Friday, July 22, 2016

The Books That Changed My Life edited by Bethanne Patrick

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The books I have read on books that influenced or deeply affected or changed a life in some way have all featured writers. What makes The Books That Changed My Life different is that these short essays are penned not only by authors, but musicians, business folks, actors, and others. It makes for a nice mix of titles and some that I was not familiar with.

Here is a sampling:

Al Roker, television weatherman, writes about learning to look for the small clues by reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This makes sense as weather is quite mysterious and small clues often lead to an accurate forecast...or not.

Tim Gunn, Project Runway star and fashionista, fell in love with words by reading James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and A Death in the Family.

Eric Idle, of Monty Python, asserts that his life has not been changed by only one book. "My life is changed by books. On a daily basis."

Dan Hesse, former CEO of Sprint, learned to think about how to live from reading Plato's The Republic.

Jack Kingston, attorney and former U.S. Representative, was helped along in his career by reading and following the advice given by Frank Bettger in How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling.

Andrew Soloman, professor of clinical psychology, credits his "tolerance for what's strange or different" from having been introduced as a child to the imaginative Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg.

And who knew that Alexander McCall Smith found a satisfying philosophy of life in the Collected Shorter Poems of W.H. Auden?

I have just been picking and choosing from the one hundred essays that make up this book edited by Bethanne Patrick.  The Table of Contents lists the name of the essayist along with the book that changed his or her life. At the end of each chapter there is a short bio of the writer which is helpful because some of these folks I had not heard of.

I started with the ones written by individuals I knew weren't authors, then I read a few based on the books that I had read and that others chose, and I still have many to go.

If you can scrunch out a tiny bit more room on your bookshelves, or if you have freed up a slot or two on your TBR list, this book would be a fine addition.

And, if you had been asked to contribute an essay for The Books That Changed My Life, what book would you choose?


  1. I think Alice in Wonderland changed my life. I found an old beat up copy, one I still have, at my grandparents' house. It was probably the first real book I read. It introduced me to an amazing and funny and ridiculous world, so different from my own. But maybe not so different. After all, I knew where there were some rabbit holes! Maybe that world wasn't so far away. Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are the only books I consistently re-read.

    1. Hi, Joan. Thanks for sharing your pick. I was late coming to Alice and her adventures - I watched the Disney cartoon version but didn't read the book until I was an adult. It's great that you have a life-long love of this one special book!

  2. I love books about books, and to read about what books have changed and influenced others. Makes for a very l-o-n-g TBR list, but oh, well. I'm with Eric Idle: Books reshape me on a daily basis, too. Some of the most meaningful ones for me: the Anne of Green Gables series (I wanted to be like Anne), Refuse to Choose (Barbara Sher), Anne Morrow Lindbergh's diaries and letters (even though our lives are so different, I feel a real connection with her). I think the most influential books for me are those that show me I'm not alone in my beliefs and struggles, and those that make me want to be my best self.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Thanks for letting us in on your picks. I am reading, off and on, Anne Morrow Lindbergh's 'Bring Me a Unicorn' - her diaries and letters written before she met and married Charles. I agree. She has such a natural, intimate writing style it is a pleasure to be in her world.