Make The Most Of Your Spring Reading: These Are The Books That Changed Our Lives

As it gets warmer outside, it’s only natural to want to spend more time out in nature, and is there anything better than reading on a blanket under the sun?

By Meghan Dillon6 min read
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Shutterstock/Galina Zhigalova

I'd argue that most of us can name countless good books off the top of our heads, but it’s rare for a book to alter your brain chemistry and actually change your life. I asked some of the Evie writers and staff about books that did just that. Here are their answers.

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Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

My Grandpa introduced me to Anna Karenina when I was in high school. I fell in love with everything about the story, and it introduced me to Russian literature and Russian historical fiction. Every time I reread it, I get something new from the book. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves epic and tragic stories, particularly love stories. – Meghan Dillon, Contributing Writer

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

While fictional, I loved that The Nightingale applied a different and clever lens on such a dark time in history, focusing on women in wartime. Having a sister myself, I loved how accurately this story showed sisterly dynamics: disagreements, arguments, but in the end, unconditional love for each other. This novel was a great reminder that showing courage during tough times looks different for everyone, but is important nonetheless. – Rachel Squier, Social Media Manager

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

I read Tuck Everlasting for the first time in fourth grade and reread it every year. I think it’s technically a children’s book, but it has such adult themes, like immortality and free will. I think every kid grows up thinking it would be cool to live forever, and this book beautifully proves the bittersweetness of aging. It’s just indescribable, and you can read it in an hour! – Gwen Farrell, Contributing Writer

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

I’m a sucker for a good story, and though I hesitate to claim that The Name of the Wind “changed my life,” it has changed how I write. Rothfuss’ style of writing is beautifully poetic, and reading him back in high school, along with my chronic re-reading of Tolkien, has taught me to treat writing as if it were a ballet rather than an act of war or drudgery. – Alicia Bittle, Contributing Writer

Emma, by Jane Austen

I studied Emma in a Jane Austen class in college and found that I shared a lot of flaws with the character Emma. It taught me a lot of valuable lessons about the connection between emotions, imagination, and reality, meddling in other people's affairs, the nature of love, and what it means to truly treat others with kindness. – Paula Gallagher, Senior Editor

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, by Harlan Ellison

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream unlocked another level of horror in my mind beyond the physical and what you can easily perceive. Along with that, it made me further contemplate the dangers of modern technology, not so much because I believe the contents of the book could become real, but more so because if one isn't careful, they can become slaves to it, like the victims of the story. I don't scare easily, and yet I read this story as an adult, and I still think about it. It was written in 1967, but it can still hold up to today. – Luna Salinas, Contributing Writer

V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore

V for Vendetta instilled in me as a young child (before I got super interested in history) the idea that after an empire gets old enough, the government will exist not to serve you but rather itself and the corrupt elite that runs it. It's best to be self-sufficient and stand for what is truly right no matter what, especially when a time could very well come when right and wrong are deemed "subjective" or "unimportant.” – Luna Salinas, Contributing Writer

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

I'd grown up on C.S. Lewis' stories for children, but I didn't get around to reading The Screwtape Letters until grad school. It's funny, well-written, and brilliantly simple, but the main message of the book is so much deeper than that. It really made me feel like the human experience with faith was truly universal and gave me a lot to think about regarding the excuses I've made for myself in the past and how I'll engage with my faith in the future. – Alina Clough, Contributing Writer

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Anne of Green Gables and Little Women are such classics, and both helped me a lot as a kid! As a total tomboy, it meant a lot for me to be able to see (fictional) female role models who were complex people with faults, not just girl bosses who were female versions of boys' heroes. Both books helped me see what character development looks like in different expressions of femininity, and both were great examples of deep female friendship. – Alina Clough, Contributing Writer

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park

In her autobiography In Order To Live, Yeonmi describes how she set out to escape North Korea in an attempt to be reunited with her sister (who escaped before her). She found a way to China, but not without being sold into the human trafficking business. Her journey was long and hard, but she eventually made it to South Korea and was taken in as a refugee. Today, Yeonmi has gained American citizenship and spends her days as a human rights activist, fighting for the people of North Korea.

This book gave me a sense of patriotism and gratefulness for the freedoms we have in America. It opened my eyes to the true oppression that those in other countries face. In our modern culture, where everyone strives to identify as a victim, I wish that every American could read this book and understand that there is no other country that has it better, and we should protect our core values as a nation. – Hannah Leah, Contributing Writer

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women Who Run with the Wolves is a collection of stories from different cultures all over the world. They may seem like simple fairy tales at first, but Estes shows us the complexity of these chronicles, which all serve a purpose in teaching women valuable life lessons. I learned a lot about the psyche, relationships, feminine energy, spirituality, love, and more. I believe these tales, passed down for generations, all lasted for a reason - and I think bringing them back will benefit young girls & empower them, just like it did for me. – Nicole Dominique, Staff Writer

Educated, by Tara Westover

I read Tara Westover's memoir Educated as a high school student and began to truly see the value of education beyond basic learning. Education also means freedom for so many people, and her story impacted my own college and career plans – I am now a high school English teacher! – Alyssa Vandermeulen, Contributing Writer

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning came to me at a time when I truly needed it, but in all honesty, I feel as though anyone at any stage in their life can benefit from reading it. You’ll feel deeply impacted by Frankl’s emotional and spiritual journey as he finds purpose in suffering and remains strong throughout undeniably horrific treatment. I kid you not, many times that I’m feeling emotionally or spiritually weak, my mind conjures up his stories and the inspiring lessons learned from them. – Andrea Mew, Contributing Writer

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

There’s a reason that Hamlet is considered one of the greatest works of literature ever written. We read an abridged version in 8th grade, and it was so good that I went and read the whole play on my own for fun. Hamlet showcases the brilliance of the English language and explores the fascinating complexities of human nature. This play introduced me to the world of classic literature, and I’ve never gone back. – Sylvie Patterson, Contributing Writer

The Shadowcreek Chronicles, by T. Elizabeth Renich

Set in the Civil War era, these novels (a.k.a. the Salina books) give beautiful examples of family loyalty, cultural conflict, and the sacrifice and great love that goes into a romantic relationship and young marriage, especially in times of war and cultural tension. I read these books as a teenager, but the series has remained my favorite work of fiction. Start with the first book in the series, Word of Honor. – Anna Hugoboom, Contributing Writer

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay, PhD

Society today tells us our twentysomething years are our selfish years – that they don't matter and that "30 is the new 20." But Dr. Meg Jay argues that our twenties are the most defining decade of adulthood. I read The Defining Decade when I was 24, after returning home from traveling, when I was struggling to work out my next move. Dr. Jay delves into every aspect of our lives – from love and relationships to careers and saving for the future. Dr. Jay's insights enabled me to cut through the nonsense of mainstream advice for twentysomethings and instead make conscious decisions that will positively affect my future. – Rebecca Hope, Contributing Writer

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

I read The Awakening in my Honors English 11 course in high school, and it was the book that made me decide to pursue an English major in college. This book challenged 19th-century social, gender, and class norms in every way imaginable. The protagonist, Edna, undergoes a series of "awakenings" throughout the novel that is pivotal to her understanding of self and how she fits into society. Her greatest "awakening" is one in which she learns that she is more than a wife, more than an object, and more than what society has cut out for women. Edna pursues her sexuality, passion for the arts, and connection to nature, all while forcibly pushing back on the rigid definition of what it meant to be a woman in the post-Antebellum South. The Awakening transformed my perception of feminism, and it was this exploration of 19th-century feminism that so productively informed my current understanding of female empowerment.  – Caitlin Shaw, Contributing Writer

Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge 

When I read this book in my mid-twenties, it opened up my eyes to the beauty of embracing femininity from a Christian perspective. In a world that is so conflicted on gender roles and ideology, it’s both grounding and refreshing to have a clearer understanding of how men and women differ, and how celebrating those differences can lead to stronger relationships and a healthier society. I read Captivating every couple of years as a refresher and get something new out of it every time.  – Renée Walton, Contributing Writer

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

In 2016, I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time in a coffee shop in Atlanta with tears in my eyes. Last week, I had the same experience in a coffee shop in Fort Worth as I closed the final pages yet again. There are few books that delve into the darkness of the human soul and man’s deepest yearnings for redemption more than Oscar Wilde’s singular novel. If you could have the innocence of youth eternally painted on your face while your sins grow silently in the secrecy of darkness, would you? This is a “Faustian bargain” we yearn to make in our own ways, but Dorian Gray dares to illustrate a life lived in pursuit of man’s darkest passions that few of us would dare have the courage to speak aloud. Though his eternally youthful face convinces everyone of external innocence, he cannot escape the darkness and weight of his own soul, which is writ large on a canvas hidden away in secret, bearing the external ruin and decay of his soul while his face remains untouched. In an almost autobiographic fashion of Wilde’s own life, written with his incomparable wit, The Picture of Dorian Gray shows the inescapable decay of man’s sins upon his soul, even if kept in the most secret of places, which leads him to an inevitable desire for redemption and forgiveness. Is such redemption possible? Read the pages for yourself, and you will likely find yourself with tears in your eyes, as I did, as you close the final pages of Wilde’s masterful work. – Katarina Bradford, Contributing Writer

How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

I typically prefer reading fiction, but I have to give this one to How To Win Friends and Influence People. This book is all about how to cultivate better relationships (of any kind). It offers practical advice on how to hold better conversations, how to endear yourself to others, and how to make positive, lasting connections with others. As someone who'd always struggled to communicate and connect with others, this book really changed my life; it changed the way I approach every new relationship, and I genuinely feel that when I apply the advice the book gives (and it's packed with a lot of advice), it works wonders. – Keelia Clarkson, Contributing Writer

Closing Thoughts

From classics like Little Women and Hamlet to graphic novels like V for Vendetta, there’s a book for everyone, in any stage of life, on this list. Pick up one of these books today; you never know, it may just change your life.

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