So. . . is there a difference between recommending books that I think everyone should read and my favorite books? I would say yes. There are books that I think have tremendous value to shape our lives and influence our thoughts, but they are not necessarily favorites of mine. Many of these are favorites, but some are books that I think are worth reading even if I’d prefer to not read them again. So here is yesterday’s list from 30 Days of Lists:
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – my very favorite book. I liked how Gretchen improved the happiness with her life (without spending a lot of money to do lavish things) and how honest she was about what did and did not work for her. I tried a number of things myself after reading her book and kept the ones that worked.
- The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel. This was my first exposure to the idea that everyone is creative, no matter what we do in life. Seriously, even accountants can be creative, although that’s easier to believe in the last ten years after all the fraud scandals! The book has daily exercises to improve your creativity. It’s not about writing, photography, or anything we would normally consider to be “creative”. It’s about living right where we are and being creative in that space.
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s a hard book to read and has major sections that you get through only by rapidly skimming it. Still, the lessons are incredible. The two big eye openers for me was that I have to work for what I want and not expect anyone to give it to me (from when Dagney Taggert met John Galt in the valley) and that arrangements between spouses are nobody else’s business. I thought that was incredibly insightful of Ms. Rand to acknowledge that there is value in women staying home and not “making money” and that such arrangements were between them and their husbands. This served me well years later when I encouraged my favorite boy toy to quit his day job and pursue his art. As far as I was concerned, it was no one’s business what the arrangement was between us.
- Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. I actually quit reading Dennis Lehane’s books for a long time after reading this book. [SPOILER ALERT] The book has a powerful lesson in it though, that we can do what is right legally and morally, but the end result devastates everyone and was a mistake to do. I still struggle to reconcile that to my faith in God, yet I’ve seen it happen. There are times when a judgment call needs to be made and things done because it is the right outcome, not because it’s the right law.
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I’m amazed at the people who slam this book even though they’ve not actually read it. It’s not an easy read and Thoreau is self-righteous and condescending in many places. But whether you agree with what he writes or not, it’s thought provoking and will cause readers to examine their lives and beliefs. If after that you don’t agree with him, at least know why you think and act the way you do. For example, one of the things that Thoreau comments on is the need to live simpler lives. My favorite boy toy and I clearly do not do that. But I’m comfortable with that and that our lives are richer for not stripping down to absolute basics. For more of my thoughts on that, see my blog post on why I don’t travel lightly.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder – all of her books. Although the books are an idealized fictional account of her growing up, it gives an easy-to-read insight into growing up in frontier America, what families did to feed and provide for themselves, and how families interacted with each other and their neighbors.
- James Herriott – his first four books (All Creatures Great and Small; All Things Bright and Beautiful; All Things Wise and Wonderful; and The Lord God Made Them All). These books are also a fictional account, but here it’s of a small town vet, loosely based on Herriott’s life. However, there are a lot of life lessons in here, from dealing with difficult people and patients, paying attention to what he was doing, and being diligent even when things went wrong.
- Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. After the death of her sister, Nina spent a year reading a book a day and blogging about it. This book is more than moving on from grieving or even about reading. To quote the book review that I did here, it is also about celebrating the life we each have to live.
I didn’t list The Holy Bible here. I went back and forth on that. Clearly it has value and everyone should read it for themselves, preferably the whole thing too. But to me, the Bible is just a starting point. Actually executing on it is difficult and takes a lifetime of figuring out what to do and how to do it.
I could add so many more books! But this was what came to mind when I did the list, for the reasons that I’ve listed.
I’m interested in hearing what you – my wonderful and faithful readers – would add as a book (or books) that you recommend everyone should read. Of if you’ve read one of these, what you thought of it and did it change your life?
Books are a uniquely portable magic.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I can never read all the books I want;
I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want.
I can never train myself in all the skills I want.
And why do I want? I want to live and
feel all the shades, tones and variations of
mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath