As a lover of words, I lend out a lot of books. I’m frequently asked for recommendations, and I own multiple copies of certain favorites that I bring with me on the road, and pass out when I meet individuals I think could really benefit from it. My only requirement for them? Pay it forward. I always tell them they must lend it or give it to someone else when they’re done, and let the inspiration continue.
Recently some of my beloved friends— the words of Ginsburg, Kerouac, & Godin—have returned to their shelf-home. Reflecting on which books are looking more worn than others, here’s a list of 12 books I lent out/gave out the most in 2014. Maybe you or someone you know will enjoy these too.
(These are broken up into categories of people I’m asked from the most, and not in order of any individual preference, though I would indeed count many of these as personal favorites.)
For the many emerging artists, the curious creatives, looking where to start or how to continue…
1) Steal Like An Artist – Austin Kleon
If I could recommend one book to any & every artist, no matter their age or medium, it would be this book. Simple. Practical. Yet not said enough. Endorsed by the creator of TED Talks, Chris Anderson, Kleon writes a fun, empowering, and challenging book to creatives everywhere. If you’re an artist, entrepreneur, or even just a curious, knowledge-hoard, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a must have. Really though.
2) Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? - Seth Godin
“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally… Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” – SG
Forget competing, forget the money, forget about sitting still. What about the passion? What about the meaning? What about making a difference? What has today’s society lost that we can be a part of bringing back? Godin will challenge the complacency out of you and push you to wake up and create. For a slightly more mature audience—if you don’t own this yet, you need to. Forget the rules. What about your voice?
For those battling between their passions and their day-jobs, overwhelmed by a dream, but not sure where to begin or how to press on…
3) Quitter – Jon Acuff
Ever struggled with the tension between your current job and your dream job? Acuff, in all his whit and charm, challenges his readers to a new perspective of the “dream job,” and the resources we may miss that are currently around us. No matter if you’re an artist, businessman, athlete, teacher, or any other kind of professional, Acuff teaches practical ways to begin living lives of intentionality today. I love this book you guys, I love it.
4) Courage & Calling – Gordon T. Smith
Similar to the above tension, but even more specific for Christians… Have you ever struggled with the balance between your vocation and your occupation? Living paycheck to paycheck, and still wondering what your true “calling” is? Smith is the man. He offers incredible perspective and insight into our struggle, and helps his audience brush out the knots of our confusing situations. We don’t have to live our lives unsure of our purpose. This book is a light for those in vocational darkness.
For the many emerging poets, unsure of where to start, or looking to start again…
5) The Beat Book
Spoken word, hip hop, and post-modern literature wouldn’t be where it is today without the profound movement of the Beats in the 1950’s. Out of the heart of San Francisco, this group of people who was just crazy enough to believe our words and our lives should not be censored changed our world forever. This movement of freedom still inspires our spirits today. This anthology of some of the best work of the Beat poets features portions of literature that changed my life many years ago, and I’m sure to re-read certain sections of it every few months. It’s good to be reminded of our literary origins, and those that paved the road before us. There are many anthologies like this; this is just a personal favorite that hits on all the big-hitters. Let Ginsburg’s HOWL, Kerouac’s Road, and Kandel’s Never-Compromising Poetry spark your own words to ignite flames.
6) Poetry as Insurgent Art - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“Poetry is the truth that reveals all lies, the face without mascara.” - LF
This manifesto of lyrics, essays, and hard-hitting one-liners is one of my favorite mini books to pass on to poets who are ready to go all in. It’s not safe—but it’s inspiring. Ferlinghetti is one of the only surviving original Beats, still living in San Francisco and running the famous City Lights Bookstore, which he founded in 1953. He profoundly and provocatively promotes the importance of poetry and freedom of consciousness, and challenges writers, and soon-to-be-writers alike to push through the boundaries of our present age, and loudly state something that matters.
7) My Words Consume Me: An Anthology of Youth Speaks Poets
If you’re a younger poet/writer, and you want to read more things from people your age, I highly recommend anthologies from Youth Speaks, a non-profit in the Bay Area that leads in the training and raising up young spoken word artists. They host some of the most brilliant and enlightening workshops and poetry slams you will ever see. This specific anthology spoke to me a lot as a young writer, reading the words of the fellow spoken word artists of that time. I first read it 10 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. You are never too young to write, and never too young for your voice to be heard. This book proves that.
For those who love poetry, and want to be reminded and inspired by the story and power of Jesus…
8) The Singer – Calvin Miller
It’s simple, and poetic, yet deep and profound. Originally published in 1975, this spectacular piece of literature is an allegory that all ages can enjoy in seeing Jesus in a new, practical way. Jesus is anything but boring, or redundant. If your heart seeks a reminder of the ground-breaking, life-changing, fear-snatching person that is Jesus, please read this book. It’s inspiring. It’s beautiful. He’ll have your heart singing again.
For those who love novels, biographies, and are looking to be spiritually challenged and inspired…
9) Heroes & Monsters - Josh James Riebock
There are very few notable post-modern writers out there who are professed Christians, which is how this book first hooked me. Alas, even beyond the sublime syntactical flair lies a timeless message that screams beyond the pages. In his captivating, poetic, biography-ish-type-novel, Reibock tells his own story with such vivid imagination, and deep spiritual truth, you can’t help but get lost in his world and leave feeling inspired. After having lunch with Josh a couple years back, my own approach to writing and speaking noticeably changed, and I am so thankful for this man who writes without fear and creates without apologies. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll take a good look at your own life in new ways.
For ladies who just need a laugh, and need to not take writing, life, or love too seriously…
10) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling
I’ve been a Tina Fey die-hard for as long as I can remember, and was thrilled when Ms. Kaling also skipped her way onto the comedy scene. This book had me rolling. She’s real. She’s raw. She’s hilarious. She says the things most ladies won’t say out loud, or even admit to themselves. Life shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Let Kaling remind you of the joy of trying, failing, laughing at yourself, and succeeding. Don’t let all your reading and writing be too stern. Have some fun with Mindy.
For those who have looked for happiness through material possessions, or the pleasures of the world, and have come up empty, now seeking a life of substance …
11) Trivial Pursuits – Ian DiOrio
DiOrio challenges the culturally-accepted idea that life is about the pursuit of happiness, and instead presents the notion that what’s really more important is the pursuit of finding purpose. He speaks against a world of materialism and conceit, and advocates for his readers to spend their energy and time into investments that last, that have meaning, and that better ourselves and the world. His story of leaving his life of immense hedonism in exchange for a life of exuberant purpose will rock you. In my personal pursuit towards minimalism and intentionality, this book is a great addition to my library. Side note, he’s also a rad DJ, spoken word extraordinaire, personal good friend, and an amazing role model for artists, writers, and pastors alike. I strongly recommend hearing his message. In a world screaming of greed and competition, DiOrio whispers of an alternate option that could change our lives completely. Take a listen.
For those on the brink of taking a step of faith, or who need to be reminded of the importance of sharing the Gospel…
12) All In – Mark Batterson
This may be the book I give out the most. I cannot stress enough how valuable it is. Simply said, God wants our minds, bodies, and hearts to be all in for Him. Yet, some of us have allowed the fire grow dim. This book is filled with inspiring stories of many fierce lovers of God who took the plunge to be unapologetically radical for the sake of the Cross. Batterson challenges his readers to not be complacent, lazy, or too safe or too comfortable, but to instead live a dangerous, daring, boundary-pushing life for Christ, a life of total and complete surrender. He argues that if we do, our world, and the world around us, will change. I’d have to agree.
I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite pieces to pass on in 2014.
Readers, unite! Let's spread the good stuff. And continue... to pay it forward.