Books That Changed My Life, Pt. 1

I’m not sure why I got to thinking about it, but there are a handful of books I’ve read over the years that had a significant impact on the way I think and the way I live. They sit on my home office bookshelf amid hundreds of others, but they, for various reasons, changed me.

The Bible, of course, sits in a class all by itself. I’m reluctant to even call it a “book.” It’s alive. And though I’ve read it all my life, it still speaks to me in fresh ways. But to be honest, I don’t read it. It reads me.

But I’m talking about traditional books that have had a powerful and lasting effect on me. Books that I quote, cite, refer to, and mention in conversation year after year. Books that I go back to every few years for a renewal of the relationship and a freshening of the revelation I found there.

Here are a few of them and what makes them special to me.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe

This book is my first love, not so much for what it says but for what it represents. You see, I was always the youngest kid in my class. I started First Grade as a five-year-old when everyone else was already six (some were almost seven!) This caused me to start out with pretty low self-esteem. On the last day of my Second Grade year, Mrs. Garner called me up to her desk and  handed me a thick hardcover copy of Robinson Crusoe. She said it was a special award for being an outstanding reader. An award! And it was a grown up, chapter book, too. I treasured it. It represented the first time I could recall being told I was really good at something. And it began my lifelong love affair with books. (God bless you Mrs. Garner.)

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

This is the book that made me want to be a writer. I first read it in college and was captivated by both its story and the prose with which it was told. “Oh, to write like that,” I wished and vowed at the time. Later in life, I read it aloud to each of our girls when they were little, especially when they got to the age where they began to battle fear. Timeless. Beautiful. Perfect in every way.

Idols for Descruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture by Herbert Schlossberg

Ponderous. Weighty. Frequently danged hard to read. Yet this book, more than any other book I’ve read, has served to form my worldview and political philosophy. Herbert Schlossberg may have been the smartest, most well-read man you’ve never heard of. Now, you can go ahead and read the combined works of Plato, Aquinas, Locke, Hume, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx and the other influential minds of Western Civilization if you want. Or you can just read Schlossberg, who has done it for you. I recommend Schlossberg.

True Success: A New Philosphy of Excellence by Tom Morris

I grabbed this book back in the mid-nineties as I was preparing to do a talk on leadership and success for a group of business people. Then this book grabbed me. And it has never let go. In it Morris lays out an alternative paradigm for “success.” There are concepts and ideas in this book that have simply been integrated into who I am and how I make key decisions. Now that I think about it, I think I’m due to revisit it.

 The Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart by Stu Weber

King. Warrior. Mentor. Friend. Weber’s profound, moving and deeply masculine exploration of what God created a man to be, did for me what Helen Hunt’s character did for Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good as it Gets.” It “made me want to be a better man.” And showed me what he looked like.  

Intra Muros (Within the Walls) by Rebecca Springer

Written in the late 19th Century by an extraordinarily gifted and sensitive writer, this book gives us a vivid look at Heaven. I don’t know if Heaven will really be like Springer’s vision, but I hope it is. What I do know, is that I come away from every reading with a heart bursting with gratitude for Jesus and love for God. And that’s pretty good fruit for any book.

That’s all for now. I’ll post part 2 at a later opportunity.