6 books about work and vocation

I read a lot of books. To my dear husband’s credit, he puts up with stacks of books sitting around our house that I’m currently reading, have aspirations to read, or have already read and can’t part ways with just yet. But at least I’m not quite to the point where the late fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh, was when he said (God rest his soul),

I have a very big apartment in Paris but you can’t really move around there anymore; piles of books everywhere. I don’t want any more books. I have too many books; sometimes I have to buy another copy of a book that I know I have somewhere in my house or office because I can’t find it.

A Paris apartment stuffed with books?? Be still, my nerdy heart!

If you’re like me, you probably read a variety of things (classical fiction, biography, theology, and leadership- or tech-oriented nonfiction are my choices of late). Among other topics, I like to read about work and vocation. Not necessarily about business strategy or practices (although I will click on an article link re: those topics), but what I really LOVE to read about is the bigger journey one may take toward the work/career/vocation of our unique giftings.

Social psychologists say that the average Westerner will spend a third of their life at work (approx 90k hours). And that doesn’t even count the work of domestic life or creative pursuits! Work matters, and the ideas we have about the meaning of work matters, too.

Today I’m sharing six books that I’ve read recently about work and why you might want to check them out (…of the library, which will make you a better person than my Amazon-addicted self).

Six Books About Work

The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman

This is a handbook for anyone thinking about major career change. If you are not happy in your current job or vocation and need a step-by-step plan to help you make the change, Ken’s book is a strategic roadmap and pocket cheerleader all in one! It’s probably best suited for someone looking to get into media-related work, but the principles can apply across many industries.

My favorite part about The Proximity Principle is the way he organized the book: The People (you need to know), The Places (you need to be), and The Practices (you should implement) for success.

48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller

48 Days is a modern classic about work. Dan has been writing about work for a long time; he teaches us why we should care deeply about our work and coaches us on the practical steps to finding work that matters.

My favorite part of 48 Days to the Work You Love is Dan’s Christian worldview on calling and vocation –he understands that work is a part of what it means to worship God and his writing has a pastoral tone without being preachy.

Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) by Rebecca Seal

On a different note, Solo was written by British journalist (and not a Christian, from what I can tell) Rebecca Seal, of The Guardian and Financial Times. Published in 2020, this was one of the first books dedicated to those of us who work-from-home (or, #WFH) or work in solo occupations (ie; freelance writer, artist or creator, programmer/coder). Rebecca grapples honestly with many topics related to remote work; some of the topics (like chapter 4, “What is Meaningful Work?”) deserve an entire book devoted to unpacking the answer. She is both curious and practical and I found myself wanting to have a cup of tea to debate some of our differing views.

My favorite part of Solo was Rebecca’s exploration of the Western/post-Enlightenment history of our ideas about work. While she rejects Christian morality as it relates to work (she’s no fan of Calvin! ha), the reader senses her desire to find meaning in her vocation, which I found ultimately hopeful.

Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (From a Former Young Woman) by Dana Perino

This is part career-oriented autobiography, part girlfriend-advice sharing time, and 100% your (nonfiction) beach read for this year. Dana is a political commentator and author, and best known for being the White House Press Secretary during George W. Bush’s administration. This book is a product of her “Minute Mentoring” program, where she mentors young women as they rise to leadership positions in their careers. The tone is very “big sorority sister” but it didn’t put me off; instead, I found Dana’s generosity encouraging.

My favorite part of Everything Will Be Okay was that it challenged me to think about ways to pass on my own hard-earned wisdom to those younger than me. I also loved how specific Dana’s recommendations were (especially for things like podcasts and fashion choices) because I think it’ll be interesting/funny to look back in 20 years at how cultural artifacts like that change.

Answering the Call in the Spirit: Pentecostal Reflections on a Theology of Vocation, Work and Life by Terry L. Cross, Ph.D.

Look, y’all already knew that I have a taste for variety in my book choices, okay? Yes, this one is a theological work on…work. Dr. Cross is one of my favorite theologians because he writes with clarity, humility, and a lightness of spirit (he is a serious thinker but he doesn’t take himself too seriously). He guides the reader to help us think about calling and vocation from a Spirit-filled perspective without being too heady or hard to follow. I find myself reaching for this book often and referencing it in my own writing.

My favorite part of Answering the Call in the Spirit is that it is the kind of theology that we -all of us- can relate to. Everyone works in some capacity and everyone asks questions about the meaning of our work, and this slim volume goes a long way to address the spiritual and yet, everyday, nature of our working life.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf

I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished this one yet. Keller is a well-known pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian (NYC) and a popular author; Alsdorf is the founder and director of the church’s Faith and Work initiative. Together they tackle the topic of work from a philosophical and Biblical point of view, citing sources like Dorothy Sayers, Lester DeKoster, Mark Knoll, Andy Crouch, Martin Luther, Tolkein, and even Nietzsche. I can’t give you my favorite part yet, but at about a third of the way in, I already appreciate the author’s clear reasoning (which Keller is known for) on the topic of Christian vocational calling.

You’ve made it to the end of the post! Cheers to you, friend. Now I want to know…what are you reading lately? Have any good work-related book recommendations?

Published by Sara Beth Longenecker

Sara Beth Longenecker is a writer and blogger based in Nashville, TN. She helps women sort through the noise of our culture by bringing them truth, beauty, and everyday theology.

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