Are you like me? Do you know deep in your bones that you were created on purpose for a purpose? Is there something in your core that is screaming for you to make a difference in this broken world?
The truth is, chasing crazy big dreams (like oh ya know, changing the world) takes insane amounts of perseverance and grit. We live in a universe that tells us to fend for ourselves, to seek as much personal pleasure as possible, and happiness is found in material possessions.
Yet, we know the truth. We know that Real Living is found in loving God and loving his people. There is no greater feeling than helping someone in need.
[Feeling Motivated? Check out my post 12 Ways to Change the World]
So today, I share 12 of my favorite books to encourage you on this journey to make a difference. Never stop chasing a life that is fully and recklessly alive my friends. It’s out there and it’s waiting for you. Let’s make a difference!
***The book descriptions are from Amazon.com, because well, those people get paid to write beautiful book descriptions and I… super don’t.
1. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
The Jist: After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty, and meaning.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years chronicles Miller’s rare opportunity to edit his life into a great story, to reinvent himself so nobody shrugs their shoulders when the credits roll. Through heart-wrenching honesty and hilarious self-inspection, Donald Miller takes readers through the life that emerges when it turns from boring reality into meaningful narrative.
Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a nonprofit with a passionate cause. Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a rare celebration of the beauty of life.
My Three Cents: This is one of my absolute most favoritest of books of all time (hopefully I didn’t just oversell it for you). I read it every year.
Favorite Quote: “I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses, and they go looking for an easier story.”
2. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
The Jist: In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
“Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with a force of gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr notes, “[Paul Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
My Three Cents: This was required my freshman year of college and so many of my classmates were crazy negative about it. Yet, I when I closed the book after reading the final page, I was changed. I knew I had to do bigger things with my life than what I was currently doing. I knew I wanted to go to Haiti and last summer I did.
Favorite Quote: “And I can imagine Farmer saying he doesn’t care if no one else is willing to follow their example. He’s still going to make these hikes, he’d insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you’re saying that their lives matter less than some others’, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Jist: Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.
My Three Cents: You all know I have invented some crazy project over the years. The How Can I Help Project when I spent 30 days helping someone every single day or when I did 26 Acts of Kindness for my 26th Birthday. I think when life’s biggest funks hit, we need to do something a little crazy and totally out of the ordinary. Finding out what truly makes you happy and freeing yourself of the person you think you should be will allow you to just be you. A crazy, happy, beautiful you.
Favorite Quote: “The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”
4. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Jist: Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brené Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.
Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”
Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.
My Three Cents: Few books have truly impacted me the way this book has. (If you want a taste of what you’re in for, watch Brene’s viral Ted TALK here in which this book is based off of). Her research has truly led me to lead a more authentic and beautiful life and I couldn’t be more thankful for her work and this book.
Favorite Quote: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
5. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
The Jist: In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
My Three Cents: I have spent a lot of hours trying to define what success means to me. We are taught to believe that the most successful people are merely the brightest, strongest, best looking. I could not put this non-fiction book down as Malcolm looks at “success” in all arenas and what is actually behind many of the most successful people around us.
Favorite Quote: “It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us. Being a teacher is meaningful.”