9 Ways Books Have Mentored Me

I think all of us are FOR people pouring into and investing in others! If only it was 10410483283_eb64bfc3e0_k always so simple.

What can you do if you can’t find a mentor? Does that mean you can’t be mentored and are a hopeless case? No. While mentoring is often associated with live, human input, it’s not the only form of mentoring. Since I host the book club at Velvet Ashes, you might think I’ve been a reader my whole life. Not true. It was living overseas that turned me into a reader. I had a teammate who was a voracious reader (as in, be willing to stay up all night for a book. Even I’m not that dedicated!). With only two of us and not many other foreigners around and her nose stuck in a book I found myself with a lot more time on my hands than I had had with a teammate who liked to play games.


While mentoring is often associated with live, human input, it’s not the only form of mentoring.


What to do in my free time? What to do?

Enter a book stage right. In that same season of life I decided to start writing down every book I read to help me retain some of what I was learning. Unintentionally, that was the beginning of finding mentors in books. Leafing through them with an eye for which of my “friends” has mentored me, I came up with a list of 33 :)! And that was after I kept saying, “Amy, mentored, not taught, not entertained, not beautifully written, MENTORED. Stay focused!”

While I am a firm believer in being mentored by live people, I also know one person isn’t going to be able to offer everything I need. It will be the same for you. We need to be mentored and have life breathed into different parts of our being. So, for this post, I thought about different categories and forced myself in a Sophie’s Choice sort of way to choose only ONE book (and no cheating, I could not sneak in others, I gave myself a very stern talking to. I think I learned that from a book. Maybe not.). Here are nine ways I have been mentored as a person by mentors who have no idea the impact they have had on me. 

Overall As A Person

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim ($1.99 on Kindle!). This book has given me the gift of remembering to stay awake as a person, the importance of sharing my journey with others, and the power of calling forth (in their case happiness) God given attributes in others. When I think of who I want to BE as a person, the main character comes to mind. I too want to see, call forth, and create space for the best in those around me.


Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission  by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg. This was a hard category because like many of you, I’ve had more than one job. However, expectations are a factor in all of ours lives and jobs. This is the best handling of the subject, hands down.


 A Work of Heart by Reggie McNeal. I have used this book more than any other in training folks in some form of leadership. While skills are necessary and we all want/need to keep growing, if we do not give equal, or more, time to our hearts, we are building on sand.


 Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Can I tell you how much I feel restricted by only sharing one book? I believe it is important to read history (or be aware of it in some form). Context, context, context! Of the countries we come from, the countries we live in, the world that has been interacting long before the internet (do not get me going on how globalization is just now happening. Amy, focus!).

Cross cultural work

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadima. The title gives you a good idea of the content of this book and the importance of varying interpretations of an event.

Spiritual Practices

Invitations from God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. I won’t say more here other than this book changed how I see just about everything.


 Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Stick and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath.  One aspect of life overseas I had not anticipated needing to become so well versed in was communication! Communicating with folks back home, people from other parts of my own country (How can they view the world so differently?), and of utmost importance to my heart, my local friends. If you’re familiar with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, this book fleshes out his second point of making a message sticky.


Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I bought this book because I was intrigued by the title. Was this going to be a way out there spiritual fru-fru book? Or smack me between the eyes? Since I’m recommending it, I think you can guess which it was! Scazzero’s thesis is we can only be as spiritually mature as we are emotionally healthy and he breaks down five areas. I have found this a helpful road map and annual check-list all in one.


Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. At some point this will be a book club book! This book makes my Top 5 books of all time. Father Boyle works with gangs in LA and his chapter on what success and failure look like in ministry should be read by every single person. Not just those in ministry. No, every single person. Small warning, every now and then the language is a touch, shall we say, salty. As you might expect. But not overly! And I promise, you will laugh out loud at some point in this book (I’d dare say multiple times).


I have been mentored as a person by mentors who have no idea the impact they have had on me.


There you have it. I could add more categories, but that’s enough to give you a sense of how books have mentored me.

Share a book that has mentored you. Can’t wait to add to my “to read” list!

A Version of this was first on The Messy Middle.

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Image Credit:  Stormer Deidara, Creative Commons

Amy Young


Amy Young is readjusting to messy middle of life in the US after more than twenty years in China and the recent death of her dad. When she first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. Often the only words really needed in life. She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at messymiddle.com and tweets as @amyinbj and is the most unbeautiful pinner Pinterest has ever seen (but she's having fun!).

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