On Books That Change Your Life

In my reading life I’ve had an abundance of reading experiences where I’ve felt extremely moved and even like something in me has shifted. Books that have challenged me. Books that made me think a lot. Books that have rocked me to the core.

But I’ve only had a handful of books that I could say ACTUALLY changed my life in a tangible way. Like caused me to take action and change something. Made things truly different.

One of the books in recent times was Just One Day by Gayle Forman (I know, I know…I talk about this book all the time but IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME and really damn good). I read this one in November 2012, as I was fortunate enough to receive a galley, and I remember just devouring it while Will and I were visiting my dad over Thanksgiving. I stayed up late. I sneaked in reading time while others were napping. It was just that book I think I was MEANT to read right then as some of my life was kind of mirroring where the main character was at in ways.

I was feeling stuck. Doing things because that’s the way they were even though I was unhappy. Devoting all my time to a group of friends that wasn’t reflective of who I was anymore (and were a little bit toxic for me) because I had ALWAYS been friends with them since high school & college. I wasn’t doing things *I* internally wanted to do because I was always doing what THEY wanted to do. I just felt like I was straddling this line between the person who I was (though internally and externally they seemed different) and the person who I wanted to be but I just really felt confused as to who I really was.

         “I don’t know who I am. Or maybe I do know who I am and I just don’t want to be her anymore.”  

 

Just One Day just kind of took me by the shoulders and shook me as I watched Allyson find herself. As I watched Allyson open herself up to all these new things and stop just living so passively. So much of my own life problems I was watching unfold in Allyson’s journey that I was like “DID GAYLE KNOW THAT I NEEDED THIS BOOK? MAYBE SHE WROTE IT FOR ME? UNLIKELY BUT THIS IS SCARILY HITTING CLOSE TO HOME HERE.” I kept reading, not only because I loved the story and the characters, but because I felt like I would find the answers to what I needed to do in Allyson’s journey. And I did.

            “And this is the truth. Because I may be only eighteen, but it already seems pretty obvious that the world is divided into two groups: the doers and the watchers. The people things happen to and the rest of us, who just sort of plod on with things. The Lulus and the Allysons.  It never occurred to me that by pretending to be Lulu, I might slip into that other column, even for just a day.”

 

I realized I, like Allyson, was being a watcher these days. I just was kind of existing in the status quo, unhappily, and was just letting life come and go rather than really LIVING and DOING. I kept hoping for better things or the things that I wanted to be true of my life….but I wasn’t doing anything to get them. At all. And I just kept plodding on. I wasn’t putting myself in the path of it — something that Allyson was finding out you needed to do if you wanted things to happen.

When I finished the book I was just weeping. Because it was a damn good book. But also because I knew what I had to do. I knew that I could not read these words and feel these things that mirrored my own life and just not do something about it. It was like I was being sent my own little message for my life and I would be stupid not to listen. It felt overwhelming. But then I remembered this quote from the book that put it into perspective:

            “We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

 

So, in the days following my reading of that book, I decided that a break-up was in order for a friend group that was kind of toxic for me/wasn’t working for me anymore (I maybe didn’t go about it the right way but I kind of needed to quit them cold turkey because they were such a HUGE part of my life and the thing that I felt was holding me back from doing the things I wanted). I decided to start a book club and had one up and running by January (my book club story and tips for starting your own). I started saying yes to things. I let myself start saying NO to things I felt like I couldn’t prior to reading this book. And for the first time in a long time I actually felt like I was more ME than I had been in a long time.

Just One Day was the kick in the pants I needed to change things that I knew needed to be changed a while before it. I just didn’t have the courage to change them. Allyson’s story resonated so much, all that forward action, that it made me PHYSICALLY change things after reading them. It was liberating. It was a gift in a lot of ways but I think of my life how it is right now, totally not perfect but I’m ME and I’m living the way I want to, and how my life probably would have continued on had I not read this book and I’m so thankful for it that I don’t have adequate enough words.

          “Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.”

 

And that’s simple what I did. I opened myself up. Put myself in the path of the things I wanted. I said yes (but also realized that sometimes saying NO to one thing is also saying YES to other things).

That book changed my life. I mean, completely flipped it upside down and made it so it was impossible to continue on the way I was. And I am so, so thankful for the words that I needed to hear at exactly the right time in my life.

NOW. I would love to know about any books that changed YOUR LIFE. Please tell me!!!! Books are just magical like that and I need to know!

 

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I know we always say that everyone has very different reading experiences but in this case, Just One Day was just as cathartic for me as it was for you, Jamie. Maybe because I was in the same situation and state of mind. I was feeling stuck. I was in college and I felt like I was going nowhere. But then I read Allyson’s story and it just reverberated through me, you know? I connected so much with the story and it just woke me up. It changed my life in that it pushed me to make a huge decision that I’ve been weighing in my mind for awhile. I still don’t know if it was the best decision- but I know I’ve moved forward from where I was and I feel much better- less adrift. Which is why my love for Gayle Forman is forever. She’s just such an inspiring woman and her stories have such great depth in them. I love her books because they make me think hard and feel all the things. <3

  2. This post makes me feel so incredibly inspired! I still actually haven’t read one of Gayle Forman’s books yet but it has been on my TBR for a really long time, and now I think I am definitely going to go read it. A book that has really stuck with me are the John Green books I have read, although he is naturally a very inspiring person his books really made me stop and think, as well as to appreciate the little things in life.
    Lovely, inspiring post you wrote I really love it!
    Happy Reading x

  3. Mackenzie says:

    Every time you talk about this book I want to go pick it up and read it, but then I get distracted by other things. I’m glad you wrote this post though, because it sounds exactly like the type of book I need to read right now. I’ve slipped into a zombie state where I’m unhappy with certain aspects of my life, which has completely drained me, leaving me with very little energy to make changes. I think now I will definitely read this book and hopefully get the kick in the butt I need to be happy again!

  4. this gave me goosebumps. it’s on my list, so i’ll have to read it soon!
    book that changed my life? pride & prejudice. it’s my favourite. i can’t explain it as well as you but basically it taught me a lot and was a friend when i needed one!

  5. Wow, this is inspiring. I really need to read more of Gayle Forman’s books! A book that changed my life was probably Kiss the Sky by Krista & Becca Ritchie. I read it in a time of stress, my life was so hectic and spiraling with family problems and college GPA and job searching and friendship strains but then Kiss the Sky came along and made me stand up on my feet again. I don’t know if it was what the authors intended but it really made me so happy that I *cliche saying alert* felt like soaring and felt more empowered by the headstrong couple that the story’s centered around. Quotes like “People hope to touch the sky.
    I dream of kissing it.” just fill you with energy haha

  6. The book that changed my life was I’LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios. I’ve never related to a character and her situation as much as when I read that book. And it inspired me to plunge ahead with college. It pushed me to realize that while I love my family, I can’t put my life on hold because of them. It told me that things have a way of working out, and that I just need to let them go so they can do that for me. I borrowed it from the library, but I just bought a copy for myself because I need that book on my shelf so I can read it and be reminded over and over again whenever I feel myself falling into the past and need a push forward again.

  7. I love that buoyant feeling you get when you’re reading the perfect book at the perfect moment.
    I didn’t know it was going to change anything at the time but We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was huge for me–One of the characters say to be a little kinder than you have to be and I just really took that to heart–the same goes for parts of Saving Francesca actually.

    I was also recently deeply moved by Life by Committee (Thank you again for your glowing review that nudged me to read it!), Love and Other Perishable Items and The Vanishing Season because they just hit me so hard and they were so perfect.

    The one that hit me most like your experience with Just One Day was Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley–I wish I could bottle how creative and enthusiastic that book made me.

    I don’t ever really say a book saved my life but I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last couple of years without Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series.

  8. A few books have done this for me (JOD is one, as you know – it really really made me think hard about making every day meaningful), but they’re not the usual books that you would think of. The Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund (I know, I talk about this ALL THE TIME, but for reals, it changed my life!) crystallized in my mind what it meant to be a feminist, and while I think I’ve been one for a long time, it made me a lot more vocal about my beliefs in equality. And the fact that Diana was the first author I talked to through the internet and through a blog…she was really encouraging when I first started blogging, so I really credit those books with getting me into blogging.

    Another book that more recently changed my life was Just Like The Movies by Kelly Fiore, because it made me realize that I was worthy of being a “main character” – which sounds so stupid when I say it, but honestly, I felt empowered when I read about a character who was exactly like me in high school, and that I was noticed. Even though I’m not the person I was in high school, after reading JLTM, I started to be more personal in my blogging and less self-conscious about sharing who I was online and off. I’m actually kind of proud of who I am now and I’m not as afraid to show it, which I love.

    Man, I go on, don’t I? Thanks, as always, for making me think, Jamie!

  9. I related so much to this post, not so much on how Just One Day affected my own life, but on how books can change lives. For me, it was Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, especially the line, “There are no safe choices, only other choices.” So much of my life up to that point was guided by choices that I made because I thought they were the “safe” choices and what that line made me realize was that there are no “safe” choices and the choices I make are the choices that I have to be okay with. It’s been 7 years since I first read it but I still find myself referring back to that line when I’m at crossroads with a decision.

  10. For me, one of the books that has really influenced my life is Harry Potter. Not necessarily reading them, but everyone after. I’ve bonded with people and formed friendships over those books!

  11. I honestly don’t think I have had a book that has changed me in a way this book changed you (by the way, love this book), but I have had books that have had impacts…mostly small. I mean Wonder by RJ Palacio really had me thinking about how I treat EVERYONE. Not to say I was treating people that were “different” than me so poorly, but it had me really try to think of how I approach interactions with everyone I run in to and how I handle it. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was a book I got lost in so many times, a book that took me away from the realities that surrounded me and kind of suffocated me. But…The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson helped me immensely. It helped me mourn. I was like in this bubble for so long just assuming NO ONE understood what I was going through. I was from a pretty small town and at 13 I was the only classmate at my school who had lost a father. And that continued through high school. This book kind of shook me out of that. I sobbed through this book. And I felt less alone, if that makes sense. I felt like I was someone that could relate to others and that there were others in the world going through it. Not to say I was so self-centered that I thought it was only me, but when no one in your own little world deals with it then it does feel like you are alone. This book…it brought me so far out of that. I am forever grateful for that. Maybe that is a bit life changing. It allowed me to go through a process that I really needed to go through. I love this post. Such an interesting discussion topic and definitely helps me to take a look back and see how what I read does have an impact besides entertainment.

  12. I am not sure I have had a book that changed my life quite like yours but a book that deeply impacted me just on a feelings and relatable level was Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It was just something about the characters and the story and the subject. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I loved Just One Day and knew you did too, but I didn’t know it was such a life changer for you. So thanks for sharing. And if they ever say YA books are just for young adults? I think they should be directed to this post immediately.

  14. I must read this book now! For me it was Elli by Livia E. Bitton Jackson. I read it when I was a preteen. It’s about the holocaust and before then I had zero inkling about exactly what took place during WWII. I feel like that book kinda stripped me of my childish naivety and opened to my eyes to how the world can really be. Sounds morbid, I know, but I can’t think about that book without getting emotional.

  15. There are a few books that really stand out- One is the Giver. That is the first book I remember that taught me to question how we use words and what they mean, especially the conversation Jonas has with his parents about love.

    The other would be This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. At the time I read it, I had had a bad break up and was pretty much set on not giving any future relationship a chance, and then I read that, and it made me feel like that it can work, and it is worth trying.

  16. Just One Day gave me similar feelings, Jamie! But where it inspired you to take action and do things, it was more of an affirmation for me that I was doing the right thing by doing things for me, if that makes sense at all. I really liked reading this story, even though we’ve chatted about it before!

    Off the top of my head, a book I recently read that really resonated with me on a similar level to Just One Day is Liza Palmer’s Girl Before a Mirror. That book just… It comforted me and it challenged me, and I can’t even talk about it in the right way to express how I love it. Hope you get a chance to read it!

  17. If this book meant so much to you, made you change the way you looked at your life and motivated you to do something about it, I truly must pick it up. I love it when books do things like that to us.

    I also had books that spoke to me, that made me realize and change. Sometimes it’s not even life-changing, but just something small like Celaena’s bravery. Sometimes when I am scared to something, I just think about how kick-ass she is and how many things she survived, so if she can do that, I can do THIS too. Might sound stupid, but that can be the last push I need to challenge myself into something I would have turned away from years ago.

    This song will save your life also really did something to me.

  18. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Like I can point to a lot of books and be like, these were life-changing. But like with your reaction to Just One Day, Eleanor and Park is the only one which made me take action, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I’d been in an awful place in life, and I hadn’t read anything in ages. I was just kind of plodding along, hating the universe when I happened to see Eleanor and Park at the library. And I read it, and I loved it so much. It got me volunteering with the library, and then I started working at a bookstore. And then I applied for graduate school for book-related things, and then I got in and moved across the country. If I hadn’t got out of that book rut none of those things would have happened. Maybe another book could have done it, but Eleanor and Park is that one for me.

  19. The book that changed me was Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. Like Just One Day, it helped me step outside of my comfort zone and do the things that I want to do. It made me want to broaden my horizons and find people who would be my real friends. After reading this, I definitley need to re-read Just One Day, because I remember it having a similar impact on me. Since You’ve Been Gone really helped me and it’s one of my favorites.

  20. I’m glad to hear that you had this book to help you get the bravery needed to kick the you that you were not happy about what surrounded you and yourself and make the changes necessary!

    I had a big revelation about being brave and taking risks and doing what feels good for me, for my soul, after reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That change of attitude has led me to many things that have made grow so much and experienced so many amazing things!

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  5. […] Books That Change Your Life – I’ve had books that have meant a lot to me in the past, but none of them have changed me int e way that Jamie describes in this post. I’m inspired to find a book that does this for me! […]