11 Books That Changed Me

 Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.  Today I’m adding one.

I learned how to read when I was four and, except for a brief period during junior high when well-meaning English teachers tried to force me to read really boring girly stuff, I have been doing it pretty much ever since.  I’ve read a lot of books.  I won’t even pretend like I know the number.  Some were fun, some were serious, some were both; but a handful really made an impact on me.  Here is a list of ten books that changed me.  I hope you’ll pick one, or more, of these titles up soon.

1.The Holy Bible – Obviously this one was gonna make the list.  It’s a library in and of itself.  I’ve been reading it regularly for twenty years.  No other written work has, or could, impact me the way the Bible continues to on a daily basis.

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – It took me almost two years to read it through for the first time because I didn’t want to move on to the next page without being able to absorb and understand what I had just read.  I’ve read it a few more times since and it gets a little easier every time, but it is always challenging.  More than any other apologetic work this book helped me learn to connect my brain to my faith in a way that no preacher, teacher, sermon, or Sunday School lesson ever could. Read it online for free here.

3. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller – This is an interesting little book.  It challenged me in a lot of ways, but it changed how I look at people, including myself, forever.  This book explains the actual relational aspect of the Christian faith better than any other work I have ever read.

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Before I knew anything about Gene Wilder’s whimsical film adaptation, and way before Johnny Depp and Tim Burton vomited their nauseous “artistry” on the mythos; a teacher started reading this book aloud to my class.  I couldn’t wait for her to finish, so I checked out a copy from our school library and started reading it on my own.  As a kid with an incredibly active imagination, it was like candy for my soul.  I think my life has been a little sweeter because of it.  And my imagination is just as active now as it was when my little third grade self read the last words of the last page.

5. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – During the darkest season, of the worst part of my life, a coworker who has sense grown to be a great friend told me to read Wild at Heart.  I didn’t learn a single thing reading this book; instead I began to understand myself with an acute awareness that connected me to my heavenly, and earthly, father in such a truly profound way.  In the time since I have taught it’s pages, walked dozens of guys through it’s principles, and witnessed that same light-bulb light up in other young eyes.  It is incredibly special to my heart.

6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (and Huckleberry Finn) by Mark Twain – The same junior high English teacher that tried, unsuccessfully, to force me to read The Diary of Anne Frank introduced me to Mark Twain.  In fact, when I saw that Huck Finn was on the list I prepared myself by reading Tom Sawyer instead of the drab diary.  Because of the misadventures of two southern country boys I spent a lot of summers building tree houses and makeshift rafts–and thanks to young Tom, I love exploring caves.  Read it online for free here.

7. Servolution by Dino Rizzo – It’s a short story about a church called “The Healing Place” and how a pastor’s vision connected with his parishioners.  It has challenged me to love people without condition, and to serve them without any hidden agenda, because that’s what Jesus did.

8. Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer – I’ve been walking though this book a paragraph at a time with a small group of young men for the last seven months.  Each page is like unwrapping a delightful little package of theological wonder.  Truly what goes through someone’s mind when they think about God is the most important thing about them.

9. Jesus Freaks by The Voice of the Martyrs – I heard a lot of stories about persecuted Christians growing up; but this book colored in those old ambiguous tales with names, locations, and verifiable facts.  A volume that could easily be depressing if read with the wrong intentions is actually one of the most encouraging books on my shelves.

10. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – I grew up in an era when anything with magic, dragons, or imagination for that matter, was pretty much frowned upon by the American Church.  So, in the eleventh grade when my pastor, who was also my English teacher, handed me a copy of The Hobbit: There and Back Again and told me that I would enjoy it, I believed him.  I read it.  I enjoyed it.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it began a love for fantasy fiction that I still enjoy to this day.  It also taught me that people can really miss the boat sometimes, and that I should make up my own mind about issues, rather than letting outspoken naysayers make it up for me.

11. Mossflower by Brian Jacques – I worked in a library my senior year of high school for a very wonderful lady.  She frequently let me check out books and one week I picked up Mossflower.  It is a fantasy story about anthropomorphic animals (read “animals that walk upright and talk”) written by a former sailor and adventurer for blind children.  I absolutely fell in love with the writing style, the adventure, and the innocence of the story.  By the end of the week I had finished the first four books in the series, by the end of the month I had inhaled the author’s entire volume of work and was anxiously awaiting the next in the series.  The way that it changed me though has nothing to do with the story itself.  The best word I know to use is that something about the nature of the writing and the way it connected with me, unlocked a desire within me to write.  I’ve been writing ever since.  Some I share, some I keep in private to be enjoyed first by my family and friends.  One day I plan to publish a lot of it.

Books are more powerful than we often realize.  I connect with stories on a deep level.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  This list could have easily been expanded to include twenty or more books.  What are some things that you’ve read that really challenged or changed you?

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One thought on “11 Books That Changed Me

  1. An excellent list of books! I consider myself primarily a Tolkien and Lewis fan (well, okay, PRIMARILY I’m a fan of Jesus…after all, what identity need I have beyond Christ?), but I’m eager to acknowledge Mossflower‘s productive influence on my imagination as well. The novel I’m working on is heavily influenced by Jacques, and I hope I can do some justice to the sense of adventure and love of nature he imbued his stories with.

    I read Jesus Freaks some time in junior high, I think, when I was really into DC Talk. It was an eye-opening book for me. I’d heard stories of persecution before, but never so many, in such detail, with such personalities and real names behind them. By mixing the older tales of martyrs (many of which can be found in the also-moving Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) with more recent ones, we see the continuity of the Holy Spirit throughout history. Though separated by oceans or epochs, Christians are still the same family, with the same Father in heaven!

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