The Orange Slate

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A List of Books That Inspire me to Create More and Write Better.

March 11, 2015



It’s been a very rainy week. And rainy weeks lend themselves to reading and books and cozy cups of coffee – or if we have a squirmy baby nearby, at least thinking about books and reading.

We all have those books (don’t we?) that have spoken to us at a particular moment in time, that have inspired us to do more or create more or be better or change something. Those books are like markers on the road to our future selves, friendly signposts along the way.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of various books that have inspired me over the last couple of years, along with a quote from each.

This list only includes non-fiction, just because. Fiction has so much to teach and offer us, but, for me, the lessons of fiction have been different and deeper than the lessons of non-fiction. And so I separate them when I make my lists.

To write better:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. . . . . There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.


On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

Clutter is the disease of American writing. . . . simplify, simplify.


Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

To choose a good word, to assign the right name, to arrange proper words in the best order: these are no easy tasks. . . . the getting of meaning . . . is an act of nature and grace.

Like a true friend and a good writer, right words are hard to find. And all of these, like a mother, have the power to give life.


To create more:

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

If you believe in God . . . you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. . . . It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.


Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller.

We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it? It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. . . . And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.


To accept more grace for mistakes:

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman.

Life is so much further from my control than I even know.

Because I care so much about what you think, my hiding has everything to do with you. I desperately want to manage your opinion of me. Nearly anything I do is to convince you I am good.


One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Our very saving is associated with our gratitude. . . . We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.


To read well:

A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning by James V. Schall.

There is an intimate connection between our moral life and our intellectual life.


Reading Between the Lines by Gene Veith, Jr.

Thinking, planning, imagining, creating – processes encouraged by reading – remain essential to society. . . . Without people oriented toward language, very little would be accomplished.


To cook more:

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg.

Cooking and eating gave our days their rhythm and consistency, and the kitchen was where everything happened.


The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams.

Entertaining looks different for each of us, but as long as we’re cooking and inviting people into our homes with a genuine interest in connecting, conversing, and eating together, then the way we do things becomes insignificant and ultimately comes naturally. A burned dish or a missing serving piece becomes trivial. The humble soup or homely bread becomes a feast. It all seems quite simple.

Your turn! What have you read recently? What is inspiring you?

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  1. I’m currently reading Eat that Frog…~ it’s about lists and priorities/getting things accomplished. So far it’s been really good. 🙂

  2. I love this. I especially like the quote by James V. Schall.

    I’m not reading, I’m listening. Does that count? Not really literature applicable to this subject, though…: “The Story of a Common Soldier” by Stillwell, and “Recollections of the Civil War” by Charles Dana. And the Iconoclastic Memories of the Civil War by Ambrose Bierce. Fun stuff, but not, as I said, very applicable. 😉 Nor am I particularly interested in the Civil War, I just happened to find a ton of historical subjects on

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