I believe that books have the power to change the way we live.
As a college student, it's hard to find time to read for fun. Right now, I have close to a dozen things to read for one class (an upper level English class, but still). However, as a lover of words and a believer in change, I try to read as much as I can.
When it comes to book recommendations, word of mouth is a powerful tool. Some of the books on this list, books that have changed my life, I only know about because of a friend. So today, I'm going to be that friend for you. These books, these bundles of words and sentences that have been bound together to create beauty, are my "must reads". Most of them are nonfiction, one of them is fiction, but they've all shaken my world and pointed me to Jesus.
Let's talk about them.
Scary Close- Donald Miller
I read Scary Close last Spring and it hurt (in a good way). Don Miller is honest and vulnerable. He wrote a book encouraging his audience to learn from his mistakes. The subtitle of the books is, "Dropping the act and finding true intimacy." Rather than telling the readers how to drop the act, he shares his story. He tells us about the act he hid behind for over thirty years. And instead of pushing us to intimacy, he explains how he found it. He makes you want to be vulnerable, which isn't an easy thing to accomplish.
As believers, we are called to know and be known. But in our culture, we are conditioned to hide who we are. We're taught to live in shame-- and Scary Close challenges that. It encourages the freedom to be exactly who you are, because who you are is enough. It speaks truth to what love is and what it isn't. It challenges every reader to let others get scary close, because vulnerability doesn't have to be scary.
Loveology- John Mark Comer
"God. Love. Marriage. And the neverending story between male and female."
If I've learned anything, it's that young adult Christians love books about relationships. And that's great. I love that we search for answers and direction in such an important part of our lives. At our age, late high school and college, it's impossible to ignore that relationships are happening and it's impossible to ignore it if they aren't. (How many people you know got engaged last weekend?) In my opinion, a lot of Christian dating/marriage/relationships books miss it. They're based on good truth, but they can easily lead to legalistic thoughts and habits. Loveology doesn't.
If you're single, engaged, or even married, I promise that Loveology can teach you some things. John Mark Comer uses the Bible to speak truth to his readers and it can change the way you think. It's an easy read, one that you can breeze through while drinking coffee (or tea, if you're one of those people).
East of Eden- John Steinbeck
This book. This story. It's so good. If you're looking for a good novel to put on your summer reading list-- look no further.
East of Eden is an 800 page journey that leaves you with hope and points you to Jesus. I've read a lot of novels in my 21 years, but this is the only book that has ever made me put it aside and open my Bible. It's a heavy story with character development from the first page to the last, but it points you to Jesus. Seriously, friends, it's worth your time.
One Thousand Gifts- Ann Voskamp
When I read, "Give thanks in all circumstances." my brain immediately goes, "Except when..." And One Thousand Gifts shut that part of my brain up.
Ann Voskamp tells her story of learning to give thanks even when it's hard. She carries her readers through her journey in giving thanks for a thousand different, everyday things (including when her kids were mean to each other or when the sun fell through her kitchen window). In reading One Thousand Gifts, you are stripping yourself of the ability not to see beauty in every day.
Garden City- John Mark Comer
Honestly, I'm only halfway through this book. But it only took me 50 pages to realize that every (yes, every) 20-something year olds need to read it. Comer is a pastor in Portland, OR and he is an incredible writer (obviously, as he's the only person with more than one book on this list). This book is about "work, rest, and the art of being human" which are all things that 20-somethings struggle to understand. He poses questions that point readers to their calling and he uses scripture to encourage us in rest. The lessons that Garden City contains within its pages are lessons we all need to learn. I'm not kidding, absorbing these truths could make or break the rest of your life.
There you have it. Five books to read before your 25th birthday. An important thing to point out is that I'm not 25, but I thought that age would give non-readers some wiggle room to finish these books. Whether you love words or you can't remember the last time you finished a book, I still believe the truths that these books contain are for you.
Read one, read them all, and never forget the power that words have.
Happy reading, friends.
Ashton "I wish I were Mulan" Ray