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Books That Changed My Life

Books That Changed My Life

Now that’s a lofty title — “Books that changed my life” — and maybe it’s overstating a teeny tiny tad, but these books definitely left an impact on me that I’m hard pressed to repeat with any other books I’ve read to date.

Each of these soul-impressing reads gave me that “don’t end now!” feeling that left me a little more empty for another book as excellent to fill the void. And although dozens of beautiful heart-smacking opuses speckle my bookshelf, I will start with these four:

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

I remember when my best friend’s boyfriend gave this to her to read one summer vacation and I thought he was the biggest poseur in the whole entire universe. Until I read it. A little dense, uplifting and depressing all in one, and inspiring most of all, The Fountainhead made me want to live life my way, no matter who asks you to conform or modify yourself to his or her liking. Telling the story of ’20s architect Howard Roark, a man who refused to compromise his art and vision to please the public, The Fountainhead is a testament to independent thinking. It’s my muse even today.

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz.

Did you know that Captain Cook left his mark on nearly every land mass in the Pacific? As a British explorer who mapped much of then-uncharted New Zealand, Hawaii, and more, Cook left his legacy on the landmarks and cultures on countless Pacific islands. Both a biography and a travel adventure, Blue Latitudes goes to show how big (and small) the world can be to a sailor. Full of rollicking tales, personal glimpses into Cook’s motivation, and sometimes angry fallout from the islanders who felt displaced by Cook’s explorations, this book is a must-read for anyone who loves maritime history or wants insight into how “outsiders” impact indigenous populations.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

This book is absolutely a life-changer. An account of Frankl’s harrowing years in concentration camps, the book goes on to explain how humans find significance in life. As Frankl remembers his internment at Auschwitz he explains how it felt to be completely dehumanized, made to be a number, and wonder if everyone you ever loved were dead. During these times, he also explains how the men in his camp reacted to their dire circumstances — some became heroes, some walking corpses, and some worse than their captors. All man really wants, Frankl proposes, is to find meaning and purpose, and how what we become when all else is stripped away is who we are. There’s really no more I can add. It’s that simple – and profound.

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

I read this book at the suggestion of a peace-loving, political activist friend who assured me it would shake my world. And so it did. As I wrote then after finishing the book in a hours-long reading marathon:

If you’ve ever wondered why our culture associates success with material growth, why we all seem to need someone to tell us how to live, or why we so often treat the planet as our possession, when we know that treatment creates consequences we can’t control (i.e. that our planet can’t in the long term sustain what we take from it (and do to it), then I suggest you read ‘Ishmael.'”

“This book is fiction, but it can change your world view (or even your life, dare I say), if you let it. It completely reframes our reasons for existing and our origins. It explains where we’re headed if we don’t start living more responsibly and respectfully.”

“I don’t think everyone will respond to it or are ready to read it. Maybe you have to be older, more disillusioned, or more sensitive than you are now, though I don’t think that’s it. I think you have to strongly feel as though something needs changing in your life or in the world. I think you have to feel that politicians and those who run the world don’t really get it. Or, feel as those there is a larger “something” at play in our culture that we’re all not getting.”

“Read a chapter or two and see if it’s for you.”

I stand by all those words, still, for all these books I’ve loved and beat to my chest in unadulterated passion for having got me, changed me, moved me in ways I’ll never once forget.


– Debbie

Freelance writer and editor, Debbie Anderson, has two young daughters, one husband, and half a mind. She also hates cliches, but uses them often to save time. Twitter: @SanDiegoMomma

Disclosure: On occasion, contributors of The Trend Tribe receive products, compensation and/or services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not influence the contributor’s point of view or the outcome of the review. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect the reviewers experience. The opinions are their own. Photos credits: unknown .
Debbie (6 Posts)

Debbie Anderson is a 42-year-old freelance writer and editor who blogs at her slice-of-life site, She has two young daughters, one husband, and half a mind. She also hates cliches, but uses them often to save time. Twitter: @SanDiegoMomma

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