5 Books that'll Make You Want to be a Better Person

By Tuesday, November 28, 2017 , , ,

Every so often, I come across a book about people who truly amaze me. We use that word so often that it’s lost much of its power, so I’m thankful for the stories of people who are genuine heroes and whose histories force readers to do a little self-evaluation. I want to share a few of those here today and hope you’ll comment or contact me to share your own favorites of this type. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 
A recent bestselling memoir by a brilliant neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the height of his career. I’ve known for a while that it takes a very unique person to be a neurosurgeon, but this book gives a glimpse into just how unique. Paul Kalanithi loved poetry, the science of the brain, people, his family, and considering the meaning of life, among many other things. In his memoir, he shares deep reflections and questions on purpose, life and death, humanity’s search for significance, and why we feel compelled to live differently when death suddenly becomes much closer. 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 
I’ve mentioned this book many times before, but it remains one of my favorites. It’s the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track runner and WWII bomber pilot. During a mission over the Pacific, he and two other crew members survived a plane crash and then floated on a crude raft for over a month. They caught fish, trapped rainwater, and fought off sharks to survive, only to be captured by the Japanese once they reached land. This is a tale of suffering and resilience that truly defies logic and Laura Hillenbrand’s writing is cinematic and compelling. 

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
Another extraordinary underdog story that I talk of often and is well worth continued conversation. This focuses on the nine-man rowing team from the University of Washington during the Great Depression. The Washington team was never expected to beat the elite East Coast teams, yet they not only did so, but also went on to defeat the German team during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, an event fraught with Nazi propaganda. Everything about this book had me glued – the history of rowing as a sport, the pure grit and determination of the team, the gripping race scenes, and perhaps more than anything, the bond between the nine team members. 

Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior 
This is the story of an unsung hero of England’s abolitionist movement. Hannah More was a poet, playwright, close friend of well-known abolitionist William Wilberforce, and proponent of education for women and the poor. When she saw something that she believed needed to change culturally, she took it upon herself to effect that change. She primarily used her pen to speak out against slavery, immorality, conditions of the poor, and much more. She championed social reform right alongside Wilberforce and worked tirelessly not only to promote the education of women and the lower classes, but taught them herself for many years in schools she helped establish. Men and women alike today could learn much from Hannah More. 

Seven Men by Eric Metaxas 
Eric Metaxas is one of my favorite contemporary authors and this collection of mini-biographies is an easy, humbling, and engaging read. He gives snapshots of the lives of George Washington, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. All of these men led incredibly different lives throughout many points of history, but Metaxas skillfully weaves them together with the common thread of sacrifice. And this, Metaxas argues, is what makes a great man great, and what we should continue to look for in our heroes. 

What books have inspired you? Is there anyone you would not have known about if you hadn’t come across a book about him or her? What books have caused you to reevaluate your life? I’d love to hear about it!

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