What Book Changed Your Life?

Michelle Ule

Blogger: Michelle Ule

I’m filling in for Rachel Kent, who is on a much needed vacation away from the computer.

As I was beginning to write this blog post, a friend sent me an article entitled “Has Any Book Ever Changed Your Life?”

Since this is a holiday weekend, I’ll ask the same question and give you a few answers of my own.

For the Christians reading this blog, we’ll assume the Bible and ask for other choices.

Here are a few of mine:

Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Miss Manners.Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

My brother gave me this book, and after I got over being insulted that he thought I needed it, I read it with laughter, pleasure and real insight. I was a young naval officer’s wife who found herself in curious social situations, and I needed a guide.

Miss Manners taught me I don’t have to explain why I’m not attending a function. I could smile politely when asked awkward questions and turn the conversation without feeling guilty.

I learned that sometimes not saying something is more important than finding a soothing remark.

And I should always send thank you notes.

She also provided instructions on eating unusual foods (who would serve artichokes at a formal dinner?), explained what all the cutlery is at formal meals, and described how to address my “superiors.”
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

I read this book while spending the summer in Europe with Swiss relatives who were . . . not like me.

Bonhoeffer hammered home the concept of “cheap grace,” that I could not willfully sin knowing I could ask for forgiveness later. This meant I had to treat my challenging relatives with respect even when they did things I didn’t like. It made for a better trip, even if I was embarrassed by their behavior a lot of the time.

It also asked me what I really believed and was I ready for the words, “Christ bids you come and die.”

I had a lot on my mind that summer, and Bonhoeffer’s book changed how I saw my life and where it would go.

The Tapesty by Edith Schaeffer

I’ve written elsewhere on how this book changed my life, but the story boils down to: When given a choice, do I take the easy way or the hard way?

While reading Edith’s book, I realized I chose the easy way. Right then, I promised God the next time I had a choice I’d take the hard one.My Utmost for His Highest

The hard one walked in the door an hour later and that was the hinge of my life. Be careful what you pray for . . .


My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I’ve been reading this devotional for a dozen years, and nearly every day “OC” nails me to the wall with some pointed insight that makes me squirm. I’ve read the question about being “broken bread and poured out wine,” and sometimes remembered to claim that designator as my own. I’ve been brought to task for questioning the value of prayer by a simple question on August 28; “What’s the Good of Prayer?”

The book starts my morning, and the good it has brought me is invaluable.

And from a friend of mine…

C. S. Lewis’s books changed the life of a friend in a Borders bookstore one evening. She was looking at C.S. Lewis’s fiction–stories she’d read countless times. A man noticed her interest, struck up a conversation, and she ended up marrying him.

When Borders went out of business several years later, he returned and bought that specific bookshelf.

Just loving C.S. Lewis’s work changed her life.

So here’s the question: What book changed your life? Click to Tweet

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

34 Responses

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  1. Jeanne T says:

    Michelle I love how you share books that have changed your life. You got me thinking. 🙂 For me, OC’s My Utmost For His Highest has also been life changing. And I knew the references you made. 🙂 I took a year off from reading it, but you made me thirst for it again. 🙂

    Another book that spoke to me in a dark place was Streams in the Desert, by L.B.E. Cowman. This taught me, among other things, not to fear trials.

    One fiction book (of many) that significantly impacted the way I see loving others as Jesus does is The Debt, by Angela Hunt. It’s been a number of years since I read it, but I’m still challenged by this story.

    Thanks so much for sharing your books and the reasons why they changed you. Have a wonderful day!

    • Jeanne T says:

      I forgot two other books: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp had a huge impact on my and in helping me see the beauty and necessity of gratitude, and Jesus Calling, which I have been reading through this year. It seems to speak truth to my heart just as I need it on more days than not. 🙂

      Okay. I think I am done now. Probably. 🙂

  2. Good Morning, Michelle. I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day.

    I wish I had a story that was as good as the one about your friend and her love of C.S. Lewis’ works. But I don’t.

    The book that had the most influence on my life (except for the bible) was a thin little paperback book I read when I was seven. It was called “Heroines of God.” I still have the book. The brief stories of young women who gave up marriage and, sometimes, their lives for the love of Jesus filled me with a determination to dedicate my life to Him. It also put into my head a desire to be a nun–a life path that didn’t work out. Nevertheless, the book helped bring me into a close relationship with Jesus that has deepened as I have grown into and through adulthood. God continued to call me into deeper relationship and to challenge me to grow through the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Julian of Norwich. God continues to be the center and focus of my life.

    I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with a non-religious, literary example of a book that’s changed my life, but I just can’t think of one. Many books have touched my life and added to it, but the only book I can honestly say has dramatically impacted it was that tiny book I read when I was seven.

    Of course, as soon as I post this comment and move on with the day, I’ll probably think of three other books. Isn’t that always the way?

    I hope you have a relaxing holiday weekend.


    • See? I stepped away from the computer and the non-religious book that impacted my life came to me (it’s a set of books actually): Collier’s Encyclopedia. My parents bought a set for my sister and me shortly after we started school. I began looking up subjects I was interested in, then started reading the cross-references. This led to my reading the cross-references of the cross-references. Soon, I reading the encyclopedia became a favorite pastime. I got to the point where I would just pull out a volume, open to a random page and start reading. All of this helped set me on the path of being a life-long lover of learning and researching.

      (And yes, I know I’m a nerd 🙂 )

  3. Sarah Thomas says:

    The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. I had, up until I started A Voice in the Wind, shunned Christian fiction as tepid, preachy, and not very interesting. Then Hadassah’s story captured me and transformed my opinion of what Christian fiction could be and do. I never would have started writing my novels if not for that book.

  4. linda shaffer says:

    I am a Christian, but I’m going out a limb here and reference a secular book called “Secrets of Consulting” by Gerald Weinberg. While Weinberg is a technical consultant, the book is not specifically technical. As a matter of fact, I believe the subtitle is something like “A book for anyone who gives or receives advice.” And while he is not a Christian, it is heavy on honesty and ethics. It is a fun read extremely useful. I have always considered it my “secular bible.”

  5. Baqash says:

    Two come to mind. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. One sentence in particular struck home to me during a difficult time in life and my life has ever since taken a different road. “What would you do if you were not afraid.”

    The second book that came immediately to mind is Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. One of Nouwen’s prominent themes was reconciling his battle with life long depression and his Christian faith.

    Quote from Wikipedia: ” Nouwen describes love and forgiveness as unconditional. In that book, he invites the reader to follow him in his personal return to the spiritual fountains, and a parallel meditation on all the characters of the parable, and their rendering by Rembrandt, and the painter’s personal life.”

  6. The non-fiction books that have had the biggest influences on me are ‘The Hiding Place’ by Corrie ten Boom, and ‘Peace Child’ by Don Richardson. Corrie ten Boom and her family laid everything on the line for Christ and the Jews they hoped to save in Holland during WW2. The Nazis didn’t just cart someone off to jail, they tortured them, and if they couldn’t find who they wanted, they’d torture and kill a loved one or friend. Or they’d raze a whole town. Standing up to that? Oh my word.
    She taught me that I must either be all in, or not in at all.

    The Richardsons are missionary rock stars. And the concept of giving a child to another tribe to ensure peace? Well, didn’t that just kick me in the guts.

    Fiction? Hahaha! We have to pick?

  7. I can think of two–and oddly enough, they’re both fiction. When I was little, I loved the book Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. It taught me to trust my heart and do the right thing–even when culture and society are pushing you a different direction.

    And Watership Down by Richard Adams showed me how our community and culture is shaped by shared stories and how we each have a vital part to play in life–no one is unimportant.

  8. Norma Horton says:

    Mark Knoll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (his premise being that we don’t have one any more — EASILY the most amazing book read during seminary), and Machiavelli’s The Prince, which I gave to both kids for their 13th birthdays. (Of course, Ozzie Baby’s — as he’s known in this family — My Utmost remains a every-other-year journey.)

  9. Michelle Ule says:

    I’m writing a book that includes OC, so I’m happy to see how he has positively affected so many of you! Love that Ozzie’s Baby! (Did you know that Os Guiness, Oswald Guiness, came from a family close to Biddy?)

    One of my son’s used Machiavelli’s The Prince while on a summer missions trip with Campus Crusade for Christ. He happened to be reading it when he came upon a young man on the beach who was interested in politics. Fascinating how God can use any book for his glory.

    We got into a great conversation with a young Peace Corps worker once, who had just read a book about Albert Einstein. My nuclear engineer husband had all his answers! 🙂

    • Norma Horton says:

      “In the world, but not of it.”

      I hope we can engage with almost anyone based on broad reading, varied experiences, and a gentle, inquisitive spirit. BTW, I heartily recommend Knoll’s book. (The kids have read it, too. Books get a lot of mileage in this house.) And Machiavelli opens all sorts of doors…

    • Jeanne T says:

      I love that! God has a way of equipping us for the “real stuff” of life, and He seems to use books often. 🙂

  10. Kiersti says:

    Fun to see so many of my favorites listed by others here…from Jesus Calling and 1,000 Gifts to Caddie Woodlawn and The Hiding Place. Another book that has really impacted me is One Church Many Tribes by Richard Twiss, Native American leader and follower of Jesus, who went to be with his Creator unexpectedly earlier this year. Powerful, stretching, and challenging.

  11. I can think of many books of big impact, but one that really changed my life. Happiness is a Choice by Minirth and Meier. In my young adult life, I suffered off and on for about a dozen years from clinical depression. The book is very technical and shows how the emotion of anger, when turned inward, causes biochemical reactions in the body that produce the imbalances that cause depression. Antidepressants don’t cure, but only mask this. I learned to limit negative thinking and focus on beautiful and pleasurable things. I am free of medications and I have not suffered another bout of depression in 20 years. When I look back on the direction my life has taken, I realize it would not have been possible had God not used these authors. And, I’m grateful to them for writing this book.

  12. If I had to pick one book that changed my life, I’d have to say it was “The Baronet’s Song”—actually first entitled, “Sir Gibbie”—by George MacDonald. It’s a story, written in the mid-1800s about a mute boy. I’d read a number of MacDonald’s fiction, but when I went looking in the bookstore for one, Sir Gibbie was all they had. I’d taken some writing classes by this time and wondered how an author could sustain a book where the main character had no dialogue. I decided to read it anyway and it became my favorite book of all time. I read it three times before my son was born—my son who is mute due to the effects of autism. When he was two-to-three years old I read it to him. He loved it, though I don’t imagine he understood a word of it. But it was at that moment I realized God had given me this story in order to prepare me for the generous and sweet boy I would one day have. A boy, who like Gibbie in the story, is kind and considerate and always wanting to help others when he can—wordlessly.

  13. Leah E. Good says:

    I think the two books that have most impacted my life are “When God Writes Your Life Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy and “Shadow of the Almighty” by Elisabeth Elliot.

    In fiction it would be “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn and “Riven” by Jerry B. Jenkins. Wonderful books!

  14. I thought I was a Christian until I read The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. By the time I finished the book I really was a Christian and my life has never been the same since.

  15. jan johnson says:

    I thought of another one besides Gone with the Wind….The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. That book completely changed the way I viewed people and how a dedicated Christian deals with adversity.

  16. Darby Kern says:

    How bad would I look if I said the thing that made me realize that there were writers and what they did was work, and even taught me a little about passionate writing, was The Amazing Spider-Man 151, written by Len Wein. It only changed my life in that it showed me that coming up with story ideas and getting them out for others to read is an incredible idea. I was about 8 when I read it and it made me think I could be a writer.

    God’s Smuggler was a book that really spoke to me. Charles Price’s book, Real Christians was eye opening as well.

  17. Power of a Praying Wife and Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian have been life changing.
    Christy by Catherine Marshall had a powerful impact on me in my younger years.
    Right now I’m reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and I have a feeling that life change is on the horizon.

  18. Michelle Ule says:

    Power of a Praying Wife changed my husband! You know, of course, the Christy Award was named for Catherine Marshall’s book. 🙂

  19. Lisa Fowler says:

    Long time reader here, but first time commenter.

    The book that, as a young person, made a significant impact upon my life is The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. It so influenced my thinking that to this day I give copies to every young person that darkens my door in hopes that they too, will be so influenced.

  20. “Too Much Tranquility” by Nicholas Horatio Goodlad.

    Epilogue by Nicholas Horatio Goodlad
    “When we look at the hardships, dangers and sufferings of the men of the sea, only by throwing a veil over their faults can we appreciate their often hidden virtues. May we always give comfort to those rare men who bravely sail the tempestuous seas of life and let us be ready with a word of good cheer, ever encouraging them towards a clear conscience and an honest heart. But most important, we ought to cherish these men, “who go down to the sea in ships and do business on the great waters. These men see the works of the Lord; and his wonders in the deep…”

  21. I opened this late due to a heavy work day.
    Great shares!
    I read Oswald Chambers every morning.
    Books that changed my life ~ No Easy Road, by Dick Eastman. A very convicting book about prayer.
    The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
    When I was a baby believer, it was Hannah Hurnard’s, Hinds Feet on High Places.

    The most recent was my Bookie book club selection ~ I Dared to Call Him Father, By Bilquis Sheikh. I have not been asked by the Lord to endure such persecution ~ yet.

  22. Great books.
    Debbie Pearl’s “Created To Be His Help Meet” was given to me as a gift at a time when I was in real danger of becoming a grumbling young wife. Now I thank God every day for my Mr. Visionary and delight in all our adventures.
    I’m excited to read Bonnhoeffer’s book you mentioned. Great gift idea for my mom as well. Thanks!

  23. Karla Akins says:

    Christy by Catherine Marshall.

  24. “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank
    “I Capture the Castle,” by Dodie Smith
    Anything by Jane Austen!
    “North and South,” by Elizabeth Gaskell
    “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
    “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett

    Just to name a few!

  25. Linda Jewell says:

    Hi Michelle,
    Besides the Bible, the books that have changed my life the most are: Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield (which showed me that one of the best way to support our loved ones serving in the military is to be brave at home); Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (which showed me that God’s love trumps my fears); Adventures in Prayer by Catherine Marshall (which changed my mindset about prayers and who God is and who I am in relationship to Him); The Lies We Believe by Dr. Chris Thurman(the title alone helped me focus on God’s truth vs. the lies of the world); and Jesus Calling (which each day reveals to me more about a personal relationship with Jesus).

  26. Sundi Jo says:

    The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson. That book CHANGED my prayer life.