Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ten Books That Changed My Life

I am starting to write the story of my life, and as I did I realized that I owe everything I am today to a very select group of authors.  It isn't that the other things I've read didn't influence me, or that the people in my life were unimportant, it is that these particular books had a special influence for one reason or another and forever changed my outlook on life.  It is a testimony to the power of the written word.  Here they are, in order that I encountered them:

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is a classic tale of four sisters learning to deal with poverty, an absentee father, a world in the midst of war, and all while struggling with overcoming vice and adopting virtues.  It was, in short, a story I could and did relate to quite strongly. I especially related to the character of Jo, and I think she is perhaps part of the inspiration for my desire to be a writer. I could relate to her struggles to fit in as a woman who had far more in common with men than with her own gender.  I could relate to her tendency to be impatient and overly frank with her words. I could also relate to her drive and ambition. I shared all of those traits, along with a passionate nature.  It was Little Women that taught me how to reign in my temper, hold my tongue when I was about to say something that oughtn't to be said, and to hold generosity as a value of worth.  I wanted to be more like the March family, who would eagerly forgo their own Christmas in order to deliver one to a family more in need than their own.

2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book was my first introduction to planning, goal setting, and the active pursuit of dreams. I cannot say that I did get rich because of this book, but I can say that it was a positive force in terms of encouraging me to believe in myself and believe that if I wanted something badly enough it truly was possible for me to achieve it.

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book taught me to how to get what I wanted from other people in a manner that left both people a winner. I got out of this book some of the most important lessons in dealing with people I would ever receive: 1) all people want to be happy; 2) To get what you want, help other people get what they want; 3) for every negative thing you say, say five positive things if you want people to listen; and 4) never start a conversation with negative things, it only builds up the defensive walls between you and the other person.  These lessons have helped me a LOT in life.

4. Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer

I read this book when I was roughly 13 or so. I have never forgotten it. It taught me how important it is to be a source of encouragement for others by making certain that the words that I speak are like little silver boxes - shiny gifts that are inviting to open and welcome to hear.  Not that your words should be hollow or that you should give false praise, but that you should always look for opportunities to praise and encourage others, to build them up rather than tear them down, and to be a positive influence in a world full of negatives.

5. Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherly

Balcony people was a lesson to me in the importance of having mentors and cheerleaders in order to succeed in life, and to be those mentors and those cheerleaders for others.  It was also a lesson in how to create that for yourself in the event you lack it among your family or friends. 

6. The Bible

I was 15 when I first read the Bible on my own, and I would have to say that of all the books I ever read this one has had the most profound impact on me.  It never gets old. i learn something new every time I read it. Through it, I have learned to be a kinder, gentler, better person overall and to love with greater courage and greater depth than I ever thought possible.  I recommend reading the Catholic Bible, naturally, in part because it contains both Sirach and the book of Wisdom - two books of great value not found in Protestant versions.

7. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

This book gave me the best reason I had heard up to that point in my life for forgiving the one who has hurt you: to avoid becoming like that person.  Without giving away too much of the plot for those who have never read this book, I will just say that the theme of the entire book is that we risk becoming the very monster we pursue when what we pursue is revenge.  It was an eye-opening thought for me, and was a major reason behind my decision to finally forgive my stepfather for the years of abuse I suffered at his hands.  It literally changed my life.

8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I read this book almost 14 years ago. It is part of what led me to returning back to my Catholic faith, not because the book is particularly religious in any regard, but because in that book the main character encounters Eucharistic Adoration and was particularly drawn to it even though she never fully embraced the faith behind it.  I was led to seek out Eucharistic Adoration as well, something I hadn't even known about before reading the book, and that experience would eventually lead me back to the Church I had abandoned as a teenager.

I would be cautious with reading or recommending Outlander - it's primarily mommy porn with sado-masochistic themes woven throughout that reflect where I was in my life at the time.   

10. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

It was this book that first set me on fire for the faith initially, and compelled me to take my faith more seriously than I ever had before. For the first time, I understood the importance of getting involved in my community and becoming an active member.  I was also motivated by this book to seek out the purpose that God had for my life rather than simply following my own whims.

11. Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

I have already blogged about this one, but it is true.  It fundamentally changed my life and led me on a walk with Christ that continues to this day.  I would not have gained the faith I have now without it.

I have included links to these books through Amazon.  Yes, these are affiliate links so I do make some small amount of money for each purchase. 

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