Everything I read imprints on me and when you consider that I read several books a week that's a whole lot of imprints! It seems almost an offense to the hundreds of books that have become a part of my DNA for me to pick just five. Plus, the list is continually updated as different titles “pop” at certain times. The basis for these five selected titles is the power they had at a particular point in my life. They not only taught me, but they became an integral and recurring part of my life narrative.
1. Life Is Tremendous by Charlie “Tremendous” Jones: I not only had the joy of reading this book probably thirty times throughout my lifetime but the added blessing of having the author as my father. To see words lived out in action made this book come to life in a way I wish they all could. I learned the laws of leadership, the three decisions in life, and the incredible power of reading to renew body, spirit, and mind. Most importantly, I learned that enthusiasm makes the difference. Choosing to have a positive outlook is the single most important key to my productivity and joy in life. This book’s blend of humor and pragmatism, family life and professional work, and just plain old tremendous wit and wisdom make it a perennial classic for me and millions more.
2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: I came across this gem in our showroom a couple of years ago. I had heard my father reference it many years back and decided recently that it was time for me to join the millions of others who had read it. My life was profoundly changed. After reading it, I have never, and will never, look at life events and what befalls us in the same way again. Life has given us all we need to make a difference in the universe; it's up to us to make it happen. Told from the personal experiences of a Jewish Psychotherapist in Nazi Germany, Dr. Viktor Frankl shows how it is possible to find meaning and purpose in the most hellish of circumstances.
3. The Art and Science of Personality Development by Dan P. McAdams: I read this for one of my doctoral classes last year and have used this book in my writing and speaking more than any other. I drew extensively from it for my most recent book A Message to Millennials because it traces the evolutionary and universal psychological and developmental gates we all need to go through as members of the human race. It also delves into the Big Five personality categories and how the Arc of Maturation continues throughout our existence. Anyone who thinks they are washed up and set in their ways by forty needs to read this book. Our minds and our behaviors are mutable and transformable. This book should be the go-to manual for lovers of personal development and mind renewal.
4. The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud: I read this book 18 months ago when I was ready to say goodbye to all human interaction and become a hermit. Too many let downs, too many betrayals, no more energy or joy. Just when I was ready to put all the pieces in the game box and embrace anonymity, I read this book. It wasn't that I was burned out on people, I was burned out by the wrong types of personal and professional relationships in my life. I am a huge fan of Dr. Cloud, and this book did not disappoint. He deals with the reality of who and what to keep in your life, as well as who and what to let go so you can make room for what truly needs to be there. This book brought me away from the edge and back to life!
5. The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer: Not since the Bible have I read a book that spoke so deeply about my inner landscape. This is another book I read for my doctoral program for a teaching and learning theory class. Imagine my surprise when Parker Palmer goes deep into the landscape of a teacher's life. It talks about getting in touch with your inner terrain so you can help others learn and connect with the largeness of life. He speaks of how we need to think the world together not with either/or discussions, but with both/and dialogue. I have incorporated much of Palmer’s perspective in my recent speaking engagements. This has resulted in a deeper level of interaction with the participants and a renewed sense of sharing as humanity. We are all on this journey together. This book helped me fully understand this incredible concept.
It’s that time of year when we get to sit by the fire as the nights grow longer and cozy up with a good book. I’d love to hear what books have changed your life and hope you emerge next spring a completely different person. And remember, reading, like any other skill, takes times to do well. The more you read, however, the better learner, thinker, and life-liver you’ll become!