Ten Amazing Books That Changed My Life

My father used to always talk to me about how skilled I was at reading at a very young age.  When I was in Kindergarten, I used to go to the 1st Grade classroom in the morning to sit in on their english classes.  My teachers all told my dad that I’d be reading the classics by the 6th grade.  Of course, that’s when adolescence happened and I was way more interested in reading all the Judy Blume books, particularly “Forever” because had some dirty parts.

(I had to hide that book from my parents.)

But I always enjoyed reading.  So much so, it was my initial thought about what to study in college.  I became an English major and then a Secondary Education major, for teaching english.  And I still read a lot.  In all honesty, I read for tests and not for comprehension.  Which is too damn bad because I read a great many classics during those years that i was supposed to be reading during the 6th grade.  Then my undergraduate experience led me to graduate school where I was reading…all….the…time.  And I hated it.  It made me so damn tired.  When I finished graduate school, I quit reading.  Seriously.  I would flip through entertainment or health magazines, but that was it.  I spent most of my free time going to the movies.  For years, that was my M.O.

It took me almost ten years to begin reading with pleasure again after I finished my graduate program.  I’m not kidding.  It was in my last months living in Chicago and taking the train to work every day when I discovered books again.  I can recall reading Einstein’s Dream and Lies My Teacher Told Me (both of which were summer reading books from my department) riding to and from work.  At that was when it all started again.

Moving from Chicago to Arizona, I got myself a library card and began checking out books non-stop.  Both fiction and non-fiction.  I read mostly during my lunch breaks at work, but I did read.  A lot.

And when I got to California, I was reading all the time.  It helped that my staff and I created a year long reading program, in which everyone chose a book, we read it, and discussed it as our monthly professional development.  I started buying books using staff development money all the time.  And I read them all.  Mostly at the gym in the morning while on the elliptical or the recumbent bike.  I love it so much!

[ctt template=”8″ link=”WvS8A” via=”yes” ]There is definitely some guts behind that saying, “Reading is Fundamental.”  Reading helps you be smarter!  Seriously.[/ctt]  This article from LifeDev outlines several reasons why, including a better vocabulary and stress relief.  For me, I have discovered that I love learning, and I constantly want to take in more information so I can make myself a better person.  Someone who can make the world a better place.  And there are so many people out there who have written some amazing books.  Many of these have changed my life for the better.  Seriously.  So if you don’t mind, I’ma gonna tell you all about them!

Please note that these are not necessarily in any order; just the order in which they came into my head.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

You may have heard in my other blog posts that I am a HUGE StrengthsQuest nerd.  This personality assessment, if you will, changed my life in so many ways.  But mostly because I’ve learned to embrace my talents and use those to further my professional and personal development rather than trying to be better at something that’s out of my purview.  By developing those talents and making them strengths, I can be more of who I am supposed to be, rather than who someone else things I should or can be.

What Got You Here Won’t Get Your There by Marshall Goldsmith

I learned about this book in 2009 when I rounded up a group of senior administrators to serve as the Resident Faculty for a seminar I was helping to plan.  One of those administrators was a former supervisor of mine, and he was the person who suggested this book.  For some reason, I don’t have it anymore, so I will need to pick up another copy.  But basically, the book outlines that it’s behaviors rather than skills that keep you moving up the ladder, if that is your intention.  Practice gratitude, listen well, and apologize for your mistakes.  It really helped me realize that how I treat my staff and team is more important than whether I achieve new skill sets.

Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan

I have tried to go vegan several times.  Movies like “Food, Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives” did it for me.  And I love animals, so when I think intentionally about eating animals I get a little holier-than-thou.  I don’t mean it.  I wish, though, that I had more conviction about my meal plan choices.  But in any case, I came upon this book by  Michael Pollan and it was incredible.  The book details his quest to create an entire meal that he grew, hunted, and foraged himself.  A special guide shows him how to find mushrooms in the wild.  He goes hunting.  Among many other things.  And along the way he shares with us details on industrial corn, organic food, and other problems with our food in the US.  Even though I still eat meat from time to time, I fully recognize the arguments that factory farming is killing many of our natural resources; and if we used that land and space for farming healthy, sustainable food, we could probably end the hunger crisis on our planet.  Just sayin’.

The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry and The Thin Book of Naming Elephants by Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea Mayfield

I was introduced to Appreciative Inquiry in around 2008 by a colleague of mine, Lisa Slavid.  I believe she used this to start our wheels turning about a mission statement when I’d served on an Executive Board.  Basically, AI is change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction that people in the organization focus their attention.  Does this sound familiar?   Kind of like that StrengthsFinder thing.  Yes, I enjoy books and practices that focus on the good things and making them stronger.

You Are a BadAss and You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is my current celebrity girl crush and life guru.  I have been devouring her two books like a crazy person.  But there’s a good reason why.  She’s brilliant, funny, and inspirational.  When I listen to her on Audible (which is where I “read” her books), I feel as though she is talking directly to me.  I feel like I’m being coached in the moment.  And so much of what she has to say just makes good sense to me.  I know that may sound corny, but it’s the truth.  She’s amazing and when I grow up I’d love to be just like her.

You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen

This book is the ONLY book from graduate school which still remains in my book collection.  Because it’s killer awesome.  I needed an “elective” class in my last year of graduate school, so I took an undergraduate/upper level course on communication between the sexes.  This book was the cornerstone of the class and it just…makes…so…much….sense.  Men want to fix things, women want to help you.  It’s essentially the same thing…and yet it’s not.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Yeah, this is a surprise given that books I’ve already mentioned here.  The Exorcist is by far the most frightening book and film I’ve ever experienced.  It all feels very real to me and while I’m completely terrified of all of it, I’m also slightly obsessed by it all.  In fact, I went out of my way to find a First Edition of the book, which a hugely creepy picture on the cover that I’ve never been completely sure whether it was Regan or a statue of Mary.  The point is – for some reason I feel drawn to this book and movie for the sheer terror of it all, and I guess that makes me feel more alive sometimes.  I fully realize that you may not finish the rest of this blog given my mention of this particular book; in which case, I forgive you.

Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

I supposed I could mention every single one of Judy Blume’s books as books that changed my life, because she definitely was the author voice of my youth.  I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing first and I was hooked.  This book still strikes me as the book that completely and totally identifies the fear and confusion behind one of those turning points in a young woman’s life.  I personally think that every girl should read this book in the 5th or 6th grade.  In comparison, Judy Blume wrote Then Again Maybe I Won’t to cover that same period of time for young men.  Both brilliant books.  Both very eye opening for young adults.

I would certainly like to talk about more books – because I am downloading new things from Audible at least twice a week – but hopefully this list will (mostly) inspire you and give you some new reading material.  Some for work, some for fun.  Some to inspire change, some to possibly make you change your underwear because you are so frightened (Exorcist joke, had to be done).

What’s one book that changed YOUR life?  I’d love to hear about it!

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