Five Secular Books that Profoundly Influenced My Life



A few days ago I wrote about seven Christian books that have helped to make me me. Today I will share with you five secular books that have profoundly influenced me as well. As with the previous seven authors, in the pages of these books I have also learned much from these authors. Each author is a leader or authority in his/her field. I have learned not only from the content of their messages, but also from each of their examples of how they do life, how they think and process, and who they are as a person.


I can’t wait to introduce you!


 1Barbara Bush: A Memoir by Barbara Bush. Through this book I felt like I became a friend of Mrs. Bush. I want to meet her and have coffee. She is warm, smart, funny, and real. She is an excellent wife, mom, grandma, and friend. She honestly shared the hard stuff of losing a small child and the effects it had on her and the family. The main take-away I have from her story is her value on relationships. She and President Bush have pursued and nurtured relationships with family and friends from the beginning of their marriage when they lived in a tiny basement apartment throughout their lifetime. Whether at home, in the White House, or their home at Kennebunkport they have always invited family and friends in to be loved on and enjoyed. Mrs. Bush writes about the busy summers at Kennebunkport as they host friends, family, and dignitaries. To make her point about how busy one summer was she gave a count on how many sheets they washed! She paints a tender picture of George caring for his mother in Kennebunkport. In the next paragraph talks about “the grands”—her nickname for their grandchildren.


The second inspiration I have from Mrs. Bush is her faithfulness to journal her life. Her personal journals were much of the source for this book. I want to be a woman who overflows with hospitality and keeps an accurate record of my life—both actions and emotions.


 2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. In Lean In Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to own their lives. This is not a book only for women who work outside the home. It is for all women. I was encouraged and challenged to not hold back on all God has given me to do and the person He has made me to be. She often talks about how she was called “bossy” as a child. Me too. Bossy has a negative tone—like a little girl who must always have her way. Ms. Sandberg was not that kind of child. I was not that kind of child either (well, sometimes I was). But mostly I felt the need to lead—to lead my four younger sisters to an amazing adventure. I don’t want my girls to shrink from being the person God made them to be or to not speak up because they are in a group of mostly men. I want then to confidently be who God made them to be no matter what situation they are in. Lean In celebrates women doing so.


 3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. Yes, this book is a business book and contains business research statistics. But most of it talks about leadership. My reward for wading through the business stats was finding someone I knew—Jesus. As Jim Collins talks about leadership and what makes some companies move on to greatness, I could see these principles exemplified in Jesus. Jesus was the most effective leader ever. He led a dozen men—everyday kind of guys—to take His message to the world. Jesus taught His men to make the leap from good to great. Jesus and his disciples affected the world more than anyone has or will. Good to Great is full of inspiration and practical application on how to live an exceptional life for God.


 4. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Anyone who wants their message to be heard, understood, remembered, and acted on needs to read this book. Kindergarten Sunday school teachers, high school teachers, all teachers, marketing types, parents, managers, authors, speakers, pastors, everyone! The brothers Heath use their own advice in the writing of the book to teach us, the readers, how to communicate in the most effective way. Look for their practical applications in my future writing/speaking.


 5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Quiet helped me understand two of my three daughters and my husband. It was as if Ms. Cain sat me down, poured me a cup of coffee, and said, “Let me show you what is going on in the head and heart of your loved ones.” I had no idea of how they really thought or felt. I thought it was an extrovert’s (my) job to bring introverts (my girls and Gene) into the light. Seriously. In Quiet I heard the heart of my girls and Gene in a way that they couldn’t explain to me. I learned about my introvert tendencies as well. I learned how many modern Western churches play to the extroverts and leave the introverts either cringing till the service is over or many times the the introverts leave the church. I feel this book is a must-read for anyone who works with people, leads people, or is in relationship with people—all of us. Quiet helps us better understand others and ourselves. When we better understand each other we can more effectively love and serve each other. Wasn’t that one of Jesus’ two most important commandments—“Love your neighbor as yourself.”


 I love each of these books. Each has helped me to know others better, including Jesus. Do I agree with everything in each book? No. Do I agree with everything in the previous seven Christian books? No. We should read everything with discernment and comparing it to what the Bible says.


Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear from you when you do.


What secular nonfiction books have had an impact on you?


Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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