Wednesday, April 25, 2012

12 Books that change your heart forever.

"Spiritual Reading is food for our souls.  As we slowly let the words of the Bible or a good spiritual book enter into our minds and descend into our hearts, we become different people. . .as we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice.  Sometimes we  must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words."
- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Here are some non-fiction books that have nurtured my spirit.  Some of them are intended to be spiritual books, some of them are not, some are from a Christian worldview, and some are from diverse perspectives.  A handful I have read recently, some I read so long ago I forget many of the details. Each of these books carried wisdom, comfort, grace, and "bread" for my journey in their pages. I may have put them back on a shelf but I carry them in my heart.

1. The Way of the Heart  by Henri Nouwen

This is a short and lovely book about praying with your entire being.  So often we focus on the mind and on words, then we get frustrated with ourselves when our minds wander or our words fail us as we pray.  It is written to an audience of ministers, but we are all ministers in our own way and there are gems of wisdom for everyone.  If you have ever wanted to really "pray without ceasing" this book offers the path.

2. I'm Proud of You by Tim Madigan

This is a powerful story of a deep and meaningful friendship.  The author brilliantly covers love, loss, heartbreak, reconciliation, and the most personal and universal parts of the human experience.  When I bought the book, I was expecting a simple memoir about how great Fred Rogers was. . .which of course I already knew.  But this book is so much more than a tribute to this man.  Mr. Madigan shares his heart and his personal journey and struggles so skillfully that everyone who reads it will find something that resonates.  It leaves you wanting to be a better friend to everyone you meet, and a simply a better human being.

3. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

Honestly, I don't enjoy many parenting books because I find them preachy, intimidating, or they are written by the parents of older children who are dealing with completely different (and more complex) problems than "How do I survive until I can get these kids down for a nap?" But if you have little ones, this book is for you. The subtitle is "motherhood from the trenches" and it is written by a mom who had 5 children under the age of 6.   I don't even know how she found the time to write this book but I am glad she did.  She gets it.   She doesn't brag about it.  She doesn't preach about it.  She just tells it.  It is short and filled with so much truth and goodness.  Her thoughts are expressed in very carefully selected and lovely words.  I finished it during one episode of Sesame Street, then went back and read it two more times in the next day.  It's like sitting down for a cup of coffee with a good friend.  She isn't going to tell you how to do things, she's just going to tell you how it is for her, and by exposing her innermost thoughts and feelings simultaneously offer you comfort and call you to greater accountability.  There were passages I read in this book that go through my head every day.  It completely changed my way of thinking about some aspects of motherhood, and made me a better mother to my three boys.

4.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This memoir is compelling and fascinating. . .I couldn't put it down.  The author brilliantly weaves together humor and wit with tremendous heartbreak.  When you finish the book, you can't help but wonder at the amazing power of some human beings to overcome and thrive despite devastating circumstances.  The characters (made all that more impressive because they are real people) stay with you forever.

5. The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living by Mother Teresa

I have had this daybook for years.  If I was going to a desert island and could only take one book or some hypothetical situation like that, this would be it.  Every day is a gem from Mother Teresa, who basically changed the face of the earth with her love.  The most important thing I have gained from this book is that this amazing love starts in our home.  If you want to love the world, love the people closest to you. . .that's where love begins.  Smile at each other, and smile at your family first before anyone else.  Love them first, and the love will spread.  I would like to buy everyone in the universe a copy of this book.

6. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I only recently purchased this book, but I think that's its overwhelming popularity comes from the fact that the author has distilled a very meaningful truth.  We all have different ways of loving and of feeling love.  If you want to love other people the best you can, you need to make sure you are expressing love to them in a way that they understand.  This book, through examples, quizzes, and concrete suggestions for daily living helped me discover a lot about myself and the ones I love.  The other basic concept of the book is thaot love is not just a feeling, it is an act.  It's a conscious choice of what we DO for another human being because we are called to love them.  This book has the potential to change your marriage forever and for better.

7.  Found. . .the best lost, tossed, and forgotten items from around the world by Davy Rothbart

This book is just like it sounds from the title- an entire collection of "things"- from mundane shopping lists to devastating suicide notes. . .dear john letters to the scribbles of children. . .all things that people "found" and mailed to the author.  You will laugh and you will weep.  You'll feel hopeful, amused, and somewhat unsettled but mostly you will just feel connected to the anonymous people who wrote the pieces in this book.  You realize how universal our human experience is.  Everyone, from all walks of life, experience the same emotions, thoughts, and feelings, they just get expressed in different ways.  This book makes you appreciate that.

8.  The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

I picked this book up at the library when I was a new mother struggling with balancing my new role with the old.  It seemed overwhelming to me to be a working mother AND be the wife I was called to be for my husband.  I mean, I have to cook for him, clean for him, take care of his baby AND PRAY FOR HIM!!  Sheesh. :)  It seemed a little ridiculous.  However, when I got over my selfish instincts and dove into this book I realized that what my momma said was totally right. . .the only person you can change is yourself.  My marriage is deeper and more loving than when we were newlyweds, mostly thanks to the fact that Paul is a great guy and I stuck to the concept in this book. . .pray for your husband, darn it.  He needs it, and so do you.

9.  You Are Special by Fred Rogers

"You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, 

consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and 

capable of loving."

- Fred Rogers

If you want to make someone feel loved, give them this book filled with wisdom and grace from one of my favorite humans of all time, Fred Rogers.  If YOU want to feel loved, just read this book.  It's better than ice cream.  It's like a hug made out of paper and ink.  I love it.

10. Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living by Allan Lokos

This book is boils down to one concept. . .you could avoid a lot of heartbreak and suffering if you can just be more patient.  Unfortunately for me, patience is not just gritting your teeth or taking deep breaths.  I thought I had it mastered!  It actually comes from a deeper place, and this brilliant book helps you to get there.  Patience is really more of just a manual of how to be a decent human being.  If you want to make the world a better place, read this book!  The author is a Buddhist and writes his book in a tone that is accessible to all faith traditions.  I gleaned so much knowledge from these pages.  I am hoping it is making me more patient because I need it!

11. Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

This book has two incredible parts.  The first is the "why".  Why do we read to our children, and how can it change their lives and build their character.  The second is thorough and wonderful list of books to read to your children at each phase of their lives, including small descriptions of each book.  I use this book as a guide for gift giving for all of my godchildren, and a guide for library checking-out for my own!  I bought a copy for my mom, just to thank her for nurturing me with books so well as I was growing up. 

12. Miracle at Carville by Betty Martin

Speaking of my mom, this is one of her favorite books.  My mom talked about how powerful this book was for her many times when I was a child, so I was so excited to finally read it for myself when I found a copy at my university library.  It is long out of print, but totally worth exploring your local library to see if they have it.  Betty Martin, who had to change her name in order to avoid bringing shame to her family, was diagnosed with leprosy as a young woman.  She lost her family, her fiance, and her comfortable and happy life as she was forced to go live at Carville, an institution for those with Hansen's Disease.  In other words, a leper colony.  Like any great memoir, it makes you think, it makes you weep, and it leaves you feeling inspired, grateful and hopeful.  I will never forget it.

OK, What books can I add to this list?  I am always looking for something new to love!


  1. Just finished reading Loving the Little Years. I LOVED it. As I read, it made me think about me with my boys. Thanks for sharing a great book.

  2. I am so glad you loved it!! It is so full of truth. I learned a lot from that book!


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