Five books that will change your life
One of the best things about my transition from my full-time job as an editor to the life of a freelance writer is that I have so much more time to read for pleasure.
Books are the reason I wanted to become a writer in the first place. I remember my mom reading crazy Bible stories to me before I could read myself. I still have the complete 10 volume set on my bookshelf so someday I can pass on the stories to my own children and try to answer their questions about complex Old Testament stories packaged in colorfully illustrated chapters.
Stories and books have been extremely formative in my life. And when I look back at the books I’ve read as an adult, five have shaped my life more than any other. I honestly would not be the person I am today had I not read the following five books.
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
I read this book in the midst of the most severe depression I have ever experienced. This book gave me hope in something that couldn’t be explained or defined in words. Somehow I knew my depression would pass, and I also knew that my faith would survive my evolution into adulthood.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
One of my debate coaches got me this book for a high school graduation present. Its words are among the truest I’ve ever read. Be impeccable with your work. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. And always do your best. I strive to live my life by these agreements, challenging as they may be.
Pastor, I’m Gay by Howard Bess
I read this after a few of my friends came out of the closet. The book is the story about one heterosexual pastor’s journey ministering to men and women who have come out of the closet. I grew up in a church where “ministering” to members of the LGBT community meant transforming them into straight individuals. This book opened my eyes to Jesus’ inclusive love. And it prompted me to seek out a church that is open and affirming for my family to attend.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Honestly, any book by Anne Lamott could be on this list. But as a writer I would say Bird by Bird shaped me the most. When I find myself discouraged or stumbling, I go back to her words. Writing is an art and a gift that I try not to take for granted. No matter how shitty my rough drafts are I keep going. Why? Because Anne Lamott says to.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned from Editing My Life by Donald Miller
Yes, Donald Miller made the top five twice. What can I say? I heart Donald Miller. This book challenged me to take risks. And those who know me know I am not a risk taker. Don’t let the free-spirit attitude and tie-dyes I wear fool you. I worry about everything. But in this book Miller encourages us to think about the “what ifs?” What if I took my writing as seriously as I would like other people to? What if I actually finished the book I’m working on? What if I stopped sweating the small stuff? What if I re-examined the American dream to focus on relational capital rather than material worth? What if?
The best books leave you with more questions than answers. All five of these books accomplish that goal. If you want something to inspire, challenge and motivate you in 2012, check out one of these books.