11 books that actually changed my life

books I'm reading books that changed my life reading

Hello. It’s a blizzard-y afternoon! The University closed early today and Hattie went straight down for a nap. I got to work out in the afternoon (amazing!) and now here I am updating the blog. The following is a list of books that actually changed my life. None of them are super recent reads, but all of them had a real and sustaining impact on who I am. It’s amazing how the things we read become a part of us as well as how we understand and interpret the world.

Plato’s Republic

When I was a junior in college, I took a Philosophy class called ‘Thinking about Values.’ We read many different books for this class, but this one sticks out in my mind. The best part is the the allegory of the cave, which symbolizes the impact of education on human nature. Reading this book helped me to realize I wanted career in higher ed instead of religion. I have this book to thank for the life I live today.

Mindful Leadership

I read this book as part as part of a leadership development program when I first started supervising full-time master’s level professionals. Mindful Leadership emphasizes the Buddhist method of mindfulness. It helped me to be more cognizant of the time spent replaying things that are done and over or imagining how things might happen in the future. It also helped me to find peace in allowing things to simply be as they are.

Lake Wobegon Days

Garrison Keillor and I are Facebook friends and we have a peculiar number of life parallels. I like to think he started writing this book the day I was born, which his quite possible given that I came in 1983 and it was published in ’85. Reading it made me feel as if he was a fly on the wall in the house I grew up in. In college, I lived 50 feet away from he Prairie Home Cemetery, the namesake of his world renowned radio show. And we both started our careers on the CSB/SJU campus, not far from the real Lake Wobegon Trail. While my hatred for talk radio runs deep, this book speaks to my heart in a ways no other ever has.

Privilege, Power, and Difference

Privilege, Power, and Difference

I read this book for my Doctoral program. For the first time in my life, I became aware of pervasive systemic oppression in our society. I used to think of discrimination as an individual, one-offed type of problem. This book helped me to see how it’s woven into societal systems in a way that’s cumulative. It also maintains hope, and I appreciate the optimism maintained by the author for a better world over time.

the happiness project

The Happiness Project

Subtitle: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

I read this one on maternity leave. This author researched happiness and spent a year trying out evidence based strategies for a more joyful existence. No book has ever helped me more. Reading it assisted me in letting go of some perfectionist tendencies that I mistakenly thought would lead to feeling happy ‘someday,’ when in fact they made me stressed and upset in the ‘now.’

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover

I read this book during my first year of working full-time. I honestly don’t remember much about it other than the fact it helped me become debt-free within a few years of cracking the cover. Well — here’s one thing I can remember — buying a new car is like opening your driver’s side window and throwing hundred dollar bills out of it once a week for a year. Effective imagery.

Why Zebras don't get Ulcers

Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers

This was the sole textbook for my senior seminar class in Psychology. It opened my eyes the bizarre power of human stress. The human body is largely wired like an animal’s but today’s society doesn’t really fit our natural responses. Further, the stress of circumstances such as poverty, impact creates chronic stress that compounds already difficult circumstances.

Policy Paradox

Policy Paradox

My understanding for the political arena increased exponentially with this book. I was raised by democrats who reside in a pretty red area of Minnesota and I spent spent year in Missouri where I was often assumed to be a Republican, because, isn’t everyone??? No. This book helped me to get a grip on a wide variety of political perspectives, reasoning, and decision-making.

Reframing organizations

Reframing Organizations

The subtext for this book is ‘why smart people so often do stupid things.’ The good news is, it’s not because we’re dumb. It’s actually because human organizations are so peculiar — they are surprising, deceptive, and unpredictable. If you’re a part of any human organizations — be it a local club, company, church or school, you will learn a thing or two from this book, which will prevent you for looking and acting dense.

Blink Malcolm Gladwell


While I love everything Malcolm Gladwell has ever written, this book is my favorite. In my early 20’s, I often ignored my gut instincts, which was a shame, because gut instincts are good. This book instilled in me the value and reliability of intuition. You can and should still think things through, but your gut will likely point you in a reasonable direction.

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods

My mother read this book out loud to me and my sister when I was probably 4 years old. She actually read the whole series that year, with the exclusion of Farmer Boy, which she worried might turn us off for some reason. To this day, I still haven’t read that one, but a ridiculous amount of reading became the norm for me that year, and every year ever since. Thanks Mom.

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