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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

10 Books That Changed My Life

Growing up with a love for reading there were books that stuck with me throughout life. Some that made me want to read more, others that made me want to be a writer and some that made me want to read them more than once. So here is a list of the ten books that changed my life in no particular order.

1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book was a requirement in high school and I could remember feeling like we shouldn't be reading it because it contained adult situations and issues of molestation. I was most intrigued because it was an autobiography and I thought if Maya Angelou can survive all that, surely I can survive being a teenager.

2. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

As a a kid, I thought this was the best book someone ever created. It was the book every parent bought their daughter when they reached puberty. It was fascinating, captivating and bawdry for an eleven year old. The first book I can remember gossiping about or I suppose the first "book club" I attended every morning at school before class.

3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I read this book after my mother read it. She ranted on about it for days, ruining all the good parts. But I still wanted to read it for myself. So I read it in one sitting. It was the first adult fiction book I read non-stop. This book epitomized "page turner" for me. It was eventually made into a film starring Whoopi Golberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. I love the film. It is my favorite film of all time. I could probably do a one woman show and recite all the lines from the movie.

Most readers have their first box set or collection of books. Before the box set of Harry Potter, there was the box set of Anne of Green Gables. I loved the stories, but even better was the mini-series they created that came on PBS. It was the first time I compared notes from a book to the television adaption.
5. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

I have the book still on my shelf today. My copy is nearly two decades old. But I love this book. I get choked up thinking about it. I remember reading it and feeling this sense of amazement with the craftsmanship and the flow of Baldwin's words. It's a short read and when I finished I said I want to write like Baldwin. So I copied the entire book by hand on a yellow notepad just so I'd know what it was like to write beautiful words.

6. Sugar: A Novel by Bernice L. McFadden

I read this book when it first debuted. Something about the simple title drew me in. I decided to see if I could read the first chapter non-stop and if  I could, I would buy it from the bookstore. So I sat down and read it and had to force myself to stop reading it. I took it home and finished it. I ranted and raved about it so much my friend wanted to read it, so I let her borrow it. She took the book and sent it to her mother in Louisiana so she could read it. So I had to buy a new copy because I never give away books that I love. My friend went on to buy her a personal copy of Sugar so her daughters could read it as well. I have bought this book a total of five times because I always end up letting someone have a copy. Her sequel, This Bitter Earth, is great as well. Bernice L. McFadden was my imaginary mentor when I begin my writing journey. When I read her work I felt like I was reading my own. I now own all her books, and some I have several copies of...just in case.

7. Holy Bible (NIV) by Zondervan

Can't lie, I dread reading the King James Version of the bible as a kid. But once I was in my early twenties I found out there were different versions of the bible. The NIV is my favorite version, it clear and concise. I can understand the text much easier and I can still get a feel for the KJV without the headache of feeling like I'm translating. This book really changed my life because by having a better understanding, I became an avid reader of the bible.

8. Carrie by Stephen King

This was the first thriller novel I read and the first book that made me afraid to go to sleep. I was hesitant yet intrigued. Here is a girl who is blessed with these supernatural gifts but they are also a curse. Not to mention her religious fanatical mother who terrifies her. I felt sorry for Carrie and I was perturbed by her experiences when I went to sleep. Then they came out with the movie and I was excited to see how it would all go down on the big screen. It took a long time for me to read another thriller or Stephen King novel because I didn't like the many POV's in the book. And I remember thinking I would never write a book in that type of format. I guess Stephen King decided to do the same, as he changed his format in his later books.

9. A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

I read this book in middle school. Looking back it was the first book I read that gave an articulate description about living in the inner city amongst drugs and violence. Told from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old heroine addict named Benjie, the story is moving and graphic, yet frustrating and sad because you want Benjie to make some different choices. This is a great book. I have read it several times. I think it is more suitable for late middle school graders or high school students. Any younger and they may not grasp the intensity and urgency in the book. It was later made into a film starring one of my favorite actresses, Cicely Tyson.

10. There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

This is the first book that made me cry. I believe I was 19 or 20 years old when I read it and I can remember thinking what can I do to help the children in these living conditions, even though my living conditions were probably not any different growing up in the inner city myself. It's a gripping story. Sadly, Chicago is facing some of the same issues today. I can't help but wonder how two decades later, there has been little significant change for the impoverished of Chicago. The book is a true story,  Lafeyette and Pharoah, aged 11 and 9 years at the beginning of the book in 1987, live in the drug and gang infested ghetto of Chicago. Their family consist of their mother who struggles financially and is on welfare and public assistance, a frequently absentee father, an older brother and younger set of triplets. They often go without necessities and are in constant struggle just to survive the run down projects they live in, the gangs that control them and the daily struggles of life and violence they must endure to survive in the other America; the one we don't hear about. 

What are some of the books that changed your life or made a significant impact on you?


  1. What a wonderful set of books. I have read quite of few of them with #7 being my first best influenced book.

  2. Yes, I would agree too Sidne. The bible is my most influential as well.

  3. Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? is a wonderful book, it had an impact on me as a teenager too.

    I haven't read Maya Angelou's autobiography but read Anne Frank's diary when I was about 13 and had a similar reaction as you did to Maya's book - if she can live in those circumstances, I can survive being a teenager.

  4. Thank you for stopping by and commenting Sam. I can remember reading The Diary of Anne Frrank in school as well. I remember thinking this book can't be real. It was an eye-opener.

  5. OMG what an awesome list you have here! I LOVE LOVE LOVED Sugar, The Anne of Green Gables Set and Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. Somehow I only vaguely remember reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. And when I tried reading The Color Purple I couldn't make head nor tails of it so I had to leave it alone. I do love the movie though. And I can't believe you wrote the man's whole book down on paper. That's incredible in and of itself. I also vaguley remember A Hero Ain't Nothing But A Sandwich. I'm pretty sure I've read that. But gosh you took me back! I'll have to grab that one and revisit! Awesome list Lena!

  6. Thanks for stopping by Jade. I read the Color Purple because my mama talked about it day and night. I was thinking maybe I'm missing out on something. So I read it, it was really good to me. I did enjoy the movie considerably more. But I will never forget the Color Purple. I can quote it all day.

  7. This collection of books sound really inspiring and thought-provoking. I'm most interested in reading the book by Maya Angelou.

  8. Great choices. Loved "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

    On another note, I have presented you with an award on my blog.

  9. There are some powerful books here! I MUST read Sugar as soon as I can, it seems.

    My Favourite boxed set from my childhood was Laura Ingalls Wilder - oh, how I loved those!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Thank you Karen for the award. Woohoo!

    Debbie, I remember loving Laura Ingalls too. Great set as well.

  11. Lena,
    What a wonderful list. I haven't read Sugar, so I think I'll give that one a try.

    We share a couple of favorite books; Maya Angelou's, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings" and Alice Walker's, "A Color Purple".

    It's a little difficult to list my 'favorite' books simply because I love so many (I'm sure you had the same problem). But I thought it would be interesting to give it a try. So here are my top eight, (since you've already listed two of my favorites):
    Five belong to my favorite author, Toni Morrison: "Song of Solomon", "Beloved", "The Bluest Eye", "Paradise" and "Love".
    Toni's work just speaks to me and I've read each of these several times.

    When I was in elementary school, I discovered my love of reading on the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary.

    "Their Eyes are watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston is definitely a book that made an impression on me.

    Lastly, I read Eckhart Tolle's, "A New Earth" during a very low point in my life and it gave me the inspiration to form my own personal connection with God.

  12. That's a wonderful list Keisha. I love Toni Morrison's work. My favorite Morrison novel is Bluest Eye, although it's been a long time since I have read it. Zora is a favorite too, but the dialect had my head spinning, it took awhile to grasp, but I loved her short stories moreso. I haven't read Tolle's book yet. I have heard positives and negatives, maybe one day I'll get around to it. Great list, it is so hard to pick just a few. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :-)

  13. I'm a big fan of Bernice McFadden and I've been meaning to reread Sugar because I want to read This Bitter Earth. I also liked The Color Purple but I haven't read any of the others yet. Fabulous list!

  14. Such an awesome list!

    Some books that changed my life are
    The Color Purple, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, In Cold Blood by Capote and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

  15. Wonderful post, Lena! I REALLY enjoyed reading your reasons for liking each book. Captivating!!

  16. I so wish that I had read Anne of Green Gables when I was younger … it would have been even more magical than when I read it last year for the first time.

    And Are You There, God, Its Me Margaret is such a rite of passage book for girls of a certain age. I wonder if it is still read today?

    And I was shocked seeing Carrie on there!!

    It was fun to read why you loved each book and what effect it had on you.

  17. I'm slowly making my way through the Anne of Green Gables series. Each one I read becomes my new favorite.


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I am a writer, filmmaker, wife and a mom of five beautiful, intelligent, quirky kids. This blog is for writers, aspiring writers, filmmakers and movie lovers. Bringing you my favorite books, films and photos, as well as giveaways and updates on my journey. I'm currently in the process of producing my first short film from my collection of short stories titled, If I Had My Way. The first story to be filmed will be Tandarin Drive. My award winning book, If I Had My Way, is available now. You can purchase a copy at and You may contact me via email at:

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