1. Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer

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Short Summary: Palmer recounts his journey of discovering his vocation, changing his perspective from trying to to please others and achieve prestige to listening to how his life showed him who God made him to be.

Why I Loved This Book: From the time we are born, society shouts its values so loudly, we often cannot here the quiet whisper of our life. This book helped me switch from trying to use my vocation to get the approval of society (what job can make me successful, famous, rich, etc.?), and instead taught me to let the experiences of my life inform my vocational choices. This book showed me how God created me with a specific plan in mind, and that in order to be faithful to Him and to be my best, I had to be true to how I was made, not who I wanted to be. My favorite book that I’ve ever read.

Favorite Quotes: “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
“Today I understand vocation quite differently--not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess.”

2. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

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Short Summary: Brown tackles the problems of shame and feeling like you are not enough in this book. She discusses the different ways that men and women feel shame, and how shame isolates and makes us feel unworthy of human connection. Shen then gives really helpful ways to break through the shame, working towards living lives of connection and wholeheartedness.

Why I Loved This Book: When I picked up Daring Greatly, I thought I would read it as an academic exercise, never imagining how much light and truth it would shine into the dark corners of my heart. This book helped me to understand the hurt and pain I had experienced in my past, and to begin to resolve it. Before this book I hadn’t realized how much shame, isolation, and feelings of unworthiness had impacted my daily life.

Favorite Quote: “Shame is fear of disconnection--it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong.”

3. Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller

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Short Summary: Keller writes about counterfeit gods, the idols of our hearts that we put above God and who rule over our lives. While anything can becoming a counterfeit god, he focuses on sex, money, success, and power, showing how these things drive our hearts and draw us away from God. This idolatry then drives the shame, failure, and sense of guilt that we feel, since our idols can never forgive us.

Why I Loved This Book: It’s so easy to say you follow God and to go through the motions, while actually be serving the idols of your heart. Understanding how my heart was actually worshiping the gods of our culture allowed me to see the inner destruction this was causing in my life. I realized that my feelings of success and failure came from my idols, and not God, which forced me to always feel like I had to perform.

Favorite Quote: “The way forward, out of despair, is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and if you fail him, can truly forgive you.”

4. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, by John Maxwell

Short Summary: Our culture teaches us to communicate to others from our perspective. Maxwell blows this up, showing how successful communicators seek to connect with the people around them by focusing on the other person and their needs. It’s not enought to communicate with people, you have to understand them in order to connect with them. Connecting is crucial if you want to build strong relationships, friendships, and teams.

Why I Loved This Book: This book taught me how to stop talking at people, and to start connecting with them. Learning how to connect with people was one of the most helpful skills I learned in my twenties, and has improved my ability to build relationships with friends, coworkers, strangers, or an audience. This book help me to see how self-centered I had been in my communication style, and showed me how to focus on others every time I communicate with them. I read this book every year to refresh myself on this topic.

Favorite Quote: “If you can connect with others at every level--one-on-one, in groups, and with an audience--your relationships are stronger, your sense of community improves, your ability to create teamwork increases, your influence increases, and your productivity skyrockets.”

5. First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Short Summary: This book is about how the best managers in companies manage their employees. You might think this a strange addition since you are likely not managing people in your twenties, but it’s so helpful in understanding your relationship as an employee to your manager. These two authors interviewed thousands of managers and found that the best ones threw out the conventional wisdom of managing people and adopted a different approach, which the book details. This book gives you resources to help encourage your manager to be better at their job, which helps everyone in the office.

Why I Loved This Book: As a millennial working in a older-style organization, I was frustrated with both the work I did and my relationship with my manager. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to address that or even where to begin. This book helped me understand my work style, and gave me some great ways to work with my manager to build a better work environment for my personality. I also learned how to be a better employee, and how to work with my manager to make both of us more effective. If you are frustrated at your workplace, this book is a must read.

Best Quote: “The greatest managers in the world do not have much in common. They are of different sexes, races, and ages. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. But despite their differences, these great managers do share one thing: Before they do anything else, they first break all the rules of conventional wisdom. They do not believe that a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help a person overcome his weaknesses...great managers are revolutionaries, although few would use that word to describe themselves.”