Books can be so transformative, can’t they?
I thought I’d share a list of the books that have most impacted me.
These books dramatically changed the way I understood some aspect of myself, the world, or God, turning my assumptions and long-held beliefs upside-down.
They helped form me into the person I am today.
Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical – Shane Claiborne
“Christians had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live” (p. 38). This book changed the way I understood my role as a follower of Jesus, and inspired me to begin actually changing my life — my habits, my words, my spending — in response to Jesus’ teachings. I was no longer just trying to make people believe the same things as me, but striving to make the world a safer, kinder, more beautiful place — to help bring heaven to earth.
When I had gotten tired of talking about Jesus and studying Jesus, this book encouraged me to start living like Jesus. It also introduced me to radical nonviolence (which eventually led me to nonpunitive parenting). And it also inspired me to start this blog.
I guess I’d already been heading down this road when I picked up this book, but Radical Homemakers confirmed for me that there is freedom in domesticity. Hayes convinced me that it’s possible to change the world through the choices we make in our homes. We can actually help solve global crises by focusing on family and community. Homemaking can, in fact, be a political and ecological act.
One of the most powerful concepts for me was that of turning the household from a unit of consumption to a unit of production. I am ever striving for this.
This book made homemaking exciting and empowering, and affirmed my vocation as a homemaker.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats – Sally Fallon
Before I read this book, I was completely taken in by conventional nutrition wisdom: all fat (especially saturated fat) is bad for you; whole grains should be the staple of your diet; and calories are the enemy. And if it comes from the grocery store, it must be safe — otherwise, how is it for sale?
This book turned all that upside down, introducing me to Weston A. Price and traditional foods. Turns out, we’re actually undernourished despite being overfed; we need the fat in meat and dairy; grains actually deplete our bodies of minerals; and most of what you can get at the grocery store isn’t really food. And the most surprising of all? we need more bacteria in our food.
Thanks to this book, I’ve come to adore butter and lard; I constantly have food fermenting on my counter; and I’m crazy about real food while being suspicious of anything that comes pre-packaged.
I don’t love most of the recipes in this book, but the introductory chapters were life-changing enough to merit owning this book.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health – Toni Weschler
Growing up, I bought into the notion that women’s bodies were kind of lame. Menstruation was our curse, and our fertility was something that needed to be managed with medication (to prevent unwanted pregnancies).
TCOYF changed all that. I came to understand the whole menstrual cycle — from ovulation to menstruation and back again — as a beautiful and elegant cycle, to be honoured and understood, not managed. I learned that my body was speaking to me, and learned to read the signs of my fertility so that I didn’t have to rely on drugs. Our bodies are miraculous and stunning, full of life and potential.
This book first introduced me to non-punitive parenting. It was a game-changer. It revolutionized my understanding of the relationship between parent and child, and convinced me that you can raise responsible, compassionate, morally-developed children without reward and punishment. Whaaaaat?
This book got me to question the belief not only that we can control our children, but that we should. Mind-blowing suff.
(I talk about this book some more here).
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality – Donald Miller
I know. Who of my generation of the evangelical subculture wasn’t affected by this disarming little book?
It’s been many years now since I read Blue Like Jazz as a starry-eyed university undergrad, but at the time it was revolutionary, and elements have stuck with me all these years. I’d never experienced a Christian writer being so honest and funny and self-deprecating. Unbelievably refreshing.
Most memorable: His idea of carrying an “I am the Problem” protest sign. It encouraged me to stop trying to figure out who was responsible for the mess we’re in, and recognize me own sin. If we all redirected our energy away from trying to correct others and turned the focus toward our own sin, we’d go a lot further with making the world a better place.
This is the one book wherein I could practically feel the furniture in my brain moving. I remember sitting on my parents’ bed, clutching my head as lifelong beliefs dissolved like snow and new ones rushed in to replace them.
Greg Boyd — now one of my all-time favourite theologians — first introduced me to Open Theism with this book — namely, the idea that God can/does not know the future . . . because the future does not yet exist. Instead, God’s omniscience means he knows all the infinite possibilities of the future; but since he has given us free will, he has allowed us to co-create that future reality with him.
In this view, God has not pre-ordained our suffering: instead, suffering is the consequence of free will (that of humans and angels), and our choice to alienate ourselves from God’s goodness and love. But God is always working to redeem Creation through our suffering.
I fell in love with God all over again, thanks to this life-changing book.
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church — N. T. Wright.
Wright shocked me by arguing that most Christians have the afterlife all wrong: Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly teach that God’s children will be resurrected into physical bodies, here on Earth, just as Jesus was. (Heaven is, in fact, a temporary holding-place for the departed until the Resurrection.) He then goes on to explore the implications of the Resurrection: it changes the way we understand our mission, and has highly political implications. A stunning read.