Ask the Grumpies: What books have changed your life?

CG asks:

What books have you read that changed your life in a long-lasting way?

I was just talking about one of these in the comments of Delagar’s blog.

Your Money or Your Life was pretty life changing.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight even has it in its title.

Another life-changing book for us was The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Definitely worth a read.  It introduced Satisficing as a life philosophy

What books have you read that changed your life?

13 Responses to “Ask the Grumpies: What books have changed your life?”

  1. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    The NSF report “Beyond Bias and Barriers” cane out when I was in grad school, and I found it eye opening to realize some of my problems weren’t me being lazy, but actually some pretty nasty institutional bias.

    Also “The Price of Motherhood” even though I’ve since lived out the whole thing, and “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. (It shocks me sometimes how few scientists have any theoretical grounding in basic formal logic and epistemology.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ooh, yes, Why So Slow by Virginia Valian was similarly eye-opening for us.

      • MZ Says:

        Yes, for me too — I am not sure why that book didn’t get more attention than it did. She has done some truly amazing work on gender equity, and she also wrote some very thoughtful essays about work/time management long before the topic was on everyone’s radar.

  2. CG Says:

    The Gift of an Ordinary Day made me decide that we should have a third child (because I realized how fast my kids would grow up). Very life changing!

  3. bogart Says:

    Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape — Susan Brownmiller. The patriarchy is a protection racket.

  4. delagar Says:

    I’ve talked about this elsewhere, but The Female Man by Joanna Russ changed my life like an earthquake. I was fifteen, moderately conservative, and on the track to become one of those women who earnestly says they’re not a feminist, they’re a humanist. Russ knocked all that out of me.

  5. Matthew D Healy Says:

    My life-changing book is idiosyncratic: Life In Moving Fluids, by the late Steven Vogel, James B. Duke Professor of Zoology: a correspondence with him about that book led to my doing a PhD under his supervision at Duke University.

    Going to Duke led to my meeting and marrying another grad student there.

    Now it’s hard to imagine doing COVID lockdown with anybody else. And had I not encountered that book when I did, I’d never have met her.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    “Your Money or Your Life” for me, too. I actually draw a graph showing my income, my spending, and the (theoretical) income from my investments because of that book. Actually, I have two expenditure lines. I have one for “actual spending,” which goes up and down depending on when insurance or taxes come due as well as when I make big expenditures. But then I have another line which, for some categories, shows my monthly savings instead of my actual expenditures. So 1/12 of my property taxes are included in that value, whether I paid taxes that month or not. I call this my “lifestyle cost” line. So even on months where I spend very little, I know the actual cost of my lifestyle includes fixing things when they break, etc. So that line is much more regular and informative.

    I feel like I did know the concept of “enough,” but it’s in the forefront of my mind now.

    Also, “A People’s History of the United States” shows a bunch of the dark underbellies of the US, kind of like 2020 is doing.

    Also, in “Accidental Tourist,” the main character chooses between two women, not based on who they are, but on what kind of person he is when he is with them, which is fascinating. He stops just being passive, too. I had already figured out that I can take some control over my life (my attempts wouldn’t always work, but sometimes they would), but that book reinforced that.

    Also, Dante’s “Purgatorio” led me to a big step towards atheist-leaning agnosticism. All because of the idea that you couldn’t get to heaven if you didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, even if you’d never heard of him, and even if it was because Jesus hadn’t even been born yet. That’s so unfair! I now know that not all Christians believe that. But also, my parents were two different religions when they got married. Knowing there are so many different religions makes it hard for me to believe that exactly one of them is right. And then there were many more steps after that.

    And “The Tightwad Gazette” works as an anti-dote to our ad-happy spend-spend-spend culture.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    “Wherever you go there you are” was pretty big for me. It is a not only a book about meditation but made me realize not to rush through life and discipline myself to spend more time in the present and less in the past and future.

    The next one is going to sound cliche but I also loved Nietzsche in college. “whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” became a personal mantra long before it became a pop song. Its what got me through working and going to college full time.

    Generally, I would get obsessed with hitting life milestones without enjoying the journey.

  8. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I keep thinking about this but even though I read hundreds of books a year in a good year, nothing stands out in this way for me. Not sure what that says about me or my books…


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