There’s a little meme going around Facebook that asks you to share your top 10 books. When I started thinking about the books that changed my life, they were all non-fiction. Maybe that means I’m not reading enough heady fiction books., but reading non-fiction books have been some of the most transformative experiences I’ve undergone in just about every aspect of my life.
I went from thinking I’d be an elementary teacher at an international school overseas to working for myself as a web designer. How? Books. (Okay, and blogging. And some community college courses.)
The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube – Introduced me to the idea of working in an alternative career. Read my first or second year out of college when I was not loving my job. It was clarifying.
Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better – Somewhat the opposite of “leaning in,” it advocates a way for women to step down the career ladder or take another career ladder so they don’t have to choose between kids and work. I found myself nodding along as I listened (audiobook on a long commute to work).
The Boss of You: Everything A Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business – Gave me the tools I needed to start freelancing!
Honorable mention: Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability – To niche to recommend it generally, but it informs every single website I put my little grubby fingers on.
Personal & Parenting
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids – This book is full of practical ways to parent with less. Less activities, less toys, less intensity. Some pooh-pooh the idea of reading about parenting, but like anything else that I care about, I find that reading about it can help me figure out what I think is important and give me support.
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin improves her life, one month at a time. At the time I read this, it was revolutionary to me. Now, it might seem a little cheesy if I re-read it, but I still love the idea of monthly goals (obviously).
Social Justice & Spirituality
Once upon a time, I was a very religious teenager who liked to do community service. These books, combined with some experiences and a few college courses, transformed the way that I thought about the poor, society, and politics. I entered my 20s a completely different person than I left my 20s, in almost every way, but starting with my values that I formed through these books.
The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist – Oh, Dorothy Day. I wanted a daughter just so I could give her Dorothy as a middle name as an ode to my idol. I read this book while spending a semester in Hawaii and it turned my beliefs on their head and my life has never been the same.
Irresistible Revolution – I saw this author speak when I was in college and was intrigued. He was quite religious but also super radically progressive. So I read his book and found myself underlining a lot. I started thinking more about where things came from, how they were produced, and what my actions, spending, and life was doing.
Diet for a New America – A book about veganism written by a relative to the Baskin-Robbins empire. Okay, I must say that this book is probably a little extreme, but it took me from “eh, I don’t like the taste of meat” to “I’ll never eat meat again.” It introduced me to the impact we have with what we eat. It’s a little intense with the mentions of animals suffering, and I’m not a vegan like he advocates, but it was taken with a big ol’ grain of salt and still affected me.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – This book about an author who becomes a self-sufficient farmer in the hills of Virginia. I have no (NO) desire to do that or to live rurally (NONE), but it changed how I shopped for food. Not 100% of our food is local by any means, but we do what we can with what we have – farmer’s markets and CSAs are staples now.
Honorable mention: Vegan with a Vengeance – A cookbook isn’t really a book you read, but this cookbook changed my approach to cooking and I started to cook more vegan since it turns out vegans really know how to make vegetables delicious. It also helps my default meal planning to not involve copious amounts of cheese (as delicious as it is).
If you have any book recommendations for me (fiction or non), hit me up! Or tell me which fiction books I should be reading to change my life.