Now that I mention it, there’s a book by that name: The Book That Changed My Life, edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen, Gotham Books, 2006, relates how a variety of books changed the lives of seventy-one famous readers. It’s a good read.
Anyway, yes, books can. There were two that changed my life many years ago. I was a high school dropout, married, and the mother of four young sons when I read Working by Studs Terkel. I was fascinated by the range of jobs and careers Terkel depicted people having, how they felt about what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Some had chosen their field of work, others had fallen into it one way or another. It made me ponder how I’d let my own life be led more by circumstance than by choice, so I chose to go back to school.
I got my GED, then I enrolled in college in a liberal arts curriculum, studying to become a speech therapist because I myself had a speech impediment. A few semesters in, in an English class, we read Where I Lived and What I Lived For, the famous chapter in Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. It was idealistic, romanticized, and I found it enchanting. I quickly read the entire volume and changed my academic major to English. Upon graduation, with my BA in hand, I secured a copywriting job, went on to get an MS in Psychology, and have been writing one thing or another ever since.
Now, retired from the corporate world, I’m writing fiction, and loving it every bit as much as when I tried to emulate Thoreau. And, by the way, I lived in the woods for twenty-five years, while he lived at Walden Pond for only two.