Life Changing books

A lot of books have small influences on your life.  But a few books are useful, powerful, and different enough to change EVERYTHING.

Your Money or Your Life :  See our post on this phenomenal book here.  If you haven’t read it yet, read it!

The Paradox of Choice:  See our post on this book here.


Mindset: some day we will post on this one…


Bogleheads Guide to Investing : This book is awesome because it can save you a ton of money.  How to match the market at the lowest cost, and why that should be your goal.  Simple but powerful.  I am so excited– we sent this to my partner’s father and he’s actually changing his entire investment strategy because of it.  Getting a Vanguard account and everything.  No more calling us to ask about tech stocks (and us saying, uh, we do index funds).  He even said he was thinking of getting a fund with a 4% load that his broker recommended, but now instead he’s going to invest directly through Vanguard himself.  I’m not used to partner’s family changing things based on our advice.


Help!  My apartment has a kitchen! : Saved my ability to eat reasonably priced healthy food on a strict time schedule.  Also Faster! I’m starving! once DC got big enough to need to eat a full-sized meal too.


Taking charge of your fertility :  Gave me a better understanding of how and why I was messed up.  For normal women it will probably just give them a better understanding of themselves.


Our Babies, Ourselves:  Confession-time.  I used to be a scared excrement-less mother.  I was terrified not only that my baby was going to die (though that part was understandable), but that I was going to destroy hir one way or another if I didn’t pay attention to the right research.  This book freed me from all that.  Sure, I still scour pub-med when I hear something and am trying to decide whether or not to apply it, but this book showed me with strong scientific grounding that there are infinite good ways of raising a child and although children may turn out differently they generally don’t turn out better or worse because of it.  It let me relax and listen to my instincts more.  If what I was doing felt right (given I wasn’t abused or neglected as a child myself), it probably was the right thing to do.  Plus all those nights when DC fell asleep on DH’s chest weren’t going to kill anybody (given we’re not obese).


Related:  Diaper Free Before Three.  You don’t have to do Brazleton signs of potty readiness vs. infant training.  There’s a whole scientifically validated times when potty training is easier or harder (in fact, Brazelton’s signs correlate with one of the worse times to try… which may have something to do with the fact that his research was paid for by Pampers).  Kids used to train before age 2, now it is after age 3.  That’s not because we were harming kids before!  This book was freeing not only because of the potty training thing but also because it illustrated the points made in Our Babies, Ourselves with an example concrete to today.

What are books that have changed your life?

28 Responses to “Life Changing books”

  1. feMOMhist Says:

    1. def TCOYF. It should be distributed at puberty
    2. The High Price of Motherhood, should be distributed at conception.
    3. The Frugal Gourmet, bought when I first shacked up in college, taught me to cook beyond that which I already knew

  2. First Gen American Says:

    As I think back, there only has been one book like that for me. Wherever you go, there you are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It made me realize how much of my life was spent on thinking about the future or past and I was missing out on the present. It also made me realize how little control I had over my own thoughts and brain. This was the era when I was hanging with an ex bodyguard to the dalai lama. Anyway, realizing that I could control how and where my mind wandered through practice was life changing..so was living in the present. Your brain is like a muscle. If you don’t train it, it won’t work like you want it to. There was another book in this genre that I loved, but I purged it during my last cleaning phase and I can’t remember the name..now that’s going to drive me nuts for the rest of the day.

    I don’t know why, but I’ve never been compelled to buy or read a PF book.

    • feMOMhist Says:

      I don’t know why, but I’ve never been compelled to buy or read a PF book.

      me either and this post got me wondering why? I did formerly read the FT and Economist, but don’t think those count do they?

    • Cloud Says:

      I really liked Full Catastrophe Living, too! I think I might need to reread that one, actually.

      I am struggling to come up with a life changing book. Maybe Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto, for changing my perspective on my list-writing, plan-making part of my job. People like me aren’t killjoys. We are going to save the world!

  3. TigerMomPhD Says:

    Thanks for the book suggestions. We need to potty train but Little T is already 2.5. She is partially trained at school but won’t go at home – she wants to sit on the potty and goes through the motions but that is it. We haven’t really tried anything yet as we didn’t want to be doing it forever if she wasn’t ready (she is clearly choosing not to versus being physically ready), but I’m getting anxious because she has to be trained before 3 for preschool. Going to look into this book and a few others you suggested.

  4. Grace Says:

    I read Anna Perrot Rose’s circa 1950 book “Room For One More” when I was in sixth grade. It made me determined to adopt children when I grew up. Now I’m 62 and my five adopted daughters are all adults. I guess you could say that book changed my life. “Your Money or Your Life” was also an eye-opener for me. In college, I learned to cook (sort of) from “Saucepans and the Single Girl” by Jinx Kragan and someone else whose name I have spaced. It was reissued a couple of years ago, and the recipes (updated) are still pretty good. Finally, the 20 Orbit short story collections edited by Damon Knight (nine of which I read back to back to back one summer) convinced me to love and to write science fiction, for which I will always be grateful.

    Orbit 9
    by Damon Knight
    Powells.com
    Orbit 13
    by Damon Knight
    Powells.com
  5. bogart Says:

    Hands down, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s Mother Nature: Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection. Not only does it debunk the silly sexist pop-culture (forgive my redundancy) evolutionary diatribes that get tossed around (men succeed through promiscuity, women through monogamy), but it offers a phenomenal look at how evolutionary pressures shape parent- and childhood in a wide array of times and contexts. Also at the different roles that are (inherently) and/or can be (socially/practically/strategically) required in successful parenting, and the ways in which it is, or isn’t, possible to separate them. I think that book has been what’s kept me sane, as a mom. I have read it twice, cover to cover.

    I also quite liked Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.

    • feMOMhist Says:

      jut came across Hrdy today in another context

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds a lot like Our Babies, Ourselves. I bet they cite the same research!

      • bogart Says:

        It looks like it and our campus library has that one; I’m trying to get it but for some reason my ability to request a book through the online systems appears to be locked down … sigh. Emails have been sent!

    • Cloud Says:

      oooh, I have been meaning to read some Hrdy for ages. I came across a review of Mothers and Others in Science and added it to my “to read” list. But it wasn’t available on Kindle so I forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me! It is an excellent Christmas gift idea hint for me to drop….

  6. Alyssa Says:

    I absolutely agree on TCOYF – I started reading this in preparation to our “trying”, and I wish I had read it much, much earlier. Great resource to have on hand too.

    For me being a HUGE introvert (even though people don’t think I am because I can talk easily to people and do outreach for a living), The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney was fantastic. It teaches introverts how to benefit from their personality traits, and how to push their boundaries as well. It’s even great for extroverts that have introverts in their lives.

    Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley was an AMAZING resource for us. It gave us the courage to do BLW with our son, and I still consider that one of our best parenting decisions to-date.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We did baby-led weaning too! Though I just cobbled it together from common sense (actually more intuition than common sense) and the internet– didn’t know there was an official book. Not making baby food was awesome. Letting hir stop nursing on hir own, also easy on everybody.

  7. Anandar Says:

    In the parenting genre: The Tending Instinct by Shelley Taylor enabled me to put together my politics, my feminism and my parenting in a meaningful way. (Also read and loved Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, will check out Our Babies, Ourselves). And then Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter (really, all the books she wrote); have enabled me to have a relaxed and happy attitude toward my preschooler’s eating habits, plus given me some hope that I will not pass on disordered eating tendencies.

  8. chacha1 Says:

    I’m way off the trend here. There are MANY books that have influenced how I relate to the world (I read a LOT), but I think more important are the books that changed the way I relate to myself.

    Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. Fox Running, by R. R. Knudson. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. The Subject Tonight is Love, by Hafiz translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

    Fox Running
    by R R Knudson
    Powells.com

    But the seriously most life-changing piece of media for me was the Japanese movie Shall We Dance starring Koji Yakusho.

  9. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    The two books that have had the hugest influence on me are Moby Dick and What Mad Pursuit (by Francis Crick). The former diverted my path of intensive reading to a trajectory that continues to this day, and the latter contained a scientific “call to arms” that I heeded, and which largely determined my career path.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Huh, I thought Francis Crick’s trajectory of discovery consisted of stealing from his female colleagues when they wouldn’t just give him their work so he could take credit for it. (Just because Watson wrote about that part doesn’t mean Crick wasn’t complicit.)

      Rosalind Franklin FOREVER!

  10. becca Says:

    @ Cloud- YES on checklists. I believe now that anyone in a biological science laboratory who says they have developed a method, and hasn’t left an excruciatingly through checklist protocol for it, is a an evil lying liar who wants people to die of malaria and cancer and AIDS.

    Anyway. Life-changing books is a lovely topic.
    TTLH is one of those for myself and a lot of other unschoolers (The Teenage Liberation Handbook- most importantly, without it I might not have found other lifechanging books by Lewis Thomas, Richard Feynman and Tom Robbins).

    The original Our Bodies Ourselves (which I found as a young teenager, a good time to get it), and Women: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier. Angier is my very favorite science writer, I just wish she wrote more.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    The Little Prince. Because I never want to be an adult that doesn’t understand.

  12. femmefrugality Says:

    I really want to check out that Our Babies, Ourselves books. Books that changed my life? 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself by Steven Chandler. And How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The latter sounds so manipulative. But I was really shy. And it helped out a lot.

  13. Cookbooks we have loved « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured Says:

    […] already talked about this duo of cookbooks from son Kevin and mother Nancy Mills. These are fantastic quick recipes […]


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