A friend recently asked me, “Tammy, what books have had the biggest influence on your life?”
I had to pause for a minute and ask if we could come back to the question. It seems like an easy question to answer, however I read one or two books a week and most the material is informative and meaningful. I continued talking to my friend about our upcoming move and eventually we circled our way back to the topic of books. I finally had an answer to her question. So I told her a few stories about three different books.
Right before Logan and I got married, my Grandpa sent me a generous $1,000 check as a wedding gift. Sleeping on a lumpy mattress was difficult with my bad back and contributed to my sleep deprived college experience; so I decided to splurge and buy a pillow top mattress with the money from my Grandfather. Then I had to have a $400 bed frame because I felt like our bedroom didn’t look good enough. I was constantly comparing our apartment to Ikea catalogs.
At this time, we were living in Davis, California and my Mom visited frequently. On a Friday afternoon she came down and I suggested we spend the evening shopping at Ikea in Sacramento. We ate dinner there and wandered around for hours. Subsequently, we walked out of the store with a bed frame, a love seat, and new sheets. All of the new stuff wouldn’t fit in our tiny car, a Honda Fit, so we had to drive back to Davis, get my mom’s small SUV, and return to Ikea for the final load of stuff.
Right after this shopping escapade, I started reading The Culture of Make Believe. As I lay snuggled under my new sheets reading the first few chapters of Jensen’s book I started to feel like a buffoon. Jensen’s words made me realize that happiness couldn’t be bought at the mall.
The Culture of Make Believe isn’t an easy book to digest. I had to confront my own privilege and figure out how I could spend my time, energy, and money in ways that were meaningful.
When I picked up Your Money or Your Life some of the pages were falling out and the last half of the book was splattered with coffee stains. Despite the book’s dilapidated condition, it was pivotal read. It was the first time I began to think of money as life energy and ask myself questions like:
-How much is enough?
-Is my stuff detracting from my character?
-Is my career a calling or just a generic job that converts life energy into money?
-Am I spending my time the way I want?
After I read the book, I sat down and created a plan to hack debt, save money, and began the process of exploring alternative careers.
3. Bird by Bird
Creative work isn’t easy. Even people that are “successful” struggle with the resistance. The resistance is the voice in your head that speaks in harsh tones or urges you to go get ice cream instead of sitting down and writing. Even Lamott, a prolific and successful writer, struggles with the resistance. Her words were comforting and made me feel less alone for pursing my dream of writing. I’ve read Bird by Bird three times and with each read something new is cemented in my mind.
There are scores of other books that I could list, but these titles were pivotal reads at poignant times in my life. I checked out each of these books from the library and when I opened their crinkled and well loved covers, I knew I was onto something good.
If you have a chance, either check these books out of your local library or buy a copy. The authors will make you think and reconsider what it means to live well.
Want to read more? Read this article by Leo.
What books have changed your life?