Can a book really change your life? For faithful Christians, the answer is a resounding YES! We’ve seen and experienced the significance of God’s Word in our lives and others. It’s not the words themselves, but what they reveal about our God and His relationship with us.
With the caveat that nothing I name will have the impact of the Bible, I recently mulled over which books have motivated me to change something about my perspective, myself, or my life.
Here are the standouts over the years—those books I read that I can point directly to as causing a specific change in my life. (Listed in no particular order.) You might be surprised by what’s on my list!
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1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People maybe 30 years ago, and I still refer back to the principles quite often as I consider how to approach my career and relationships. Among the principles that have stuck with me:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Begin with the end in mind
You can see how those also apply in marriage!
2. You Just Don’t Understand
Not everything is explained by gender. It’s typically less than we think—with personality, character, and life experiences playing a big role too.
However, gender distinctions have been routinely noted in social research, and in You Just Don’t Understand, linguist Deborah Tannen explains what she discovered about how men and women communicate.
I’ve come back to her points time and time again, often reminding myself that I cannot expect my husband to communicate the way I do. I have to consider his maleness, along with those other aspects I mentioned, and work on building greater understanding and intimacy. Thankfully, my husband read the book too, so he knows he has to attend to my communication style as well.
3. The Millionaire Next Door
You can find great resources about managing your finances, from Financial Peace to Crown Financial Ministries to Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s latest book, Thriving in Love and Money: 5 Game-Changing Insights about Your Relationship, Your Money, and Yourself.
But it was while listening to The Millionaire Next Door audiobook that it sank in how my husband and I could live under our means and become more financially secure. The authors laid out habits of people who become millionaires, and their insights informed how I approached spending and saving going forward.
Indeed, our financial stewardship has allowed me to do this ministry for as long as I have. (Believe me, HHH has not made me a millionaire. Not even close. 😉 )
Since money is one of the top reasons for marital conflict, it’s worth finding a resource about handling money that will help you get on the same page.
4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a book about what we eat and why. The author does a deep dive into this topic, including a whole chapter on something called “corn sex.” (Not nearly as exciting as the sex I write about!)
But my takeaways from this book changed which groceries I bought and agricultural policies I support.
As a person who believes in the Creator, I also would like to see our world do a better job with land and animal management, and this book helped me think more profoundly about those issues.
In the meantime, here’s to healthy eating and brown, cage-free eggs!
5. The 5 Love Languages
Yep, this very popular marriage book makes my list. Because The 5 Love Languages is where I began to identify ways in which my husband and I were trying to express love but not feeling it in turn.
Specifically, I grew up in a family in which my mom waited on my dad a lot, so I’d determined to be the opposite in my own marriage. And then, I married a guy whose #1 love language is Acts of Service.
This book opened my eyes to how I needed to get over my cynicism and embrace generosity instead, knowing my husband was a good man who wouldn’t exploit my acts of service toward him. My change in attitude and behavior paid dividends for both of us. Plus, hubby now gives me more affection—my #1 love language.
6. Schlinder’s Legacy
You’ve heard of Schlinder’s List, right? The movie is based on a book written by Thomas Keneally, which my old book club read many years ago. But we also read Schindler’s Legacy, with each chapter a short biography of a Holocaust survivor from the list.
And the accounts have stuck with me for years. Not because of the specifics of any one story—which include some chilling details, of course—but because this book more than any other showed how one’s attitude makes a big difference.
About half of these survivors considered themselves lucky or blessed and felt grateful, to God and/or others, for their survival. The other half were bitter, angry, and believed they’d survived only because of life’s randomness or their own cutthroat choices.
Life throws all of us curveballs, and some of us far more than anyone should have to go through. But we ultimately make the choice of how we will view and address our problems. Will we wallow and become bitter? Will we grieve our losses and find a way to get through?
(Or if you’re in an abusive situation, grieve and get out.)
7. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Almost anyone who does marriage ministry eventually reads The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, because John Gottman has probably done more reputable research into long-term relationships than anyone else. He gained a reputation for being able to discern whether a marriage was headed for divorce by observing mere minutes of a couple’s interaction.
He identified “four horsemen” that signal relational rockiness (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) and also laid out seven ways to foster a healthier marriage.
Spock and I read this book when we were at our wit’s end in our relationship, and we really did learn important principles we could apply to our marriage. These principles weren’t the key to getting our marriage back on track, but they were an important piece.
8. The Gospel of John
Okay, I already addressed the impact of the Bible, but the Gospel of John deserves special mention. I was toward the end of my college career, and I’d gone through a rough time that included friendship challenges, family heartache, and premarital promiscuity.
My faith was shaky at best. I’d concluded there was a God, but did I buy into Jesus and Christianity? As summed up well by another John (the Baptist) in a different gospel, I was asking: “Are You the One who is to come, or should [I] look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19).
I decided to re-read the book of John, trying this time to figure out who Jesus was without all the felt-figure storyboards and preconceived notions in my head. The Jesus I found within those pages was not merely a man of meekness and compassion, but strength and grit. He showed tenderness to some and fierceness to others, depending on the situation and the people. He truly was both the Lamb and the Lion.
And this Jesus—the real Jesus—seemed big enough to handle my hurt and my needs. I had a ways to go to find my firm footing, but through reading the Gospel of John, a spark was lit, my faith rekindled.
And Now, A Challenge
Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage has been blogging every single day this year! At the end here, I’m issuing a challenge for her to blog about books that changed her life, whether 2-3 or more.
I also want to hear from you! What books positively changed your life and why?
[Quick note: If mention a book that contains what I believe to be dangerous teaching, I may not approve your comment. You can view my comments policy here.]