In full honesty, I didn't read much until almost 5 years ago. In 2012, in addition to monthly resolutions, I decided to read one book each month. I averaged more and have read a book or more each month since. The things I've read, in the last 5 years and before, have impacted my faith and life in so many ways. To honor that, I'm sharing 30 of the top books that changed my faith and life over the last thirty years.
Lots of other great books could have made this list. These are simply those books that specifically helped me or changed me somehow, that have lingered with me, that I quote often or repeatedly recommend to others. Here they are in no particular order.
*Affliate links used. See full note below.
This is by far my most recommended, quoted, and referenced book. A friend recommended it when I was 16--just a few short months after returning from my 9-month stay in Mongolia. It awakened my desire for adventure, my newfound passion for mission work, and a foundation of faith beyond relationship status, place of living, and occupation. I read it once now almost 15 years ago and I still remember so much of her story, and frequently quote the verse of the poem her book is named after.
I snagged this from my husband when he was using it for a senior Bible class he was teaching. I was stay-at-home-mom with a baby on the way and felt stagnant in my faith and devotional life. This book blends stories that I still remember today with practical principles for a meaningful life. He brought up phrases like "hurry sickness" that resonated and provided solutions that I've been using ever since.
This was a required read in Rhetoric class my senior year of college. While I had desired simplicity before this, reading this book was my wake-up to the seriousness of consumerism and realizing I didn't want part in it. I had a huge breakthrough in being overwhelmed with my own stuff along with reading this book that was the start of where I am today in simplifying. Thanks, Kalle.
This was a birthday gift given me in 2011. The whole book resonated and it especially helped me think a little more peacefully and gracefully about how I entered my devotional life. The part that impacted me the most was a chapter when she talks about the story of the prodigal's son from the Bible and how she felt like she didn't have a story of conversion. That put into words something I've felt many times throughout my life. A year later, I got to meet Emily and have her sign my book. That same night I had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment with my own experience as a prodigal, realizing my own conversion, and feeling called to share that story in a book. It's still coming to fruition, but Emily's book was a catalyst for something now five years in the making.
A friend that recommended this to me soon after my husband I got married, since we have similar struggles with independence and seeing things our own way. At first it bothered me that Dr. Laura seemed to be saying everything in a relationship is the woman's fault. Eventually it finally clicked, she's talking to women, so she's sharing insights of what we can do to change something. You can't change someone else, so if you want change to happen, it starts with yourself. That thought was powerful, and several of her suggestions have stuck with me now almost ten years, including giving husbands a transition time to de-stress between getting home from work and actually engaging with the family. She also had some no-nonsense ideas for approaching sex that have helped me through the years.
A friend sent me this book when I was struggling with my marriage. We had been married only two years and lived far away from family and close friends. I spent a month reading this book and earnestly praying these prayers for my husband. I also wrote out my own prayers for him each day, and ended up adding them to some pages in our mostly empty wedding guest book. That book and those prayers got me through a challenging time and really helped me see change--again, starting with myself and how I viewed my husband.
I was a fan of John's blog Apartment Therapy, when I found his 8-week Home Cure challenge. He was going through each week of the cure and encouraging others to do it with him. I found his book at the library, read it quickly and have been using the concepts he shares in my homemaking and simplifying ever since. After a few years of doing his Home Cure challenges, I've adapted it and starting doing a mini-version of my own every spring and fall to upkeep and improve our home a little bit at a time.
Jen's book was on a display at Barne's and Noble and caught my attention as I ran past to catch my run-away children. Once they were wrangled, I went back to the display and knew I needed to read this book. Her approach to simplicity spurred by pairing faith with daily living was something I'd been wanting to pursue but didn't know how. Reading her 7-month experiment paired with her heart-change through the process was transforming for me. Her writing makes me laugh and challenges me to think and live deeper.
During my monthly resolutions of 2012, I had a month revolved around better eating. Along with that, I read Michael's book and loved his simple, practical approach to food. He defines food in a way that makes sense for me and helps me not feel so overwhelmed in deciding what's good for me and what's not. He also lists some food rules (there's a smaller handbook of just the food rules) that are so handy in the grocery store. While I don't remember them all, several have stuck in my mind over the years and helped simplify health eating.
This was Jeff's first ebook that I got for free or really cheap. It was a quick, short read, but one so necessary for what I was experiencing when I read it. I was struggling calling myself a writer, and this book was a good kick in the pants to finally accept that title and start living like I believed it.
This was another one of my reads from 2012. She's an American woman that shares what she learned about raising her children in France. Some of the experiences she shared especially around meals, snacking, and routines have stuck with me. I made some changes with our kids right after reading that really helped with behaviors. We're back to needing to make some changes, and what she shared is still in my mind as I think about what we need to work on.
This was recommended by a friend at a time when I was struggling with faith in action. I read it around the time I read 7, and it's a similar concept. I love reading how people specifically live out their faith in real, big ways. Shane's life is a great modern-day example of how I imagine Jesus and His disciples might have lived today which challenges me to think outside of the norm.
I read this in college and loved reading her experiences and traditions from growing up as a Jew. She's a Christian now which helped bridge the rituals to what they mean for us as Jesus-believers. I love symbolic gestures that help make faith more substantial. Her chapters on Sabbath and death have stuck with me the most.
This was a library find. She wrote a 50-list for her or a friend's 50th birthday. It circulated around email (remember those days?), and she eventually turned it into this book. It's a fun, easy read of little insights into life. A few have lingered with me, including one about taking the next right step. Anytime I feel stuck, I just think about the next right step, and then do it.
I've read a few of Anne's books, and she is such a great writer. So of course she wrote one of the best books on writing. It was such a help to my writing.
I found this book in the endnotes of Irresistible Revolution (above). Mike and a friend took a 6-month break from college to live homeless in six cities. His stories influence how I think about reaching out to "the least of these" and living Christianity in action rather than just in theory. He also wrapped up the book with a few practical suggestions for addressing homeless people on the street that I appreciate (like gift cards that only work for food).
I've believed in God as long as I remember. I have a gift of faith that is just always there. This book really challenged that believe to not just believe in God, but really believe who God is, what He's capable of, who I am in His eyes, and what I'm capable of through Him. She encourages to memorize five statements related to those beliefs that I still use as my mantras; she challenges readers to pray based on those beliefs (I did and God answered); and she uses strong Biblical examples to ground each statement. Highly recommend.
This jumped out at me as I quickly scanned the library for books to read while on an airplane. I didn't have any other option, so I took a chance, and it turned out to be a great book. I related to so many of her stories. One in particular about it never being too late to try something, helped give me peace about expiration dates I had put on some of my goals and dreams. Thanks to Veronica, I've put my expiration dates aside.
My dad lent me this book in college. It was sort of the awakening of drive for epic living. Such good stories and ideas that encourage me to step out in faith. While reading it, I quit my summer job, was able to travel around for weddings, and ended the summer with 3 weeks of working at a camp in Yosemite National Park with my mom. I call it my "summer of adventure," and I feel Michael's book helped motivate me to step out in faith that summer--and God really came through.
This was required reading for our high school freshman English class. I identified with Katherine, the "shrew" character in the story, and held onto that identity through college. We had to memorize some lines, including from the end when Katherine has a change of heart and says, "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy sovereign." I wasn't there yet, but this story helped me believe I wouldn't always be a shrew. And whatdyaknow, I don't think I am anymore. As much anyway ;)
John used to be my favorite author. He probably still would be just because of his writing style that I love. But his actual content is a little too dark for me, which made it hard for me to even choose a book to list. I've read a few and while some of the stories scar me, his way with words engaged me before I knew how I would use my writing.
I was Jewel-fan as a kid. Now I can see. There is so much depth and strength in her words and in her story. Her way of using the power of thought to overcome past traumatic experiences is empowering. This book is full of engaging stories and therapeutic philosophies.
Simplifying home feels so practical--just do it. But deciding what to do with our time can feel a little more challenging for me. I tend to say yes too often, and sometimes without even realizing it. Lysa's book was a tremendous help in deciding which things are worth my "yes," deciding what to let go of, and practical ways to say yes and no when appropriate. Plus, it's back in faith, which influences all my yeses.
This was a recommendation and gift from my parents. I love his breakdown of the decades and what each decade of our life is traditionally focused on. He also shares how our age no longer dictates that cycle and we can speed it up or restart it as needed. He also shares great questions in that back that really helped me dive into where I'm at in life and where I'm heading.
I used to say I'm not creative and truly believed that. Over the last several years of blogging and taking photos and branding my site, I've been learning maybe I am creative. Or I'm at least interested and learning and growing in that area. I got this branding book for Christmas last year and it kind of sealed the deal. I'm creative, I love good design, and I want to grow in that. I'm not sure what to use it on. For now, it's just my own blog. Eventually, who knows. My whole life is ahead of me waiting to be written. Or designed or rebranded or collaged or painted or whatever creativity strikes.
I'm still haven't finished this book, after starting it a few years ago. Even the first half that I've read has impacted how I parent and especially the environment I create for my kids here at home. When I notice more tantrums from them, I start thinking about ways to simplify things, give them better and more consistent routines, and help them not feel overwhelmed. Heck, I've started doing that for myself since starting to read this book!
Our teacher had us read this when I was in the 6th grade. We listened to it on tape, and each followed along with our own copy. We even had worksheets we completed on the content. I haven't read it since, but the underlying principles have stuck with me. In a nutshell: People care about themselves, so care about them, too.
This is one of few books I bought for full-price off the bookstore shelf. I found it shortly after breaking up with my college boyfriend, and so many things made since while reading it. I had planned to re-gift it to my sister, and ended up marking it all up as I read with notes for both of us to remember--Bible verses, additional thoughts, etc. It was a wake-up call to stop believing the lies us girls perpetuate to each other about guys. A couple years later I read what felt like the factual Christian followup: For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. Shaunti's book offers even more insights including interesting survey results from actual men.
She is a funny, truth-telling writer. While this book in particular wasn't entirely life-changing for me, there was something she wrote about an elderly lady with a tattoo that clicked with other things I had read, seen, thought, believed, and I ended up getting my first tattoo. Also in this category is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley for the ways she talked about deciding for herself what to believe about faith and church. And Wildflower by Drew Barrymore for some stories she told about coming into her own person spiritually. These books may not outright overlap--for me, they're about living my faith without regrets, rather than cowardly falling into what others want me to believe and how they want me to behave.
This originally started as "The Bible." It is an absolute must-read and by far the most life-changing books I've read and continue to read. I read through my entire trusty New King James Version for the first time a couple years ago. It took about 18 months and was such an insight to read full stories and be able to compare passages in the Old Testament with segments of the poetic books and verses from the New Testament. There is so much overlap in story and phrases--how God loves us, Jesus saves us, and we have hope of forever with Him. I'm currently reading it all again with Eugene's paraphrase--specifically from The Remix version. I love his introductions to the books and ways he writes things with vibrant, relatable language. While I'm reading, I sometimes stop to see how it's said in another translation. It's been such a freshening for my devotional life, and my life in general.
Those are my top 30 books that have impacted these first thirty years of my life. I'm excited to keep reading and see how future books impact the next thirty years!
Which books have changed your faith and life?
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*Note: Affliate links used in this post. Purchases made through these links earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks.