Today is all about non-fiction books, the genre that fills my world. I'm so happy that two non-fiction sub-genres -- craft books and cookbooks -- got their own special days this week. Even with those out of the contest, the choices are many, from the shelves full of non-fiction books in my pastor's study to the books that are tucked away in bookshelves in just about every room of my house.
I used to approach fiction books as fun and non-fiction books as work. I thought that since non-fiction books were factual instead of fantasy, their highest purpose was to add facts to my store of knowledge, usually by my least favorite exercise in the whole wide world -- memorizing! Point conceded, however, that I have learned a lot from the books I have read. You definitely want me on your Trivial Pursuit team!
My favorite non-fiction books, however, have had the magical effect of transforming my life and/or my world view. In no special order, I share today five such life-changing books:
- A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present (Howard Zinn) This is a fascinatingly familiar story told from the perspective of people who are not the winners of history. The story of our nation is a far different story for those who are on the margins. I had previously read a similar book that is a quicker read: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
- The Artist's Way (Julia Cameron) This book opened up for me the world in which everyone's creative energy is respected and nurtured, even cheered. As a science major (slash) math geek (slash) reading nerd, I always thought that art belonged to other people who were artists. This book continued the journey that my three artist children began in teaching me that life itself is art, and we are all born to be creative beings. This books is a "how to" book on living the artist life. From the Amazon review: "This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe."
- Women Who Run With the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes) From the Amazon review: "Folklore, fairy tales and dream symbols are called on to help restore women's neglected intuitive and instinctive abilities in this earthy first book by a Jungian analyst." For me, this was the ultimate "I'm OK, You're OK" for the inner wild woman! Run with the wolves or be left back in the cave.
- You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay) This was the first book that revealed the world of family systems in the form of a practical guide to healing from the wounds that are inevitable in the real world. Louise Hay is a tough love that makes a difference. I recently re-read it for a sermon I preached on healing, and it was powerfully personal yet again.
- Generation to Generation (Edwin Friedman) -- This is the best book I read in seminary for a family systems class and a congregational systems class. Those were, without a doubt, the most helpful classes for real-life church ministry. Come to think of it, all of these books are about understanding systems. The Four Agreements says it succinctly: "Don't take anything personally" because (systems theory posits) what people do is not about anything else other than what's going on inside of them, and they brought their whole family, living and dead with them today. That's truth that will set you free!