Gifts and purpose books
The Abundant Community
Peter Block and John McKnight - San Francisco, CA - Barrett-Koehler - 2010
Approaching neighborhood abundance through “gift-mindedness,” associational life and hospitality.
The Active Life
Parker Palmer - New York, NY - HarperCollins - 1990
Engaging in the world through meaningful action. In the middle of the book, he dissects the Woodcarver story, which has elements of gifts within it.
An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture
Peter Block, Walter Bruggemman, John McKnight - Hoboken, New Jersey - Wiley and Sons - 2016
We need a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking. An Other Kingdom takes us out of a culture of addictive consumption into a place where life is ours to create together. This satisfying way depends upon a neighborly covenant—an agreement that we together, sharing our gifts, will provide abundance.
Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith
Sharon Daloz Parks - San Francisco, CA - Jossey-Bass - 2000
An examination of the importance of providing opportunities for people in the teens/early twenties to have structures of mentoring and reflection in place that encourage answers to purpose, meaning-making, developmental transitions and faith.
Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
Gregg Levoy - New York, NY - Random House - 1998
Points to callings as the way to understand life purpose and discern the gifts and contributions to make.
Creating a Life: Finding your individual path
James Hollis - Toronto, Canada - Inner City Books - 2001
Hollis, a Jungian therapist and theorist, examines how we can unstrap ourselves from carrying the generational struggles of our families, and move forward into genuine vocation and healthy relationships by paying attention to our true selves underneath the clutter of our usual lives.
Creators on Creating
Edited by Barron, Montuori and Barron - New York, NY - Tarcher/Putnam - 1997
From da Vinci to Frank Zappa, stories and interviews about gifts in mostly well-known individuals. The conditions that spawned their gifts, the rituals they use when creating, and why nurturing imagination is important.
The Crossroads of Should and Must.
Elle Luna - New York - Workman Publishing - 2015
An energetic, amusing, fun and art-oriented approach to determining life direction. Full of color, quotes and questions, all with an underlying respect for the deep philosophical and cultural roots of purpose, spirituality and encountering difficulty on the path.
Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage
Edited by Mahdi, Christopher and Meade - Peru, Ill - Open Court Publishing - 1996
Wide-ranging group of contributing essays on initiation, rites of passage, meaning-making and rebirth. Focus is on youth.
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
Ken Robinson - London, England - Penguin - 2009
Explores the intersection of when talent meets passion. Robinson shows why finding your “element” is essential for all of us and explores the conditions that lead to this discovery.
The Enigma of the Gift
Maurice Godelier - Chicago, IL - University of Chicago Press - 1999
A dense, theoretical book that refutes some of the original gift exchange ideas of Mauss, one of the original documenters of the practices of gift exchange in tribal culture.
The Enigma of Gift and Sacrifice
Edited by Edith Wyschogrod, Jean-Joseph Goux, Eric Boynton - New York, NY - Fordham Univ Press - 2002
A distinguished group of gift theorists submit chapters outlining their views on freely-given gifts, cycles of obligation, pure gifts, and many other facets of gift giving.
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life
James Hollis - New York, NY - Gotham Books - 2005
Hollis explores the ways we can grow and evolve to fully become ourselves when the traditional roles of adulthood aren’t quite working for us. Topics include career versus vocation, the shadows that stop us from moving forward, the components of mature spirituality and relationships, and the struggle between who we really are and what the outside world is asking of us.
The Genius In All of Us
David Shenk - New York, NY - Anchor Press - 2010
Shenk blends recent neuroscience and motivation theory into a study of what creates giftedness/genius in humans and debunks the theory that giftedness is reserved for just the few “special” people.
The Genius Myth
Michael Meade - Seattle, WA - Greenfire Press - 2016
Meade proposes that each person born participates in the genius of life and that that the world at this time is in great need of an awakening of the genius qualities hidden in each of us. Meade combines ancient stories and modern examples of the necessity and wisdom in each of us discovering and contributing our gifts.
Lewis Hyde - New York, NY - Random House - 1983
Through the lenses of art and creativity, Hyde walks us through the theory of gift exchange and initiation/passage events. Author of one of the most-oft used gift quotes, “A gift is not a gift until it is given,” his writing has formed the foundation for many that have come after him in the world of understanding gifts.
The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies
Marcel Mauss - New York - Norton Publishing - 1990
First published in 1954, many consider this work to be one of the several foundational classics about gift theory. It was the first systematic study of gift exchange documented in cultures around the world. Focus is given to the hidden obligation to return gifts.
The Gift: Poems by Hafiz
Translation by Daniel Ladinsky - New York, NY - Penguin House - 1999
Ancient poems of love, gifts, spirit and purpose.
The Gifts of Imperfection
Brené Brown - Center City, MN - Hazelden - 2010
Her work has resulted in a framework for living a “whole-hearted” life. Within that framework, she found a necessity for people to have meaningful work. Knowing and giving your gifts is an essential part of having meaningful work. She also identifies the gifts of courage, compassion, and connection as being essential gifts resulting from imperfection.
The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality, and Foreign Language Learning
David I. Smith and Barbara Carvill - Grand Rapids, MI - Eerdmanns Publishing - 2000
A Christian perspective on foreign-language teaching that can be applied universally to welcoming and seeing the gifts in strangers.
The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
Stephen Cope - New York, NY - Bantam Books - 2015
Using the ancient Bhagavad Gita as a road map for discovering your primary gift to the world, Cope takes us through the journey within the book and offers illustrations of well-known people in modern times who have heeded the call.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Joseph Campbell - Princeton, NJ - Princeton University Press - 1968
Traces the story of the hero’s journey and initiation processes through many world mythologies. The model of the hero’s journey includes the transformational receipt of gifts from life ordeals.
A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life
Parker Palmer - San Francisco, CA - Jossey-Bass - 2004
Reflections on the task of living an undivided life—a life that is congruent with our inner truth. What it means to be in a “circle of trust” with the other and recognize the gifts that emerge from inner and outer reflection.
James D Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead - Maryknoll, NY - Orbis Books - 2009
Eros is the vitality energy that courses throughout the world animating every living thing. The book has a surprising concluding chapter that offers a brief and clear explanation of the differences between a market economy and the vitality energy in a gift economy and describes the eros benefits of gift exchange.
The Identity Code: The Eight Essential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World
Larry Ackerman - New York, NY - Random House - 2005
Ackerman offers a structure of eight essential questions, with activities that help a person see themselves in a larger, more capable way. Finding your gift is one of the activities.
The Logic of the Gift: Toward and Ethic of Generosity
Edited by Alan D. Schrift - New York, NY - Routledge Press - 1997
A scholarly collection of some of the most important and impactful writings about gifts and gift exchange.
Making Good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives
Shadd Maruna - Washington, D.C. - American Psychological Association - 2007
Maruna follows the Liverpool Desistance study, which investigated convicts that did not return to prison. The study showed it was not housing, jobs, or any of the usual government funded programs that reduced recidivism. It was the ex-convict developing a “generative script” involving a way to contribute to their community that was more motivating than criminal behavior. Uses the gift theory of suffering into transformative behavior of “redemption rituals.”
Men and the Water of Life
Michael Meade - San Francisco, CA - HarperSanFrancisco - 1993
Storyteller and mythologist Meade carries forward the ideas of initiation, gifts, and purpose into modern times. Full of old stories, examples from his own experiences meeting with men struggling with making sense of their lives, and wise observances of the dilemmas we all face in modern times.
My Sister, My Brother
Henri J.M. Nouwen - Ijamsville, MD - Word Among Us Press - 2005
A prolific writer and practitioner of the importance of gifts and belonging, Nouwen writes from a Christian perspective that connects us to each other through our shared stories of difficulty, grace, and love for each other.
Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman
The journey of Malidoma Somé out of his village and then returning is a story of initiation and purpose told through the cultural eyes of his people in Burkina Faso, Africa. He has spent several decades traveling back and forth between his village and the western world teaching ritual practices.
The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life
William Damon - New York, NY - Free Press - 2008
Damon credits helping a young person develop purpose as being a critical task in nurturing youth who will thrive. Contains a logic model for the importance of purpose. The steps involve a young person noticing something that needs improving in the world, and then knowing and developing their contribution to that particular thing.
The Purpose of Your Life
Carol Adrienne - New York, NY - William Morrow - 1998
Using a “spiritual and energetic approach,” Adrienne lays out a model for discovering what she calls a “working purpose statement,” defining the dominant gifts you are designed to bring to the world. Includes extensive discussion about the “shadow-side” of gifts and how they can stop you on your path and bring harm to others.
Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart
Edited by Bly, Hillman, and Meade - New York, NY - Harper - 1992
A broad and deeply beautiful collection of poems about nurturing gifts and purpose, enduring through it all and cultivating heart.
The Rites of Passage
Arnold van Gennep - Chicago, IL - University of Chicago Press - 1960
Van Gennup coined the term “rites of passage” and most modern gift and initiation writers and practitioners have built their work on the foundations of his analysis of different cultural patterns/rituals related to the ceremonies accompanying “life crises” of all kinds.
Rites and Symbols of Initiation
Mircea Eliade - New York, NY - HarperCollins - 1958
Covers ancient rituals of transformation in humans through the death and rebirth pattern of rebirth/transformation across many cultures. Book shows the need for reclaiming the paradigm of initiation in the modern world along with more substantial forms of mentoring, elders and ritual.
Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition
Charles Eisenstein - Berkeley, CA - Evolver Editions - 2011
Eisenstein urges us to follow the path from money economy to gift economy as a part of a global movement towards individual and collective right-livelihood. He describes the historical development of cash economies, their downsides and the theory of modern gift economies and their upsides.
The Soul's Code
James Hillman - New York, NY - Random House - 1996.
Drawing on the biographies of figures such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mahatma K. Gandhi, Hillman argues that character is fate, that there is more to each individual than can be explained by genetics and environment. The result is a reasoned and powerful road map to understanding our true nature and discovering an eye-opening array of choices—from the way we raise our children to our career paths to our social and personal commitments to achieving excellence in our time.
The Teacher’s Gift: Discovering and Using Your Core Gift to Inspire and Heal
Bruce Anderson - Seattle, WA - Island Press - 2006.
Describes how the gifts within a teacher both help and insert difficulty into the act of teaching. Includes a six-part interview with five teachers describing how gifts intersect with their life as a teacher.
Transforming Suffering: Reflections on finding peace in troubled times
Edited by Donald Mitchell and James Wiseman - New York, NY - Doubleday - 2003
A gathering of significant spiritual leaders from around the world, in dialogue about the meaning of suffering and the pathways to use it and find peace and healing.
Denise Shekerjian - New York, NY - Penguin - 1990
A fascinating study of forty recipients of the MacArthur Award, given for creative genius in many fields. Stories of where recipients believe their unusual ability comes from, the conditions that nurture their creativity, and why it’s important to know your genius.
Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want
Catherine Nomura and Julia Waller - Toronto, Canada - Strategic Coach, Inc - 2009
A workbook that contains a step-by-step process for discovery of your “unique ability” and how to apply it to your life.
The Way of Transition
William Bridges - Cambridge, MA - Perseus Publishing - 2001
Bridges modernized the ancient idea of “initiation” through relabeling it as “transition,” and also renaming the three stages of initiation into the gentler language of “letting go,” being in the “neutral zone,” and having “new beginnings.” Faithful to the underlying theory of initiation, the book is full of examples of how transformation happens and the gifts from transition that are used to move forward.
Walking Your Gifted Path
Bruce Anderson - Core Gift Institute - Seattle, WA - 2018
Photographs of beautiful walking paths and essays of the elements of the gifted paths of uniqueness, commitment, legacy, mentoring, leadership, shadows and the never-ending path.
We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community
Bill Kauth and Zoe Alowan - Silver Light Publishing - 2010
From the authors: Our book is part of an emerging “gift culture” worldview. It is a manual for designing personal community based on the gifts that each person brings. Focusing on non-residential, place based and committed community, we present tools to support and fortify the longing of the human heart for intimate, conscious connection.
The Wounded Healer
Henri J.M. Nouwen - New York, NY - Doubleday - 1979
One of the original writings about how the suffering we experience can transform into gifts we offer to each other. Nouwen encourages helpers to identify the brokenness within themselves and use that as the starting point of their service.
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