Non-Fiction Books that Expanded my Thinking


As I wrote this post about non-fiction books during the middle of a pandemic, I realized that many of them took on deeper meaning. That’s the mark of a good book.

Following are topics and the books that have expanded my thinking.

Spiritual Development in the Second Half of Life

Becoming Sage by Michelle Van Loon, Falling Upward by Richard Rohr and The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich.

Becoming Sage: Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife (available April 7th) encourages us to pursue spiritual growth every day of our lives and explores the blessings, challenges, wisdom and frustrations that those of us in the second half of life are likely to encounter.

This book will remind you that it’s not at all unusual for you to feel like your spiritual growth has stalled or to experience frustration with your church or to be distracted by the care of a spouse, parent, child or grandchild or that your relationships will change. I related to several of Michelle’s topics.

Becoming Sage will challenge you to embrace whatever you’re experiencing so that God can transform you.

The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith breaks spiritual development into six stages.

Realizing that there are many people who are experiencing the same things that I’ve encountered made me feel less lost. I had hit The Wall, which I found out is not at all unusual and is a major spiritual transformation point, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it. Now I do.

Falling Upward deals with two halves of life and propels us toward the second. First half of life thinking – building a container for the stuff of life – is where most of the world lives. The second half of life is understanding what the container is meant to hold. Spoiler alert: it’s not a bunch of stuff.

In these days of social distancing, a suspended economy, the stock market tanking and resulting fear, we might think differently about what our lives are meant to be about.

If this topic sounds intriguing, Becoming Sage would be an excellent resource for anyone in or approaching the second half of life. It covers a broad range of topics all related to spiritual growth. I highly recommend it.

Considering Race

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown and Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

These two books challenged me to contemplate race. Of course, racism is a subject that has been in cultural conversation for years, but I’ve never considered myself a racist. Far from it.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness details how how white people exhibit racism that they don’t even realize, for they grew up never having to deal with what black people have had to deal with. It is an eye-opening book.

Thick and Other Essays is an interesting collection of essays by a sociologist who exposes the bias, the assumptions, most of which are faulty, and the neglect which society projects on to black women.

Memoirs and Perspectives

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, Educated by Tara Westover and A Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White.

The first two books are about individuals who overcame their cultural and family backgrounds to achieve and to see the world from a much different perspective.

In Hillbily Elegy, JD was raised in a dysfunctional family that probably seemed normal to the culture around them and found support from a few people in his life. He also made some wise decisions of his own. His family may have been a mess, but they loved him.

I was amazed by Tara’s story in Educated. Tara was raised in an abusive dysfunctional family, was not educated and was fed the family’s view of evil schools, medicine, and government. She taught herself what she needed to learn to take the SAT and amazingly was accepted to Brigham Young University. Hers is a story of struggle, determination and growth.

A Sanctuary of Outcasts is about a man who lived a successful life until he was sent to prison for fraud. And it wasn’t just any prison; it shared space with a leper colony. White’s memoir is wonderfully readable, introduces us to authentic characters that you will care about and demonstrates how hanging around with outcasts can change one’s life for the better.


On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior is an enjoyable consideration of time honored virtues displayed through great literature.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. I’m not sure how I heard about this book, but I’m glad I read it. Harrison takes average moments of every life and considers how they can be used to refocus our attention on God. Beautiful.

The Compelling Heart of Christ by Carrie L. Jones. My daughter-in-law gave me this book written by a mentor of hers, and I loved it. The stories of Naomi, Gomer, the woman caught in adultery and Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died are each told in story form, using her imagination, and then applied to Christ’s resurrection power in our lives.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I finally read a book that explains the Enneagram.

Any non-fiction books that you can recommend?

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

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