30 Books That Changed Me

I still can’t believe that I’m 30, I understand that it really isn’t that old—it just seems like a real adult age. 29 has been one of the hardest years of my life (but that’s for another time), in so many ways but I’m looking forward to what’s next and a new decade of life. I think I’m probably the world’s most inconsistent blogger but I have managed to do a birthday post for the last few years…if you’re interested you can find them here: 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.

This post was not an easy one for me to figure out but once I decided on books, I knew that was what I had to do. I’m a huge reader, always have been and I read REALLY fast–like I finish most books in one sitting. And in case you somehow missed it, I self-published my first book in November (DON’T WORRY, we’ll get there). So books are big part of who I am.

Let’s start in the most obvious place:

1. The Bible

I wouldn’t be me without having the Bible on this list. It’s the book that literally changes me on a daily basis but that’s what the Bible does, it shows us who we are and who Jesus is. It reminds me everyday that I can’t do things on my own, I need God’s help.

2. American Girl Doll Books

The American Girl Dolls will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m convinced that they sparked my love for history and I devoured the books. I was a huge fan of Molly and the Samantha book where she meets Nelly is one that sticks out in my mind.

3. Mandie and the Secret Tunnel by Lois Gladys Leppard

The Mandie books were another huge part of my childhood. I absolutely loved them and read them multiple times. There was a Mandie play that my friends and I worked on one summer. The Mandie books taught me that I could really love a book series.

4. Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

The Elsie books were ones that I read with my friend, Taylor. The books were about a young girl who was striving to please God in all areas of her life. It’s set in the early 1900’s which is a time period that I really love. I learned a lot about what it meant to live a life that was pleasing to the Lord through these books.

5. Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff

I was in fifth grade when 9/11 happened and it was something that I had wanted to learn more about. This book reads like a novel as it goes through the events of September 11, 2001 and tells so many of the victims’ stories. I highly suggest this book if you’re looking to learn more about 9/11.

6. For Such A Time as This by Lisa Ryan

When I was eighth grade, I led a Bible study with three sixth grade girls and that Bible Study was For Such a Time As This by Lisa Ryan. It’s all about Esther and it’s where my love for this book of the Bible really started. It was a such a fun season and those girls became some of my dearest friends.

7. Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson

My love for gymnastics started in 2004 with Carly Patterson but everything solidified for me in 2008. I was a huge Shawn Johnson fan. I couldn’t read this book fast enough when it came out. I loved learning about Shawn’s life and gymnastics career.

8. Finding My Shine by Nastia Liukin

I’ve read almost all the major gymnasts biographies, especially all the ones by American gymnasts because gymnastics is by far my favorite sport. In 2008, I was the biggest Shawn Johnson fan but now, I’m an even bigger Nastia fan. But this one, it’s my favorite gymnastics autobiography and gives me even more respect for Nastia.

9. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

If you haven’t read this one, you need to add it to your list immediately. This book is based on the book of Hosea and it’s got some hard stuff in it but it’s an incredible story. It reminds me of just how deep God’s love is for me.

10. A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury

I’m a huge Karen Kingsbury fan and this is my favorite of her books. It’s a love story about a bull rider and a barrel racer and it’s so special. It’s one that changed my heart about multiple different things including what it’s like to live with a chronic illness.

11. Do You Think I’m Beautiful by Angela Thomas

One of the biggest questions that women ask is “Do you think I’m beautiful?” and in this book, Angela Thomas talks about how God answers the questions that are the deepest in our soul. It’s one that I’ve read a couple times and always turns me back to scripture and God’s love for me.

12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

I was in college the first time I read Harry Potter. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite but they have all made an impact on how I read and write. JK Rowling can craft a story and it’s just incredible. No matter how many times I read it, I can find something new.

13. The Prophet, the Shepherd, and The Star by Jenny L. Cote

This is my fun advent read, I’ve read it every year for the last several years. It goes from Isaiah to Daniel, all the way to the birth of Jesus. It’s such a great read and helps me keep Christ on my mind as I prepare for Christmas.

14. You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado

I read this one when my parents were going through their divorce and it was super helpful. It has one of my favorite quotes on forgiveness, “When it comes to forgiveness, all of us are beginners. No one owns a secret formula. As long as you are trying to forgive, you are forgiving. It’s when you no longer try that bitterness sets in.” It’s a good read if you’re going through something hard.

15. Fierce by Aly Raisman

Another gymnastics memoir, this time from 2012 and 2016 Olympic Gold medalist, Aly Raisman. Aly is an incredible gymnast and I loved getting to read her story from her perspective. She is fully herself and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the telling the truth. (And for the record, this is my second favorite behind Nastia’s.)

16. The Crown by Keira Cass

I loved the Selection series and America was great, but my love was Eadlyn. She reminds me so much of me and there was a fun twist on how everything shakes out with Eadlyn and her selection.

17. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I read this book with my mom when it came out and it was life-altering for me. It’s one that I still think about and try to live my life by. I’m so grateful for Ann Voskamp and her words.

18. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

When I got into the Enneagram, this one was my guide. It helped me not only type myself but understand so much about the people in my life.

19. Between Heaven and the Real World by Stephen Curtis Chapman

I love biographies, in case you can’t tell and this one was powerful. I’ve been a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman my whole life and getting to read his story marked me in some powerful ways.

20. What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada

Now it might seem a little strange for a children’s book to be on this list but this one is a great one. It’s all about how an idea changes the world. It’s become my go-to for baby gifts.

21. Remember God by Annie F Downs

This Book. I don’t know if I even have all the right words for how it’s impacted me and how I view my singleness and God’s kindness. I cannot listen to “Reckless Love” without crying thanks to this book.

22. Just One Thing by Anna Schaeffer

I know you might be wondering why I picked Anna’s second book over the first one but this is one that I read first and it definitely helped solidify our friendship. This book is one that I will always hold dear to my heart.

23. Wonder by RJ Palacio

I watched the movie first but when I was toying around with the idea of a multi-narrator story I read this book because it is told mostly through August’s perspective but you get a few chapters from other characters. This story is one about family, friendship, and being kind. August has all kinds of medical issues and looks different from most people but it’s about accepting others for who they are.

24. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I’ve really made an effort over the last few years to read books with main characters who don’t look like me and this was one of the first ones that I read. Emoni is black and Puerto Rican and loves to cook, part of the story even happens in Spain!

25. Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

Annie F Downs had Charles Martin on her podcast and they talked all about this book which is a re-telling of the prodigal son that is so so powerful. I checked it out from the library and was not even off the first page when I knew my stepdad had to read it because of how much he loves music. It’s incredible story and one that I cannot recommend enough.

26. You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

(and The Beholder by Anna Bright)

I know, I cheated but without The Beholder I wouldn’t have found about You’d Be Mine so there. My friend, Anna, wrote the Beholder and I wanted to get to see her. I drove up to DC for the weekend for a book event at the bookstore where she works. It was a Romance Roundtable with three other authors and one of those was Erin Hahn so I checked out You’d Be Mine from the library. I loved loved loved The Beholder and the Boundless and let me tell you, Anna can tell a story, it was so good. Then there’s You’d Be Mine which is about Country singers and it spoke into my soul, I got as mad as ever at Jefferson but I promise, it’s got a good ending.

27. American Royals by Katherine McGee

I randomly stumbled across American Royals on Libby and I cannot begin to tell you how deep my love is for this series. The premise is: What if instead of becoming president George Washington became king? So it’s modern day but instead of a President, America has a royal family with the rest of the government still in tact. It’s told from four different perspectives and I fell in love with Princess Beatrice. It’s a lot of fun and a cool twist on American history.

28. On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

I’ve read all three of Angie Thomas’ books and as masterful as The Hate U Give is, On The Come Up is my favorite. I like the hip hop scene and I absolutely LOVE Bri. I’ve listened to it twice and it’s a good way to get a feel for how the raps are supposed to sound.

29. When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

This book wrecked me. It was healing and it was hard. I cried so hard reading it, not because it was sad but because I have been Cleo. I have experienced friend break-ups. They marked a lot of high school years and this was a good one for me because it healed some of the long broken places in me.

30. Roses by Ruth Anne Crews

The book that I wrote, Roses, changed me in so many ways that I could probably write a whole blog post about it and I might someday. It’s the book that made me a published author and this story has been on my heart since I was in high school. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? There would be no greater birthday gift for me.

What are some books that changed or marked you? I’d love to hear what you enjoy reading!

I’m going to enjoy this glorious Friday and celebrate my birthday in style! Until next time,

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