Last month, Mackenzie, my oldest, turned nine. It’s scary to think that one day my daughters will be grown. I say “scary” because I will miss them being kids, and adulthood comes with its own set of challenges. Because of this, I’m thinking more often about the types of values that I want to instill in my children. I’ve also been pondering my list of must-read books that I plan to pass on to them as adults.
My Ultimate Must-Read Books, List
As an avid reader, I’ve breezed through hundreds, if not thousands, of books. I’m the type of person who likes to read a book once. On the few occasions that I’ve read a book a second time, it’s only because the author did an exceptional job. Yet, there is a handful–and it’s a tiny handful–of books that I return to again and again. These books contain a message that I long to make a part of who I am. The words are worth knowing forward and backward, living, breathing, and handing down to my children.
Instead of simply listing these books, I thought it would be more meaningful to write a letter to my adult children. One day, I’ll send this letter–or perhaps, let them read this post. In the meantime, I hope it helps you discover some excellent reading for 2016 and understand why each of these books is a hidden treasure.
An Open Letter to My Adult Daughters:
Dear Mackenzie, Brooklyn, Addison, and Emma,
It’s difficult to think about writing to you as adults. Yet, things are quickly moving in that direction–far more quickly than I care to admit. Brooklyn, I was so proud of you the other day for cooking breakfast with almost no help from me. Yes, I hovered over you like a helicopter to ensure that you didn’t burn yourself on the pan. But this was really more for my sake than for yours. You were perfectly safe on your own, but I wasn’t ready to let go of being ready to help at a moment’s notice–at least not just yet. Mackenzie, you are already showing so many signs of maturity. Your ability to juggle homework, friendships, and a schedule filled with soccer, girl scouts, and running club, is astounding. And little Addison, I can hardly believe that you are walking and talking already–didn’t your mother and I bring you home from the hospital just a few days ago?
Although you are too young for most of these books now, it won’t be long before you are ready to read them yourselves. Perhaps, you’ll stumble across them, worn and torn, on my book-shelf. More likely, you’ll receive them, one at a time, as gifts from me. These five must-read books have influenced my life greatly, and I hope they shape your worldview too.
Of course, when it comes to must-read books, the Bible tops the list–but you already know this. Your love for God is inspiring. You girls pray as powerfully as most adults I know. You thank God for “the days He created on earth.” You continually think of others in your prayers, and always remember to pray for both of your families (something that is especially important when you live in a blended-family home). I love how you older girls have taught little Addison to enthusiastically shout out “Amen,” at the end of family prayers. Fortunately, the Bible is one book that you won’t have to wait to read. It was a joy watching your faces light up when you opened your “big girl Bibles” at Christmas. My hope is that you four will continue to put God first in all that you do in the years ahead.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
Your grandmother gave me a copy of this book when I was in high school. Next to the Bible, this is the book that I’ve read the most. From the power of a simple smile to the wisdom of never telling someone, “Your wrong,” this book is all about navigating relationships with wisdom. It’s something that each of you is already doing. However, friendships become more tricky as adults, and I’ll be passing along this book so that you can continue to grow in your relationship skills.
Winning friends begins with friendliness. -Dale Carnegie
The title is unusual, but don’t let it full you. My prayer is that each of you will grow up, knowing that it’s perfectly OK to fail. Trying new things is how we grow best, even when those new ideas don’t work as planned. It might surprise you to learn that your dad worked as a children’s pastor, magician, and newspaper salesman before you were born. I want you girls to understand that it’s fine to fail, as long as you learn from the experience and become better because of it. In fact, some of the best things in my life came out of my biggest failures. But those are conversations for much later on. The important thing is that you understand that failing doesn’t make you a failure. My hope is that you tackle new experiences with open arms and that when you fail, you dust yourself off and keep pressing forward.
God uses people who fail—’cause there aren’t any other kind around. -John Maxwell
It’s a silly title, but the book contains a powerful message. My favorite part is the description of how our faith can be like a brick or like a trampoline. The author uses the word “brickianity,” to describe people with an inflexible faith. Those who take a ” brickianity,” approach to faith get frazzled when others believe differently than they do. Their inability to extend grace results in endless debates. The opposite of “brickianity” is holding a trampoline-like faith. This type of faith flexes and allows room for growth. Those with trampoline-like faith meet people where they are at. Best of all, life on the trampoline is fun. Ultimately, this book is about grace–God’s grace toward us, and passing on that same grace to others. This is why it’s on my must-read books list. My desire is that each of you grows into joyful, grace-filled followers of Jesus Christ. And I don’t think that I have anything to be worried about–it is already such a joy to see each of you heading in this direction!
Perhaps a better question than who’s right is who’s living rightly? -Rob Bell
This book easily made the cut, although it may be that you receive the 3.0 version–as I suspect that it will be updated in the years ahead. You girls have so many strengths, and I’m excited to watch you further develop the unique gifts that God has given you. I can’t wait for the day when you take the on-line quiz and discover your top five strengths. I hope that as your mature, you learn that people grow best by focusing on their strengths and not their weaknesses. And that as a result, you hone in on the things that you do best. In short, my prayer is that each of you grows into exactly who God designed you to be!
This book is an easy read. So easy that you could probably breeze through it right now. Although it will probably still be several years before you find it in a Christmas stocking. This is a book that you are already living, and my hope is that as you grow, each of you continues to experience the joy that comes from filling others up.
Whenever we choose to fill other’s buckets, we, in turn, fill our own. -Tom Rath
As difficult as it is for me to think of you three–soon to be four–growing up, it’s exciting too. I am very proud of who you are and of who you are becoming.
Continue the Conversation on Must-Read Books
For more great insights on kids and reading, be sure to check out these tips on how to instill a love for reading in your kids. That is my list of must-read books that I will pass on to my adult daughters. What about you? Are there any books that you would add to this list? What must-read books will you pass on to your children, and why? I can’t wait to continue this conversation in the comments below!