5 Books That Are Changing My Life

One of the side benefits of taking a break from the online world has been reclaiming time to read old-fashioned books. The towering pile of half-finished paperbacks on my bedside table had been getting dusty, but I rescued part of the stack this summer.

Luke and I snuggled for a moment after watching a distant thunderstorm

It’s rare that I read fiction.  What I love the most are non-fiction books that I think will help me improve myself, my life, or my outlook. I took a few on my two unplugged vacations. Here are the five that made the first cut — the suitcase — and the second cut — sharing with you:

1. Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing

by Roger Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt’s advice about writing well is insightful and even exciting, but this award-winning author and professor parted the clouds and let out the God light when he dared to answer the most profound question for me:  why write?

2. Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person about Sex

by Deborah M. Roffman

I count myself among the many parents who want to guide their children through the confusing process of growing up, but have no idea how. After hearing Debbie talk at our elementary school, I knew she was the one to be my guide.  Instead of the black-and-white “don’t do it” that we use to counter the media’s “just do it,” Debbie helps us provide kids with more realistic guideposts that are based in our own values.

Virginia and Sofia have a quiet moment together

3. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth

by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Even though it was written in 1978, this book is still a wise and comforting roadmap for anyone who believes that it is possible to evolve as a person, a parent, and a partner.  Somehow I got a hold of this book when I was a teenager, and I loved it then like I love it now — especially the parts about discipline and love.  Self-discipline, Peck says, is essential to achieving anything from saving money to being a good spouse.

Peck’s definition of balance helped me understand why it’s so hard: the essence of balancing is “giving up.”  Giving up going farther at work so we can spend more time with our family, giving up staying up late watching TV so we can be well-rested the next day, giving up our lazy time for cleaning so we can have a restful environment.  When we realize what is required of us, I think it’s easier to step up to the plate.  Do you?

4. Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

by Susan Sachs Lipman

This new book, written by fellow blogger Suz Lipman of Slow Family Online, is a wake-up call to anyone whose life has become more about chaos than calm. I’ll be reviewing this gem in a later post, but here is one of my favorite lines from the book:

“Instead of freeing us, technology … has created a culture in which many of us are afraid to unplug, for fear of missing something. It turns out that, instead, what we wind up missing is a life of family connection and joy.”

5. Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

Another older book which is in its third printing, Your Money or Your Life was at the forefront of the voluntary simplicity movement: which some describe as “simple outside, rich inside.”  Powerful stuff in this brave book about how we get caught up in a cycle of trading our life energy for money and our money for possessions.

The authors take people through a nine-step process of getting out of debt, saving money, and finding the peace of “enough.”  There is even a whole section on frugality, which they define as that “elegant fit between our real needs and how we enjoyably and ethically fill those needs.”

Pulling Mark and Luke in the wagon around the farm in Ohio

Thank you for letting me share what not only has been shaping my thoughts this summer, but what is helping me chart a clearer path as I go forward.

Have you been reading this summer? I’d love to hear what books have helped you be a better you.

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  • Carol June 14, 2016, 3:01 pm

    “Your Money or Your Life” changed everything for me. I started to realize I have a finite time left to live my life so I shifted my priorities. I became debt free…have an emergency fund…shop resale…cook at home and grow nice organic veges….and I work full time and I am restoring my 1900 colonial one room at a time…Life is Good!!!!!!!!!!

  • janene@EverydayEO September 21, 2012, 8:08 pm

    Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth–I read it and really could relate to the desire to simplify

    • Amy September 23, 2012, 3:02 pm

      Thank you, Janene, for this recommendation. We have friends who are Mennonites, and I sometimes long for their extremely simple, back-to-nature lifestyle. I will check out this book.


  • Sara Tetreault August 21, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Hi Amy! I’ve read several of the books on your list and am currently reading, “Fed up with Frenzy” and completely agreeing/enjoying it.
    I also read several books this summer about Spain (history, food, non-fiction stuff) and have been on a no reading fiction kick lately – the books are usually too sad and have me crying in bed!
    My daughter just finished, “The Help” and says it’s her most favorite book ever – she’s 13 and has re-read all 7 Harry Potter books for the last several summers so I’m glad she’s expanding her reading repertoire. Don’t get me wrong – I love the HP books but it takes a chunk of time and there are so many other books I want her to read! I am going to read “The Help” even though it is sad but I always read books my kids suggest. Good picks!

    • Amy August 22, 2012, 8:35 pm

      Hi Sara,

      It sounds like we share the same taste in books! That’s so cool that your daughter likes such grown-up books, and the two (or three) of you can bond on that front. I love that.


  • Rebecca August 20, 2012, 1:18 pm

    Thanks so much for recommending these books, they sound really good. I’ll have to check them out. I’m especially intrigued by “Fed Up With Frenzy” – sounds like a great read!

    • Amy August 20, 2012, 1:55 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      Fed Up with Frenzy is a great title to a great book. It really helps us stop, step back, and take a look at where our lives are going. Most of the book is made up of activities that help us slow down and reconnect with our kids, nature, and our interests.

      Let me know what you think!

  • Jo@simplybeingmum August 20, 2012, 9:56 am

    Amy – Thanks so much for this. I am in desperate need to read some good non-fiction. I won’t divulge which book I last read, but let’s just say it didn’t really expand my horizons!
    Looking forward to ‘Road Less Travelled’ as well as Rosenblatt’s book. It will most certainly be intriguing to find out why we do indeed ‘write’.

    • Amy August 20, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Hi Jo,

      Funny about your last book! Sometimes shutting off and escaping is good for our brains too. I bet you will love both of the books you picked out. They are both powerful for me.

      Take care,

      • Jo@simplybeingmum August 21, 2012, 4:21 am

        Accidentally downloaded ‘The Road Less Travelled And Beyond’ not realising this is a newer book by the Author! Oops! Yet am glued already. This is going to be a good read! Thanks again Amy.

        • Amy August 22, 2012, 8:36 pm

          Oh, sorry to hear that Jo! However, it sounds like it might have not been such a bad mistake. I’ve never read the “Beyond” book. I hope you’ll tell me how you like it as you go along.

          Take care,

  • Rachel K August 19, 2012, 10:55 pm

    I recently read “Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms” and absolutely adored it. Lots of excellent, simple tips for how to stop clutter before it starts so you don’t spend your entire life cleaning up after the kids. (Despite the title, it isn’t really specifically Catholic, although it’s definitely Christian–there’s a lot of info about keeping your family’s prayer life on track and whatnot.)

    • Amy August 20, 2012, 1:52 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for the recommendation. Stopping clutter is something we all struggle with, so it sounds helpful already!


  • Clare@doingitsimply August 19, 2012, 7:34 pm

    I’m reading The Road Less Travelled at the moment! It’s such an amazing book :)
    Can’t wait to read Your Money or Your Life. Sounds right up my alley :)
    Thanks for sharing these Amy!

    • Amy August 19, 2012, 8:03 pm

      Hi Clare,

      So funny that you are also reading The Road Less Traveled! I think you will also love Your Money or Your Life. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing, but even if I don’t like anything beyond the intro and first chapter (highly unlikely), I would be satisfied.

      Thanks for writing in, Clare!

  • Victoria@Snailpacetransformations August 19, 2012, 6:26 am

    I read “Your Money or Your Life” over 10 years ago and loved it, it really did change my thinking, it is one of those books I am sorry I sold before we made our big move, I would love to get a copy of it again and reread it since it is one of those books that is good to reread once and a while to remind yourself that you don’t have to get caught up in this consumeristic world to live a great life. In face you can live a better life if you don’t.

    • Amy August 19, 2012, 7:07 am

      Hi Victoria,

      I agree — that book can really open your eyes to a frenetic way of living that we all can get caught up in. No wonder, because that seems to be the cultural norm. You can find used copies of the book easily, and I’m sure the library has it, if you want to read it again. I think it’s a nice touchstone for when things get crazy.

      Take care,