Books, Movies and Music

Welcome to the new Books, Movies and Music section! My purpose here is to weed through the thousands of resources available on our priority areas to identify an excellent few just for you. The first list contains books that will help you create and grow a solid foundation for your life. Some are shorter, some are longer. All can help you gain confidence and self-assurance. 

Future resources will cover growth areas. Each will reflect at least one of the five areas that we work with in Open Doors: spiritual, scholastic, physical, the arts and community. Some will easily overlap two or more. You should be able to find either new or used copies on the Internet. 

So, this section is designed to help you in three distinct ways:

1.    to save you time and effort in locating positive personal resources

2.    to motivate and expedite your growth in the five critical Open Doors areas (arts, community, physical, scholastic and spiritual)

3.    to provide focus and tools that increase your chances to succeed at life

Resource List

1.    Student Life Bible – since God created you, and created you for a reason, this is the go-to of all resources. I never go a day without reading mine. Not only is it God’s “instruction manual” to us because He loves us, but it is full of practical advice for how to live with meaning and purpose. I have found this particular Bible to be especially helpful.  It provides a lot of short observations and explanations in little text boxes throughout. These will help you get a better understanding of God and what life is all about. I love it!

2.    The Case for Christ Answer Booklet, Lee Strobel – this condenses his larger book The Case for Christ into 53 pages of important info. He provides answers to 20 common questions, such as: “Isn’t it narrow-minded to claim that Jesus is the only pathway to God?” This is a must-read for students preparing for college where their faith may be questioned. You can read it in an hour or so and is worth every page. You can also view the movie The Case for Christ (the music in that is great!).

3.  Self-Made in America, Plain Talk for Plain People about the Meaning of Success, John McCormack and David R. Legge -- I first picked this book up in the Denver Public Library many years ago. Later, I was able to obtain a used copy on Amazon, and it is worth every penny spent and every minute spent reading it or reviewing its pages. It is a business book that reads more like an entertaining and often humorous story. Most business books are written with adults in mind, with language geared toward that age group. This one is different. Any motivated middle or high schooler can easily comprehend its content. Its anecdotal stories outline business basics that can be readily applied to your own interests: from school projects to entrepreneurial efforts on a small, first-starting-out scale. This is definitely a book to add to a personal library!

4.  All Things Bright and Beautiful, James Herriot – Herriot’s books are designed more in the de-stress or just-for-fun genre that they are for educational purposes. They make for some entertaining reading! My parents operated our farm more as a “gentleman’s type” rather than the traditional farm that our family’s former generations had labored over. Nevertheless, we always had an odd assortment of animals, many of which made a point of showcasing their own quirky personalities. I think that any animal lover like myself will appreciate this English small-town vet’s often-hilarious adventures through the Yorkshire dales as he services his patients and interacts with their eccentric owners. Herriot’s books are warm and engaging, and he himself, as the Chicago Tribune put it, is a “celebrant of life.” You will enjoy them!

5.  The Secret Is Out, Cord Blood Stem Cells, Joseph K. Davis -- In January 2000, Joseph and his wife Darlene heard the devastating news that their first-born son had sickle cell anemia. This is the true story of how their second son provided "adult stem cells," via his umbilical cord blood, which were later transfused into his older brother. This provided what has been referred to as a "cure" for his disease. I first met the Davis family when a colleague featured them at a packed-out Capitol Hill press conference. Their story and this book are as intriguing as is the current scientific work and remarkable developments achieved within the adult stem cell community!

6. Snowflakes, Featuring the Amazing Micro-Photography of Kenneth Libbrecht, Kenneth Libbrecht – I first saw this little book in a store and was struck by the beautiful photographs of individual flakes that the author had managed to capture. I happened to mention it to a friend, and found a copy in my mailbox a few days later. I peruse it every winter, and it never fails to fascinate!  Libbrecht writes, “Each snowfall is a photographic adventure, because each brings different crystals. And it’s true--no two are exactly alike.” He shares how he captures the flakes, then photographs them on a microscope slide, many of which are back lit with colored lights. He states that, “the ice refracts the light like a complex lens, highlighting the curves and giving a wonderful view of each snowflake’s internal structure.” It is an extraordinary window into one of nature’s tiniest miracles!

7.    Angels, Billy Graham – People around the globe are revisiting Reverend Billy Graham's books, videos and recorded appearances since his recent passing. In this little book, "America’s preacher" explains the role of God’s angels and the purposes He created them for. You won’t want to miss this insightful account based on Graham's research about this intriguing, always-popular subject!

8.  The South Beach Diet Supercharged, by Arthur Agatston, M.D. -  One of my Open Doors' five areas is physical. Good physicality is so important as weight and overall good health is a challenge for so many Americans. This is another key area where you can establish a good foundation for yourself. I learned healthy eating at home growing up--my mother kept us in balanced meals and made them all taste delicious. But, since Mom isn't cooking for me anymore, I finally decided to learn a bit more about good nutrition and disease prevention. I wanted to keep myself in good health, as well as generally manage my weight. Mentioning this to a friend, she gave me an extra copy of the SBD. Written by a cardiologist, it has had spectacular health and weight improvement reviews for many years, with easy recipes in cookbooks and available online. The best part is that it is super easy and is quick to produce weight-loss results. I have found it to be a valuable and fairly simple guide rather than a rigid "diet" and exercise plan. As always, talk to your parents and/or doctor for their input! 

9.  The Very Next Thing, Follow God. Where You Are. Right Now., Mark Hall with Tim Luke – Mark Hall is pastor and lead singer of the music group Casting Crowns. He, as well as his fellow group members, are youth ministers at their home church in Georgia. Much of their music, as well as Mark’s books included here, have songs birthed from those experiences that resonate with youth and teens as they experience life in increasingly widening spheres. He and the other band members make a point to connect with young people right where they happen to find themselves, whether the circumstances are easy or challenging. I cannot recommend the books or their music highly enough!

10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders, Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey -- this book is a long-time classic used by people throughout the world. It is suitable for anyone who wants to increase their personal effectiveness, whether in business as an adult, or as a student who wants to prepare for effective living. Since 25 million copies in 40 different languages have been sold, your family may have one on a book shelf already. Covey discusses seven basic habits that you can apply to every area of your life. Each is worth incorporating--making them part of your personal life and daily routine. They include such practical attributes as being proactive, beginning with the end in mind and putting first things first--all are practices that heighten quality of life in long-lasting ways. 

11.    Lifestories, Finding God’s “Voice of Truth” Through Everyday Stories, Mark Hall with Tim Luke – Grammy and Dove Award winners Casting Crowns offers another book that reflects and applies God’s messages in the Bible to us through music. I found this book encouraging because it includes looks at some of life’s harder circumstances that we humans face in life. One very effective account is the story behind the song I Will Praise You in This Storm.  

12. EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey -- New York Times best-selling author Dave Ramsey is a highly recognizable and trusted expert regarding both personal finances and business. His numerous resources have been used by millions. (As you are approaching adulthood, learning and putting into practice his good financial basics can help you create a solid financial foundation for your future.) In this particular book, Ramsey intertwines leadership and business principles that he has incorporated in his successful ventures--along with sound financial observations. This is a book for all ages and would be a good addition to your growing library! 

13.    Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent – Todd is a pastor in Nebraska. When his three-year-old son Colton unexpectedly needs emergency surgery and his life hangs in the balance, Todd experiences a real crisis of faith--as people who face unexpected bad news or who experience tragedy often do. His family later discovers that Colton, now in good health, visited Heaven during his surgery as he reveals information that can be explained in no other way. I like this story because it is a real-life account, where faith isn't written from the creative imagination of an author at a desk, but as a real grappling with one's personal faith when circumstances are hard and hard to understand. You can also find the movie on Netflix. 

14.    The Way, E. Stanley Jones – When I happened upon this book, I bought it only because I had met its author, a Methodist missionary to India, when I was a teen. Of all his many books, this one is the one Jones considered most valuable. This small book dedicates one short page to each day of the year. His thoughtful insights into God and His love for each of us have been invaluable to me. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It will be the best four minutes you spend in your day!

15.    Between Heaven and Hollywood, Chasing Your God-given Dream, David A.R. White - White is an actor, writer and director in Hollywood. He is also an actor in and the producer of the blockbuster movie entitled God’s Not Dead. Here, White tells his own story which, in turn, is designed to help you tell yours. He outlines practical tools and advice that you can apply as you determine your personal future. It is well worth the reading!

16.  WORLDteen -- Several years ago, I did my internship for my Masters in Public Policy at WORLD magazine’s World Journalism Institute in Asheville, NC. WORLD now has a WORLDteen current events program designed for ages 11-14. WORLDteen features age-appropriate reporting designed to introduce young students to news happening both in the U.S. and abroad. It includes a print magazine that is delivered every other month, along with online quizzes and printable worksheets. Parents might be interested in the Teaching Guide included with each new issue. The Guides offer additional recommendations and tips for teaching current events. WORLDteen also has a website and mobile app that provides breaking news on a daily basis. This would be an excellent product for any student, but in particular, the home school family who wants to stay abreast of current events. 

17. Made to Last, A Compendium of Artisans, Trades and Projects, Vanessa Murray - Fixer Upper's Chip and Joanna Gaines have made yet another contribution to DIY-ers! I ordered this book from their Magnolia Market site, but have also seen it in a local Old Town Alexandria shop here in Virginia, so you might find it locally, as well. This book is an outstanding addition to the personal libraries of students and their families who are project-seekers and who value craftsmanship. Available projects include woodworking, pottery, sewing, leather craft, picture framing (which, by the way, was a major starting point for the retail giant Hobby Lobby), metal work, and so much more. These projects, and any adaptations you might personalize them with, could turn into an entrepreneurial business. Check out one of my (many) favorites on pages 172—177!