A friend's father-in-law just went into an assisted care home and he frequently complains about being bored. I made the obvious suggestion, "Can you give him some books?"
She replied, "He doesn't read." This was a foreign concept to her, and me.
"I can't imagine not reading," she said. "It would be awful. You would have to live your whole life in the real world. You could never escape to anywhere else."
Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. I escaped into books, both highbrow and trashy, ever since I was a child.
But it wasn't until my early 20s that I turned to reading as a form of personal development. Prior to that, nonfiction was something that teachers assigned, grindingly boring tomes that you read only because you had to, and you forgot right after the test.
Then I read "The Road Less Traveled" and everything changed. For the first time I realized that books aren't always about other people; sometimes they're about me.
Here are seven books that had a transformative effect on my thinking, and thus, my life:
- "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck, MD
Peck's classic stands the test of time. I read it in my 20s, then my 30s, and again my 40s. Each time I gained a deeper understanding of myself, my relationships and where I still needed (and wanted) to grow. If you read it 20 years ago, read it again; you'll be surprised by new insights.
- "Do What You Are" by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron Tieger
Even if you're familiar with Myers-Briggs methodology, this book will help you more concretely understand which aspects of a job will be natural for you and what will be loathsome. It helped me discover that I was born, literally, to help people and organizations find their higher purpose.
- "Nurture by Nature" also by the Tiegers
Applying Myers-Briggs to parenting taught me how to nurture my "different from me" daughter in a way that matched her personality. It transformed what could have been a frustrating experience into the most rewarding (and successful) experience of my life.
- "Getting the Love You Want" by Harville Hendrix
Hendrix's paradigm shifting concepts helped my husband and me shed childhood baggage we didn't even realize we had. The process wasn't easy, but it led us to a much better, more grown-up marriage.
- "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson
An Oprah favorite, this book delivers on its promise by showing you how to use love as a path towards inner peace. It contains Williamson's famous quote, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us."
- "Good to Great" by Jim Collins
Yes, a business book changed my life. Collins' classic remains that standard bearer for great leadership and doing work that matters. The Big Hairy Audacious Goal is a game-changer that can be applied to everything.
- "The Politics of Hope" by Donna Zanjonc
Back in 2004, long before the Audacity of Hope, former Oregon State Representative Donna Zajonc, explained why the two-party war wasn't working, and laid out an inspiring alternative. We're not there by a long shot, but every time I get depressed, I remember her quote, "The declaration of our interdependence will comprise the next phase of our political evolution."
Every one of these books is available online. Happy reading.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of "Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud."