Ten Books That Have Influenced My Life

This past week I took a break from social media and when I came back I found myself tagged, not once but twice, to share a list of ten books that have influenced my life in some way. Shortly after I saw a friend of mine posting his list to his blog I decided to steal the idea. So here we go (and the Bible isn’t listed because it’s a given).

  1. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

I was assigned this book as a senior in high school and even at the ripe age of seventeen it highlighted an existential crisis I was feeling. Here’s a man bound for success who burns it all to discover what it all really means. Whether you thought he was arrogant or misunderstood, Into the Wild was not only was it the first book I read I was willing to argue for, it was the book that catapulted me back into reading.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

It’s a story about a high school freshman struggling to fit in whom, with the help of some misfits friends, finds his place in the world. Something about that hits home with me. Not only do I love the way it’s written (a series of letters to an anonymous receiver) but it was also the first book I read where I felt with the character. I read it in a day and it still stands as my favorite book and, now, movie.

  1. Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin

One of the first books I read when I first started to develop a heart for the Black community. While the story itself is interesting, what impacted me most was his ability to articulate what I felt but was unable to convey in words.

  1. The Fight – John White

The Fight was the first book I read as a new Christian. Practical and encouraging, it gave me hope in how to actually live as a follower of Jesus before my friends and family who may not have totally understood the change that took place in my life. To this day I still buy this book to any new Christian in my sphere of influence.

  1. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling

Seriously, anyone my age who says they weren’t somehow shaped by Harry Potter is either deprived or lying. Even when I didn’t read Harry Potter was the exception.

  1. The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ was the second book I read when I came to faith and it’s still one I go back to. It opened my eyes to see the faith I’ve committed my whole life to isn’t just some “story” but a historical reality. The implications of this book still steal my breath away.

  1. The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

Some books you love because it affirms the convictions you already hold deeply in your heart. Others you love because it opens your eyes to something new. The Irresistible Revolution does both and so much more. It’s another one of those books that I’m willing to fight for, as I believe so much of that book is vital to what it means to love Jesus. As much as I love apostolic imagination, prophetic imagination is just as beautiful. I recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike.

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria – Beverly Tatum

If Black Like Me was my “what” for the Black community, Tatum’s book was the “why.” I saw so much of my own personal journey/struggle to embrace my ethnic identity in this book. It gave me vocabulary and terminology to explain the complexities at work in being a Black man in America and it’s changed my outlook on the Black community as well as life ever since.

  1. UnChristian – David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the word “Christian?” Well, when asked that question, the words used to describe Christians are actually very UnChristian. As the third book I read when I came to faith, it challenged me to be aware of what people think about me as I share my faith and to do everything in my power to be different from the stereotype.

10. Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin

The essay that shares this title is the reason why I started writing nonfiction in the first place (Adrienne Rich’s “Split at the Root” reminds me of this as well). It’s the standard to which I measure all my nonfiction essays. Baldwin was the first writer that was able to articulate my feelings on what it meant to be Black in America. In general his thoughts are poignant and his writing is sharp and I want so bad to emulate that.

What about you? What are your ten?


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