Of course, in addition to the books that I'll be reading over the coming 40 days (discussed yesterday), there are a number of books that helped inspire and cultivate this project idea in its infancy. They basically fall in two categories.
The first category includes what I have taken to calling "project books," which are autobiographical accounts of people who set themselves some specific goal and then go about trying to make it happen. Accounts like the ones below helped me get in a mindset for a project like this in the first place, even before I had an actual idea for what my particular project would be.
- The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs: Jacobs reads every word of the Encyclopedia Britannica, from A to Z, and writes about the amazing experience.
- The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs: In this book, Jacobs attempts to follow the Old Testament laws as closely as possible, even going so far as to drop stones on peoples' shoes in order to "stone" them. Jacobs is a fantastic author, and his account is highly engaging. This is the inspiration (along with the Bible itself, of course) for Ed Dobson's The Year of Living Like Jesus. Jacobs, in fact, wrote the forward to Dobson's book.
- The Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible by David Plotz: Plotz reads the Old Testament from beginning to end, commenting as he goes on what occurs to him. I have attempted to do a similar project, though more piecemeal, over at my Philosopher's Stone blog. I'm still in Leviticus, but I think that's mostly because I haven't set definite goals on this one.
- No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan: Beavan attempts to generate no net environmental impact, and the story is truly astounding. It really made me think about the overall impact of even seemingly small decisions, such as choosing to use disposable diapers or getting take-out food.
In addition, I've also read a number of books that have stressed the importance of philanthropy, which have of course also set the seeds of this project in my mind:
- Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World by Craig Kielburger & Marc Kielburger: This was a great book, really exploring the stories of two brothers who devote themselves to charitable work, and in fact a whole movement of the upcoming generation who is choosing to turn its back on the materialism that is at the heart of so much of modern American life.
- The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth by Richard Paul Evans: I read this book right as I was getting ready to marry Amber and begin my life as a family man, and it had a profound effect on my views about money and success. The fifth lesson is "Give Back." In fact, many books on finance and success emphasize the importance of this. In addition to Amber's influence, it was this book that made me decide to begin giving a portion of my salary to charity, even when I felt I didn't have the excess to spare.
- The Blessed Life: The Simple Secret of Achieving Guaranteed Financial Results by Robert Morris: This is a Christian-based book, which I bought from our church after watching a compelling video series based on it during the Christmas season of 2009. While I certainly think the "Guaranteed" in the title is a bit disingenuous (especially since the author says repeatedly that financial rewards are not guaranteed, even while implying strongly that they are guaranteed - you can't have it both ways, Reverend Morris!), I was intrigued at the strong argument he makes for how important giving, and specifically tithing, is. It's laced throughout the Bible, in places that I would never have expected. I'll discuss some of the thoughts on "tithing" that came out of this book later on.