Lately I’ve been reading Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors. In it he asks a ton of different leaders in business, the arts, etc. the same set of 11 questions. They respond to the questions that most intrigue them and he puts it all together. I thought it might be fun to use some of his questions as writing prompts so here we go!
Question: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
As you all know I am an avid reader. For the last 8 years (at least) I have read at least 100 books a year. So I both love and dread questions like this one.
For my creative friends I most often give two books: 1: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s this slim book that can be read in a couple of hours and it’s a major kick in the ass about what holds you back from creating the work you were meant to create. I love it because it’s both tough love but also inspirational. I read it at least every other year and each time I see new things that I didn’t see before. 2: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. This is her book about what it means to be a Christian who is also an artist. I love this book because it takes seriously the role of both faith and art and doesn’t leave you with a call to do shitty proselytizing art. Reading this book as I was leaving fundamentalism and figuring out what it meant for me to still be a writer was a huge gift. I like to gift this one to other creatives who are trying to figure out what it means to hold Christian faith and do quality art.
For youth who are just getting a sense of social justice I like to gift Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. I have some issues with the book (and with Claiborne himself, particularly his inability to take a stand for queer people) and yet I find myself going back to this one as a gift over and over again because it’s so accessible. It’s a first step into seeing being a follower of Jesus and being an activist as things that go together. As things that must go together. I like it because it’s easy to read, it’s inspiring and hopeful, and it seems like the perfect push for a young person who is just starting to grapple with their privilege and their meaning in the world to think more deeply about those things and do something about it.
As for books that have influenced me:
The books Ishmael, My Ishmael, and Story of B all by Daniel Quinn and all connected really rocked my world when I first read them. The way he took a story and interpreted it several different ways; the way he interpreted some of the Christian story in a new way, the way he grappled with the harmful effects of religion, while also hinting at a different way to do things; all of this came at a time when I desperately needed a new way to think about my life and my faith. While I haven’t read these books in years their impact on me when I did read them was huge.
Madeleine L’Engle’s work has been a continual touchstone for me. Particularly her non-fiction books about Scripture (The Genesis trilogy, Bright Evening Star, and Penguins and Golden Calves in particular). Her gentle approach to faith, her wrestling and questions, her connection to art and the sacred helped me to see that there were other faithful ways to be a follower of Jesus than just the ways I had been taught as a kid. These books helped me out of fundamentalism and into a faith that was beautiful and healthy.
How would you answer these questions? Either share yours in the comments or link me to a post you wrote about it!