Bookish Beck wrote something on this a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking about the books I’d put on my “life changers” list. I want to keep this post short and sweet, so I’m not full-on reviewing anything here. But if you want more info on any of the books, just click on the cover and it will send you to its Amazon product page.
1) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Oh sweet baby Jesus, this book threw me into an existential crisis back in the day. I read it when I was probably around seventeen, still living in my uber Christian conservative home where two ideas were emphasized constantly: 1) thank goodness Jesus loves us, because we are worthless, sinful pieces of shit, and 2) to be a good person, you must try to alleviate the suffering of strangers. To have someone so boldly proclaim that individuals can be magnificent, powerful, god-like AND that the weak should be left to struggle on their own until they basically die was almost too much for my brain to contain. It took me months to sort out my feelings about this book, to figure out which of Rand’s arguments made sense to me and, most difficult of all, to come up with good, thoughtful, non-religion-based reasons for why some of her other arguments were wrong.
2) The Berenstain Bears & Mama’s New Job
As a kid, I was obsessed with Berenstain Bear books, probably for longer than I should have been. I am one of those people who was deeply afraid of death when I was, like, five, so I usually tamed my anxiety at night by reading about the very normal happenings of this traditional and (usually) loving family. This book, in particular, was the first time I saw a woman, a mother, make her needs a priority. Mama Bear finds something she loves, thinks about a way to turn it into a business, and then makes it happen. She doesn’t let other people’s expectations, criticisms, or excuses hold her back. Even as a little girl, this message resonated with me.
3) The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner
The Dance of Anger gave me permission to be angry, yes. But more importantly, it taught me that I have the power to change my relationships (romantic or otherwise). A relationship may, metaphorically speaking, be a dance between two people, but if one person starts doing different steps, the other person has no choice but to modify and change, as well. This was a revolutionary concept to me—that I, all by myself, had the power to affect and change other people. I didn’t have to stay stuck. I didn’t have to be a victim.
4) ALL THE BOOKS by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Because, holy smokes, you mean I’m not the only one who’s tormented?!?!
5) Internal Family Systems Therapy by Richard Schwartz
So this one isn’t really a beach read, I know, but it changed my life so it makes the list. The basic idea is that we all have a family of parts (or voices or people or whatever you want to call them) “living” in our brains. And Internal Family Systems Therapy helps you recognize and name those parts in order to better understand why they’re there—and especially to help you understand why certain parts (like anxiety, fear, anger, etc.) may “talk louder” than others. (Do you see how I’m using a lot of quotes in this paragraph? I’m trying really hard to show you that I don’t think there are literal people or extra voices in my brain and that I’m not crazy…) This book made me realize that many of my annoyingly strong emotions exist for a reason; they exist to help me cope—or at least they helped me cope at one point. Once I began acknowledging the existence of those parts and understanding what purpose they served, I found that I was able to calm my strong thoughts and feelings a lot more effectively.
So there you have it. My five most life-changing books. Anyone else care to share? I’d love to hear what books have impacted your own life.