The Ten Books Books That Impacted My Life Most (Part 1)

If you’ve been reading my blog long at all, you know I love to read. Books have impacted my life in dramatic ways. Obviously, the Bible has had the most influence. However, many other books, over the years, changed the way I think, taught me new ways to relate with others, or radically transformed my perspective on certain aspects of life. Since I love to hear about people’s favorite books, I thought I’d start a list swap with today’s post. I hope you’ll find something on my list that will help you. And I would be so grateful if you’d take a moment to share in the comments a book or two which has impacted your life.

Based on a photo from iStock © Piotr Krześlak

About this List

Once I decided to compile a list of my favorite books, particularly those that had some type of transformative effect, the ten pictured above came to mind immediately. Though I tend to read mostly non-fiction books, you’ll see the list includes a couple of fiction books as well.

I’ve included links to the books on so you can read more about the books and see others’ reviews. Just click the picture of the book covers to get more information over on Amazon. Should you use these links to purchase one of these books from Amazon, a tiny portion of your purchase will go back to Making It Real Ministries. I appreciate that as it helps offset the costs of running the ministry.

As I began writing the post, I realized covering ten books would make for a long post. So, I’ve tackled the project as a two-part post. There is no particular order or ranking to the list. It was hard enough to limit it to just ten, much less try to decide how to rank them. So, here are the first five, and next week, I’ll round out the list with a brief description of the remaining five favorite books.

My Ten Favorite Books, Part One

Mere Christianity

MereChristianityThis classic by C.S. Lewis helped me clarify my beliefs during a particularly tough spiritual crisis. I had been exposed to snippets of this work in a class that explored the classical doctrines of Christianity. So when faced with paralyzing doubts, I thought it might help. I bought a copy and devoured it.

As the title suggests, Lewis sticks to the core beliefs—what is essential to the Christian faith. This was particularly helpful in my situation. I didn’t want to get bogged down in what various denominations espoused. I just needed clarity on the basics.

The book is based on a series of talks Lewis gave on the BBC radio during World War II in the early 1940s. Thus, the content is remarkably conversational considering the density of the topic.

As I read through the pages, I put my faith back together, brick by essential brick. Actually, my time with this book revealed I had never actually lost my faith, I had just lost my focus.

Disillusionment with church politics, practices, and people wrecked my comfortable existence and tossed me out on the tumultuous waves of doubt. Lewis helped me realize what I was questioning had very little to do with Biblical truth. Being out of my safe little comfort zone had merely revealed how far my gaze had drifted from being fixed on Jesus. Much like Peter, when I lost focus on Jesus, I sank into the waves. (see Matthew 14:22-34) Lewis’ review helped return my focus where it should be: on Christ. And back in Jesus’ grip, it didn’t take long for the waves to grow still.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life

The Call Book Cover_smallWhen I pulled Os Guinness’ book from the shelf, I expected to find something similar to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Instead of assessments of spiritual gifts and how to determine my vocation or ministry, I found twenty-six chapters of communion with God. This book gave me a new paradigm for the concept of calling. And it radically changed how I live my life.

I’ve battled the people-pleasing disease my whole life. It was miserable. When I read Guinness’ chapter on living for an Audience of One, something in me clicked. And though I can’t claim I’m cured completely, this concept radically transformed how I think about decisions, actions, words, and thoughts.

When I began reading this book, I had just experienced an embarrassing debacle of what felt like epic proportions. Within the pages of this book I found a renewed sense of hope. In the stories of others’ defeats, Guinness illustrated how God can use those to do great things in the lives of the beaten and in the lives of others through those ill-fated situations. I began to look at my circumstance through the lens of the cross and found hope and strength. And in time, I experienced God change my defeat into a life-changing victory.

The Magdalene Gospel

MagdaleneGospelCoverNow before you think I’m talking about some “lost book” of the Bible, let me clarify that this is a work of fiction. It imagines what the women who followed Jesus experienced as they waited those long hours between sundown on the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion and that glorious Sunday morning of his resurrection.

It is easy for me to lose sight of the fact the people in the Scriptures were real human beings. They had fears, frustrations, joys, and heartbreak just like we do. As I sit with Mary Magdalene and the other women whose lives were transformed by their encounters with Jesus, my heart swells with joy at the impact the gospel has on real people’s lives. I’ve found this book to be a wonderful catalyst for focusing on the reality of what happened on Good Friday and Easter morning. Real lives were forever impacted. My life was eternally impacted.

My mom gave me this book for Christmas in 1995. I’ve made it a tradition to read it beginning after Good Friday services and finishing early Easter morning. If you decide to get this book, prepare yourself for a special time of reflection and personal worship.


BoundariesOnly the Bible has had more of an impact on my life than this book. Growing up I had no concept of boundaries and my ignorance had disastrous consequences. In my mid-twenties, I discovered the power of healthy boundaries to help me live as God designed me to live.

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend explain what boundaries are (and aren’t) and give examples of how our lives are devastated by a lack of them. This book is based on sound biblical teaching and provides immensely practical and helpful solutions to problems we face everyday.

If I could require everyone to read two books, the two I would choose would be the Bible and this book, Boundaries. The book not only explains the concepts but provides illustrations from real life examples. I found the example dialogue within the illustrations and explanations to be exceptionally  helpful. It taught me not only the concepts but provided sample “scripts” to help me get used to saying the words necessary to set and enforce my own boundaries.

At Home in Mitford

MitfordBook1Sometimes, I just want to unplug, grab a cup of tea, and get lost in a book. When I first curled up with this book, I expected nothing more than a few hours diversion from real life. What I found instead was so realistic I caught myself praying for the characters (yep, I just admitted that in public!).

This novel is the first in a series that tells the story of Father Tim, rector of a tiny church in the quaint town of Mitford, North Carolina. Much more than just a pleasure to read, this story highlights the power of God’s truth and grace to transform lives. The author, Jan Karon, puts Father Tim in the heart of a town full of people with the kinds of problems we all face everyday. Along the way, I laughed out loud, wiped tears (of both joy and sorrow) from my cheeks, and I learned a great deal about how to pray, share my faith, and help others in times of crisis.

I’ve read the entire series (many of the books two or three times) and always wish the story would never end. When I’m stressed, sad, or in need of a bit of humor, I grab one of these books off the shelf and take a little vacation in Mitford.

 What Are Your Favorite Books?

Now that you’ve seen five of my favorites (next week I’ll add five more to the list), I hope you’ll share some of your favorite books with me today by leaving a comment. Be sure and tell us the title and author and what makes the book one of your favorites.

Your turn: What are some of your favorite books and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I hope you'll jump into the conversation by leaving a comment. I would love for each post to be like a dinner party conversation in which many people participate, each adding their own perspectives and ideas. Just keep in mind that we want to treat others as we would like to be treated, so please keep your comments constructive and on topic. Feel free to post viewpoints and ideas that differ from mine or others but refrain from personal attacks or offensive language. I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or which demean or belittle another member of the Making It Real community.

  • Starr Freeman

    Thanks for the book ideas. I am just starting to read again. I love the Mitford series. I read them all in three weeks because I couldn’t put them down. I also love The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. I have read it multiple times to remind myself of my faith and sometimes for a smack down in the mirror. I have used this with high school and college age kids and they loved it.

    • Starr,
      I’m so glad you’re able to read again! The Screwtape Letters is on my “to read” list. I’ve heard so many people say it is on their best books list. And so far, I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by Lewis. I received an amazon gift card today and I think I’ll use it to get that book. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It is always encouraging! And what a treat to hear from you! Miss you, my friend.