Each month we ask our readers to respond to a question. For January we asked: What book by a woman author changed your life and why? See more thoughts on page 15.

When my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease I was in get-everything-done-all-at-once mode: finding a good assisted living facility, selling her house, and a million other power-of-attorney things. I was so focused crossing things off/adding things on my to-do list that I didn't take the time to ponder what was actually occurring.

"Tangles" by Sarah Leavitt changed my life. It's autobiographical in nature, written via sketches she drew over the course of six years when she was struggling with her mother's Alzheimer's. When Midge dies at the end of the book, it truthfully felt as if I had lost my own mother and I grieved my losses for the first time. "Tangles" helped me process my own emotional "tangles" and inspired me to start a blog.
Jillian Van Hefty, Waconia
FFI: ijustwanttogohome2016.blogspot.com

The Chalice and the Blade
It was 1987 and I was in the process of questioning a number of assumptions I had carried into young adulthood. As a member of a newly coalescing group of women who were searching for spiritual meaning and a re-energized definition of what it meant to be a woman, I felt the organized church was not where I could find the elements to work out those needs. Riane Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade" appeared at our group one night. We read it with great relish, then we read it again. It changed my understanding of the dominant paradigm, opening endless doors to personal change.

Eisler's book has been a cherished companion.
Jeanie Stewart Johnson, Minneapolis

The Bag Lady Papers
Alexandra Penney, a visual artist, lost her entire fortune in Bernie Madoff's infamous Ponzi scheme in 2008.

Reading "The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All," her firsthand account of financial demise as a strong feminist and educated woman, was frightening. I quickly realized that if this type of financial disaster can happen to someone like Penney, it can happen to anyone. This book reaffirmed that no one is immune from being duped, and that as women we must take control of our financial destiny by performing appropriate due diligence to intensely scrutinize those we are looking to hand over our financial reins to.

The most inspiring part of the book was that Penney forged on. The day following the bad news, she got up early and looked for jobs. She put her homes up for sale. In the end, it proved that she was a survivor.
Denise Redgate, Minneapolis

Joy Jots
"Joy Jots: Exercises for a Happy Heart," by Tamara Gray, is a book that has changed and is changing my life. In this book of essays, Ms. Gray has helped me make some important decisions about my life on a weekly basis. She writes 52 chapters, but they are meant to help you learn, reflect, and spiritually grow from week to week. Whether it's to create goals in life, to have a plan, find happiness, or be grateful, Ms. Gray has helped me change my outlook on life - to be more positive, optimistic and hopeful all through a faith lens. Every woman should have a copy of this book!
Nausheena Hussain, Brooklyn Park

The Feminine Mystique
It was so tempting to respond "The Bible," but the topic is too important for a facetious answer. The book that most affected my life was "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Freidan.

When it came out in 1963, I was a 10th grader. I never read it. But my mother did. Although she had a husband and four children, plus a career she loved as a school librarian, there's no doubt in my mind that she understood "the problem that has no name" - the unhappiness of women of that era who simply wanted more out of life.

Does anyone doubt how much influence our mothers had on us, growing up? Would I have pursued an independent career without it? Would I be who I am today without her?

Although I have no daughters or granddaughters, I hope I have supported and encouraged girls in other ways. Mom would be pleased.
Ruth Nerhaugen, Red Wing

Little Women
Born during the Great Depression, I had an affinity for books about brave, poor little children. In "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew," I marveled at the children's fun and fortitude. But my favorite book was Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." I learned each of the characters had virtues and flaws, the personification of real girls. Just as women carry different personalities and blended gifts, none are "wrong." All of us, too, deserve admiration.

I loved each of the disparate March sisters. Meg, sage oldest sister. I respected Jo, lively, irrepressible, with good instincts. Lovable Beth, stoic, sweet, gentle. Now, Amy! Perhaps irascible, vain? Guess what? I named my only daughter Amy! She's just herself, a melding of the sisters: talented, intelligent, confident. Did she ever think I would have preferred a more docile Beth? Never! I couldn't esteem, or love, my spirited Amy more for her strength, courage, and glowing kindness.
Marilynne Thomas Walton, St. Paul

I was introduced to "Backbone: Short Stories" at a workshop held for county social workers and nurses. Author Carol Bly was the keynote speaker, chosen to help us understand aging and life in rural Minnesota. I purchased the book and read the five stories, finishing them in one evening. I worked as a case manager, helping people stay at home with services, as an alternative to nursing home placement. Bly's story, Gunnar's Sword, was my favorite.

In March of the same year, the Split Rock Arts Program offered "Writing Essays in the Forest," by Carol Bly. For a week in July, I joined 12 other women at the Cloquet Forest. Each morning, we met for Bly's lecture and received a daily writing assignment. In the evening, Carol, sitting in her tiny cabin, typed her comments to each essay. This was a week I learned the craft of writing beautiful essays.
Lois Anderson, Shoreview