While I find myself feeling nearly convicted in only selecting some books I’ve read and marking them as “the life-changing books”, there are certainly ones that have stood out to me. I come from the perspective that there is something to learn from every book you read and that each book will impact you on some level - whether the effects be conscious or unconscious.
Regardless, the following list of books I will share are ones that played a more crucial role in developing my worldview compared to the others that I’ve read.
- "Personal Career and Financial Security" by Richard J. Maybury. I believe I read this at age 13. It was probably the first non-fiction book that I genuinely enjoyed reading. It introduced me to my love of learning but mostly sparked my intrigue of the concepts of paradigms, paradigm shifts, and thinking models. This book helped me formulate my own paradigms and see the value (or sometimes danger) of going through paradigm shifts.
- "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. Around that time, I was interested in science and astronomy. This book helped me further develop my love of learning as it was one of the first books I read purely out of curiosity. Though the contents of the book itself may not have impacted my life, what it personally represents to me, and my intentions for reading it, were the reasons it changed me.
- "A Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver DeMille. I read the version for teens/students when I was 14. This book is one I had to read multiple times in order to grasp the concepts fully. However, it completely changed my understanding of education, learning, and even reading itself. One of the quotes that I still think of regularly: "It's not about getting through the book, it's about getting the book through you". Hence, why I read it multiple times.
- "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?" by Richard J. Maybury. This is the first book on economics that I had read. At that age, I had no clue what economics was or meant nor did I know what to expect. However, I remember specific moments while reading that book where I able to connect some dots. One moment was when reading on money and inflation. The book had described certain details (often overlooked) about American currency and the meanings behind them. Things like the copper center in quarters, the texture along the side, and the Latin words written on dollars. I pulled out my wallet and I was amazed to find these descriptions were true. That was when I learned about coin-clipping, what money really is, and what inflation means. Economics seemed like an intriguing and important subject from that point on.
- "What Every Body Is Saying" by Joe Navarro. I had a slight interest in psychology but was overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin. So, I rented whatever books caught my eye from the library. Body language was a form of psychology that sounded interesting. I had always wondered why human beings behave the way they do. This book wasn't one I intended to finish, I just wanted to test the subject, but the more I read I was not able to quit. Shortly into the book, I found myself watching interviews on YouTube and testing the ideas I was reading on how to read body language. Though body language isn't my primary interest, this book was huge for me as it opened the door to the world of psychology - now my favorite subject.
- "The Law" by Fredric Bastiat. My new interest in economics led me to read articles from The Foundation of Economic Education and when I was 15 I had gone to one of their weekend conferences. That event on its own changed my life (a story for another time), but one of the books they handed out was this one. This book (as you may suspect) had me really questioning my paradigm of the role of law and government - leading me onto a new path of diving into economics even further.
- "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt. While reading "The Law", I was also reading this book. I gained a basic understanding of some of the foundational concepts of economics. I won't go into much specifics, but the overall main lesson I learned from reading this is that the study of economics concerns both that which is seen and that which is unseen. Meaning, that while most of economics is unpredictable, what we can know that individuals act. And by acting, bring about unintended results into the economy.
- "The Bible Tells Me So..." by Peter Enns. My faith as a Christian is always something I have had the struggle of finding concrete knowledge in. To this day, I have doubts. But I've come to the realization that that will never change because none of what I put my faith into can be proven - nor should it be. This book transformed my approach of reading The Bible when I grew up in Church only hearing one perspective on that. This led me to get caught up in the Christian "lingo", just going through the motions, and trying to hide my doubts. Finally, I had come across this book that had revealed more truth about The Bible that I had not known or heard of. And this showed me that I had been perceiving my own faith in the wrong light for such a long time.
- "Jungian Dream Interpretation" by James A. Hall. My excitement for learning psychology had transferred over into the realm of dream interpretation. I was always very curious, but skeptical, of what the meaning of dreams could be, how dream meanings could possibly be accurate, what value understanding dreams could bring, etc. I had so many questions and lots of doubts but it only made me more interested. Before looking into Jungian psychology, I of course turned to Sigmund Freud's work since I was familiar with his name. "The Interpretation of Dreams" was a good read for a while, but a lot of Freud’s arguments and ideas were not lining up or making any sense to me. That's when I came across this book, and I thought, "maybe there is a more logical explanation from Carl Jung". Little did I know that in a matter of a few years he would become my favorite author.
- "The Last Safe Investment" by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg. I read this book when I was 17, entering into an apprenticeship program called "Praxis". It was one of the books they sent me before beginning the program. Reading this had me thinking a lot about what I wanted to focus on developing in my life. (I.e. what kind of investments I want to make.) There was one particular section of the book I enjoyed most, and that was on what they refer to as "super skills". Essentially, what types of skills are transferable to most jobs/circumstances and are most valuable to invest in.
- "The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence" by Matthew Curtis Fleischer. A lot of the questions I had about The Bible that I was unable to find concrete answers to were questions regarding the contrast between the Old and New Testaments. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament seemed to have two completely different sets of characteristics. One appeared to be extremely violent, controlling, unfair. The other is peaceful, loving, and merciful. These questions frustrated me until I read this book. I came to understand that The Bible is not what most people interpret it to be - as a guide, or set of principles to live by. Rather, it is a narrative. A story of God changing His people over time and history to become increasingly less violent and less nationalistic. When understanding The Bible through the lens of nonviolence and of history, it all starts to fall in line.
- "Psychological Types" by Carl Jung. I took an interest in understanding personality types a few years back and started doing research about it online. I had lots of questions and needed answers. Finally, I got my hands on this book a little over a year ago, and 1) fell in love with Carl Jung's work, and 2) fell in love with understanding typology. It is now, as I stated before, my favorite subject. Understanding the human mind and the ways in which it functions is absolutely fascinating to me. It has become a lens by which I see the world.
If there is one common trait throughout these books it is that each one offered up ideas I found to be answers to my already held questions - not arguments to back my already held ideas. Taking this into account, it’s important to understand that it isn’t reading on it’s own that leads to discovering new ideas. That process is equally dependent on questioning everything it is you know and everything it is you believe. Allowing curiosity to drive you is what creates life-changing realizations.