General Nonfiction

Many of the books in this category have been highlighted in other blog posts.

David Isay’s Listening is An Act of Love is a collection of stories from the StoryCorps project. In it he shares how powerful it is for ordinary people to share their stories and truly feel heard, with a collection of some of the most beloved stories shared from 2003 to 2007. “These stories,” he writes, “are a reminder that if we spent a little less time listening to the divisive radio and TV talk shows and a little more time listening to each other, we would be a better, more thoughtful, and more compassionate nation.”
I reviewed this book in my September 2016 post. My favorite aspect of this book is how Rubin does not take a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to building good habits (and breaking bad ones). She instead describes “Four Tendencies” that people fall under when it comes to keeping habits: obliger, questioner, rebel, and upholder. As a tendency, this means that no one is boxed into any one category, but a general trend towards a certain type of behavior. An “obliger” is someone who tends to follow through and fulfill tasks if there are others dependent on them. A ”questioner” questions everything until fully convinced before doing something or meeting an expectation. A “rebel” resists all rules, whether imposed internally or externally, and an “upholder” is able to meet both internal expectations and external ones. For people with each of these tendencies, Rubin offers suggestions for how they can harness those tendencies to best build up good habits.

 

Christian Religion and Spirituality

This is without a doubt one of the best Christian books to come out in 2016. I should know – I read it at least five times since I was part of the translation team that reviewed and edited this second edition of the late Coptic Pope Shenouda’s book, The Life of Repentance and PurityIt’s a book that speaks to those just starting on their spiritual walk with Christ to those looking to deepen their relationship with God. My favorite aspect of this book is the way His Holiness balances difficulty with grace. Just as soon as you read a chapter that makes you think, “This level of repentance and self-examination is too tough, I can’t do this,” Pope Shenouda reminds us that we cannot do anything without God’s grace – and in fact, repentance itself is an invitation from God and a manifestation of His love: “God’s invitation to repentance,” he writes, “carries His feelings of compassion for His children. He wishes for all who have strayed to return to Him, so that they may share in the kingdom, in the inheritance of the saints, and in the fellowship of the Church.”

 

 

Thomas Hart’s The Art of Christian Listening is a beautifully written book for those who are ever put in the position of being asked to listen. “Listening,” he writes, “is not always easy. It takes time, and the time might be inconvenient besides. It demands really being for the other during that period, fully present and attentive, one’s own needs and concerns set aside. This is exacting. Listening might mean being afflicted with the most profound sense of helplessness, having the springs of sorrow touched, seeing one’s dearest convictions called painfully into question by the experience and testimony of another. The person may not be attractive, might be telling a dull and too oft repeated tale, might be making mountains out of molehills, might be demanding and even manipulative. These are the hazards. Nevertheless there comes to me a human being whom God created and loves. There comes a sister or brother for whom Christ died (Rm 14:15). There enters a suffering fellow pilgrim. The first thing one consents to do is to welcome and listen. It is an act of love.”

Two books on Christian spiritual practices that I recommend are Frederica Mathews-Green The Illumined Heart and Jana Reiss’ Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving my Neighbor. These are great places to start if you are looking for a habit to build!