Being a person is hard work. Sometimes it helps to have a guide book of sorts to help you navigate through this world. This list of books won’t help you take command of your life. They won’t make you a conqueror in the boardroom and in the bedroom. Nor will they lead you to any great spiritual awakenings. But we like to think that by reading some of these books you’ll be touched by the human experiences you’ll discover within their pages. Or, if nothing else, they’ll at least kill a quiet night at home.
My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir
by Chris Offutt
Chris Offutt’s father was a prolific writer of cheap paperback erotica novels. It may have been an impressive feat if the work had been any good — and if he hadn’t sidelined every other aspect of his life, particularly his children.
After his father’s death, Offutt tasked himself with organizing his father’s writings. As he unpacks and catalogues his father’s work, Offutt also works towards unpacking his own complex feelings about their relationship. At one point Offutt finds a short story his father had written as a teenager and is brought to tears thinking about all the wasted potential his father once had. The book is a powerful memoir about reconciliation for Offutt, not only with his father, but also with his complex feelings about him.
Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal
by Mick Foley
Mick Foley is a former professional wrestler probably best known for having broken nearly every bone in his body. Now, on the surface it may seem that somebody who regularly allowed himself to be struck in the face with a baseball bat wrapped in barb wire has no wisdom to impart, but that’s simply not true. Foley has written several autobiographies about his experiences both inside and outside of the ring, as well as his philanthropic work with charities and women’s help centers. If you’re looking for a book about how to balance your passions and find ways to enrich the lives of others through charitable works, you could do much worse.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
This book was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, and while the movie certainly has its charms, it is nowhere near as poignant or informative as the travelogue/memoir.
Bill Bryson has traveled extensively throughout Europe, but this was his first real exploration of his home country. Accompanied by his old college buddy Katz, Bryson attempted to walk the Appalachian trail, a monumental hiking path that runs from Georgia to Maine.
The book manages the impressive feat of being both wildly entertaining and informative. Additionally, the book is about testing your limits — not because you need to prove anything, but for the joy of the experience.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
by Jon Krakauer
For better or worse, many of us came of age during the United States’ War on Terror. Amongst the countless tragedies to have risen from the conflict, the story of former professional football player Pat Tillman still has a special resonance. Tillman put aside his football career in order to serve his country. In 2004, he died while on a mission in Afghanistan. It’s a story practically tailor made to stir feelings of patriotism.
The United States military took full advantage of the story. Mere months after his death the military confessed that Tillman had been accidentally killed by a member of his own platoon. Through the course of the book, we explore the man rather than the controversy, and are reminded that a person is not defined by a single moment. We live in a culture where the talking heads that populate the media landscape try to make everything a simple question of right and wrong. Of course, real life is much more complex. It’s important to take a person as an individual with flaws and strengths all their own. This book reminds its readers to look at their fellow humans as, well, people.