Sometimes I view reading as though I’m playing the lottery. I never know which book I pick up that might forever change the direction of my life. I enjoy reading, but the chance that this one book could be the one to open my mind to something new or set even the slightest change in my path excites me. To that end, I am including the top 9 books that have changed my life:
The Sacred Romance’s subtitle is “Drawing Closer to the Heart of God.” I read this book after seeing author John Eldredge speak at my church in 1998. He utilized poetry, literature, and movies to show how our hearts are drawn to God through these works of arts. It’s as if art all around me all of a sudden started making sense. I wanted to explore this art and read the books. I credit The Sacred Romance with paving the way for all subsequent books that I read. Another thing this book did was to reintroduce me to C.S. Lewis. He is quoted heavily throughout the book and after reading this, I delved deep into Lewis’ writing. As a result, in the summer of 2000, I studied at Oxford University in the U.K. because I wanted to be where C.S. Lewis had taught.
One of the first novels I read after reading The Sacred Romance was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This book makes my list of books that changed my life because it was the novel that opened my eyes to the power of literature. I went on a novel reading spree after reading this book.
Thomas Friedman, a NY Times columnist, released The World is Flat in 2005. I was 3 years out of college and was working for an apparel company. This book got me thinking about my future and it pushed me to seek more education. I ended up going to graduate school in 2006 and I credit this book as being one of the main reasons.
Everyone talks about how strongly individualism and selfishness are pushed in Atlas Shrugged. I certainly saw that, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was the interplay of business and government and how easily government can squelch initiative. This book had a major impact on my political views and is one of those books that drastically changed how I view work, business, and government.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall was one of those books that I read at the right time. I was newly married and my wife had this habit of running 8+ miles at a time. At that time, I thought anyone who ran over 5 miles at a time was insane. Enter Born to Run where these psychos go out and run 100 miles after a night of partying. This was one of those books that takes your mindset for what is common and changes it dramatically. After reading this book, I started running longer distances and am now addicted to long runs.
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I went all-out and read the 1000+ page version of this book. There are abridged versions, but I decided on the full monty. I am so glad that I did. I also finished reading this book right before the 2012 movie was released. It was hilarious to compare the book with the movie. For example, the opening 5 minutes of the movie covered over 150 pages in the book. In the movie, they quickly work their way through a disgusting sewer as an escape route. The book delves deeply into the layout of the Paris sewer system before getting into the escape. This is just an epic book. It covers war, love, poverty, forgiveness, redemption, suicide, Napoleon, and more about the Paris sewer system than you’d ever care to know.
Imagine this scenario – you are a 30+ year-old married man with a kid. You enjoy running and working out and in the process of being involved in these things, you meet a Navy Seal. You are so impressed by this Navy Seal that you invite him to live with you, your wife, and child on the condition that you will do whatever he asks of you. That’s the premise for this book. Jesse Itzler invites Navy Seal, ultra-marathoner, pull-up world record holder, and all around badass David Goggins to live with him for a month. Goggins proceeds to wake Jesse up at crazy hours of the night to go run 6 miles. He pushes Jesse to realize he can do so much more than he ever thought. For some reason, this book inspired me deeply. My running mileage jumped enormously after reading this book. I began taking running, exercise, and diet more seriously. I just ran my first half-marathon and am running my first full-marathon later this year. I credit this uptick in activity to Living with a SEAL. I also bought this book for my best friend and he is now running a ton after never being a runner. There’s something special about this book that makes you want to get up and move.
I must include Tools of Titans in this list of books that changed my life because it has led me to do this project of reading through 52 books. I’m only on book #5 so far of my reading list, but what I’ve read has already had an impact on me.
9. The Bible
Of all of these books, The Bible has had the most impact on the direction of my life. I have read The Bible since I was young, but it really came alive for me when I made a decision to follow Jesus when I was 14. I read The Bible daily. I talk a lot on this site about reading the right book at the right time. The funny thing about The Bible is that different verses will be right at different times. I may read one verse or chapter 20 times, but on that 21st time, something about it sticks out that has never stuck out before.