Books that inspire better, more meaningful living.

My parents did hundreds of things right.  But one of their greatest accomplishments, in my opinion, is ALL 6 of their children are avid readers.  We read.  A lot.

I don’t know how they did it.  I don’t remember being forced to read as a kid, nor do I recall them reading to me (I’m sure they did, but I’ve forgotten most of my childhood).

But somehow, they instilled in each of their children a need to read.  Maybe it was simply from growing up and watching our mom read (and my dad, on vacations, when he could keep his eyes open long enough).  And the walls in our home lined with bookshelves full of books.

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” —Anna Quindlen

I teased my brother one day (who has been in and out of jail numerous times for troubles with addiction) through the glass separating us at the county jail, how unfair it was he was able to spend the entire day reading (I was kidding, of course, because that’s a pretty awful place to be reading).  My mom used to buy books from Barnes and Noble and donate them directly to the jail (because they wouldn’t allow you to just bring books to the jail and donate them–you could figure out a way to smuggle stuff in that way, like a shank).  He would then get first dibs on those book to read and then contribute them to the jail library.  That’s mom love for you.  And a lot of inmates at the Salt Lake County jail benefited from my brothers love to read and my mothers never ending desire to nurture that.  
People often ask me how I have time to read.  And I always hear people say “I don’t have time to read”.  My response, how do you NOT have time to read?  Reading is a huge priority for me.  So I make sure there’s time.  I have a Kindle app on my phone, and on my ipad, and whenever I get a few minutes during the day, I read.  5-10 minutes at a time.  And then I always read before bed.  No matter how tired I am.
“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.” –Kathleen Norris
I so hope my children will also learn to love reading.  To need to read.  As much as they need anything else.  Because reading changes my life.  And makes me a better person.  Good books, and the people who read them with a desire to act truly change the world.
And with that, I give you some suggestions of things I have read recently that are inspiring and motivating to live a better life.  With a quote or two I loved from the book.  Definitely worth your time.
{You can also see a list of some of my favorite memoirs I’ve read recently here that also inspire intentional living}
(You can pin that image by hovering it over it and clicking “pin it” so you can remember these books)
1.  “A million miles in a thousand years: How I learned to live a better story” By Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story
Easily in my Top Five best books of all time.  I. Love. This. Book.  It is one of the reasons I started this blog.  You can read about that here.

“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”

“Nobody really remembers easy stories.  Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage.  That’s what makes a story good.  If you think about the stories you like most, they probably have lots of conflict.”

“The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering.  What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it.  We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given–it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.”

2.  “Love Does” by Bob Goff

Love Does Study Guide: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

“There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.”

“I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity they had hoped for. But I’ve always wondered if, when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him. Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down. Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in.”

“To me, Jesus sounded like an ordinary guy who was utterly amazing. He helped people. He figured out what they really needed and tried to point them toward that. He healed people who were hurting. He spent time with the kinds of people most of us spend our lives avoiding. It didn’t seem to matter to Jesus who these people were because He was all about engagement.”

“God doesn’t think any less of us when things don’t go right. Actually, I think He plans on it. What He doesn’t plan on is us putting a fake version of ourselves out there to take the hit.”

“You’re here and I’m here. God decided to have us intersect history, not at just any time, but at this time. He made us to be good at a few things and bad at a couple others. He made us to love some things and not like others. Most of all, He made us to dream. We were meant to dream a lot. We’re not just a cosmic biology experiment that ended up working. We’re part of God’s much bigger plan for the whole world.”

3.  “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run

“If I really wanted to understand the Raramuri, I should have been there when this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain.  Know why he could do it?  Because no one ever told him he couldn’t.  No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home.  You live up to your own expectations, man.”

“Perhaps all our troubles–all the violence, obesity, illness, depression, and greed we can’t overcome–began when we stopped living as Running People.  Deny your nature, and it will erupt in some other, uglier way.”

“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.”

4.  “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, And Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives with Bonus Content

“Margin has been stolen away, and progress was the thief.”

“We must have some room to breathe.  We need freedom to think and permission to heal.  Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.  No one has the time to listen, let alone love.  our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions.  Is God now pro-exhausion?  Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore?  Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?  There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.  We miss them more than we suspect.”

5.  “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


“…numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”
“…the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”
“To feel is to be vulnerable”

“To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”
“vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

6.  “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

“God never shows us something we aren’t ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He’ll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we’re ready, He will plant our feet on the path that’s best for us . . . but it’s up to us to do the walking.”

“In God’s eyes, the killers were part of His family, deserving of love and forgiveness. I knew that I couldn’t ask God to love me if I were unwilling to love His children.”

7.  “Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed” by Glennon Doyle Melton
Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

“even the bush that looks withered and brittle and lifeless can bloom, if given enough time, enough tending, enough love. A new season will come. There is always hope. What looks like the end might just be the beginning. She said that Sunday might be right around the corner, but there is no fast forwarding through Friday and Saturday. The cross has to come before the resurrection. It’s the way of the world. And unless you bear witness to the truth, unless you face it head on and choose to open your heart to the pain, you won’t bear witness to the miracle either. If you run away from the crucifixion, you just might miss the resurrection.”

“So when it comes to how my kids are doing at school, I don’t worry about academics. I worry about social things. I worry about their time at lunch, at recess, and on the bus. Mostly children learn to read and add and sit still eventually. But not everybody learns that he and others deserve to be treated with respect. Not everybody learns that he is OKAY and loved and precious and that it’s all right to feel hurt and all right to hurt others, as long as he apologizes and tries to fix what he broke. Not everybody learns that different is beautiful. And not everybody learns to stand up for himself and others, even when it’s scary.”

“Let’s be Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem, carefully watch their father’s behavior as the house next door to theirs burns to the ground. As the fire creeps closer and closer to the Finches’ home, Atticus appears so calm that Scout and Jem finally decide that “it ain’t time to worry yet.” We need to be Atticus. Hands in our pockets. Calm. Believing. So that our children will look at us and even with a fire raging in front of them, they’ll say, “Huh. Guess it’s not time to worry yet.”

8.  “The Power of Starting Something Stupid” by Richie Norton and Natalie Norton

The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret

“Maybe the smartest people in the world know something we don’t. Maybe they know that in order to be smart, in order to make significant contributions to the world, and in order to spur significant change in their own lives, they sometimes have to act on ideas that others might initially perceive as stupid.”

“Time will always be hard to find. So the way I see it, you can start now and reach for your dreams, or you can wait for later and hope that “later” doesn’t prove to be too late.”

“Authentic people trust themselves, not in a prideful or self-centered way; rather they simply understand and appreciate their inherent worth. Authentic people have developed a sense of purpose”

9.  “Same Kind of Different As Me”

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together

“Sometimes it’s drinkin or druggin that lands a man on the streets. And if he ain’t drinkin or druggin already, most fellas like me start in once we get there. It ain’t to have fun. It’s to have less misery.”

“When you is precious to God, you become important to Satan.”

“But Miss Debbie was different—she seen me behind them bars and reached way down in her pocket and pulled out the keys God gave her and used one to unlock the prison door and set me free.”

“But I found out everybody’s different— the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless—just workin our way toward home”

10.  “More or Less: Choosing a lifestyle of excessive generosity” by Jeff Shinabarger

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity

“Many of us don’t want our stories to end with just an understanding that we have been given much. We want to do more with what we have; we just don’t know how to combat a culture that defines so much of what we think we need.”

“We give lip service to the idea that people are supremely important. But what does our 

use of time say is important?”

“Success will tell you that your enough is not enough, and it will keep you on a treadmill of your own design, but a treadmill nonetheless. Instead of chasing enough, you have to define it. If you chase it you’ll never catch it. Enough is incredibly quick. Much like perfection, it seems to remain out of reach.”

11.  “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

I didn’t highlight this book when I read it, but if nothing else, this book will encourage you to think about the idea of happiness and how we all individually obtain it.  Definitely worth the read.

12.  “My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging” by Rachel Naomi Remen

My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

“When God says, ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT,’ he is speaking to us personally…He is telling us what is possible, how we might choose to live.  But one candles does not do much in the darkness.  God has not only given us the chance to carry the light, he has made it possible for us to kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along.  This is the way that God’s light will shine forever in this world.

After many years I have round that often we discover the place in us that carries the light only after it has become dark.  Sometimes it is only in the dark that we know the value of this place.  But there is a place in everyone that can carry the light.  This is true.”

“Should I live to be very old, I expect that I will not remember the times when I was “cool” but will be warmed only by the times when I cared passionately, risked everything to make a difference, and knew who I was.”

13.  “Creating a Charmed Life” by Victoria Moran

Creating a Charmed Life



“Although it has aspects as mundane as making the bed, the basis for living splendidly is a growing conviction that you are here for a reason, a purpose.  What we’re calling a charmed life is the life you were meant to live, the one in which it is perfectly acceptable to want the moon, as long as you’re willing to get over your fear of flying.”

“Even if your busyness tells you that you can’t afford to take quiet time, know that you can’t afford not to.”  (Something very similar to this is in just about every “self help”/motivational/be happier book I have ever read)

“You are the definitive authority on your own life.  Listen.  What is your next indicated thing to do?  A part of you always knows.”

“An unhurried woman is willing to include some emptiness in her day.  That way, when you ask if she’s got time for you, she almost always does.”

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These books are all worth your time!
Happy Reading!!
“We read to know we are not alone”  CS Lewis
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.”  George Martin
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. Seuss
{This post contains “affiliate-links” which means Amazon gives me about a penny for buying the book through that link.  You pay nothing extra 🙂  Thanks for your support}
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15 thoughts on “Books that inspire better, more meaningful living.”

  1. I have only read two of these. Are they in the order of your favorites or just a compiled list? As a seven year old, you loved to read, but you were pretty passionate about recess, too. (o: You just found enjoyment in whatever you were doing.

    1. Sorry. Never saw this comment! I’m definitely still passionate about recess!! And Gym. And anything active. 🙂 These aren’t in order of my favorite. Love them all!

  2. I loved Donald Miller’s book, too. I recently shared a passage I read there about snowflakes – I think of it often in this relentless winter (I’m in Boston). Some of these titles are new to me and I’m going to check them out soon!

  3. So grateful to have found this post and your blog through Pinterest! I’m excited to read some new books from this list. I’m a lover of books like these and an author of what I hope is a book like these, This Is How We Grow. So happy to connect! I’ll be following! 🙂

    1. Christina,
      I will definitely have to check your book out. I LOVE memoirs. Love love love them!!!

  4. _My Grandfather’s Blessings_ changed my life; I loved it. Seeing it on your list makes me want to go find it and read it again. Didn’t you just love that she pulled a Book of Mormon story and wove it into a delicious observation? Your story about your brother really touched me. My son spent time in jail, but his reading taste ranged more towards Hunter Thompson (Fear and Loathing…). I’ll be checking out these others.

    1. Sally,

      I LOVED My Grandfather’s blessings. Incredible book!! I liked her other book “Blessings of a skinned knee” as well.

  5. I liked the list of inspirational books. I haven’t read most yet but hope to do so this year.

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