Home > Uncategorized > 10 Books That Changed Me

10 Books That Changed Me

Sarah Bessey launched a series of blog posts entitled 10 Books A Day For A Week in which she listed her 10 favorite books by categories (i.e. books that changed her faith, that she reads over and over again, and more).  In doing so, she invited others to share their own 10 favorite books.

This first list of 10 has to do with books that “changed me.”  I thought that narrowing this list to only 10 would be difficult.  How do you decide which 10 books changed you the most?  I’ve been devouring books since I learned to read.

My first question about a book was “Did this book move, inspire, challenge, or enlighten me in some way?”  There were a number of books stacked high after that question.

The second question was “Have I gone back and re-read that book or sections of it?”  Only a few books fell into that category, which made it easier to narrow the list to 10.  Some of these books I haven’t re-read in years, but at one time I re-read them multiple times.

Some of these books will appear on other’s lists, but I’m sure a few won’t.  That’s just my eclectic reading nature.

1, 2, 3, and 4.  The Sacred Journey, Now and Then, Telling Secrets, and The Eyes of The Heart by Frederick Buechner.  For the life of me, I cannot recall how I stumbled across the works of Buechner.  I know it took place during college.  Did I pick them up while wandering the aisles of a bookstore?  Did a friend recommend one of them?  I have no idea.  I devoured The Sacred Journey, which ends with him becoming a Christian.  I immediately located Now and Then, wherein he discussed his decision to attend Union Theological Seminary as well as his writing and teaching career afterwards.  I found his story compelling on many fronts, including the fact that I was reading Niebuhr and Tillich, whom he studied under at Union.  Telling Secrets took me to a different place as here he bared his soul and talked about his father’s suicide and his daughter’s anorexia.  He wrote of finding grace and hope in a way I’d never heard or read before.  I seem to recall finishing these three books within a few months of each other.  The Eyes of The Heart wouldn’t be published until 1999.  When the book arrived, I sat down in a chair and stayed there until I finished the book.  When I reached the last page, I sat there for a few minutes and then I turned back to page one and started again.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read each of these books.  Not only do these four books remind me of why I want to write, but they show me a side of faith that I often don’t see.

5.  Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott-  I worked in a bookstore in the mid 90’s and people always came in looking for this book.  Most people couldn’t find it because it was shelved in the “Writing” section.  I couldn’t grasp why all these people kept buying this book.  For some reason, I chose not to read her book.  Years later, a friend or a fellow writer was talking about it and I remembered the book.  I could still picture the cover in my mind.  Thinking there must be something to this book I picked up my own copy.  I learned more about the art and craft of writing in these pages than I’d learned anywhere else.  But from her words, I learned even more about living.  Show up, sit down, and try, minute by minute, day by day, or as she says, “bird by bird.”

6.  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller- This would be the most recent addition to this list.  The book is about story, understanding your own story, but it’s also about his story.  I find the book funny at times and visceral at others.  Part of telling the story is doing so honestly, which can mean exposing the pain, the anger, and the humiliation.

Here’s where the list might get a tad eclectic.

7.  The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch- I found this book while wandering the aisles of a Barnes and Noble.  A book by an undertaker on undertaking?  I wouldn’t normally go looking for such a book, but something made me pick up the book.  I read the first chapter while standing in that aisle.  This is a moving, poetic book (Lynch also writes poetry) about life and death and learning how to live from how we deal with the act of dying.

8.  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace- DFW has to rank as one of my favorite writers.  After having read his first three books, two novels and one collection of short stories, I was in for a surprise when I read this collection of essays.  At one moment, he would have me laughing out loud and the next I would be searching for a dictionary to figure out what he was talking about.  After reading these essays, I would then go back and figure out how he structured them.  These are brilliant.  And funny.

9.  FOUL by Connie Hawkins-  I’d never heard of Connie Hawkins when I bought this book, but it was on basketball and I was obsessed with the sport.  By all accounts, Connie Hawkins was one of the greatest basketball talents who was only allowed to play in the NBA towards the end of his playing career.  He grew up in the inner city of New York, beyond poor, immensely talented, poorly educated, and got caught up in a points shaving scandal.  He admitted to participation in the scheme out of fear, even though he’d never been a participated.  He was kicked out of college and banned from the NBA.  He spent the next ten years playing in the ABL and the ABA, wowing crowds with his skills, winning MVP after MVP award.  He eventually cleared his name and sued the NBA.  I re-read this book five or six times that summer.  Every time I read his life story I was stunned.  He never became bitter at the people who used and isolated him, his friends who turned on him, and cost him his one chance.  A stunning book.  Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find these days.

10.  The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien-  This was one of the first books to change me.  Prior to this, my fiction reading was limited to Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, which I never seemed to be able to solve.  The Hobbit fell outside my normal reading genre, but once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down.  I was transported to a make believe world where good and evil battle one another and people set out on adventures and quests that seem beyond their capabilities.  I was inspired and challenged.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jayne
    July 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks Chris for sharing your thoughs with those of us that take the time to read your blog. I really enjoyed reading about your top 10 listed above (making me think about Letterman). I feel I have learned more about you since reading you entries than in all the time we attended church together, played in a ball game or attended some other function. Thanks Chris, I am having fun with this.

    • July 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

      Jayne- Thanks for the kind words. Glad you are enjoying them

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