You've GOT to Read This Book!: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life

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There's nothing better than a book you can't put down&#8212or better yet, a book you'll never forget. This book puts the power of transformational reading into your hands. Jack Canfield, cocreator of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, and self-actualization pioneer Gay Hendricks have invited notable people to share personal stories of books that changed their lives. What book shaped their outlook and habits? Helped them navigate rough seas? Spurred them to ...

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You've GOT to Read This Book!: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life

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There's nothing better than a book you can't put down&#8212or better yet, a book you'll never forget. This book puts the power of transformational reading into your hands. Jack Canfield, cocreator of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, and self-actualization pioneer Gay Hendricks have invited notable people to share personal stories of books that changed their lives. What book shaped their outlook and habits? Helped them navigate rough seas? Spurred them to satisfaction and success?

The contributors include Dave Barry, Stephen Covey, Malachy McCourt, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Mark Victor Hansen, John Gray, Christiane Northrup, Bernie Siegel, Craig Newmark, Michael E. Gerber, Lou Holtz, and Pat Williams, to name just a few. Their richly varied stories are poignant, energizing, and entertaining.Author and actor Malachy McCourt tells how a tattered biography of Gandhi, stumbled on in his youth, offered a shining example of true humility&#8212and planted the seeds that would help support his sobriety decades later.

Bestselling author and physician Bernie Siegel, M.D., tells how William Saroyan's The Human Comedy helped him realize that, in order to successfully treat his patients with life-threatening illnesses, "I had to help them live&#8212not just prevent them from dying."

Actress Catherine Oxenberg reveals how, at a life crossroads and struggling with bulimia, a book taught her the transforming difference one person could make in the life of another&#8212and why that person for her was Richard Burton.

Rafe Esquith, the award-winning teacher whose inner-city students have performed Shakespeare all over the world, recounts his deep self-doubt in the midst of his success&#8212and how reading To Kill a Mockingbird strengthened him to continue teaching.

Beloved librarian and bestselling author Nancy Pearl writes how, at age ten, Robert Heinlein's science fiction book Space Cadet impressed on her the meaning of personal integrity and gave her a vision of world peace she'd never imagined possible. Two years later, she marched in her first civil rights demonstration and learned that there's always a way to make "a small contribution to intergalactic harmony."

If you're looking for insight and illumination&#8212or simply for that next great book to read&#8212You've Got to Read This Book! has treasures in store for you.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable spelled out is a spark." These words of Victor Hugo continue to cast light nearly two centuries after they were written. In You've Got to Read This Book!, Chicken Soup impresario Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks share personal stories of transformation from well-known people in many walks of life. The booklover/contributors include Malachy McCourt, Dave Barry, Stephen Covey, Kenny Loggins, Mark Victor Hansen, and John Gray. Resonant reading.
Publishers Weekly
Canfield, the brains behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and Hendricks (Conscious Living) stay in the inspirational mode with this collection of dozens of entertainers, sports personalities, businesspeople, writers, environmentalists and activists telling up-by-their-bootstraps stories involving books. Some, like Dave Barry (inspired by humorist Robert Benchley) and Lou Holtz (David Schwartz's The Magic of Thinking Big) are well known. Other are recognizable for the products they've created: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark praises The Cluetrain Manifesto, which mirrored his own early belief in the power of the Internet. Among the more memorable contributions is that of 21-year-old Farrah Gray, who spent his early childhood on public assistance, read Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success at age 11 and made his first million at 14. Two contributors-motivational speaker Lisa Nichols and eBay COO Maynard Webb-cite Stephen Covey's best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey himself was uplifted by heady reading-Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning and E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed-both books, he says, affecting everything from his parenting to his teaching. It's a mixed bag, more uplifting than literary, but readers may find the book that turns them on the way these contributors were. (Sept.). Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Dallas Morning News
“It’s the kind of inspirational book that will probably bring back memories of your own pleasures.”
“This must-read is sure to provide inspiration, motivation, and a springboard for discussion.”
Tucson Citizen
“This is good stuff and as satisfying as a bowl of steaming soup on a cold winter day.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060891695
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/15/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield, America's Success Coach, is the cocreator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, which includes 40 New York Times bestsellers, and coauthor with Gay Hendricks of You've GOT to Read This Book! An internationally renowned corporate trainer, keynote speaker, and popular radio and TV talk show guest, he lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Gay Hendricks is the author and coauthor of more than twenty books that deal with personal growth, including the New York Times bestseller Five Wishes and Conscious Living.


While Jack Canfield himself may not necessarily be a household name, it's very likely that you have heard of his famed Chicken Soup for the Soul series and nearly as likely that you have at least one of them sitting on your very own bookshelf! Having got his start as an inspirational speaker, Canfield's own story is nothing less than inspirational.

Jack Canfield had been traveling around delivering key note speeches and organizing workshops to help audiences build their self-esteem and maximize their potential when he had an in-flight brainstorm that changed his life. While flying home from a gig, Canfield realized that the very same advice he had been delivering during his in-person addresses could potentially form the basis of a book. Canfield used inspirational stories he'd gleaned over the years as the basis of his speeches, and he thought it would be a terrific idea to gather together 101 inspirational stories and anthologize them in a single volume. Upon returning home, Canfield approached friend and author Mark Victor Hansen about his concept. Hansen agreed it was a great idea, and the two men set about finding a publisher. Believe it or not, the mega-selling series was not an easy sell to publishers. "We were rejected by 123 publishers all told," Canfield told "The first time we went to New York, we visited with about a dozen publishers in a two day period with our agent, and nobody wanted it. They all said it was a stupid title, that nobody bought collections of short stories, that there was no edge -- no sex, no violence. Why would anyone read it?"

Canfield wisely practiced what he preached -- and persisted. Ultimately, he and Hansen sold the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book to a small press based in Deerfield Beach, Florida, called Health Communications. The rest, as they say, is history. There are currently 80 million copies of the Chicken Soup books in print, with subjects as varied as Chicken Soup For the Horse Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup For the Prisoner's Soul. Canfield and Hansen ranked as the top-selling authors of 1997 and are multiple New York Times bestsellers. Most important of all, the inspirational stories they have gathered in their many volumes have improved the lives of countless readers.

This year, expect to see Canfield's name gracing the covers of such titles as Chicken Soup For the Scrapbooker's Soul, Chicken Soup For the Mother and Son Soul, and Chicken Soup For the African American Woman's Soul. He and Hansen have also launched the all-new "Healthy Living" series and 8 titles in that series have already been released this year. There is also the fascinating You've GOT to Read This Book!, in which Canfield compiles personal accounts by 55 people each discussing a book that has changed his or her life. The most compelling of these may be the story of young entrepreneur Farrah Gray, who read Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success at the age of 11 and made his first million dollars at the age of 14!

With no sign of slowing down, Canfield continues to be an inspiration to millions, who fortunately refused to give up when it seemed as though he would never even get his first book published. "Mark and I are big believers in perseverance," he said. "If you have a vision and a life purpose, and you believe in it, then you do not let external events tell you what is so. You follow your internal guidance and follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell used to say."

Good To Know

Canfield is the founder of two California based self-esteem programs, "Self-Esteem Seminars" in Santa Barbara and "The Foundation For Self Esteem" in Culver City.

Writing the first Chicken Soup book was a lot more daunting than Canfield expected. After the first three years of research, he and Mark Victor Hansen had only compiled 68 stories -- 33 tales shy of their goal of 101 stories.

Along with co-writing dozens of full-length books, Canfield also publishes a free biweekly newsletter called Success Strategies.

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Canfield:

"My inspiration for writing comes from my passion for teaching others how to live more effective lives. I started out as a history teacher in an all-black inner city high school in Chicago, graduated to a teacher trainer, then psychotherapist, then trainer of therapists, then large group transformational trainer and then a writer and keynote speaker. All along the way, my desire was to make a difference, to help people live more fulfilling lives. That is what I still do today. Most people don't know this but I was not a good writer in college. I got a C in composition. Nobody would have ever believed I would grow up to be a bestselling author."

"I play guitar, and I am learning to play the piano. I love movies and some TV shows. My favorites are Six Feet Under, Grey's Anatomy, House and Lost. I love to play Scrabble, poker and backgammon with my in-laws, nieces and nephews. We really get into it. I love to travel. I have been to 25 countries and try to add two or three new ones every year."

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    1. Hometown:
      Santa Barbara, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 19, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Worth, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A. in History, Harvard University, 1966; M.A.T. Program, University of Chicago, 1968; M.Ed., U. of Massachusetts, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

You've GOT to Read This Book! LP

55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life
By Jack Canfield

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Jack Canfield
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061119962

Chapter One

Jacquelyn Mitchard

Jacquelyn Mitchard is a critically acclaimed New York Times best-selling author. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the first book selected for Oprah's Book Club and was made into a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. She has written five other novels and three children's books. A newspaper reporter since 1976, she now writes a nationally syndicated column for Tribune Media Services and travels to promote awareness of colorectal cancer, which took the life of her first husband, award-winning reporter Dan Allegretti. Jacquelyn lives on an old farm south of Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband Chris Brent and their seven children, who range in age from 4 months to 22 years.

A few years ago, on my birthday, a simple box arrived in the mail from my dear friend and agent, Jane Gelfman. When I opened it and saw what it contained, tears welled up in my eyes. It was a first edition of the book that I loved more than any other: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The copy was inscribed lovingly by the author, Betty Smith, to her own agent, and tucked inside were letters she had written, preserved just as they were 60 years ago. At this point, even my children, gathered around the dinner table, grew misty eyed. They knew how I feltabout this book, its author, and its heroine.

Some months before, I had herded my three teenaged sons into a budget screening of the newest movie production of Little Women. They entered that theater as willingly as accused felons being led to jail while TV cameras rolled&#8212their coats hunched over their faces, lest they encounter anyone they knew.

Afterward, however, they realized why Little Women was required reading in our house full of little men, along with a couple of other "girl" books, including National Velvet and, of course, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My son Dan, who, before puberty and Limp Bizkit hit simultaneously, was known to us as "the sensitive one," said as we got into the car, "I get it. When you were a kid, you wanted to be Jo March, didn't you, Mom?"

I had to admit it&#8212I did want to be Jo, the brilliant young heroine of Little Women, growing up with a gentle, endlessly patient mother and a brave, wise, and superbly educated father; surrounded by books, piano music, genteel poverty, and noble breeding, in a large house shaded by old trees and with handsome boys next door. But I knew, and my children knew, I was Francie Nolan, the plucky, resourceful star of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Like Francie, I'd been an urban child; I recognized the Brooklyn tree that Betty Smith describes in the book's epigraph:

". . . Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that . . . survives without sun, water and seemingly, without earth. It would be considered beautiful, except that there are too many. . . ."

There were trees like that on the West Side of Chicago, too. I'd lived in an apartment there when I was small. My aunt and uncle lived downstairs and my grandparents lived one building over. Everyone was either a plumber or a bricklayer. Our family, though always employed, definitely aspired to the lower-middle class. But I was the daughter of parents who never finished high school: a mother devoted to books and to my only brother and me, and an alcoholic father who worked so long and played so hard, we barely saw him. Our extended family was large, sometimes raucously loving, and sometimes raucously violent. The laughter was often too loud; the songs beautiful, but the words often slurred. Books were a shelter and a friend to me when that shelter wasn't available in real life.

My mother sought that shelter, too. Long before Oprah, she read the great books: Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment. She didn't realize that she was too uneducated&#8212that those books were not meant for her. She always brought home the very best things to read from the library. She gave me the message that nothing was off limits for me, that the circumstances of my birth would not contain me, and that as long as I could learn, I could never be a prisoner of my circumstances.

One day when I was 12 she gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Since that day, I've read it 11 times. I have a tradition of reading it before every book that I write. A work of fiction, it's a beautiful portrayal of urban poverty, and very gritty. We think of it as a book for little seventh-grade girls, but it isn't. It's a book in which there are terrifying things: alcoholism and child abuse and children in terribly dangerous circumstances caused by neglect.

Yet Francie's mother, Katie, makes Francie's life a stable place and points her toward education&#8212in Francie's case, secretarial school, though she wants to be a writer. Katie teaches her that education is the only way to leave behind the kind of life in which she's grown up&#8212the life of a tree forcing its way through the cracks in the cement, surviving on not much more than its own fierce will to live. Her mother was the person who best understood Francie's life ambitions and how difficult they were going to be to achieve. I was struck by how understanding her mother was of Francie as she matured&#8212it reminded me of my own mother, who was the same way with me until she died when I was 19.

Francie Nolan did grow up to be a writer. Reading her story as a child, I felt she was showing me . . .


Excerpted from You've GOT to Read This Book! LP by Jack Canfield Copyright © 2006 by Jack Canfield. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Reading Group Guide

Whether your reading group has been together for five months or five years, You've GOT to Read This Book! will add a new dimension to your discussions. Bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks have collected essays from 55 leaders in the worlds of business, motivation, entertainment, and more about the book that transformed their lives; the book that helped shape them into who they are today. It's a powerful topic to discuss and a fascinating way to learn more about your reading group comrades.

As Jack and Gay say in their introductory essay: "We love books, and we bet you do, too. We especially love books that inspire, heal, and transform lives. It has been our long-held dream to put into your hands a work that carries the essence of what we believe to be most valuable about a book: its potential to change your life. This collection of stories is the fulfillment of that dream."

Take your reading group discussion in new directions with You've GOT to Read This Book! Delve deeper into the transforming power of books and you may be surprised at what you discover about your reading group friends and about yourself!

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Questions for Discussion

1. Which of the essays affected you the most? Could you relate to one of the books more than others? Did any author surprise you with his or her choice?

2. Two contributors selected Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and discuss similar aspects but from very different points of view. Which resonated more with you and why?

3. Today's society has become dominated by visual media such as television and video games. Discuss the relevance of books today. Why are they still so important in your life and in the lives of others?

4. Discuss the last time two people in your group had completely opposite views on a book you read. What were the possible reasons for such disparate reactions?

5. How has reading changed your life? What was the first book you read that made you realize the power of books?

6. Which five books would you want with you if you found yourself stranded on a desert island?

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2006


    Just great fun, revisiting 'old friends' and discovering some new ones.

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    Posted May 10, 2015

    No text was provided for this review.

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