I believed and really believed it for myself, and not just because my parents believed it. I found that I did. Lewis was pivotal to cementing my belief that Christianity is (among many, many other things), an intellectually respectable faith.

    Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers. This helped me form how I think about romance, integrity, education, vocation and good writing.

    Shards of Honor, Memory and A Civil Campaign, all by Lois McMaster Bujold. The first because it was the first novel written for adults (not children) that I ever read, that, in the first two pages, cracked open a new world of wonder for me. Such inticracies of description, such deep and detailed pictures of a world! Memory for showing me what integrity looks like, for showing me that we have agency, and that there is a space inside that feels "like a bite of eternity, eaten at a run". And a Civil Campaign for pure joy.

    The Screwtape Letters, also by Lewis. Time and again, I have been kept from sin by thinking about my situation from Screwtape's perspective, and shuddering. Also, there is a scene where Screwtape describes (in horror) the atmosphere of a Christian home, and I've wanted my home to be like that.

    Essie Summers' books, for an idea of what a home looks like, and what homemaking can mean. (Not the purpose of her books at all, it just comes through in the setting.)

    Stephen Lawhead's Byzantium, for helping me understand that Jesus knows what suffering is, and how that makes the hardest things okay.

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