Here’s a list of 10 Books that have shaped my thinking. This list, by no means, is my top 10, nor is it necessarily listed in order of importance(Except for the 1st one). The only real danger here is in placing yourself between the white and black pages of ideas that force one to confront the deeper things in life. Somethings we will agree with, some we will not. But we will be exploring, thinking, and maybe leave the better for it. And for some that is a very dangerous.
Please add to this list, so that others, including myself can benefit from the books that have radically changed your life, or simply had a significant impact on the way you think, view, or understand life.
Quite arguably the most read, treasured, controversial, and even misunderstood book of all times is the Bible. It’s significance embraces both the Jewish and Christian Faith. It has been the cause of much debate, but has also motivated martyrs to breathe their last breath in defense of what its teachings had done inside their lives, and motivated others to be the persecutors of those same martyrs. It appears to me, that any book with as much impact on humanity as the Bible has had, must be read from cover to cover. Something I’m still working on.
When I read this book for the first time, I had a ton of questions(And would you know, I still have that problem). This book is an apology of the Christian faith, and aims to break down the essential attributes of the Christian faith in such a way that both sides of the believing aisle can benefit. Upon graduating from college, I began to mature in my desire to seriously examine life more closely. Considering that I was raised in a Christian home, I began to carefully examine many assumptions I had regarding the Christian faith, God, and the meaning of life in general. Mere Christianity, written by C.S. Lewis, was a foundational, exhaustive, look at the core of Christianity. And what I appreciated, is how it took a very reasoned, non denominational approach in communicating the topic a very complex topic. Lewis takes you inside a journey of contemplating the core of how Christianity explains human existence, and how one could arrive at such conclusions. Whether you are an atheist, agnostic, or a devout believer in something larger than yourself, this book is worth reading.
Blue Like Jazz
If you follow me on Twitter, or Facebook, or even here, you have heard me mention Donald Miller book Blue Like Jazz, or one of the few books Mr. Miller has released over the last decade. I remember stumbling into this book at the book store, and after reading the back excerpt, thinking to myself, that it was placed on that shelf for me to read, at that time, on that day. Well, you get the point. The tag, “non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality,” immediately grabbed my attention. As someone who had serious questions about aspects of my Christian religious experience, it was refreshing to know, that there were people who were continuing to explore, inquire, and who felt it necessary to separate the religious constraints of their reality, from their desire to encounter a real experience with a God who was real.
A Peoples History of United States
Ok, this is a history book, and most people I know, don’t go around leisurely reading a history book, not unless there’s a grade attached to it. And I can’t say I’m significantly different. However, upon, first listening to an audio version of some of the chapters of this book, I decided it was worth a read. The author, Howard Zinn, American historian and Political scientist, attempts to give you a peek into American history through the eyes of the often marginalized voices in times past. The people who you rarely hear from if the recording of past stories and events have usually been told by those in power. It is not without its share of criticism. Some feel that his approach of telling the stories of marginalized groups in America is a pessimistic approach. I figure someone’s pessimism is another mans truth. Check it out for yourself.
If you have never asked or sought to understand where all of your religious rituals, artifacts come from, this may be a book you may have to digest with a bottle of aspirin. There will be moments, where you will put it down, and murmur unintelligibly to yourself. Pagan Christianity, written by Frank Viola, and George Barna(of The Barna Group), aim to inspire you to explore the roots of your church practices. In the end they purport that their goal isn’t to distort the message of Jesus, but to call into question, the assumptions that many Christians may have, as to the origins of their religious and church practices. It’s full of footnotes, so you can verify the historical claims of pagan tampering they make revealed in many of todays traditional church practices, structure, and down to the physical architecture and preacher robes.
The Four Hour Work Week
“Completely unplug and reset”, that’s what Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4- Hour Workweek states you will have to do if you plan on working a four hour work week, escaping the 9-5, living anywhere and changing your financial situation for the better. The book is divided into 4 sections. Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation. Definition deals with becoming very clear as to the type of life you want. What do you want to do from the minute you wake up, to the moment you go to bed each day, and to consider how much that would cost. You then arrive at the elimination state, here is where you ruthlessly eliminate anything that stands in the way of you living that life. And whatever time consuming things are left, you can then explore automation. He covers the systems one can use to automate, or delegate whats left. And finally liberation. Here is where you need to decide, now that you’ve freed up much of your time, and have the mobility to travel, etc, what do you plan on doing with this time? Tim Ferris recently released an updated edition of this book, and I would recommend checking it out.
The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales
The stories that this emergent thought leader weaves throughout this small book, pack a force that will make your head spin, but not without first arresting your heart and ultimately challenging your soul. Peter Rollins, the Irish philosopher and post modernist theologian, displays why the parable has the power to both emotionally and intellectually challenge in ways that preserve the listeners dignity, but contain the ability to challenge and transform in ways that many other forms of writing do not. Rollins frank, and bold critique of Christianity is accompanied with a clear desire to distinguish any negative observations of Christianity from the message of Jesus Christ.
Rolf Potts, clearly set out to debunk many of the myths people have about traveling the world. But his book goes further than just superficially discuss the subject of traveling. He also aims, and does so very well in my opinion, to define the philosophy of “Vagabonding“, which he describes as “taking time off from your normal life — from six weeks, to four months, to two years — to discover and experience the world on your own terms.” Potts is clear in making the case that vagabonding is not a trend, but more an uncommon way of looking at life. He goes on to explain that it’s “about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions. Vagabonding is about looking for adventure in normal life, and normal life within adventure. Vagabonding is an attitude — a friendly interest in people, places, and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word.” To me, this healthy appetite of finding out for yourself what the world is all about, and has to offer, personifies the spirit of what one’s quest for the truth can be as well.
Strength To Love
In a world where the halls of history are lined with the memories of war, poverty, and injustice, one has to decide how to respond to the almost hopelessness of mankind’s predicament. Is it possible for Billions of people to continually learn from the mistake of others, and choose not to perpetuate the evils that our fathers and mothers partook in. According to Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife, Coretta Scott King, this is the book that best explains the central element of Kings philosophy of nonviolence. “His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. This belief was the force behind his quest to eliminate social evil…by reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, truth, and the courage to do what is right.” This book has had a huge impact on me.
Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
The world is messed up, and Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change, offers some clear cut solutions to how this must begin to be addressed. In essence he shows that mankind in many ways is suicidal, and as a result we now have a crisis in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. He then asks a dangerous question. “What would happen if we applied the message of Jesus—the good news of the kingdom of God—to the world’s greatest problems?” For the Abrahamic faiths, and particularly Christians, this is more and more and unavoidable question.
Despite my claim of danger, and my acknowledged open-mindedness, most of these books still resonated with things I was fairly comfortable with at the time of reading them. I hope to share a few more books in an upcoming post, that push and challenge me even further. I’ll also look at some fiction books as well.
So I’m curious…What are some books that have seriously had an effect on your life? List 10 books if possible, and as people add titles, feel free to share the list with people you know. I know I’m always on the lookout for new books that have had challenged my beliefs, assumptions, and that have had a major impact on someone’s life. With the amount of books begging to be read, its nice to cut through some of the clutter, and hear what’s really done “it” for others.
For an even more exhaustive list, check out 110 Books The Will Change Your Life.