Reviews

The Book That Changed My Life

Books have changed my life, many times.

The Bible has done so, of course, on an almost daily basis, as it has done for so many others. But, while it tops the list, other books have had huge impacts on me. Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle introduced me to the joy of reading. C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict fueled my teenage spiritual life. Peter Marshall’s sermons in a volume called Mr. Jones Meet the Master shaped my preaching. And the writings of Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, Phyllis Tickle, and Philip Yancey revolutionized my prayer life.

I know I’m not alone. So I asked a few friends to share the books that have changed their lives. Here’s what they said:

Becky Wade’s My Stubborn Heart opened my eyes to contemporary Christian romance and taught me that the subgenre could be funny, relevant, thought-provoking, and sizzling with chemistry (Rebekah Millet, Christian romance author, www.rebekahmillet.com).

Although Safely Home by Randy Alcorn is a work of fiction, the truth it teaches about the lives of persecuted Christians and the eternal impact of our daily choices permanently pierced my heart, affecting my prayer life, writing, and awareness of the earthly cost in the battle for souls (Lori Roeleveld, author of The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter, available now for preorder).

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, sparked my life just this past month (Larry Fowler, serial entrepreneur, cancer survivor, former Navy Special Forces operator).

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis has been a consistent “best-seller” for nearly 600 years (second only to the Bible). And for good reason. It’s a powerful antidote to the “healthy and wealthy,” “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel of today. I’ve read through this life-changing book at least ten times (Jim Watkins, speaker and author of The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language).

The Little Engine That Could is a book that changed my life. “You won’t succeed,” “it will never work,” and “that’s a dumb idea” were typical notes in a chorus of negative input during my early life, eradicated by the wise inspiration of Watty Piper to pursue life’s passion with unwavering perseverance (Austin W. Boyd, the author who never gave up in his quest to become an astronaut and then wrote about the one who made it in the Mars Hill Classified series).

Anne Frank’s inescapably hopeful The Diary of a Young Girl changed my life and made me realize that I, too, could help to change the world with my words. I read it right at the start of the fourth grade, and I remember being fascinated with the poignant, longing, authentic feel of these writings from a girl not much older than I was, trapped in hiding in a cramped attic for two years during the Nazi regime (Jessica Brodie, author of the novel, The Memory Garden).

Bible Characters of the Old and New Testament by Alexander Whyte changed my life. His incisive analysis of people in the Bible quickly puts each person’s key challenge in a nutshell and then with grace applies the truth of that Biblical text to the reader’s heart. The book blessed me spiritually but also inspired my first book, which was about Bible characters. People who enjoy Spurgeon or other classic Christian writers will especially enjoy Alexander Whyte (Rob Currie, www.robcurrieauthor.com).

Jennie Allen’s Anything found me completely undone on my living room floor. As I sat there for hours on end and read her words, it became evident that I was not living a life completely surrendered to Christ, as I thought I had for years. God used Allen’s book to convict my heart about scripture that changed my perspective on eternity forever—so much so that it transformed everything for me when I decided to pray my own anything (Lauren Eberspacher, author of the upcoming Midnight Lullabies, www.fromblacktoptodirtroad.com).

I experienced one of those giant a-ha moments as I read With You All the Way by Max Lucado to my kids. Tears poured down my cheeks as I read aloud that allegory about three knights and who they chose to travel with them on a quest. Only one knight survived, and only because he chose the King’s son (Jesus) as his traveling companion. The knight (and I) were surrounded by false voices, trying to tell us which way to go. It is only by listening to Jesus, what He says, who He says I am, instead of the false voices that surround me that the knight and I found our way home. The power of story is powerful indeed (Laura L. Smith, laurasmithauthor.com).

 

What about you? What is the book (or books) that changed your life?

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Fakespot

As a reader, I enjoy perusing book reviews. I usually start my assessment of a book by reading one-star reviews to see the worst the reviewers think. One-star reviews will tell me the book’s pitfalls and problems, and are less predictable than glowing reviews. I do read across the star …

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Writers love words. That’s a good thing. But when we become attached to our own words, that’s a bad thing. I see it often in meeting with writers and offering critiques at writers’ conferences. The writer will hand me a piece of his or her work, “to see what you …

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Speaking from an agent’s perspective…
I have more conversations with clients about their feelings of anxiety, apprehension or insecurity than almost any other topic. Almost every writer I have ever worked with as an editor or an agent severely doubts themselves at some point in the process.

Doubts occur in the midst of creation.
Doubts occur when the disappointing royalty statement arrives.
Doubts occur … just because…

It is the curse of the writer. Writing is an introspective process done in a cave…alone. It is natural to have the demons of insecurity whisper their lies. And, in a cave, the whispers echo and build into a cacophony of irrepressible noise.

Once I had an author with dozens of titles in print and over three million books sold turn to me and say with a somber voice, “Do I have anything left to say? Does anyone care?” I didn’t quite know how to reply so tentatively said, “Well, I like it!” The author responded with a grump, “But you are paid to like it.” After we laughed, we agreed that this lack of confidence would pass and ultimately was very normal.

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How to Post a Negative Review

Posting a negative review is not the same as trashing a book. Sometimes you really are doing a service to let prospective readers know the book in question may not be right for them. Here are a few tips:

Be sure you rarely post a negative review. If you make a habit of posting bad reviews, you’ll be known as a grump who hates everything and your words will lose their power.

Approach from a position of authority. Why should prospective readers value your opinion? Examples might be that you are the president of an historical society, a professor, or hold some other position that shows readers when you say a book contains inaccuracies, you probably know what you are talking about.

Address problems with the book itself, not your perceptions of the author’s shortcomings as a person. The author may be dead wrong, but approaching the book dispassionately will gain you more respect in the reading community than simply blasting the author.

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Avoid Trashing a Book Online

When I’m thinking of buying a book, I do read the one-star reviews. There. I admitted it. But would I write one? No, and here are three reasons why:

The author is not a moneymaking machine, but a human. A mean reviewer won’t see the fallout of posting a nasty review, but writers cry, get angry, sulk and fall into depressions over one-star reviews. It’s not fair to use the Internet to vent at a target you think is safe because you are in a bad mood that day or just angry in general. I know I’m preaching to the proverbial choir because I don’t sense angry dispositions among our regular blog readers, but we’ve all seen reviews from people who need a chill pill. If a book happens to hit all your HATE IT buttons, take your chill pill before bequeathing a one-star review. Wait a day or two before spouting off. Or better yet, don’t.

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