Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five Books That Changed My Life

We read to learn, to understand, to grow, expand our worlds and our minds, to be inspired and entertained, to be moved, to escape. The words of others, and the way they combine and sequence those words in infinitely unique combinations, amazes and moves us. Books can change the way we think, the way we feel and the way we see the world. Here are five books that changed my way of thinking, and therefore changed my life:

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne : I don't know how old I was when I read this book - probably between the ages of eight and ten. What I distinctly remember though, was thinking this specific thought: I want to write books like this, Tiddly- pom. 

The House of Belonging, Poems by David Whyte: I didn't really like poetry very much before reading David Whyte. I felt that it was often incomprehensible and therefore unrelatable. David Whyte is different. His poems are like the moors of his homeland: there is great beauty in their  spareness. I can work out the meaning of his poems, allowing me to connect with them emotionally. Whyte inspired me to try writing poetry - something that had never interested me before.

Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach: I read this when I was in my forties, at a time when I was deeply dissatisfied and longed for greater personal meaning in my work and my life. This book reminded me to take the time to be grateful every day, and to find joy in simple pleasures. It helped me to remember back to a time when just the sight of violets growing by the side of the road made me feel like a millionaire.

In The Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant: This book is about relationships - most importantly, the one we have with ourselves. The key message is about learning to speak your truth - to say, clearly, what you want and need, and to banish the belief that doing so makes you selfish. Vanzant says that by learning to love ourselves, to honor our own needs and purposes in life, we become better partners, parents and friends.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:  I am in love with Anne Lamott! She writes about writing and life and life and writing until they become one and the same. She is willing to share herself freely and openly. In doing so, she gives us all permission to be more accepting of ourselves, and more open to sharing who we are through our writing. She is wise, compassionate, and so darn funny.  The single most important writing help I got from Anne is her concept of the "shitty first draft." It freed me completely and forever from the tyrannical idea that my words had to fall perfectly into place the very first time.

What books changed your life? They don't have to be about writing - most of these aren't. Books that help us become confident in who we are and teach us about life make us better writers too.


  1. I am Melissa's husband and I have to say that she has the most positive outlook on life that I've ever seen and has been the person who has changed me from a pessimist to an optimist.

  2. I totally agree on Anne Lamott's first draft policy! It was such a liberating concept to realize that even the best don't always start out that way. :-)

  3. Hi Melissa! I love Anne Lamott's book on writing, too. Very inspirational! And how sweet of your husband to leave such a wonderful comment!

  4. Hi Becky and seekingzeal, it's great to find like-minded people - Anne Lamott is so wonderful. She spoke here in Santa Fe last fall at the Lensic and she was so funny and wise. It was a delight. And, my husband IS a sweetie.

  5. I've had Anne Lamott's book on my to-read list and I definitely need to move it to the top of the list, I've heard so many great things about it.

    I adore Winnie the Pooh! That was my favorite book when I was a child, and I still love it. :)

  6. Another kindred spirit! Yes, move Anne Lamott up - she is truly wonderful.

  7. Bird by bird changed my life too! Great books, and you have a great blog! :) BTW I have a cousin named Jamie Reynolds. GREAT NAME!

  8. Rebecca, That is really cool about the name!!! I've left a comment on your blog too. By the way, YOUR name is pretty fabulous, I can picture it on a book jacket.


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