Last week on the blog I reviewed 3 of my favorite books (and one of my more equal favorites) from my summer reading list. If you happened to miss that post, you can click here and take a look to see if there is anything of interest to you.
Today I’m sharing the three titles that round out my favorite 2019 summer reading list:
The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant by Terry Felber
Like the Backpack from last week’s list, this book is a story that provides some really good life lessons.
While The Backpack focused on how we impact others with our emotions, this work focuses on providing perspective on what it means to be successful. More specifically, it addresses two key errors in thinking about personal wealth.
The first is that if you work hard, and as a result build some personal wealth, that this is evil in some way. The second error is that if you do create some wealth that this is somehow an indicator of God’s blessing or favor. The author does a fine job in story form of debunking both of these myths.
The story takes place primarily in Venice and seems to be in a time period just after the crucifixion of Christ. A time where there are great cathedrals and yet a lot is being learned about trade and valuing business relationships.
As you read, there are 12 principles that are unlocked that are both profound and simple at the same time.
Some of what the author calls ‘principles’ are debatable, but that is what I really like about the book. The author says” here is a principle or an idea,” and then seems to give space for there to be continued learning.
For example, Principle 2 is “Financial prosperity is often connected to soul prosperity.” While the author positions this as a principle, the word “often” would indicate it is not a hard and fast rule. There seems to be lots of room for people to discuss things like:
What does financial prosperity mean?
What does soul prosperity mean?
Why is this not a universal truth?
The story is engaging. The principles are discussion-worthy (there is even a small group discussion guide in the back of the book). This book would be a good one to read and then journal what each of the principles means for you in your own life.
I think my favorite quote from this book needs some setup. Throughout the story, there are yearly meetings between the protagonist, Aleso, and his mentor. As Aleso prepares mentally for the final meeting the two will have, he asks himself, “I wonder what this year will bring?” I just love that question. While none of us knows or can predict the future, it is a great open and curious question. One to pause and reflect on.
Question for Reflection: If you ask yourself, “I wonder what this year will bring?” Rather than specifically trying to answer it, reflect just on how the question makes you feel? Where do your thoughts go? What memories are brought up that might be impacting how you even frame this question for yourself?
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
Caution: This book will really make you think. In addition to just getting in your head, it could get you to stop and pause, asking some pretty intense questions of yourself like, “What is my life all about?”
As Rohr (a catholic priest by training) starts the book, he does so in a profound and soul-shattering way.
“There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.”
As I find myself these days, with my container primarily built, I am very interested in the idea of what my container is meant to hold. Rohr basically makes the case that the first half of your life is about building the container by understanding things like your worldview, your personality, your emotional self-awareness. The first half of life is about introducing you to yourself.
It is in the second half of life where the game really gets interesting.
Okay, so I am this person in the first half of life who is a materialist, born to be competitive, who is an extrovert, and who has grown an ability to see inside, really inside, of people. This is my container, albeit a very limited description. Now I find myself asking the question of what this container was meant to hold. Enter Richard Rohr and the idea of Falling Upward.
I even love the title of this book. So often we think about falling down. Rohr takes a scientific law of nature like gravity and says, in the spiritual world that law does not apply. You are learning and growing.
What I love about this learning approach is that it is about the usual cross points in life being a kind of “necessary suffering.”
What is it that I am supposed to be learning from the pain I have experienced in my life and putting this in the context of who I am (what I learned about myself in the first half of my life).
The psychologist Carl Jung said, “So much unnecessary suffering comes to the world because people will not accept the legitimate suffering that comes from being human.”
Rohr takes this idea and asks questions regarding what you can learn from your suffering to help others experience and process their suffering. Does this indeed help you understand your purpose and destiny in life?
Question for Reflection: Do you know enough about the container of who you are to begin to make sense of your suffering to invest in others?
Spoiler Alert: Wilczek is a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics and this book is 328 pages of dense content.
The subtitle of this work is Finding Nautre’s Deep Design, and the thing I love about the book is the simple question it asks at the very beginning:
Does the world embody beautiful ideas?
If for no other reason, you should pick up a copy of this book and work through this question on your own.
My whole love of this book is that Frank is a physicist and therefore in love with numbers and theories and ideas. And yet he is willing to ask a very penetrating question that plays with the rational part of all of our brains.
What is beauty?
Now, there is a lot of math and physics in the book, but I found myself taking a lot of the stuff I did not understand for granted. I kept finding myself saying, “The guy has a Nobel Prize in Physics, I will trust what he is saying here is true.” I found the logic and the flow of the book to be so very well done. There is great integration of not only science but psychology and spirituality. Besides, I just love the question, what is beautiful?
My favorite quote comes on page 315, “Sometimes the most important step in understanding something is to realize you shouldn’t worry about everything. It’s usually better to be (maybe) right about something than “not wrong” about everything.” And that from a Nobel Prize winner.
Question for Reflection: What assumption in life are you holding on to that could cause you to be wrong about everything?
I hope you enjoy one of these books! If you do, or if you have a recommendation of your own, I’d love to hear it!