How has reading changed your life?

When asked that question (How has reading changed your life?), I instantaneously think about “The Lighted Heart” by Elizabeth Yates and “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
Those two books have inspired me to write since they were published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But what other books have influenced me during the last 40 years?
Two of Natalie Goldberg’s books come to mind (from the late 1980s and early 1990s), “Writing Down the Bones” and “Wild Mind.”
When I approached my 60th birthday, I began thinking about the last third of my life. As a public relations writer, I knew I wanted to write. But in this part of my life, I could write what I wanted to–possibly a syndicated column.
“Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” was just the inspiration I needed.
Goldberg said the purpose of “Writing Down the Bones” was to give “people permission to think the thoughts that come, and to write them down and make sense of them in any way they wish.”
“Don’t ‘make’ your mind do anything,” she says. “Simply step out of the way and record your thoughts as they roll through you.”
So for three years, I wrote two double-spaced pages a day–without thinking. It was fun and as Goldberg says, writing is “like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”
When I suddenly decided to retire at age 63, I was ready to write. So that’s my answer to the question: How has reading changed your life?
Jack Canfield, co-creator of the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and Gay Hendricks asked this question of 55 notable people.
Then the two authors put these 55 stories together in “You’ve GOT to Read This Book!”
I accidentally ran into this collection when researching Canfield’s book, “The Success Principles.” The title intrigued me so much that I had to “Read This Book!”
The 55 individuals who selected their most inspirational books are leaders in their respective fields. They include actors, politicians, musicians, writers, athletes, psychologists, businessmen, environmentalists, and many others.
They all share the stories behind the books that have changed their lives.
Among the interesting individuals are Wally Amos, founder of the Famous Amos Cookie Company, and Farrah Gray, a young entrepreneur who became a millionaire by age 14.
I was intrigued by the stories from many of my favorite authors, especially Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.”
Hay’s pick was a book published in 1925: “The Game of Life and How to Play It” by Florence Scovel Shinn.
The book begins this way, “Most people consider life a battle–but it is not a battle, it is a game.”
With that book, Hay said, “I formed an understanding of how . . . our mental beliefs affect our physical bodies, and I began to practice and teach what I had learned. It started me in the right direction.”
And reading Hay’s book has done the same for me—helping me see the connection between mental beliefs and physical health.
So how has reading changed your life? What books have created turning points or inspired new ways of thinking?
And more important, what life-changing books would you still like to read?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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