Book Themes

I have been spending a bit of time thinking about what’s important to me, what’s shaped my life. I noticed that there seem to be themes which thread the books I love, the stories I tell, and the way I try to live. Today I was looking at the books that have most influenced me, that I most often have gifted to others, and that I have recently been recommending to friends.  I wrote down keywords that each book evoked and then counted up the number of times each of those keywords appeared.  Here is my stack ranked list with a few keywords lumped together:

  • Love, Grace, Relationships, Community: Likely should be several separate categories but it’s impossible for me to pull them apart. It starts with God’s amazing love toward us followed by the heartbreak of how people seem to get self-righteous and fail to love others. Our deep need for relationships / community. How to effectively build relationships with both people and with God.
  • Empowerment: Identifying and nurturing everyone’s skills and abilities to maximize flourishing.
  • Reflection/Truth: Truth while difficult to identify is what should drive life. An unexamined life isn’t worth living. It’s valuable to think about thinking and learn tools and methods to break problems into manageable pieces. Wisdom > Knowledge > Facts.
  • Simplicity: Key heuristic and value. Improves almost everything when applied
  • Humility/Others:  Personal perspective is limited and often misses something important. Striving to see things through other people’s eyes. Nurture compassion and check your ego at the door.
  • Systems: How people and things interact is more interesting and often more powerful than them in isolation. Look for the relationships between everything. Appreciate how small things with relationships can produce complexity.
  • Technology (has Two Edges): Technology can solve many problems and is really cool. Technology used inappropriately can do great harm. Be optimistic about what technology can do, but always ask what the unintended consequences are. Sometimes low-tech beats high tech.
  • Justice/Money:  Could be separated, but easier to think of them together. How to be good stewards of what God has provided. Use what we are given wisely, but also the need to be generous and to see that everyone flourishes. When wealth and power is too concentrated, everyone life is poorer.
  • Control/Comfort: Its folly of trying to control and strive to only experience comfort. Left to our own devices we would pursue stupid things and avoid opportunities to really learn and grow.  Worse, we will often try to control things which we have no control over, resulting in frustration.  The only thing we can truly take responsibility for is our response to situations. The best path is to trust in God’s love and respond to His prompting.
  • Work Hard: We are designed to work, to make and shape things. Idleness is soul killing. Yes we need rest, but we do best when we work hard on meaningful things.
  • Health/Exercise/Nutrition: We were gifted with a body. Take good care of it, it’s the only one you have in this life.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but this list has a large overlap with a text I wrote called “Lessons from Life”.  While this list isn’t all my core values and beliefs, it’s a pretty good sample of them.

What books have you read that really influenced you?  What are your core values?

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