I thought I would blog a little more about some of the books that have most influenced my life during the past few years. After reading his book, To Be Told, I drove four hours to St Louis to participate in a two-day conference put on by Dan Allender. The event was held at a big church, and I sat with hundreds of people as we listened to this man in his sixties talk for hours, never flinching from his story of being sexually-abused; of growing up with a father who barely spoke to him; about drug addictions and run-ins with the law; about how he accidental-ed his way into seminary with his best friend, a guy named Tremper Longman III; and about Allender’s long-term marriage with a woman who had a tendency to surprise him by jumping out of closets.
My reading hasn’t always been this focused, but I’ve found that almost everything I’ve read in the past few years could be classified into three categories: memoir, self-help, or social sciences/cultural commentary. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there are some commonalities those genres. Chalk it up to the the #therapythirties if you’d like, but I suppose at my core I’ve been interested in a few very basic questions. How does this world work? Is it possible to change? What is the good life?
It’s no stretch to say that the work (and the reading) has been fueled by its share of discontent, by the frustration and disappointment of feeling like life isn’t turning out the way I want it to. The good news is that the journey — both in and outside of the reading — has been incredibly rich and that there have been signs of progress along the way. I feel more hopeful now than I ever have before. For anyone who’s interested, here are 15 books — which I’ve grouped into six different topical categories — that I’ve found helpful along the way:
I am drawn to raw honesty. Brene Brown might call this “vulnerability.” In some contexts that have been life-giving to me, we have used the phrase “rigorous honesty.” It has been quite liberating for me to learn that I can show when I am hurting, that I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. I can just go ahead and resign from the dog and pony show.