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Six books that shaped my life

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

I’ve always been a keen reader. I’ve read hundreds, no probably thousands of books and some of them have had an enormous influence on me during key periods of my life.

So, I’m introducing myself by sharing with you six books that have helped to shape my life.

Korte metten by Renate Dorrestein

I had to start with a Dutch book, of course!

Renate Dorrestein was a Dutch feminist writer. She wrote short stories for Opzij, a Dutch feminist magazine. Her book Korte Metten is a collection of these short stories.

I first read this book during my late teenage years. Renate Dorrestein pointed out how sexism was (and is!) part of everyday life, and how ridiculous it was to treat people differently on the basis of their gender.

She was angry. She was indignant. She was sharp. She was funny.

Even now, 30 years after I bought it this is the first book that I will take out when I need an energy boost, a healthy dose of feminist common sense and a good giggle at the same time. Renate Dorrestein lit my feminist fire!

The dance of anger by Harriet Lerner

My aunt introduced me to this book. I read it in my late twenties - and bought it again recently. The book discusses how women - especially women - can get caught up in useless patterns of anger, especially with their loved ones. It describes patterns of behaviour where anger is directed outwardly or inwardly without actually bringing about any change for the better. It gives examples of how women can break these patterns, whilst still maintaining a loving relationship with their partner, their children and their wider family.

Even though this book came out in 1985 it still holds valuable lessons for me today in how to manage your emotions and take responsibility for bringing about positive change in your relationships.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

A friend and colleague pointed me to this book. I read it in my early thirties. The book sets out how the writer gets back in contact with an old professor of his, who has been diagnosed with a debilitating and life-ending disease. It describes how - despite, or maybe because of, his illness - he taught others how to embrace life and accept love.

Sometimes books come at the right time, and that was the case for me with this book. It taught me a lot about being more open, about love and being loved, about enjoying a meaningful life and about what - in the end - is really important in life.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

You know how sometimes you are alerted to a book? You read about it. People talk in blogs about it or on social media. You read reviews about it. People have been inspired by it, have changed their life as a result of reading it. It’s everywhere!

Now I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that - when you’re open to something - it will come to you. No surprise then that - without actively looking for it - I had to find this book in a charity shop.

The Artist’s Way is a book setting out a 12-week programme helping you to re-discover your creativity. One day I will actually complete the full 12 week programme (so far I’ve managed to get to week 8 only!). However, the book has taught me two powerful lessons:

  • Self-care - Somehow, I’d forgotten about self-care. This book reminded me that no creativity can exist if you don’t look after yourself, listen to yourself and re-fuel your creative ‘tank’.

  • Journaling - I never was the girl with the diary under her bed, who wrote pages and pages of her most intimate thoughts down on paper. I never thought my thoughts were worth writing down on paper. I still don’t. However, as a result of this book I’ve become a firm believer in the healing properties of writing ‘morning papers’, as Julia Cameron calls it. No, the words are not worth re-reading, and I never do. But the process of writing them down every morning, without interruption and without thinking too much has proven to be absolutely vital. Vital in managing my emotions. In clearing my mind. And in helping me to think through major challenges and facing major decisions in my life.

Happiness is a choice by Barry Kaufmann

I was miserable, I had a cold, I was having a rough time at work. I was off sick, feeling sorry for myself, when I read this book. Not my normal choice of book, but for some reason I had decided to borrow this book from the library a few days earlier.

The book states - as the title implies - that happiness is a choice. Yes, life is tough sometimes, and no one is expecting you to skip through life and be happy all the time. (Quite frankly, I would be worried if you were!). But what it made me see is that the only one responsible for your happiness is you! And that you can make a conscious decision to be happier and look at setbacks as just that - setbacks - rather than insurmountable permanent obstacles.

As a result of this book I’ve read and studied multiple books on positive psychology and emotional intelligence. Just to mention a few:

  • ‘Flourish’ and ‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin Seligman

  • ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Dan Goleman

  • ‘The Happiness Advantage’ by Shawn Achor

But it was this book that made me look at life in a completely different way. Am I deliriously happy all the time as a result of reading this book. Of course not. Do I have a changed outlook on life? Absolutely!

The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle

When I first wrote this blog the title was 'Five books that shaped my life'. And then I read Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now. Now, I'll own up to being a late adopter. This book, after all, came out in 1997. But, quite frankly, if you would have let me read this - spiritual - book back in 1997 (or even when I was my cynical self at 39!) I would have laughed.

Which of course just shows you that books have to grab you at the right time. And boy, was it the right time. Because for me, this book was the book of Summer 2019. Any book that makes me feel so alive, and my body zinging with energy, fully deserves that accolade. 

The reason I like this book so much is that it aims to provide the key to attaining peace and contentment, by - you guessed it - intending to live in the 'now'.

What does that mean? It means that: 

  • You are good enough as you are

  • You are not your thoughts, not your mind, not your emotions - as these can all be observed,. By you.

  • Your past and your future are only in your mind and are therefore not real. All there is is now, and you should endeavour to be present in the now, accept what is happening now

All of this doesn't mean that you shouldn't make changes! Of course you should. However, it does mean that the only time you can make changes is right now!

So there you have it! My 6 life-shaping books. I'm adding reviews of all the books I finish in the Book Review section of my website.

Are there books that have changed your life?


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

Join her now in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women or sign up to the newsletter.

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