12 Books That Changed My Life

I love to read.

And I love to track every book I read.

In fact, I began logging every book I finished starting in the 8th grade, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Every January, I close out the prior year, print my log, hole-punch it, and put it in my book log binder.

It’s nothing fancy, really. Just the book title, author, a few sentences about the book (including what I did or didn’t like), and a rating.

Since 1993, I’ve finished reading 405 books. So a couple weeks ago, I began thinking: Which of all the books I’ve read have deeply influenced me? Which books have actually changed my life?

I began writing them down in this post to share with you. I’ve added some commentary to explain why each book made the cut.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Have you ever been tempted to have an affair? Then this book will be like cold water on a blazing fire. I actually read it the first time when I was in high school; I wasn’t married yet. I read it again after I married. But the lessons I took from this book are a constant reminder to me.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This is most powerful book I’ve ever read about the issue of color and race in America. The “Invisible Man” in this book is the main character, but he has no name. People don’t see him; they see through him. It is a book about blindness and the ultimate removal of that blindness–the lifting of the veil.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

A story of the rise and fall of a political icon. Not only does this novel illustrate the transient nature of power, it also paints a picture of regret and “what might have been.” Unless you’re reading with your eyes closed, this book should awaken you to grab hold of the pivotal moments that happen in your life.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

It is helpful to know this book was written specifically to expose what was happening in Chicago’s meat packing district at the beginning of the 20th Century. Sinclair was called a “muckraker,” which means he sought to expose “the powers that be” by speaking the truth. This book opened my eyes to the idea that the government is not as trustworthy as the school textbooks would have us believe.

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Growing up, I wondered why so many old men were interested in the history of war. I now find the subject fascinating. I especially like war literature. This book was the first novel I’d ever read about war. It is exceptionally powerful. It tells the story of a man who has lost his arms and legs, as well as his ability to hear, see, or speak. He is, quite literally, a living stump. And so the book is a collection of his memories before the war, his thoughts about his post-war condition, and his efforts to communicate with the outside world.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Of all the marketing books I’ve read, this one had the most profound effect on me. It’s a simple message: be remarkable. Godin uses case studies to show how to be remarkable, and why it’s so important in today’s advertising-saturated world.

All in All by A.E. Knoch

This was the first book I had ever read that presented the idea that God would eventually restore all men to fellowship with Him. It was the first book I read that suggested “hell” didn’t exist. Definitely worth reading, although I feel there are better books on the subject (anything by Stephen Jones). You can also read “The Greatest Love Story Never Told,” which is a primer I wrote.

Secrets of Time by Stephen Jones

Have you ever wondered how old the earth is according to the Bible? Or have you ever wondered what kind of time cycles are revealed in the Scriptures? If so, you’ll want to read this book. It opened my eyes to the fact that time is not random. Rather, it is governed and controlled by God. Furthermore, Biblical time cycles help us to understand prophecy, especially what is happening in the world today.

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun & Paul Hattaway

Never have I read a book (besides the Bible) that is so spiritually inspirational. Brother Yun is a Chinese man who spent many years sharing the love of Jesus in Communist China. We Christians in America have no idea what hardship is or what dying daily to ourselves really means. Brother Yun’s story is a testament to that. I believe all Christians should read this book.

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Koch’s book is based on a discovery made by Vilfredo Pareto, a discovery that says 20% of inputs create 80% of outputs; and 80% of inputs create only 20% of outputs. It seems rather simple on the surface, but seeing the 80/20 Principle at work in life and business is amazing. It’s a principle that can change your life if it is applied consistently to how you live and work.

Debt-Free Living by Larry Burkett

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a bit of debt. Much of it was justified by viewing the money I spent as “business investments.” This book helped me to see the debt I had accumulated was a result of greed and a desire to get rich quick. I can’t say this book was comfortable for me to read. But it definitely gave me a kick in the seat of the pants and made me finally do something about my debt.

The Bible

Last, but not least, the Bible has changed my life more than any other book ever written. I can’t even begin to say how it has changed me. I wouldn’t be able to trace its influence on me if I tried. It’s been a part of my life since I was born and will be a part of my life until I die.

On a side note, the first book of the Bible I ever read was Leviticus. I read it in 7th grade. Why? Because everybody said Leviticus was the worst book of the Bible. Naturally, given my contrarian nature, I knew I had to read Leviticus first.

So these are the 12 books that have changed my life.

Of course, I wish I could share more. I didn’t even get to mention Steinbeck, Faulkner, Rand, or any of the Russian authors, all of whom have impacted me in some way.

Now it’s your turn.

I want to know what books have changed your life.

If you’re up for it, write a blog post listing the books that have changed your life and why. Then link back to this blog post.

I will start a list at the bottom of this post linking to anybody who decides to participate. If you want to make sure you are included in the list, then please send me an email including the link to your post at rhealy [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks! And I look forward to reading your list.

-Ryan M. Healy

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Ryan Healy

Ryan Healy is a freelance copywriter, list manager, and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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