Books

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“So many books, so little time.” – Was it really Frank Zappa who said that?

Along with the simple joy and pleasure I get from books, I read to learn, to grow, to understand, and gain a little wisdom. I love a “terrific read” but I always keep in mind that there are so many books and so little time. I try to choose my books wisely.

The list below includes books that I think most folks would enjoy, but as a guy, these are several of my favorites. (If you have suggestions for me to read and include, please let me know) – Themes often include the following: Adventure, Courage, Mentors, Father/Son, Male/Female, Self-discovery, Purpose, Sacrifice, Honor, Wisdom, Responsibility, Stepping Up, Role Models, Family and Friendship.

Randy Pausch, in his book The Last Lecture, said, “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

– So many books, so little time!

John Adams by David McCullough
(Biography/History) Themes: Mentors, Heroes, Courage, Sacrifice, Honor
My Favorite biography. David McCullough brings to life John Adams, his wife Abigail, and a whole cast of characters from the American Revolution.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
(Fiction/Fantasy/Sports) Themes: Father/Son, Self-discovery, Mentors, Family
I’m not sure which I love more, this book, or the movie based on it, Field of Dreams. They are both wonderful.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
(Fiction) Themes: Self-discovery, Purpose, Passion, Responsibility
Not what I expected, and yet more than I expected. I love this book.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
(Biography) Themes: Innovation, Role Models, Passion, Purpose
An incredible biography of a modern creative genius. A book I cannot read just once. I will be reading it again soon.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
(Non-fiction/Inspirational) Themes: Father/Son, Family, Wisdom, Self-discovery, Mentors
If you haven’t read this book, click here and check out this 10 minute video. It’s the short version of the 75 minute video of his original lecture on which the book is based. The book and videos are all great!

Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong by Mark Cotta Vaz
(Biography/Adventure) Themes: Courage, Self-discovery, Role Models, History
Amazing true life hero and man of many talents, yet so few people know his name.

The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
(Fiction/Adventure) Themes: Mentors, Adventure, Courage, Friendship, Hope
Wonderful story, first published 140 years ago. Captain Cyrus Harding is one of my very favorite fictional characters and heroes.

About A Boy by Nick Hornby
(Fiction) Themes: Self-discovery, Responsibility, Mentors, Family
Wonderful book that has been made into a wonderful movie (and the new TV show isn’t too bad either).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
(Fiction) Themes: Adventure, Friendship, Courage
If you read only one “American Classic,” you won’t go wrong with this one.

The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family by Martha Raddatz
(Non-fiction/History) Themes: Courage, Sacrifice, Honor, Heroes
An amazing true story of friendship and heroism.

I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography by Jackie Robinson
(Biography/ Sports) Themes: Courage, Role Models, Inspiration, Self-discovery
Not only a great sports story, but one of the great American stories.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(Fiction) Themes: Courage, Sacrifice, Justice, Good and Evil
For me the book can be summed up in this quote from Atticus Finch – “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
(Fiction/Fantasy/Adventure) Themes: Courage, Friendship, Purpose, Responsibility
This is one of my very favorite works of fiction. Friendship, courage and responsibility – beautifully depicted in the characters. My only criticism – A bit too much poetry for my taste (although some may find it an important part of the story).

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
(Fiction/Adventure) Themes: Adventure, Courage, Self-discovery
One of the great classics – An adventure story for all ages.

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
(Biography/History) Themes: Self-discovery, Courage, Responsibility, Role Models
An excellent book on the first 27 years of Teddy Roosevelt’s life and how these years shaped the man he became. My favorite non-fiction author, this is David McCullough’s first biography.

The Rainmaker by John Grisham
(Fiction) Themes: Responsibility, Purpose, Self-discovery
Suspenseful (and very funny), this is a favorite that I will read again.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
(Biography/History) Themes: Wisdom, Courage, Role Models, Responsibility
Steven Spielberg’s 2012 epic film Lincoln is based on just a small part of this great biography. There is plenty more here worthy of reading.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
(Fiction) Themes: Self-discovery, Passion, Family, Role Models
Not what you would expect from Bradbury. A wonderful book about growing up in small town in America in the 1920’s.

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan
(Biography) Themes: Mentors, Father/Son, Friendship, Inspiration
In a way this is actually three biographies for the price of one. Three very interesting lives intersecting in this simple little book.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy
by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
(Non-fiction) Themes: Wisdom, Responsibility, Inspiration
This classic self-help book explains how most Millionaires get to be worth a million dollars – Simply put, they spend less than they earn.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
(Fiction) Themes: Adventure, Self-discovery, Purpose
Excellent book – but because it was written in 1980, this is one time where I like the movie even more because of the updated use of technology in the plot.

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
(Non-fiction/History) Themes: History, Purpose, Role Models

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
(Non-fiction/Inspirational) Themes: Self-discovery, Courage, Passion, Purpose

Truman by David McCullough
(Biography/History) Themes: Role Models, Purpose, Responsibility, Wisdom

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
(Fiction) Themes: Self-discovery, Passion, Purpose
Story of a gifted young artist and his struggle with faith, family, his gift, and understanding himself.

The Testament by John Grisham
(Fiction) Themes: Self-discovery, Family, Redemption

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
(Fiction) Themes: Purpose, Hope, Sacrifice, Adventure

John Glenn: A Memoir by John Glenn, Nick Taylor
(Biography) Themes: Adventure, Courage, Heroes

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George F. Will
(Non-fiction) Themes: Passion, Purpose, Sacrifice, Role Models

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
(Biography) Themes: Curiosity, Humility, Genius, Role Model
A fascinating biography of perhaps the greatest genius of the 20th century.

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6 Responses to Books

  1. You may find inspiration in Col Edward Hubbard’s books ‘Escape from the Box.’ The perspectives that he developed, and followed, through life-threatening conditions, have been an inspiration to me. (I’ve no relationship with the author or publishing company.)

  2. Dave Astor says:

    You listed many EXCELLENT fiction and nonfiction books, VocareMentor!

    Coincidentally, I just read “Dandelion Wine” for the first time. As you say, very different from a lot of Ray Bradbury’s other work. Almost a collection of interconnected stories and vignettes rather than a novel, but parts of it are VERY nostalgic, moving, and thought-provoking.

    By the way, one piece of interesting footage on YouTube is Bradbury’s 1956 appearance on Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” show!

    • VocareMentor says:

      Thank you – Years ago a friend gave me a copy of Dandelion Wine as a gift. He said it was his favorite book. I knew nothing about it and don’t remember hearing of it before. Thank God for friends who read.

  3. Our lists of favorites seem to overlap! Just picked up the Last Lecture.

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