I have much to be thankful for this year, so here is a list of some books which have helped me discover and explore my gratitude:
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. Yes, it’s a self-help book. No, I am not embarrassed. It’s a really wonderful exercise in discovering what happiness can do for you, and for those around you. It’s other-focused without being self-denying.
More Scenes from the Rural Life, by Verlyn Klinkenborg. This collection of essays about living on a farm was originally published as a regular column in the New York Times, and it’s such a beautiful reflection on life, humanity, and nature that it makes you stop to think, again and again.
The Mystical Theology, by Pseudo-Dionysius. I know it’s probably a little weird to include obscure medieval theology on a blog, but this text has been downright formative for me. It is a celebration of images and unknowing, and it strikes me with its open humility. It prescribes the opposite of what most philosophy says, and tells us not to seek knowledge, but to dive into the darkness, forgetting what we know – or what we think we know.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Bilbo chooses his adventure, but doesn’t realize what it entails, and in the end he is stronger, wiser, and more worldly – but also sees his comfortable home with newly appreciative eyes. Home and comfort mean more when you have been without them, and when you have worked. A warm bowl of soup feels better when you are cold and tired. It’s more than comfort – its gratitude.
Discourse on Colonialism, by Aime Cesaire. This speech isn’t one that makes me feel good, but it is one that makes me feel humble. It makes me think in new ways about what has gone into building the life I lead, and what is entailed in giving, and in charity, and even in gratitude.