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,

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,

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,

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,


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

44 Responses to The Book That Changed My Life

  1. Nancy Massand November 7, 2018 at 5:20 am #

    The City of Ladies by Christine di Pisan. A beacon lighting a path for scholarly women through the centuries

    • Bob Hostetler November 7, 2018 at 5:50 am #

      That’s a new one on me, Nancy. I looked it up. Fascinating!

  2. Karen whiting November 7, 2018 at 5:37 am #

    BeverkyCkeary’s daughter was my younger daughter’s first grade teacher and her books were favorites of my children

    • Bob Hostetler November 7, 2018 at 5:51 am #

      Karen, even your kids lead amazing lives. 🙂

  3. Catherine November 7, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    Beautiful, powerful post. The unspoken message—as writers, we have this tool in our hands, literally and figuratively, to reach hearts for Christ, to bring insight and revelation, to even change the course of a life.

    • Bob Hostetler November 7, 2018 at 7:21 am #

      True dat, Catherine. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Loretta Eidson November 7, 2018 at 7:15 am #

    Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom had me laughing and crying at the same time. It’s a powerful story about a college professor and one of his students. The student promises to stay in touch, but life happened and the student lost contact until sixteen years later. The professor’s days were numbered, so the student promised to visit every Tuesday. Here’s a quote from the book: “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

    • Bob Hostetler November 7, 2018 at 7:22 am #

      Yes, Loretta, that one is a gem.

    • Damon J. Gray November 7, 2018 at 10:37 am #

      Oh, yes! I also enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie. I also enjoyed Mitch’s “Have a Little Faith.”

  5. Rebekah Love Dorris November 7, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only changed all my notions about how men think by providing honest male responses to questions they apparently think we women know (but we don’t). It’s helped me as a wife, mom of boys, daughter, sister, friend, and as a writer.

    And another book that’s helped me both personally and as a writer is The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman. So good.

  6. Robin Patchen November 7, 2018 at 7:21 am #

    There are so many, but “Families Where Grace is in Place” by Jeff VanVonderen really sticks out. When I was a young mother, this book challenged me to focus not on how my children and my family look on the outside but on who we are on the inside. In our upper-middle-class town where (it seemed to me) all the kids wore matching designer clothes to church every Sunday and behaved like perfect little angels, that was a challenge indeed.

  7. Joanna M Wilson November 7, 2018 at 7:30 am #

    Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird” trilogy (Bethany House versions) started me on actively creating and writing stories when I read them at age… 12?

    John Townsend’s “Loving People” gave me the all-important piece of the puzzle I was missing with human relationships up to that point. THAT was life changing.

  8. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D November 7, 2018 at 7:32 am #

    Bob, I love Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, because I gave a copy to my 87-year-old father and it, along with David Jeremiah’s [reaching, led him to the Lord at 88. You can’t beat that with a stick!

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2018 at 7:35 am #

    “Round The Bend”, by Nevil Shute. I never thought I would, in a small way, be eerily living a parallel to the protagonist’s life, beholden to people who’ve come to be inspired by my words, and dying along the way.

    One of life’s small ironies; and it shows that God does have a sense of humour.

  10. Tim Shoemaker November 7, 2018 at 7:39 am #

    Oh, Bob … I loved this blog. Really made me think. Thanks for that!

  11. Jay Payleitner November 7, 2018 at 8:14 am #

    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Give it to a boy who doesn’t like to read. And he’ll devour it.

  12. Peter DeHaan November 7, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    This brings back memories! I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle!

  13. Esther Lovejoy November 7, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    This was wonderful and has greatly helped me with my Christmas list. Thank you!

  14. Joyce Erfert November 7, 2018 at 8:34 am #

    I guess you could say I am a bookaholic. (And I hope to never recover!) Everything I have read – except maybe the cozy mysteries I love – have added to my life in big ways and little ways. A book I am reading now is so profound that I may have to read it several times. The only books I have read more than once are the ones I taught as an English teacher (To Kill A Mockingbird; Cry, the Beloved Country; Pride and Prejudice; etc.). This current book is one I think every Christian should read. It is called Unoffendable, by Brant Hansen. It has challenged me in ways that no other book has.

  15. Janet Ann Collins November 7, 2018 at 8:52 am #

    I went to Sunday School and church, believed all the correct things and had been confirmed, but, when I read The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas, Christianity became real to me for the first time. I forgave the bullies who tormented me at school and I was healed from my severe, chronic asthma within a few days. To me, that was a miracle.

  16. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2018 at 9:38 am #

    I wonder if any of you have had this experience, that something you read fundamentally changed you, and you didn’t realize the change until years later, looking back?

    A long time ago I read Richard Collier’s book on the Battle of Britain, and in it was a description of how badly the Luftwaffe’s Stuka squadrons were mauled by the British in the summer skies of 1940.

    Their commander, Wolfram von Richthofen (cousin to the Red Baron of WW1) displayed typical Prussian warmth and compassion, and put up a sign in his headquarters:

    “The last man will go again.”

    When I read it, I probably thought, “Well, HUH!” and moved on. But I realize now that it became the harsh lodestone to my heart, and formed the basis of the faith that today keeps me going through experiences I would not have wanted to imagine.

    When the tears are wrung out, you’re overwhelmed by a gutting fear, and the only prayer you have left is a sob, you’ve still got to cowboy up and face the dawn.

    • Damon J. Gray November 7, 2018 at 10:30 am #

      Brother, you are such an inspiration.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2018 at 10:38 am #

        Damon, thank you…you’ve brought light to a dark and literally bloody morning.

        • Damon J. Gray November 7, 2018 at 10:51 am #

          I regret, my friend, that we will likely not meet in person this side of Heaven.

          • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 7, 2018 at 10:57 am #

            Me too, Damon. But look for me there, in the middle of the biggest, loudest post-rugby-match party. I’ll be the guy who rode into the party on a horse, and is trying to place his footprints on the ceiling.

  17. Ann Coker November 7, 2018 at 9:56 am #

    As I read Jim Watkins’s edition of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, my commitment to Christ grew deeper. The one book, second to the Bible, for my life-changing direction has been John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Like no other, the pilgrim’s journey depicts all our walks toward the cross and with Christ. That’s why I’ve been writing a journal-type book about Bunyan’s Pilgrim, incorporating all his Scripture references.
    Thanks, Bob, for this addition to your good blogs, and thanks to all those who commented with books of interest. Janet, my mother was an avid reader of Lloyd C. Douglas and I have The Robe and many others of his works.

  18. Damon J. Gray November 7, 2018 at 10:26 am #

    As others noted, I loved the reminder of The Mouse and The Motorcycle. I can still hear the “Pbbbbbb” required to make the cycle go!

    More recently, I was deeply impacted by Wild at Heart, so much so that I bought a dozen copies and gave them away to friends and family. I found it profoundly insightful, a freeing.

    Another one was TrueFaced. Wow! Again, I bought copies and gave them away. That book revolutionized my view of God, grace, and trust.

    More to the classical literature, as a young man, the first books I read that were literally “page-turners” for me, keeping me up till 2 a.m. were the Chronicles of Narnia. That’s where/when I fell in love with books.

  19. Damon J. Gray November 7, 2018 at 10:28 am #

    Oh! Let me give you another one: The Valley of Vision.

    It is a book of Puritan prayers. Gut-wrenching stuff!

  20. Barbara Ellin Fox November 7, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    Definitely The Little Engine That Could. I remember my mother reading it to me. I bought it for my children and then my granddaughter. I think I feel a need to reread it!


  21. Kay DiBianca November 7, 2018 at 11:48 am #

    You mentioned two books that I would have chosen as being life changing for me:

    “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. In the midst of the horror of a concentration camp, he explained that it doesn’t matter what we expect from life, but what life expects from us. Our response to life must not be to complain about our circumstances, but to live and act righteously.

    The other book was “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis. I was just on page one when I was seriously humbled by his message.

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m adding the other books mentioned here to my reading list.

  22. Roberta Sarver November 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm #

    The one book that changed my life and challenged me most was Elisabeth Elliot’s Shadow of the Almighty. After coming across that one, I read nearly everything else she wrote. I loved her ability to see beyond the obvious and take the reader beyond the ordinary. I believe Elisabeth Elliot wrote as a catharsis to her grief, and yes, it works that way for most of us, no doubt.

  23. Cindy Sproles November 7, 2018 at 3:40 pm #

    Love Does by Bob Goff touched my heart. But a tiny novel by James Bryan Smith, entitled Room of Marvels brought me to tears. A novel that is actually a balm for the spirit. For anyone who has ever lost someone special…this book heals the heart.

  24. Lois Keffer November 7, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

    A zinger of a post, Brother Hostetler. Both a reading list and a gift list. I’d add Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion trilogy to The Narnia Chronicles and Mere Christianity listed above. How about asking for the most life-changing children’s books? Though several have been mentioned here, I’d appreciate even more options for our grandkids.

    • Jennifer Mugrage November 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm #

      Life-changing children’s books?
      Two by R.C. Sproul:
      The Priest with Dirty Clothes and The Prince’s Poison Cup.

      Also, any book by Patricia St. John, but especially Treasures of the Snow.

  25. Jennifer Mugrage November 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm #

    With many others here, I would say that nearly every month, certainly every year, I read a book that changes my life in one way or another. But here are some biggies from the past …

    “‘Til We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. I can’t explain this one; you just have to read it. It is so deep and there is so much there. Who knew that the myth of Cupid and Psyche could be such a good allegory for the Christian life?

    “Pillars of the Earth,” by Ken Follett, made me cry with its graphic description of an assault and enabled me to start truly empathizing with women who had been through this in real life. Thanks, Ken Follett. I have no interest in your other work, but this one unintentionally helped me.

    “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard gave me such a vivid sense of God, such a hunger to read through the Gospels. Also, it’s just really well-written, with many laugh out loud lines.

    “Why Does He DO That?” by Lundy Bancroft opened a door to the inner dynamics of abusive marriages and clarified my thinking about this issue. That is important because abusive husbands deliberately sow doubt and confusion.

    “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” I did not ‘get’ it when I was younger, except as an adventure story. But as a middle-aged person who had recently been locked up, with a loved one, by Giant Despair, I found the allegory so spot-on that it’s difficult to read aloud without tears. The tears really annoy my kids when I am trying to read them the illustrated version.

  26. Tisha Martin November 7, 2018 at 10:18 pm #

    The Gospel in Bonds by Georgi Vins changed my life because when Pastor Vins was sentenced to the Siberian labor camps he carved out a space in the heel of his shoe to hide the tiniest Bible. And that’s what kept him going during his time in the camps.

  27. Debra Torres November 8, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    Neil Anderson’s “The Bondage Breaker” was a life saver for me. Through this book I gained a greater understanding of who I am in Christ and what His work on the cross actually did for me. I am living a life of greater freedom because of Anderson’s willingness to put God’s truth into this book. I am forever grateful.

  28. L. K. Simonds November 8, 2018 at 8:09 am #

    I’m a day late, but….

    When I was a young Christian, “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard, and “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. More recently – in the past 15 to 20 years – “The Key to Everything” by Jack Hayford, and “Conquering the Spirit of Offense” by Carolyn Savelle. These last two shuffled my spiritual priorities.

    Funny the timing of this topic. Just yesterday, I began reading a marvelous book, “Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Creative Process” edited by Joe Fassler. This is a compilations from The Atlantic’s “By Heart” series, in which writers talk about brief lines that have influenced them. Just got started, but it promises to be a great read.

    • Jennifer Mugrage November 8, 2018 at 11:43 am #

      I just finished reading The Hiding Place for the second time … this time to my kids! It is truly amazing, but the surprise is the many laugh-out-loud moments, especially when the ten Boom family are at home in the Beje. I can’t wait to meet them in heaven!

      THP is also inspiring and convicting in these times when Christians are increasingly the target of ridiculous slanders. I get upset when people call me racist. Then I look at Betsie who was so concerned for the rehabilitation of the people who were beating her, and realize I have a long way to go.

  29. claire o'sullivan November 9, 2018 at 11:36 pm #


    excellent reminders to read books others have read. Am looking into almost all these books as I post late… by days… technical issues.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship,’ as well as the Diary of Anne Frank, and Viktor Frankl’s ‘Mans Search for Meaning’ have been life-changing in the face of death. I have always been big on WWII and the holocaust and how we as Christians need to act, not hide.

    Brother Lawrence, ‘The Practice of the Presence of Prayer,’ absolutely will light your prayer/praise/in-God’s-presence-always life on fire.

    C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Seriously, I read these when I was 19, and at the time I was agnostic. I remember thinking, ‘if God was like this, I’d be on board.’

    More contemporary, Captivating by Stasi Eldredge (and her husband, John), which is perhaps one of the deepest spiritual warfare non-fiction against humanity that I have ever read.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 10, 2018 at 12:11 am #

      Claire, in my semi-memoir, ‘Travels With The Dude’, I’ve depicted a tank crew of whom three have well-thumbed copies of Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost Of Discipleship”.

      The TC (tank commander) had no idea that his guys were into that.

      Really happened.

      The book may see the light of day. Maybe.

  30. Esther Lovejoy November 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm #

    My Christmas list grows as I read more comments, but I forgot to mention books that have had an impact on my own life. First would have to be “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. I have worn out copies of that and am blessed and challenged each time I read it. Also high on the list would be “Absolute Surrender” (or most anything else) by Andrew Murray. Now if someone will just gift me an Amazon gift card for Christmas…

  31. Marlene W Anderson November 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. Many of the books you listed are ones I have read and on my bookshelf. Many of them I have referred to in my own blogging and speaking. I am anxious to read those on your list I am not familiar with. Thanks again

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