Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur, by Joanna Penn
This was the second time I have gone through this book, and once again it has proved incredibly helpful in getting my brain into a more professional attitude towards my writing. I can relate to Joanna Penn’s personality and approach, which makes it much easier for me to take advice from her (and taking advice from anyone is always a struggle for me). She loves writing and obviously wants to write things that she enjoys, but she is also very practical about how indie authors actually make money; i.e. writing in a series and producing content frequently and consistently. Besides the importance of writing in a series, the takeaways I got from the book this time through were about using a production plan to know what I am trying to accomplish, and also about how I really need to set up better tracking and management of finances.
The Apostles and Their Times, by Mike Aquilina
This book wasn’t quite what I had been looking for when I first picked it up, which was a more in-depth look at the specific lives of the Apostles, but it was still a very good overview of the topic. And the overview is important, because it gives historical context to the Gospels and allows for a clearer understanding of the actions and events that make up the New Testament. What I love more than anything about books like this is the way that they show how human the Apostles were. None of them were men of great learning or of any significance at all before Our Lord chose them. And yet, through His grace, these men changed the world forever. I think that as Christians it is important that we look at the early Church and what it believed; after all, they were the closest to the actual words and thought of Christ. The historical context is important, as are the teachings of the Church Fathers, in understanding what it is we are called to believe.
Outer Order, Inner Calm, by Gretchen Rubin
As a true Gretchen Rubin devotee, I was not disappointed with this book at all. The short tips and advice are perfect for those of us with short attention spans or who are short on time but still want to change our lives for the better. What I love about Rubin and her books is that she recognizes that people are different, with different temperaments and tendencies, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. As someone who is insanely idiosyncratic myself, Rubin’s books give me life and actually help me to navigate the world better. What I love about this book in particular is that many of her solutions to clutter are very simple and easy to implement, as well as being very logical once you stop and consider things. One of my favorite pieces of advice for “Rebels” (my Tendency), is to keep a “could-do” list. It’s a list of things I could do when I have down-time and feel like accomplishing something, but I get to decide what I actually feel like working on.
The Wild Things, by Dave Eggers
I first read this book many years ago, it must have been during college, before any of my nieces or nephews had been born. And I am so grateful that I read this when I did, because now reading it again I can see how it shaped and built the empathy and patience that I have with children, and especially rambunctious boys. For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a novelization of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, which Eggers wrote with Sendak’s blessing after drafting the movie script that was directed by Spike Jones. In this novel, Max and the Wild Things are perfect examples of what unrestrained emotion and impulse look like, as they constantly indulge themselves in whatever crosses their minds, with no consideration for the past or the future. Max quickly learns that there is no true satisfaction or even safety in living this way. But the book also plays off the important theme of how Max is always seeking to make others happy. He certainly enjoys his own good time, but it’s important to realize that he is not selfish or self-centered, and neither are most kids. In the story, we start by seeing how hard Max is always trying to make his mom happy and to cheer her up, and then his entire time on the island is spent trying to make things better for the Wild Things. Eggers does such a wonderful job capturing the sincerity and earnestness of childhood, as well as the complexity and confusing reality of their emotions. I think this book is an essential read for anyone raising kids, and especially if they are raising boys.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
This book continues to be one of the most validating of my entire existence. Practically everything that Cain discusses resonates so strongly with my own experiences and observations of life; I wish that I could get everyone to read this book, in order to understand the different ways that some of us process the world. An important concept that she addresses is that it takes all different kinds of people to run the world, and yet our society increasingly glorifies only the “extrovert ideal”, which is not surprising with the explosion of media in the last century. We live in a celebrity culture, where it literally pays to be the most out-going and charismatic person around. Cain also helped me to realize why the Charismatic Evangelical mega-churches are so extremely off-putting to me (besides the actual theological issues), which has to do with that extreme charismatic attitude that tells you that if you are not actively preaching and evangelizing to others and showing how “on fire” you are for your faith then God is not going to be pleased with you and you are probably going to Hell. Evangelization is important, but so is a quiet, intimate relationship with God that doesn’t involve others. Cain also explains why the corporate mindsets of today made me so miserable when I was working in the retail world and actually hoped to advance up through the ranks, but just could never seem to thrive in that atmosphere. One of the reasons this book has been so important to me is that it taught me to really value my inherent strengths as an introvert, but it also taught me how to stretch and challenge myself so that I can better participate in this extrovert-driven world. I think this book also played a part in my decision to finally get rid of my social media accounts; realizing how easily I get distracted and overwhelmed by constant input from the outside world, it was like I never had a chance to decompress or really process anything. After deleting my social media accounts, my world feels much smaller but at least I can fully experience the things in to it now. In general, this book has made it much easier to love myself.
Turning Pro, by Steven Pressfield
I got this book mostly because Joanna Penn has praised it so highly in her own book, and I know that other authors I admire (such as Tim Grahl and Jeff Goins) also think very highly of Pressfield and his books. This book was a very quick read, with short sections that are just a couple pages at most. It’s a good no-nonsense look at getting yourself into a professional mindset, regardless of what your profession is. I feel like the essentials are just that you have to take your work seriously. You have to stop making excuses. You have to show up, day after day, and just do the work. It all sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how hard it can be to actually put it all into practice.
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting to, though there are definitely some things that the movie did better. The characters of Dr. Ellie Sattler, Tim, and Lex were all vastly improved in the movie, though Ellie wasn’t entirely terrible in the book. However, Crichton failed horribly at writing the children, who both come across as very unbelievable to anyone who has actually spent time around kids of any age. But there was enough good writing and social commentary that I can forgive Crichton some lack of decent characterization. The theme of the danger of bio-engineering, as well as the hubris and greed of the current scientific community, is so important in this era where scientific advances are happening faster than morality or reason can keep up with them. I see this book as being just as important a read as 1984, A Brave New World, or others. Plus, dinosaurs.