5 Nonfiction Books to Make You Think

Need some inspiration these days? Or want to learn more about what drives people to action? These 5 nonfiction books will make you think and offer perspective on the world around you.

First published in 1995, G-Dog and the Homeboys outlines a period in the life of Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit Priest who has committed his life to living with, caring for, and supporting the mostly Latino youth in East Los Angeles. Celeste Fremon’s first hand account-she shadowed Father Boyle for over 2 years-contains a fascinating look at a selfless man who fought tooth and nail to improve the lives of his teenage charges. Filled with tragedy and hope, Fremon’s book proves that one person full of heartfelt conviction can have a significant, life-changing impact on a grand scale. Father Boyle knew that gang violence can, and will, lead to teenagers killing teenagers over the smallest of slights-he officiated far too many funerals during the course of Fremon’s research. He also believed that unconditional love and a job could create miracles, and Fremon’s writing illustrates how Father Boyle put his beliefs into practice. He eventually created a financially successful jobs program called Homeboy Industries that provides jobs for ex-gang members. Google Father Boyle. You’ll want to read this book.

Jim Collins is no stranger to evaluating the strength and weaknesses of major corporations. He was co-author of the best seller Built to Last, a study of how successful companies maintain their position. After publication, though, Collins realized he missed addressing a key element about these companies: how do large companies move from average to exceptional? Good to Great answers this question. With interesting clarity, Collins illustrates how 12 corporations outperformed their competitors 3 to 30 times in the stock market over a 20 year period, transforming from average companies into exceptional ones. Collins discovers through his research that the initial success of these companies, and their ability to maintain that success, can be broken down into a paradigm consisting of several surprising simple rules. The details of Colin’s discoveries are instructive, informative and surprising.

A how-to guide for understanding, and, hopefully, communicating with teenage boys. Having previously written Queen Bees and Wannabes, the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls, Rosalind Wiseman brings authority and wisdom to her subject. She has many useful tips and suggestions for parents trying to navigate “Boys’ World.” Having a 7-year old son with another one on the way and a precocious, already rebellious, 2-year old girl in between, reading the book filled me with anxiety for what’s coming. But at least now, I’m a little better prepared.

Wolf Boys by Dan Slater puts an even-handed, sinister face to the violent drug war on our borders. Focusing on two young teens rising through the ranks of one of northern Mexico’s cartels, Slater provides first hand accounts of the massive scale of drug trafficking, murder and mayhem that happens daily. Read this book along with Charles Bowden’s Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family and you’ll be well on your way to a deeper, more useful understanding of how the drug war informs, and affects, U.S. policy.

Well worth the read given today’s current state of Self before Others. The Sharps’ selflessly gave up the safe environs of Massachusetts in 1938 to travel to Czechoslovakia on a mission to save lives endangered by the growing Nazi scourge. As a result of their courageous sacrifice and humanitarian successes, Martha and Waitstill Sharp were named by Yad Vashem-the Israeli Memorial Museum dedicated to the 6 million humans lost in the Holocaust-as Righteous among the Nations, only the second and third Americans to be so honored.

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