Do you ever read a book and it completely changes the way you think? Maybe not in a broad, overarching, “my life is completely changed” way, but in a way where you know that you’ll never look at your life completely the same way ever again. There are very few books that have that extreme of an impact on me, but when they do, I can’t get them out of my head, no matter how hard I try. It’s like I read something, whether it be an entire book or just a page or even a sentence, and my brain chemistry is forever altered.

Today, I decided that I would share a few of the books that have changed me forever, in the hopes that they’ll change you too. These books all vary greatly by genre and content and pretty much in any other way imaginable, but they all have one thing in common- Me! This list is in order of when I read it, so follow along on my journey.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

This is a book that I read so early on that I barely even remember it now, but I still remember the way it made me feel. It was the first book that I considered my “favorite book”, and I carried it around with me everywhere long after I finished it. I imagined myself as the main character of that book, or perhaps as her best friend. The freedom and lack of freedom by society spoke to me even as a young girl.

When I read this book, I decided that I was a witch. Everyone in my life thought this was hilarious, of course, but I was being serious and it didn’t matter to me if they didn’t believe me. The feeling of being different was a feeling that I understood and related to, and this book put it into words in a safe way.

Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson

This is the only nonfiction book on my list, and curiously it’s not a self help book. It’s a book about a group of people who love deep sea diving, and are determined to do it regardless of the risks and hazards associated with their hobby/occupation. They love to dive, and they crave knowing what lies at the deepest part of the sea. People tell them not to, and many of their closest friends end up dying in the process, but still they dive. Without these people, we’d never know what lies at the bottom of the ocean. We would’ve never recovered the treasure inside of the Titanic. These people risk their lives, and it reframed the way I think about risk in my own life.

I have all these things that I say I want to do in life, and then I don’t end up doing them because it’s too “risky”. Well, Jocelyn, none of these things are actually going to kill you! But deep sea diving might, and so many people do it anyways! I’m not saying you have to be willing to risk death to want to do something, but I will say that it shifted my perspective of what it means to truly want something.

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins

Crank is a story, written as a series of short poems, about a drug addict teen. The elegance in the way this was written spoke to me. Each individual phrase was so artfully crafted that I fell into the world effortlessly. I read this book in high school and it made me fall back in love with poetry at a time when school was attempting to kill all joy it had once held. It also showed me how to find beauty in destruction.

The reason this is on the list, however, is because of the way it impacted me on a personal level. I don’t fully understand how to put into words the way this book impacted me, but suffice it to say that even though I have never been (or closely known) a drug addict, each individual word pierced my soul, and I felt as though I lived through the main character in a way that is too personal to put into words. One of the central elements of this story is that the main character feels like she has two different selves. She gives herself a different name and a different alias when she is not sober, because she becomes a different more confident person. You guys all probably know that I wrote under an alias on this blog for a very long time, but it’s more than that. When I need to show a more confident side of myself, I mentally “switch” people inside of my head. This book put that emotion (that I’m clearly struggling to describe) into words in a way that made sense.

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

This is another book where I deeply resonated with the main character for reasons that make no sense on the surface. I have a far more functioning family than she did, and yet her inner thoughts collided with mine in a way that changed the way my mental process functioned. If I read this book now, I doubt I would have thought much about it, but as it was, when I read it, it became the center of my world.

After reading some of Flynn’s other books, I think she just has a way of writing that I resonate with, but at the time when I read this particular book, I felt something deep inside of me click into place, as though somehow had heard what I was thinking for the first time and put it into words. It was also one of the very first times I’d seen self harm put into words by someone “real” (as in, not a Tumblr blogger). I would not vouch for this book’s portrayal of self harm, since it’s been far too long since I read it, but being inside the head of Flynn’s main character and hearing her inner monologue talk about it so openly helped start me on my route to understanding myself.

What are the books that have changed your life? Have you read any of the books that changed mine?