6 Books That Changed My Life

January 30, 2019

6 Books That Changed My Life

Growing up, I was the sensitive, bookish type (anyone know what movie I’m referencing?) and at one point, averaged reading 1-2 books a week. These days, I don’t read nearly as much, but reading more, if even just listening to an audiobook while I edit photos on the computer or walk the dog or make dinner is an intention of mine for 2019.

While I have an exponentially growing list of books that people have recommended to me or are in Oprah’s Book Club or just plain ol’ looked good because of cool cover art (don’t tell me you don’t judge a book by its cover), reading more might be the oldest New Year’s Resolution known to mankind. Here are 6 books that made a significant impact on my life. (View the video version here.)

I tend to read books in the genres of fiction, memoir, and self-help, so these books all fall in one of those categories.

1. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Sometimes motivational self-help books are too numbers-based, dry, and cliche for my liking. What I love about this book is that Jen Sincero writes from a place of optimistic cynicism that really resonates with me. She touches on pseudoscientific topics like the Law of Attraction, the subconscious and Louise Hay’s mind-body connection philosophy without getting too out there and includes a bunch of inspirational stuff without getting too corny. You know when you read a piece of literature and think to yourself, “This author seems like a really cool person to hang out with?” That’s Jen. She has a dry sassy sarcasm that I identify with and offers practical, digestible advice on how you can get out of your head and start manifesting some of the amazing stuff you want to happen. There’s a chapter called Loincloth Man and another one called “Lead With Your Crotch,” so if that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Jen’s since written two other books, You Are a Badass at Making Money and You Are a Badass Every Day, but I have yet to read them. They’re on my list for 2019 though!

2. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Even though technically The 5 Love Languages is geared towards romantic relationships, the book contains advice that can be applied to any relationship. Gary Chapman says that “Each of us has a primary love language.” Our primary love language is the way we most frequently express and like to receive love. The five love language are “words of affirmation” “gifts,” “acts of service,” “quality time,” and “physical touch.” Just like you won’t get too far if you try speaking Italian to someone who only knows Punjabi, challenges and misunderstandings often arise in relationships because people aren’t communicating in their same love language. The key is not to convert others to our love language, but to learn to speak the love language of the other person. This book helped me understand the main reason why some relationships don’t work despite honorable attempts at honest and heartfelt communication.

3. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is a lawyer turned author-blogger-podcaster-speaker who studies human personalities and ways to harness habits to make your life happier. She developed the Four Tendencies framework which breaks up the way humans respond to expectations into four groups, or tendencies. It’s very similar to the premise of The 5 Love Languages. “Upholders” respond readily to outer and inner expectations equally. “Questioners” will meet an expectation if it makes sense to them. “Obligers” readily meet outer expectations, but have trouble meeting inner expectations, and “Rebels” resist outer and inner expectations.

6 Books That Changed My Life

I’m an very analytical person, but I also like complex things, like human personalities simplified into layman’s terms, and being the narcissist I am, I love learning things about my personality, so I naturally devoured this book. Now, when talking to others, I’ll try to pick up on keywords they say that clue me into what Tendency they are. Knowing our own Tendency and those of others helps us to devise tactics and set up situations for us to change our habits, achieve our goals, and better engage with people around us. If you’re curious as to what tendency you are, you can take Gretchen’s free Four Tendencies quiz here.

Honorable mentions also written by Gretchen Rubin include The Happiness Project, which is probably Gretchen’s most notable book, and Better Than Before. The Happiness Project is Gretchen’s memoir about her own happiness journey and Better Than Before talks about mastering habit change and is the premise of the Four Tendencies framework. She also has a podcast called Happier which is one of my favorites.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

You know when you pick up a book on a whim with little plan or expectation and it somehow becomes one of the best books you’ve ever read? I won a signed copy of The Glass Castle from my local library when I was in 5th grade. I had never heard of the book, but as I mentioned before, I averaged reading about 1-2 books a week, so when you blow through books at that fast a speed, you start to get less picky and read anything that lands in your lap. Before this book, I’d read more of your typical young adult fiction, like The Princess Diaries, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and every book by Sarah Dessen, but this book turned me on to memoirs — especially memoirs by people with dysfunctional upbringings. Jeannette wrote this book from a place of such candid honesty and vulnerability, it gave me goosebumps. I specifically remember being so obsessed with reading this book, I made my mom blow dry my hair so I didn’t have to take a reading break to perform such a monotonous task. If you like memoirs, and even if you don’t like memoirs, if you like reading about people’s dysfunctional childhoods, perverted family lives, and a good story about how someone broke out of the cycle, read this book.

5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Back in my early blogging days, years before the conception of Pinterest, when I’d spend hours posting Chuck Palahniuk quotes and overly Photoshopped pictures on Tumblr, I came across a most hauntingly beautiful quote from this book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close written by this guy named Jonathan Safran Foer. I don’t remember checking this book out from the library, but I do remember staying up until 2 am every night until I finished all 368 pages in a week. The novel is a mystery centered around the real life event of 9-11 and is written from the perspective of a nine-year-old boy. It’s a coming-of-age story written in a nostalgic, idealistic way that reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It has some of my favorite, most wistfully romantic quotes I’ve ever read that bring me to my literary knees basking in their complete and utter delightful dreaminess and make me never want to even attempt to write something remotely thoughtfully profound.

6. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

This is one of the few books I read in school that I actually enjoyed. I read it in 7th grade when I was obsessed with my English teacher and romanticized about being an English teacher or author myself. The book is a memoir written in vignettes about Sandra’s life growing up as a minority in Chicago. It is written in a sentimental, naive style that is pure poetry and reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and The Outsiders, so if you liked any of those books, chances are, you’ll like The House on Mango Street too. I feel like this book often slips past people’s radars, but I’m glad that it hasn’t been overly commoditized because it still has the specialness of a hidden gem. The fact that the book itself is short and written in vignettes makes it a fast read you can probably get through in a few days.

It’s amazing how a book can transport you to another universe for a few days or weeks and then leave you with a twinge of sadness when you finish it. What are some of your favorite books? I’m always on the hunt to add to my growing list of books to read!

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