You Changed My Life:
Stories of Real People with Remarkable Hearts
by Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson Publishers
14 September 2010
You Changed My Life is a hardcover gift book by Max Lucado, a best-selling Christian author and preacher. (A gift book is intended to be given away rather than be read by the purchaser.) The book is just 6″ by 7″ and only 190 pages: great for coffee table, waiting room, or bathroom reading. The pages are full of beautiful photos and colorful formatting. Each short-short story (more like mini-memoir) is three pages or less and falls under one of eight uplifting categories: Love, Kindness, Commitment, Compassion, Hope, Courage, Wisdom, or Friendship. There’s even a page at the beginning for the purchaser of the book to write who it’s for and, briefly, how that person changed the gift giver’s life. Also, 100% of the author royalties from You Changed My Life benefits children and families through World Vision and “other ministries of faith-based compassion.” Cool, right?
Well, it’s a nice idea, but in my experience, people don’t read gift books. Mostly, they sit on someone’s coffee table or shelf and take up space but rarely does the receiver of the gift actually sit down to read a gift book all the way through. And, actually, that may be okay with this one because the stories are short and unconnected; it’s possible to pick up the book, open it to a random page, and read a heartwarming story that may or may not make an impact on the reader’s daily life.
The stories from history struck me the most; the ones from Lucado’s own life, the least. My favorite story (from the “Hope” section), I think, is as follows:
“Now you can write your book!”
He wasn’t so positive. “And what shall we live on while I’m writing it?”
To his amazement she opened a drawer and revealed a wad of money she’d saved out of her housekeeping budget. “I always knew you were a man of genius,” she told him. “I always knew you’d write a masterpiece.”
She believed in her husband. And because she did, he wrote. And because he wrote, every library in America has a copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Honestly, though, I thought many/most of the stories were sentimental (and not in a good way) and mundane. (Another reviewer called Lucado’s work “fluffy”, which seems apt, at least in this case.) And I know why Lucado is donating all his proceeds to charity: all of the stories are taken from many of his other books, including A Gentle Thunder, Just Like Jesus, Next Door Savior, and Outlive Your Life, among others. You Changed My Life is essentially a compilation of the uplifting stories about which he’s written in his other works. Also, many of the pages have verses from the Bible (ie: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20, NKJV), so if you’re not a Christian—or rather, if the person to whom you’re considering gifting this book isn’t a Christian—it’s probably not the greatest choice.
DISCLAIMER: I received You Changed My Life free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.