Can a book change your life? This is a question I asked in episode 88 of The Couch Podcast. In a conversation with my friend Shannan Martin, we decided that we think yes, books can change our lives. But sometimes they change our lives for a season and sometimes they change them forever. Sometimes they change our hearts but it takes a few more steps or resources or years before our lives are tangibly changed.

You can listen to that conversation and our list of 10 books (five each) that have changed our lives here or wherever you stream podcasts. It’s a great list! But if you’ve been here for long, you will not be surprised to know that my actual, entire list was WAY LONGER than our short (hour-long) conversation allowed. I couldn’t resist sharing my whole list with you here, although I’m reserving the right to revise this list as I remember even more books that have wrecked me, moved me, changed me in some way.

15 Books That Have Changed My Life (so far)

FYI, this list is in approximate chronological order. I didn’t include my friend Shannan’s book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, but I dare you to read it and not be changed! And it doesn’t include the first books I read by Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, or Danielle Steel—but it probably should, because reading those books (some well before it was appropriate for my age, whoops!) instilled in me a lifelong love of romance novels. But this list does, in fact, include quite a bit of fiction because fiction is what I love and it has certainly changed me.

  • Helen Keller biography – I can’t find the exact book I read as a child, but I read it dozens of times. I loved learning the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, and I believe this experience truly gave me more compassion for people and also motivated me to use my life to help others.
  • H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton – As I mentioned on episode 86, this was the first adult mystery I read. I loved it, and I’ve read mystery series ever since then!
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton – I don’t typically re-read books, but I’ve read this time travel drama several times. This book has been one that my best friend and I both love and re-read every now and then, and I’ve loved that connection. But it also opened my mind to the idea of time travel, which even now is one of my favorite “magical” things to read about!
  • The Negotiator by Dee Henderson – This book is the first in a series of Christian romantic suspense, and it led me to reading a whole lot of Christian fiction. So while this may have not changed my heart or my mind about anything, it did change my reading life.
  • Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson – This novel is about a woman who dramatically changes her life and how those changes affect her worldview and her heart. I might have read it before I was ready for those ideas, but it cracked open my stubborn, know-it-all heart enough to be more accepting of real-life stories I would soon hear from friends doing the same sort of thing.
  • Believing God by Beth Moore – I did this Bible study with a group of friends from church when I was in my 20s. And more than anything else in my life, it grounded me in the most important tenets of my faith that simply do not change. God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I am who God says I am. I can do all things through Christ. God’s word is alive and active in me. When the world and my life overwhelms and confuses me, I still go back to these truths.
  • Me, Myself & Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover by Jennifer Rothschild – I’m an Enneagram One, which means (among other things) that I have a strong inner critic. I always have, and maybe I always will, but doing this Bible study really went a long way in teaching me to quiet that voice and, at least sometimes, to speak kinder truths to myself instead.
  • The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (this one is just $1.99 on Kindle) – Before reading this book, I had no idea how rich I am. This book legit changed my life and led me to give more and care more and do more for others.
  • Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson – I read this book shortly after being part of a failed church plant. That experience was devastating and felt so isolating, and this book showed me that I wasn’t alone in being hurt by the Church in a certain way. Though I still absolutely love and believe in God’s Church, this book was a gateway to me realizing the many imperfections of the Church and all the ways we need to heal, improve, and grow.
  • Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (free on Kindle, FYI) – I was late to the Harry Potter world and read the series when my daughter was a newborn. It’s fantastic, of course, but more than just loving this story, I loved the way it reminded me of my love of fantasy (specifically in children’s books). Because I read Harry Potter, I read Percy Jackson. And because I read Percy Jackson, I read a bunch of other middle grade and young adult series about magic and space travel and time travel and superpowers. And because I read those books, I read—and continue to read—so many other young adult books that have opened my eyes and heart to so many real worlds and communities and experiences. And THAT has changed my life.
  • Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist (and also Bittersweet) – Before reading Shauna Niequist’s writing, I didn’t know that you could make a book out of essays. That sounds silly, but it hadn’t occurred to me that the way I love to write could be a way to write a book.
  • Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch – I have known Kristen for years and have been blown away by the way God has worked and is still working through her. I have supported Mercy House Global from the very beginning, and I loved reading more of her incredible story in this book.
  • 7 by Jen Hatmaker – I love all of Jen’s writing, and I think she’s not only wise but so stinking funny. This book, though, hit me straight in the heart and gave me real, tangible ways I could live differently.
  • Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend – I didn’t realize I don’t have good boundaries in my life until reading this book with a couple of good friends. We’ve all three said recently that we should probably re-read it, but it absolutely changed relationships in my life in a good, healthy way.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (this is the young adult adaptation I read) – I had no idea. I had no idea that things like this (a black man wrongly imprisoned for years) happened so recently, happen even now, will probably keep happening. I had no idea—but now I do.

So, there’s my list (so far!). What’s on YOUR list?

What books have changed your life?

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