A few weeks ago we talked about mentoring at Velvet Ashes. I think most are FOR people pouring into and investing in others!

If only it was 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.

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 and to help me retain some of what I was learning. Unintentionally that was the beginning of finding mentors in books. These notebooks have become some of my most precious possessions, recording every book I’ve read from 1998 to now.


Book of books

When I travel back and forth across the ocean they are in my carry-on luggage and I would rather lose my passport than them. 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!”

33 is NOT too many )

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.

Professionally: 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. This will be a future book club book so I won’t say more here.

Spiritually: A Work of Heart by Reggie McNeal. I have used this book more than any other in training folks in some form of leadership on the field. 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.

Historically: 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!). You can read about how this book impacted me by clicking here.

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 give 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. We have a special post next week about this book :)! So, I won’t say more here other than this book changed how I see just about everything.

Communication: Made to Stick: why some ideas stick and other 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 our his second point of making a message sticky.

Emotionally: 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.

Mininstry: 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 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 time.).

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!


Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this website. A version of this post was first on Velvet Ashes

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  1. Lisa notes September 16, 2014 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I love this list, Amy. Several books I haven’t even heard of. But now I’m getting Kindle samples sent as we speak. :) “Made to Stick” and “Tattoos on the Heart” are two of my favorites also!

    Books have been mentoring me for years. Two of my favorites that continue to affect me are “Desiring God” and “The Celebration of Discipline.” They both changed the way I think about happiness & God, and the importance of spiritual disciplines.

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Lisa, so glad you liked those two :) … and I’m now trying to remember if I’ve actually read “Desiring God” or if I just think I have :). Agreed on “The Celebration of Discipline!”

  2. Rhonda September 16, 2014 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Happy to hear you have been converted! :) I am very much like your one room mate. I can and will stay up all night reading. The majority of my family have been readers; my parents, my brother ( became one in his 20s) my grandparents especially my grandmother and aunts & uncles. I tried keeping a list of all the books I was reading when I was young. Unfortunately that was taking up too many notebooks! I was very blessed to be reading full stories that is fairy tales, by the time I entered kindergarten.

    Recently I was tagged to list the top 10 books that influenced me or has stayed with me all my life since childhood/teenager. When I think over that list, many of them also mentored me. Here would be my top 4 that had the great influence in mentoring me as I was becoming a teenager. ( I read these in my preteens).

    1. The Diary of Ann Frank: this inspired me to want to keep my own diary and journals I have been keeping a diary since I was 10/11 years old and been journaling since then as well. Have all my diaries.

    2. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman: HUGE impact on me! It taught me about courage and that we are all equal. Can’t find the book, the movie is a mirror copy of the book. My pastor’s wife watched the movie and said she could see me doing the same thing as Miss Pittman at the end.

    3. To Kill a Mockingbird: Taught me about how to stand up for those who are mistreated and fight against injustice.

    4. Helen and Teacher: Another book that opened my eyes up to a whole new world. Little did I know as a preteen this book would be influencing me as a teacher now.

    I could keep going till the cows come home. Thankfully books like these and many more helped to mentor me because the Bible never came in to my life till my 40s.

    Happy reading!

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Rhonda! I love hearing how books have impacted you, thank you! And reading about your experiences brought two of my nieces to mind. The other day one of them could barely take her eyes away from a book and after a short amount of time (and being polite), she said she had to get to reading. Warmed my heart.

  3. Amy L. September 16, 2014 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Ah, more to add to my list! I thank you (I think)…. ;-)

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Ha ha! My work here is done :)!

  4. Mark Allman September 16, 2014 at 9:53 am - Reply


    When I read your title I thought “it will be neat to learn who has been a mentor to Amy but I do not feel I have ever had a mentor except my books” and I was sad to think that. Then your post turns on me and its me! I have been a life long reader from a home where my dad was never home and my mom had to work so hard and we lived so far from anyone that reading opened the world to me. Not only did it take me places I had never been I started to admire characters in the books I read and desired to be like some of them.

    As a young boy growing up on a farm I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Farmer Boy” and learned a good work ethic from her book that stayed with me. From the numerous Star Trek books I read I desired to be a man of integrity like the characters from those books. I wanted to be like them. From history I was always intrigued by things I had read about Lincoln and how he he treated those that mistreated him. From Michele Crichton and James Rollins I learned that some teachers are disguised as writers. In the work world Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People taught me time management and built on relationship skills. Surprisingly from Margaret Weis’s Star of the Guardians trilogy I learned that we all are flawed yet we still can do good. Still over 10 years later I think about the characters from that trilogy. I am sure I have learned things and not realized it from the hundreds of books I have read.

    Overall the most important things I have learned in life I found in pages of books.

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Mark, I can say with confidence you have broken that pattern and mentored/invested greatly in the next generation (starting with your kids!). Can you believe I’ve not read the “Little House on the Prairie” series (there is a VERY creepy picture in the first one with bees or something and I stopped reading right then and there.).

      You listed many I want to comment on Lincoln, Covey, Crichton!

  5. Jessa September 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    A big one for me has been “Hinds’ Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard. Much Afraid models for me the way I want to be willing to follow Jesus into healing. in fact, I think it may be time for a reread.

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Oh that is a good book! And someone just recommended it to my mom, so we’d just been talking about it :).

  6. Amanda September 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I love the idea of keeping a list of books that impact me, and a journal of ideas/lists/notes of lessons learned from that book. Too often I read great books but forget much of the meat from that book as I read other great books! One excellent book that I read a few months ago and that I’m in the process of rereading is “The Rest of God” by Mark Buchanan, one I would recommend to anyone in need of true Sabbath rest! I’ve joined a small group at my church this semester that’s reading “Emotionally Healthy Spiritually” and I’m excited to dig into that book!

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Oh, now you’ve inspired me :). Rereading “The Rest of God” is a good idea!!! and you know how much I love EHS :)!!!!

  7. Martha Lester September 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    So happy to see this post, thanks Amy. Probably because my memory is not as good as it used to be, I have started keeping 2 lists in there back of each journal I write. One is a list of books I have read. Another is a list of books others tell me about that sound good enough to read. Ahhh, my list of books I WANT to read is now at about 200 and growing especially after this list of yours Amy and others’ comments of book titles. That’s a good thing though. Three of my favorite books, not listed by anyone here are: “Tisha” by Robert Specht about a young teacher in the outback of Alaska for the first time ever. “The Greatest Thing in the World and other Addresses” by Henry Drummond – maybe one of the most moving, inspiring sermons ever. Worth re-reading again and again. “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (don’t want to give away any of the content of this little inspiring modern day book – you’ll just have to read it.) Enjoy!

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      Martha, I wish we could sit down with a cup of something hot and enjoy talking about these in person! And kudos … I have not heard of even one of these! Now I’ve got three more to add to my list :)! Thanks!

  8. Mike September 16, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    There are a TON of books that have had a huge impact on my life, but most recently is “Choosing To See” by Mary Beth Chapman. She tells the story of the death of their little girl by being accidentally run over by a car driven by one of their sons. In their driveway. Witnessed by their other little girl.

    Talk about traumatic – for the whole family! I cried just about the whole way through!

    One of the things that I really appreciated was how Mary Beth’s story brought to life their family for me, as REAL people, not just people I’ve heard about. I’ve been a big Steven Curtis Chapman fan for years, but now, knowing the reason behind many of his songs, it just brings him to life and makes the songs mean that much more to me. And it makes me appreciate him more, as a real person, not just as some famous singer who happens to have a lot of songs with great lyrics.

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Mike, I’d heard about the incident and also there was a book, but I haven’t read it. And now I want to! Thanks for letting us (me) know it’s worth the read.

  9. Laura Werezak September 18, 2014 at 12:02 am - Reply

    Hi Amy! Lovely post. My biggest mentor is a little esoteric, but true: it’s Julian of Norwich in her Revelations of Divine Love.

    Are we going to continue with Trusting Tuesdays? I know I’d disappeared in the past few months, but I’m still eager.

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      Amy September 19, 2014 at 6:07 am - Reply

      We will Laura! Next Tuesday :)!!

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