Books That Can Change Your Life

If one of your goals in 2017 is to read more, congratulations! Now, what are you going to read?

There are lots of reading challenges and lists of reading advice. As I thought about what I might like to say about good books to read this year I started thinking, “What books are life changing books?” I also asked some of my blogging friends and on the Living Unabridged facebook page for your contributions to this list. (Make sure you’re following on FB for great discussions and daily inspiration.)
books that can change your life

Books that Can Change Your Life Financially:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (or Financial Peace and More than Enough, also by Dave Ramsey.) My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans from way back. (Growing up in Middle Tennessee in the 90’s helped with that.) We haven’t always followed ALL of his principles, but we have followed them as best we can and that has enabled us to raise a larger than average family on a smaller than average income.

Biggest takeaway: the snowball method really works (pay off your debts smallest to largest, doesn’t matter what the interest rates are), avoid car loans and student loans (we’ve never had either type), the envelope system works for a lot of people, and yes, it’s possible to live without a credit card (we’ve never had one).

Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt (and others by Mary). One difference between Ramsey and Hunt is Hunt’s concept of an Emergency Fund and a Freedom Account (or Hunt at least articulates it differently). That concept makes a lot of sense to me

The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. OK, yes, it’s more than a bit dated now, but if you’re serious about cutting your spending these three volumes (combined here into an omnibus) are inspirational. Will you do everything like her family did?

Um, no. (duh)

But in learning to change how you think about spending money and what value means, these are still worth a peek.

Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy. Again, it’s slightly dated now but if you’re trying to figure out how to live on one income it can definitely help.

Books that Can Change Your Life Educationally

Books by John Taylor Gatto or John Holt (if you’re wondering why homeschooling appeals to some families).

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I am not a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, and yet this book is one of my favorites for remembering why we choose to homeschool.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt or
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson. Two of the best book list books I consult.

The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. Feel like your own education was inadequate? This book will help you make a plan to fix that.

Books that Can Change You Personally

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The first time I read this I thought, “What’s the big deal?”

But then my husband pointed out that I find making boundaries slightly less complicated than some folks. I took his point. And this has ended up being one of the books we recommend the most.
The Entitlement Cure by John Townsend. Because this is increasingly a problem, I find myself recommending this one more often.

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers. If you’ve been around Living Unabridged very long, you know I love Myers-Briggs. Do I think it’s a perfect system? No, of course not. And, as with most things, there are obviously spectrums. But these sixteen types really helped me begin to understand myself, others, and relationships in a new way.

168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Learn to stop saying “There’s just not enough time” or “If I had more time I would…”

Make it Happen by Lara Casey. This is your year – make it count!

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. I could have listed this one in several spots on this list. Just Do Something is a slim, easy to read book but it will kick your tail, encourage, and inspire you (particularly if you’ve ever found the concept of finding God’s will somewhat paralyzing).

Books that Can Change Your Life Relationally

Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. The marriage book we recommend most often. (Really. It’s not even close!)

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This is not primarily valuable for understanding what your own “love language” is. We all tend to recognize the ways we want to be loved and appreciated. I find the greatest value in this book is recognizing how other people are showing love. (For instance, you might find yourself frustrated that a family member never says ‘I love you’, but that family member is always helping clean out your gutters or doing other nasty jobs. Maybe they’re just an ‘acts of service’ love language.)

Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend. The parenting book I recommend most often.

Motherstyles and Nurture by Nature. I told you I love Myers-Briggs. These are two books that apply M-B to parenting and I enjoyed both of them. Want to figure out why you and one of your children are butting heads so frequently? Or do you want to understand your own parenting style and its strengths and weaknesses better? These will help.

(You can see more in this category in my post: Love, Marriage, & Family Reading List)

Books that Can Change Your Life Domestically

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. Schaeffer is one of those women I deeply respect and I love that she wrote this. Have you lost the plot as far as raising children and making a home? Read this (or re-read this)!

Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson is a massive, encylopedia like tome about house keeping. It’s less boring than it sounds.

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. I didn’t think there was a book in the world that could make me want to own chickens or pigs or for that matter, grow stuff (I do not have a green thumb, to say the least), but this book proves that I was wrong.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I know people tend to have a strong reaction to this one (love it or hate it). I thought it was interesting and I really do find myself evaluating our possessions in a new way now. I’ve read a lot of organizing books over the years, but this one is the only one that really helped me start changing my mindset about STUFF (even if I didn’t do the full Kondo method).

Books that Can Change You Spiritually

Well, of course, start with the Bible. And then, never stop. Read it in another version. Read it with a commentary beside you. Ask questions about the things you don’t understand. Pray about it. Read it, journal it, memorize it, think about it, sing it, and then start over.

Of all the books on this list, this is the one that can change more than just your life.

Anything by C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton. My personal favorite Lewis writings are in The Weight of Glory, perhaps because they came out of the Second World War.

If you want to try Chesterton try Orthodoxy.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is deep stuff and it will provoke deep thought.

Speaking of Bonhoeffer, you can’t go wrong with the biographies of Bonhoeffer or Wilberforce by Eric Metaxas.

Fiction that Can Change Your Life

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. How will this change your life? Well, for one thing, you’ll be inspired to read everything else Austen wrote. And don’t think that these books are just for women. I have it on good authority that men enjoy them as well. These books are insightful, witty, surprisingly deep, and finely crafted. They are often imitated, but they are unsurpassed.

The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis. “Come further up, come further in!” So very much not just for children, I find I appreciate these more as I get older.

Books by George MacDonald. We are latecomers to the MacDonald fan club, but that doesn’t lessen our appreciation. These are multi-faceted. Children will enjoy the stories and adults will have cause to think and wonder.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. There is nothing else like this. Nothing.

If you’ve seen the movies and think you know the story, please, I implore you, put this on your reading list for 2017.

Here are the suggestions from some friends:

  • Linchpin by Seth Godin. Suggested by Melissa Dow who blogs at The Rustic Five. Her quick take: “This book really opened my eyes to the new economy revolution we are undergoing and made me really think about our education system that I was teaching in”.
  • Learning All the Time by John Holt. Suggested by Shellie Sangrey who blogs at There’s No Place Like Home. Quick take:because it completely changed the way I view homeschooling and learning.
  • Shellie also suggested Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto because “because I will never look at public education the same way again. Ever.”
  • Kerrie who blogs at Fishbowl Fortune recommends The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. Her quick take: “It’s a book about preconceptions, mental illness and gratitude. It really made me examine the idea of living the life you were given to the fullest and finding the blessing in what you have.”
  • Amy, the blogger behind Life as Lanhams recommended The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom because ” Her attitude and walk with God through trials has been a wonderful inspiration to me in my own life.”
  • Debbie recommends the Lazarus Long books by Robert Heinlein because they taught her about libertarianism (she did note that they’re not family friendly) and White Wing by Gordon Kendall because it taught her about community.
  • Tricia recommended Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine and Let it Go by Karen Ehman. These are easy to read, recently published books that many of my friends have found helpful.

Life changing books are different for each reader. Maybe a certain novel came along at just the right time. Or maybe a nonfiction writer articulated something that you were finally ready to change. It could be that someone read something aloud to you that changed your perception of…well, everything.

What books do you consider life changing?
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Resources for Living Unabridged Readers:

Raising daughters? This course could change your life (and theirs):

Time to get organized?

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  1. Brandy Barnett says

    fellow INTJ, love all of your book suggestions. The ones that I have already ready are great. Putting a couple new ones on my “to read” list. Do you have a account?


  1. […] Pretty much everything on Karen’s list of books that can change your life) […]