What Book Changed Your Life?

A few weeks ago at the Blue Ridge conference, Steve Laube gave a keynote speech during which he asked, “Except the Bible, what book changed your life?”

More than one book changed my life, but the first one that popped into my mind was Looking Out for Number One by Robert J. Ringer.

Despite the ruthless title, the content is practical. The message isn’t, “Step on anyone and everyone to get to the top.” Rather, the author,  offers tips to help readers cope with the world, and how to get along with others while maintaining self-respect. I read this as a teenager, and I won’t reread it for this blog post. Instead, I’ll cite from memory a key point that’s kept me going throughout life:

There is one to a box. Don’t get married so that you won’t die alone. Because you will die alone. At the end of my life, I will face God alone. My husband won’t be with me as an advocate. I won’t get into Heaven because my grandfather was a church deacon, or because my grandmother served on the altar guild. I’m okay with this. I am an independent person despite my deep ties to others. As a result of pondering this point, I am not in the habit of placing blame on others, and I have always taken responsibility for my actions.

As promised, I wrote this blog post from memory. But out of the thousands of books I own, I was able to locate my copy of “Looking Out for Number One” in fewer than thirty seconds. I just might read it again.


Your turn:

What book changed your life? When did you read it?

Why did this book change your life?




58 Responses to What Book Changed Your Life?

  1. Avatar
    Lora Zill July 20, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    Beloved by Toni Morrison changed my writing life. I learned the beauty and power of language. No book before or since has shown me what is possible as a writer, though some others have come close.

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      Jim Moretz, PhD July 25, 2017 at 7:46 am #

      Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright. I read it in the summer of 2008 and, besides the Bible itself, this book transformed my ministry and my understanding of the core hope that Christianity offers.

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    Justin Swanton July 20, 2017 at 4:26 am #

    Imitation of Christ for me, and I’m still reading it.

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    Jenny July 20, 2017 at 5:00 am #

    Sounds like a great book! Many books have impacted me as well. One of my favorites was How to Succeed at Being Yourself by Joyce Meyer. I read it in high school when I felt so different from others, even my friends. It was simple, direct, and so helpful!

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    Heather July 20, 2017 at 5:10 am #

    For me, it was “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti. It reminded me that there is more to this life than what we can see with our eyes.

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      Damon J. Gray July 20, 2017 at 5:13 am #

      Oh, Heather, that was a good choice!! The man who led me to Christ once told me that that book caused him to pray even more than his Bible did.

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      Loretta Eidson July 20, 2017 at 6:12 am #

      Loved ‘This Present Darkness’ by Frank Peretti. I agree with Damon, that book opened a new level to my prayer life.

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      Carol Ashby July 20, 2017 at 7:25 am #

      Another vote for This Present Darkness. Having grown up in a staid liturgical denomination, it opened my eyes to spiritual realities I’d never considered before. Like Loretta, it changed my prayer life, too. I gave several copies to friends. I read it in my mid-30s.

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      Diane T Ashley July 20, 2017 at 9:01 am #

      That was the book that changed my life as well. It showed me that Christian Fiction is not necessarily Grace Livingston Hill books. Not that there’s anything wrong with her novels, but Mr. Peretti gave me a whole new outlook on spiritual warfare and the unseen world around us.

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    Damon J. Gray July 20, 2017 at 5:17 am #

    The beauty and the challenge of a question like this is it forces me to choose between numerous good options. It is not a question of which book(s) I really like, but rather which one changed my life. In that vein, I am going to have to go with “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. I chose this book because, more than any other, it altered my view of and approach to my Bible study.

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      John de Sousa July 20, 2017 at 8:42 am #

      One of the best out there for understanding scripture. Great book!

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    Jennette July 20, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    As crazy as it may sound, Christy by Catherine Marshall changed my life. When I was a teen, I was drowning, dying inside, and searching for something, but I didn’t know what that was. Books were my escape, my drug. I devoured books, jumping from one high to another, crashing horribly afterward, but then I stumbled upon Christy. I wanted what that book hinted at, but no one I knew had ever read it. I was even going to write a letter to the author until I discovered she had passed the year I had been born. It rocked my world so much that I did not pick up another fiction book until more than 7 years later. And it started my spiritual journey toward knowing Christ.

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      Heather July 20, 2017 at 5:57 am #

      This doesn’t sound crazy to me. Much like music, Books , fiction or non-fiction have a way of helping us through tough times. Though I can’t say I read Christy, I saw the TV show(that only lasted a season) and loved the story.

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      Rebekah Dorris July 20, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

      I recently reread Christy, and I was shocked how it moved me. I didn’t remember that reading it as a teen so long ago. Makes me want to go back and revisit other old favorites! God bless 🙂

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    Nan July 20, 2017 at 5:59 am #

    Don’t laugh. The book that had the most profound effect on my life was The Haunted Hound by Robb White. My fifth-grade teacher read it, chapter by chapter, to us. She made one strange request, though, and that was for us to put our heads on our desks, with our eyes closed and “feel” the book. And I did. I was a dog lover anyway, and this book reached deep into me and pulled out the empathy and compassion that God had placed there, but had been repressed by my parents’ recent divorce. I think everyone in that class felt the same way I did. We all sobbed when the dog, Pot Likker, got killed. It affected some of us more than others, but the profound effect it had on me still brings tears when I think about the story. I’m certain my compassion for others and animals stems from this early book that God placed in my life.

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    Angela Carlisle July 20, 2017 at 6:19 am #

    I would point back to, not a single book, but a children’s series written around the turn of the twentieth century. The Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley was one of my favorites growing up. I think my mom picked up the first eight at a homeschool conference or something when I was about seven, and I gradually added to my collection over the years. Although the story is what drew me in (isn’t that so often the case?) what resonated in my heart is the example of a little girl’s love and dedication to her Savior above all others.

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    Brennan McPherson July 20, 2017 at 6:20 am #

    “Whatever Happened to Worship?” by A.W. Tozer more profoundly changed my life than any one book on the planet.

    As far as fiction goes. . . “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy showed me just how much empathy and emotion can be elicited by simple ink on paper–how you can impact people’s souls while being a true artist by making something unique and beautiful.

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    Loretta Eidson July 20, 2017 at 6:21 am #

    The first book that pops into my head is ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom. Such a powerful story about life.

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    Bryan Mitchell July 20, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    I believe that “Four Pillars of Man” by Stu Weber. I was angry coming out of high school, all the jobs in town just migrated, so I joined the military. I came home for leave from Ft Bragg and came across this book. Lucky for me I was bored so I picked it up. I loved it so much that I shared it with a close friend of mine before returning to duty. I can’t really remember all the places within that it touched me, but I do know that it calmed my rage and impressed upon me a better demeanor. It did a lot for me during a tough transition.

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      John de Sousa July 20, 2017 at 6:51 am #

      Excellent book! A must read, for all men, but especially young men.

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    Diana Harkness July 20, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    Various books have changed the trajectory of my life. The first I can remember is C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. Then, Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. I have read and reread Madeleine L’Engle’s non-fiction over and over in dark periods of life.
    When my mother entered the last stage of her life, I was greatly influenced by Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God. When I was experiencing writer’s cramp, Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome brought me out of it Later, a reading of C.S Lewis’ 3 volumes of letters, encouraged me to write letters, something I had not done in a very long time. The responses I received were both enlightening and encouraging. There are others I’ve forgotten and others yet to come, but these are a few that come to mind.

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      Robert Stroud July 20, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

      I’ve never heard of anyone motivated to return to correspondence as the rich literary and ministry tool that it is… due to reading Lewis’ correspondence.

      However, reading his letters in those outstanding volumes has an inspiring effect on me as well.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 6:28 am #

    No question…for me it was Nevil SHute’s “Round The Bend”. I was raised by people who came from totalitarian countries and who offered no religious training of any sort, and when I found this book it cracked the shell around my heart and let God in.

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    Melissa Ferguson July 20, 2017 at 6:31 am #

    Anything by Lewis is life changing, but to pick one I’d say The Problem of Pain. It was one of the books I read in a theodicy course in seminary, and it’s safe to say that course and those books changed my way of thinking–even, in a tangled way, what led me to start writing fiction. Lewis had that incredible ability to make just about anything he said or wrote into a quote worth cross-stitching onto a pillow or writing on a sticky note on the fridge, but I do like this one, “When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God LOVES man: not that He has some ‘disinterested,’ because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect,’ is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.”

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      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 7:11 am #

      Melissa, “The Problem Of Pain” is an excellent choice, a terrific book.

      Your comment helped clarify some thoughts about a blog post I am working on, as to why I push myself harder than my illness wants to allow. It’s not masochism that leaves me on the floor after my morning routine – “The Morning Hate” – bleeding, weeping, and incontinent.

      It’s a tip of the hat to God’s love for me, that I try to maintain both health and ability as the darkness grows around me. He cares enough to be here in this night so vast that even sound and love are sometimes swallowed; it is only meet that I care enough to remain upright and switched-on in His Presence.

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        Nan July 20, 2017 at 7:29 am #

        Andrew, you are in my prayers. You sound like such a strong warrior. God bless you.

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          Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 7:37 am #

          Nan, thank you so much. I truly appreciate the prayers, believing that, as Tennyson wrote, thus is the whole world bound ’round the feet of God with golden chains.

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            Melissa Ferguson July 20, 2017 at 11:02 am #

            I don’t know the specifics of your illness, but it sounds like such a battle. I’m so sorry. Though there is only “one to a box” as Tamela reminds us, I pray you will be ever aware of one bigger than the box, the “consuming fire Himself,” as He walks beside you both in this time of pain and the eternal time of joy. Best of luck, as well, in your blog post!

            • Avatar
              Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

              Melissa, a few years back a surgery went bad and damaged my pancreas. I was told that my unavoidable fate was pancreatic cancer, if an acute attack of pancreatitis didn’t ill me first, and, well, here we are. I was told it would be an extremely unpleasant process; it is.

              I wa also told that I would be dead four years ago, and my doctor is a bit nonplussed.

              However…it has been an unalloyed blessing. I was conditioned in a previous career to make my own luck in staying alive, and this can be given full rein; there’s nothing to lose.

              And in deciding to talk about it, the good the bad and the exceedingly ugly, I’ve had to become…er…’vulnerable’. Hard word for someone like me! But I’ve let people into my life and into my heart, people I’ll never meet, and have learned this:

              The bridge across the abyss is a human chain, joined and made one by linked arms and hearts, through which the infinite tensile strength of God’s love can flow.

              I would not have missed this for the world.

  15. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson July 20, 2017 at 6:33 am #

    My parents showed their love of reading by taking me to the local library and by sharing their love of books with me. Although I loved reading as soon as I could pick up a book, one of the most memorable books from my teen years is “Beauty for Ashes” by Grace Livingston Hill. As soon as I read that book, I wanted to read more by the author and started collecting all her books. That story and author is still very special to me.

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    Terry Whalin July 20, 2017 at 7:04 am #


    The book that changed my life is Jesus the Revolutionary by H.S. Vigeveno (Regal Books, 1966). I have an old yellowed copy of this out of print book. It showed me a side of Jesus that I did not know and shortly after that I committed my life to Christ in 1972. I’ve been walking the Jesus trail ever since. I know first hand the power of books to change lives because a book changed my life. You can read the details in an article I wrote years ago called Two Words That Changed My Life at: http://terrylinks.com/twowords

    Thanks for letting me tell others about the power of the printed page.


  17. Avatar
    Cindy Fowell July 20, 2017 at 7:16 am #

    Something More by Catherine Marshall. Or maybe her book Julie. Both made me stop, think, pray, and changed my life. Truthfully everyone of Catherine’s books had an impact on me as a teen. She was not afraid to tackle issues of her day and seek God’s solutions. As I think back I also realize her style of writing inspired me as well.

  18. Avatar
    Jeanine Lunsford July 20, 2017 at 7:33 am #

    “Combat Faith” by Hal Lindsey. As a new convert, the Lord used this book to help me to better understand the life of faith that He had just opened the door for me to walk in.

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    Norma Brumbaugh July 20, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    “When the Pieces Don’t Fit” by Glaphre opened my eyes to living the spiritual in a more fluid way. “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard helped me perceive how to make my way through a major crisis. I loved reading others’ comments.

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    Deb July 20, 2017 at 8:55 am #

    “Atlas Shruggec” by Ayn Rand. Although written in the 40s, the book is still relevant today. I learned the differences between looking out for the poor and unfortunate and looking out for leeches. And to give credit where credit is due.

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      Edward Lane July 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

      That is a great book. It was fascinating to me because the characters were all symbolic of capitalism or socialism. Neither seen an author do such a creative job with characters to illustrate economic and social systems.

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    LoRee Peery July 20, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    I’m usually a lurker, but this post invited me to read the comments. As a child, I attended a one-room country school in Nebraska. I devoured the antique books shelved in that room. The Pollyanna series by Eleanor H. Porter impacted my attitude toward life. Some of you may remember the movie starring Jane Wyman and Hayley Mills, with Agnes Moorehead playing a pivotal part. (I found prisms from an old chandelier and strung them so the sunlight hit them for my children and grandchildren.) Pollyanna’s optimism and will to look for the good in anything that touched her life challenged me to do the same.

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    Janet Ann Collins July 20, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. I read it while in High School. I’d gone to Sunday School all my life and been confirmed the previous year, but that book made Christianity real to me for the first time.

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    Robin E. Mason July 20, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    God’s Creative Power by Charles Capps – because in the back he give several “Pre-Scriptures” to say / confess over our lives. started that nearly 30 years ago and it has transformed me!! Romans 12:2

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    Deborah Humphreys July 20, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    The Papa Prayer by Larry Crabb. If you had asked me about my prayer life before reading the book I would have said, “It is personal, consistent, and real.”

    After reading the book my whole walk with the Father, Papa, changed. Ask me now and I will tell you my prayer life is intimate; I have learned to listen and there is sometimes even laughter in this personal journey with the Master.

    I must comment too on Lewis’ Problem With Pain. What a privilege to find such a book to read and discuss with my mother just before she passed away. It astounded me, this argument Lewis presents where pain itself proves the Presence of our God.

    I really want to list others…because there seems to be a powerful book for every twist along lif’e journey.

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    Edward Lane July 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    I agree Peretti’s books were influential. However, in a strange way The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was powerful to me. It proved dialogue can pretty much carry a great novel. While that book was of course secular and in now way Christian I’d think the same principle applies to most genres.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Could I toss in a TV show that currently is changing me? It’s “This Is Us”, and my wife says that through it I’m learning that the world is not only made up of people like me, dudes who never fully returned from that last deployment. Though Barbara is perfectly capable of tongue-in-cheek humour, she was quite serious.

    However, questions remain:
    – Why are none of the characters ever armed?
    – Why are there no Pit Bulls lounging on the sofas?
    – Most important…why do none of the characters go to church?

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    Deb Santefort July 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    Brene Brown’s DARING GREATLY was a great inspiration to me while I was seeking the courage I needed to share my manuscript. I recommend it to everyone reading this blog!

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    Laura Yarborough July 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy had the most memorable impact on my life. My husband gave it to me in the months before out marriage. I was a new RN, working the night shift in a hospital. I remember reading it on my break at 3 AM, alone in the half-lit cafeteria. It was as if in that half light I first saw God clearly. I saw not the one dimensional God I carried in my mind but, a multifaceted, infinitely complex and whole God.

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    Marti Pieper July 20, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Great question, Tamela! “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby with Claude King changed my life because it presented scriptural truth in a fresh, clear and practical way. My husband and I studied it during his first pastorate, then took our church through it. The core value of “Watch where God is working and join Him” not only changed our ministry back then (in the early 1990s) but still affects the way we view life today.

    • Avatar
      John de Sousa July 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      Love that book!! I’ve given away more copies than I can remember!

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    Rebekah Love Dorris July 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    So hard to pick, like choosing a best friend at the exclusion of all others. For my best friend’s sake, though, I’d have to say “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn. Though it’s not a marriage book, it’s revolutionized mine.

    It’s helped me understand my husband by showing me how men think.

    It’s also informed my writing as well as enriched every other guy relationship in my life, including with my brothers, sons, and dad.

    So many books have profoundly impacted my life, but there’s no other humanly authored book I find myself referring to so often. I’m so thankful for this author who was so determined to make her male characters realistic that she’d go to such lengths.

    Also, the book she conducted the research for, “The Lights of Tenth Street,” is incredible. Just incredible. Though I don’t want my children stumbling across it yet. 🙂

  31. Avatar
    Judith Robl July 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    The book that changed my life was a gift from my godfather on my twelfth birthday. It was a scrapbook that he had lovingly compiled of truths and morals and poetry (some his – some by other poets).

    It begins with his poem:

    You’re twelve years old today, dear,
    And I’m past seventy-three.
    It’s back to back we’re dreaming
    But it’s different things we see.

    And it goes on to describe my looking at life “at its borning best” and his looking “beyond the sunset”.

    It is two-thirds of who I am today.
    But it’s not a published title – and never will be.

    Secondarily, Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God springs immediately to mind. Being attuned to His presence at all times, in all places, and all situations makes life bearable when things would make it unbearable.

  32. Avatar
    Robert Stroud July 20, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    Out of the Silent Planet.

    Because it introduced me, during my college years, to C.S. Lewis. And Lewis would, through a wide range of his works, influence my spiritual life more profoundly than any other single person.

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      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 20, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

      Robert, for what it may be worth, I think ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ is the best work of science fiction out there, bar none.

  33. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray July 21, 2017 at 4:31 am #

    You have no idea how much I have enjoyed seeing this wonderful discussion! I am inspired to revisit beloved titles and investigate a few that are new to me. Thank you all so much for being the reason this agency blog is such a great place to be!

  34. Avatar
    L K Simonds July 21, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    “The Key to Everything” by Jack Hayford. The book helped me believe that giving, most especially forgiving, is the key to everything. That changed my life, and keeps changing it, for the better.

    It sounds trite, I know, but “To Kill A Mockingbird” most affected my awareness of the world around me. When I read that book as a child, I was oblivious to the context in which it was written – the times I lived in but did not comprehend – yet I loved the story of Scout’s escapades with Jem and Dill, and Boo. When I read the novel as an adult, it had an entirely different meaning. That’s when I understood what fiction could do. That knowledge influenced me as a reader and a writer. I’ve read everything I could find on Harper Lee to help me understand how she produced that book, and why just the one. I even have a handwritten note from her, a treasure I keep in a re-issued first edition given to me by a friend who loved the book as I do.

  35. Avatar
    Rebekah Millet July 21, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. That book forever opened my eyes to what’s waiting for me and eased my fear of death.

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    Joey Rudder July 21, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    “Home Another Way” by Christa Parrish. It changed the way I look at writing; the deeper the pain, the more flaws the character has, the greater the rescue from God.

    Just the way I want to write. 🙂


  1. Which Books Changed Your Life? - Nadine Brandes - August 2, 2017

    […] couple weeks ago, Tamela Hancock Murray blogged about Besides the Bible, What Book Changed Your Life? — a blog inspired by Steve Laube’s keynote speeches. I loved the idea of  learning […]

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