In 6th grade my family called me “Hermit” because I’d spend hours in my room reading every day. I read two or three books most days. Although my book completion rate has unfortunately decreased over the years, I can still say I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of wonderful books in my 30 years.
If you consider yourself a ‘reader’ too, you can imagine my difficulty in selecting only 10 books that have made the most difference in my life! But I promise that even if you don’t love these titles, they are worth a read at least once in your life. You might just find yourself devouring some of them again and again.
*Note: I didn’t include religious books in this list, although those have been the most influential books in my life. I’m saving those for a separate post.
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In no particular order, the top 10 most influential books I’ve ever read:
1. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
I’ve read several fantastic books about budgeting, financial success, and entrepreneurship, but this one is my top pick. It is written in a unique fable style and is a pleasure to read while still teaching timeless financial principles. My husband and I have taken several courses together about managing finances in marriage and a professor’s recommendation to read this book has been the most valuable take away.
2. Who Said Red? by Mary Serfozo
My parents read to me every night, and Who Said Red? stands out among many other gems. It’s a simple, rhyming story that sticks in your mind forever (in a non-annoying way!), and the beautiful illustrations by Keiko Narahashi are enchanting. Narahashi’s art is the first I can remember that inspired me to be an artist and has influenced my painting style. This book is a staple for bedtime stories in my own home today.
3. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
I love the memorable anecdotes in this book! It’s also been a defining book in my life for child rearing, our homeschool, and in making personal goals to develop my talents. I dare you to read this book and not be inspired to be amazing!
4. Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
Taran is one of my favorite characters in literature. He is flawed and kind and wonderful. The entire Chronicles of Prydain series is a joy to read, but this book records when Taran truly becomes a man. So much wisdom to be gleaned while being swept up in a fun adventure. I try to reread this one every few years because I learn more each time. If you read it, let’s chat Llonio in the comments. Another amazing character.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis was a genius. He uses profound Christian allegories, but this series made my non-religious list because of his magnificent storytelling. This is hands-down the series that most inspired me to love reading and writing as a child. Growing up, my favorite of the series was The Horse and His Boy. I’ve somewhat leaned more towards The Last Battle over the past decade.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I wrote an entire post about this book because it’s just that superb. Other adaptations are beautiful, but if you haven’t read the original I highly recommend it. After all, we want to keep Christmas in our hearts all the year. I don’t know if I love Dicken’s analogies more or his characterizations.
7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
I wouldn’t consider myself a graduate yet of this organizing method, but I did follow a lot of the principles and guess what–it really was life changing!! No, I don’t think my socks have feelings, but I still fold them the Konmari way three years later. I’ve read dozens of books about organizing and simplifying, and this one continues to have the most impact on my life.
8. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Yes, the This Blue Dress sisters are Potterheads. Any fellow Gryffindors reading this post? Like many of my generation I’ve been mesmerized by Rowling’s complex and incredibly synchronized plots. I love a book that can make me laugh out loud, cry, and inspire me all in one chapter. Thank you Rowling for the hours of delight. And thank you Mom and Dad for always giving the oldest sibling first dibs to read each new release (that’s me:) ).
This series is also influential due to the many happy hours I spent reading aloud the whole series to my siblings.
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Sharpen your saw. Begin with the end in mind. I need to read this again. The principles are so true and powerful.
10. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
You know that agonizing frustration when you’re reading a book or watching a movie, and two characters have a misunderstanding? You just wish they could both know what you know and everything would be alright. This book is the epitome of that feeling–and also an exciting and fun adventure. Once you get past the first chapter which was admittedly slow for me the first time I read it.
Very mild spoiler alert: This is one of the only books that truly surprised me with a plot twist, which might be the number one reason it has been influential.
I hope this list has inspired you to jump into an amazing book! I would love to hear about the most influential books you have read!
Looking for more book reviews or general posts about books? We’re always adding more to This Blue Dress!
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Great list here!! Definitely going to need to check some of these out. Some are already favorites of mine too!!
I haven’t read all the books you listed. I have read most of them. Will have to fill in with the ones I haven’t read. Wonderful list.
I have read a few of these but the others are definitely going on my TBR list!! Thank you for the inspiration! 🙂
I have heard of some of these books and LOVE them. However there are a few that I have never heard of. I will have to try them. Thanks for sharing!
The Horse and His Boy always had a special place in my heart, too, even though The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe was my favorite. There’s something so nuanced and profound about it. I really need to reread the series as an adult–it’s been years!
My favourite book is the 7 habits of highly effective people! I apply this to my daily life everyday. Its ingenious!
LOVE this list!! I’ve read about half of it and the other half I’ve heard nothing but great things about, so I need to get on that.
Outliers is still to this day one of my very favorite books ever!! I see a few more on this list I need to read!
I like most of these! The Chronicles of Narinia is such a classic, with such wonderful parallels, and I think 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read for all entrepreneurs…and anyone with any goals in life, really!
Great list! I’ve read 4 of them. So many books to read and so little time!
So many of these book I have read and loved! I loved Outliers, and find myself quoting it to my children often. I have never read the Scarlet Pimpernel, so maybe it will have to join my to read list. Thanks!
What a great list! The Chronicles of Narnia definitely brought back some childhood memories
I read the Christmas Carol with my class almost every year and love it!
What a treat for your class! I bet your students will have great memories of that! -Maegan
What a great list! I think I need to add “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and organizing” to my reading list. Thanks for the great suggestions!
I love your suggestions! I’m always looking for good books to read. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan! 😀 I’m going to check out Outliers. I’ve always wanted to read it!
I haven’t heard of some of these! I need to check some of these out! Would especially love to read The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People!
I’ve only read the life changing magic book and that one was amazing. I can’t wait to check out your other recommendations though!
Oh, I’m a huge reader and I always have been. Definitely agree with the Harry Potter series. Such a classic. 🙂 I read the manga version of Life-Changing Magic which gave me the bullet points and I liked that.
I have read probably half of these! Thanks for the tips on the others. I always need a good book. ?
Harry potter is one of my favorite series. I have not heard of some of these books. I love Chronicles of Narnia also. Thanks for putting together such a great list.