Books that Changed My Life


I was thinking that I have not mad any good lists lately.  So, I thought I would ponder a while and make a good one.

Books that Changed My Life

This is a list of books that I feel really had a profound effect on me in one way or another.  Now this is a good list, not a cliche list so books like the Bible and the books that I learned to read with are not on here though the Bible is a big influence in my life and I would not have learned to read had it not been for the I See Sam books.  This is a good list.  It is in no order, so they are not numbered.

East of Eden
I had all but given up on American literature when I met John Steinbeck.  We had a run in a few times in high school: Of Mice and Men and then The Grapes of Wrath.  Both were for class so I felt like spending time with him was an obligation, so I never really got to know him.  I don’t remember what motivated me to pick up EoE three summers ago, but I did.  I could not put it down.  The picture above is one that I took at the lake while my friends were swimming and I was on the shore, glued to my book.  Sam Hamilton is a storehouse of wisdom that I gleaned a lot from.

The Wringer
I read this book when I was in about 7th grade.  I am a firm believer that there is a perfect time to read every book.  I think there are some books that you can’t understand until you are a certain age or at a certain place in your life.  The Wringer was that for me.  I think that 7th grade is where I started really thinking and working on some things of my own.  In the book, there is a pigeon festival in the boy’s town where everyone wrings the neck of a pigeon. The boy, in front of his whole town, refuses to do it.  He is also found later to be hiding a pigeon in his room as a pet.  This flies in the face of everything he is supposed to be doing, but he does what he feels right anyway.

Blue Like Jazz
Again, another book found at just the right time.  I was a sophomore in college, I had just finished a summer camp where a lot of my thinking was shaped and challenged.  I was just kind of afloat spiritually not liking what I was seeing, but not having any ideas for what I thought spirituality should look like. Then I was talking to my youth minister and he said he had just read Blue Like Jazz.  I laughed and said I wasn’t reading it because it was just trendy at the time, but he assured me that this was worth the read, so I picked it up.  Then the picture began coming in clearer for what I was looking for in my faith: something that cared about people, something that was built off Christ instead of what people had told me, a church that was active.  This is what faith was supposed to look like.  I have now progressed past the level of thought and moved into action, but BLJ was a huge push in that direction.

I cannot talk about how much I love books without mentioning the first book I ever loved.  In 5th grade I had Ken Stamatis as a reading teacher.  I wasn’t really into reading, I liked football.  But he wasn’t going to let a single kid leave that class without a joy for reading, and he didn’t.  He asked me what I liked I told him I like being outside and I like watching nature shows on television, so he handed me Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.  So, I gave it a try.  Holy crap!  This book is awesome.  I read it super fast and told Mr Stamatis how much I loved it.  He told me there was another book and another.  There were even two more coming out.  I devoured them like a fat kid does candy.  Then I started reading other books by Paulsen.  Eventually Mr. Stamatis recommended I branch out giving me some Roald Dahl, Avi, Mark Twain and others a try.  Each time he was spot on. 

Nickel and Dimed
I read this book a few years ago and I believe it put me on a track for better poverty awareness and understanding.  Though my own up-bringing wasn’t particularly affluent this book better helped me to understand the cycle of poverty.  In it, the author goes from city to city putting herself in low-wage jobs to try to work out of that position, but realizes time after time that she cannot pay rent, gas and food with a minimum-wage job. 

If nothing else, this book was an introduction to many things including the psychology of marketing and design.  In this book, along with the others by Malcom Gladwell, deep psychological studies are put into easily understandable and applicable terms for the common person.  This book is much to credit for my young interest in psychology, sociology and other people-based sciences. 

Catcher in the Rye
This book is one that I come back to very often for wisdom on my own life.  I remember reading it when I was in high school and talking to my friend Sarah Walker about it.  I said, “I hate Holden.  What a waste of potential.  He’s smart and all, but just doesn’t care to work at anything to show people he’s worth anything.”  To which my friend Sarah replied, “You’re Holden.”   This book really is a lot about me.    A coming of age book about a guy who spends all of his time wishing he could be somewhere else and never really using where he is to its fullest potential.   He also finds out in his journey that you can never really go back home, that even the most basic of places are not the same anymore.


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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: Flickr:

2 responses to “Books that Changed My Life”

  1. Wayne Youngblood says :

    Consider the following books:
    “The Robe” (I read it almost 50 years ago!)
    “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer (reading now)

  2. coleyoakum says :

    The Robe. I have heard this was a good book. I will add it to my growing list!

    Peter Singer… that name sounds familiar. I will look into that.

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