Books help to improve our relationships when we set aside time to read them. Here are 5 books I read this summer and how they helped me with ideas to make my relationships better. They can help you, too.

1968: The Year That Rocked the World

By Mark Kurlansky. I mentioned to my son recently that as crazy as the world is right now, it’s nowhere near as chaotic as it was in 1968 when I was a college freshman. The slaying of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam war protests, race riots, all took place in 1968. He asked if there were any books about that time. I wasn’t aware of any until he bought this book for me as a Father’s  Day gift. It’s filled with a little too many details for my taste, but it’s a great read and reminder of my relationship with my past and how it has shaped me. Reading history helps improve our relationship with the present, knowing that because we made it through back then, we can make it through now. So thank you, Michael, for the book … and for your relationship with me!

Talking to Strangers

Another great book from Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite writers.  It's about drawing false conclusions about people. It's about being so sure with our assumptions about others, only to be proven wrong. We thought we knew them, but they were only strangers in the end. Gladwell highlights many interesting examples in the book (remember the Amanda Cox story?) It’s helped me improve my relationships by being careful to question my view of a person based on limited data. The book was a birthday gift from a friend, and is very well-written. Thank you, Karla.

Scary Close – Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

The latest memoir from Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz fame. Here he shares what he learned in therapy about all the ways he related dysfunctionally with women, which kept him single until age 42. Not his best book, and a little self-absorbed, but still good stuff about interpersonal relationships we can all learn from. This is his 7th memoir, which he says is his last. Good decision. Recommend by my friend, Mike Frans, who is never scary to be close to!

An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard

By the beloved Annie Dillard. Highly recommended by Donald Miller in a writing webinar I watched. Dillard won a Pulitzer prize for another book several years ago. Miller thinks this one is better. It’s her memoir of growing up in the 1950s in Pittsburgh (Randy and Kathy you might want to check this out.) My favorite part is her description of her church’s summer youth camp. The book is just dripping with all kinds of relationship stories. I got it as a Father’s Day gift from my daughter. Thank you, Jennifer!

Successful Aging – A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives

From Dr. Daniel J. Leviton. I bought the book while visiting our daughter and browsing through a bookstore in her town. It’s helped me improve my relationship with my aging body. It’s a well-written reference book that debunks some things I thought to be true. Like taking fish oil supplements, and doing crossword puzzles to keep you from dementia. Neither of these work. He tells you what does.

It took me two days to decide whether or not to buy the book, because who buys books at a bookstore anymore? But I liked the title and the place where I bought it is one of my favorites. So thank you M.Judson Booksellers of Greenville, South Carolina.

Personality Isn’t Permanent

By Benjamin Hardy. This is the latest book I’ve read, and I think my favorite for the summer. It’s inspiring and hopeful on several levels. He starts out by exposing the Myers-Briggs personality test as an amusing parlor game at best, and a dangerous way to view people at worst. He views the Enneagram the same way. It’s a great book that helps to improve our relationships by viewing personality as something that can improve if we focus on our future self, rather than what a personality test tells us who we are in the past and present.

Hardy is a Ph.D. organizational psychologist who quotes lots of research studies to support his views. He gives many examples of how we can change our personality to improve our relationships. The book is an excellent read. And don’t forget to read the acknowledgments section at the end. It brought tears to my eyes. What a kind and tender man. I’m going to see if I can get him on our You Were Made for This podcast. He says things no one else is saying. I came across Hardy recently on Pat Flynn’s “Smart Passive Income” podcast where he was a guest. Thank you, Pat Flynn!

Reading books to help improve our relationships is a cost-effective way to enjoy the fulfilling, life-giving relationships we were made for. I hope you make time to read a relationship-building book soon.

If you have other book recommendations, please send them my way and I’ll pass them on to readers of this blog and listeners to my podcast.

By the way, did you know this blog and podcast are sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry?  We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills.  If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.

There's more to come next Wednesday, the last blog post of the summer before Season 4 of You Were Made for This starts September 9th. I can’t wait to hear my voice again.