Read Your Strengths: Books that Reflect Connectedness

I could fill pages and pages of books that reflect Connectedness. Pretty much any piece of fiction will foster a new understanding of someone’s story. Well written fiction opens doors, not only to other worlds, but to very real events in our own world. The empathy created by reading these stories connects us to a bigger picture.

But, nonfiction can do the same. Many lines between my choices and my world have first been started through a well-researched book. So, this roundup is a bit of a mix. Some fiction, some nonfiction. All these books helped me see the world around me in new ways. They created empathy and even changed the choices I was making.

Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline
I’ve written about this one before, but it is such an interesting read. Cline delves into the world of fast fashion and the social, economic, and environmental impact a $5.00 t-shirt has on our society. The idea of disposable fashion is filling our landfills and contributing to slave-like conditions in developing nations. What I most appreciated about this book is that Cline gives a practical, doable action plan at the end.

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano
This was perhaps my favorite book of 2015. A collection of short stories, Galeano takes us through mythology from cultures around the world. He fictionalizes true events and reports others with accuracy. If finding connections is not your first instinct, this book draws those lines clearly, eloquently, and with grace. Galeano reminds us that our stories are interwoven, since the beginning.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
This book was a powerful argument against eating meat. What I loved most about it is that Foer wants us to convert to vegetarianism and he isn’t subtle about that argument in his book. He is brutally honest and well-researched about where our meat comes from and the agony we inflict on creatures to feed a habit. This book made me relook at what it really means to steward this earth and what God meant when he put humans as caretakers of animals.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This collection of letters to Dear Sugar, Strayed’s advice column for The Rumpus, is filled with stories from people of all backgrounds. What I love most is Strayed’s grace-filled advice to her readers. Even the ones who get tough love get it with a heavy dose of humanity. Her responses are also a reminder of the power of storytelling and how, if used well, can be a connector. This book brings out the grittiness of humanity but also restores my faith in human goodness.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his son, this is a powerful, intimate look at what it means to be a black man in America. This book helped me understand the underlying frustration to so many of my neighbors. Frustration that has, in the past few years, reached a boiling point. This book is a reminder of why we want to keep those feelings boiling – until something changes, this systemic problem isn’t going away. Regardless of how you feel about the handling of current situations, this book will help create empathy and remind those of us with the privilege of not experiencing daily racism why things must change.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I just have one book left to read by Adichie, I love her writing so much. Adichie uses the power of fiction to draw the reader into other cultures, to teach history and sociology, while creating a safe distance for processing. This book particularly, helps the reader understand immigration a bit more. We follow Ifemelu from America back to Nigeria and all of the reverse culture shock that happens as a result. It was a reminder of the difficulties of leaving a home country, but also of the complex situation of returning. Adichie also drives home that immigrating to a new country is deeply complex, more so than anything seen on the surface.

What are some of your favorite books that have helped you connect to a different belief or way of thinking?

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This post is Day 21 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

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