7 Books That Forever Changed How I View Myself

All books change you. Yet some books, some stories, change you in a drastic way. They touch a certain part of you you didn’t know existed, they open streams of thought you didn’t even know you closed. They make you look at the world around you differently, at yourself differently.

In my favorite books, I’ve learned about life, about what it means to be a human, just by sitting down and reading words on a page. I lived a thousand lives and got to be a thousand different people, which, in turn, shaped my own life. In these books, I feel like I get to sit down and have an intimate conversation with the author—listening to everything they say, everything they’ve experienced. After I finish, I walk away a different person.

These are 7 books that have forever changed how I view myself:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is one of the few required readings from high school that I actually enjoyed. Gatsby is a classic for a reason. As you immerse yourself in the jazz age of the 1920s, the mystery of Gatsby’s past, and Nick’s wallflower observations, you see the dysfunction in every character’s life. They hope for something that’s never coming and grasp for something that’s forever out of reach. The whole book made me wonder what I’m seeking after, what I’m yearning for. The idea of repeating the past is a recurring theme, which causes you to wonder where it is you want to rewrite your own past. And the last line, divine: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past…”

Buy The Great Gatsby on Amazon.

Scary Close by Donald Miller

While most of Miller’s work leaves me with something to wrestle with, his latest book is a true game-changer. Focusing on relationships and vulnerability, he discusses his own problems cultivating deep, personal relationships, and how he overcame them. Even further, he talks about mistakes he’s made and how he learned from them. I’m forever thankful for his help in recognizing manipulators in life, and how it enlightened instances when I’ve tried to manipulate those around me. In this book, you’ll learn the way you, personally, go about relationships.

Buy Scary Close on Amazon.

Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie

This novel follows a Nigerian woman’s life as she grew up in Nigeria, moved to America for college, then moves back to Nigeria a few years later. The captivating story is interspersed with blog posts the main character writes about her experiences in America as a non-American black woman. Adichie’s social commentary on race, culture, immigration, family, and what it means to be home is unparalleled among contemporary writers today. You cannot read this book without your mind being opened up to a new way of thinking, without questioning your own set of beliefs, without realizing there is a world out there bigger than you ever knew.

Buy Americanah on Amazon.

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This book is about as unique as they get. A Baptist preacher turned missionary moves his family to the middle of the Belgian Congo. The story is told by each of his four daughters and as the chapters go by, you’ll learn the dynamics of a family falling apart, with a faith falling apart, set against the historical backdrop of a colony falling apart. Kingsolver’s perspective on Western missions is fascinating—you’ll find yourself reexamining your own faith and all the times you thought you were “helping” those around you. It’s a beautiful story of redemption, grace, and truth triumphing over all—and impossible to walk away from without being changed.

Buy Poisonwood Bible on Amazon.

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

As an opinionated, independent woman who grew up in the church, I can safely say this book changed my life. That’s because Bessey proves that we can have a conversation about the church, Christ, and the role of women without yelling, screaming, or condemning each other. Bessey discusses her own struggles, her own questions, looks to scripture, and ultimately looks to Christ. Even if you don’t agree with every word she writes, you’ll have entered into a new conversation about Christianity and feminism.

Buy Jesus Feminist on Amazon.

Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

For the overachievers, the performance driven, and the burnt out, this book is a little piece of heaven meant for you. I grew up in the church and knew the word “grace” from a young age, but Manning showed me I didn’t actually understand the cornerstone of the gospel—the very gospel I’ve based my life on. Sharing from his own painful past, he shows the beauty and the struggle of accepting grace and living by grace. You’ll fall more in love with the Jesus you thought you knew, but will come to find is better than you can comprehend.

Buy Ragamuffin Gospel on Amazon.

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

For those of us who have a hard time saying no, who find ourselves in relationships with overly needy friends, who seem to always be giving more than we are taking, there’s hope. Cloud and Townsend walk through what a person’s life looks like with healthy boundaries. They give basic boundaries everyone should respect, and what life looks like when you start implementing said boundaries. I realized that I had to take responsibility for my over committed, stretched-too-thin, unhealthy life—and I soon found myself in healthy relationships, healthy rhythms, and healthy communication with those around me.

Buy Boundaries on Amazon.