Sep 11, 2016 By Norris Burkes

As you probably noticed, I used my column this summer to share my writing from my new book called “Thriving Beyond Surviving: Stories of Resilience From a Hospital Chaplain.”
In writing it, I found inspiration for thriving from several other authors. That’s why I’m using today’s column, my annual list of book recommendations, to highlight books that portray thriving and resilience.

First and foremost, I owe the biggest debt to Laurence Gonzales who’s written a number of books on survival and resilience. I started my reading with “Deep Survival: True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death.” In it, Gonzales employs great storytelling skills to detail how people survived some horrific incidents.

However, most of my writing stimulus came from Gonzales’ “Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience.” In it, he outlines the steps people must take to conquer the post-traumatic days that follow survival.

Speaking of survival, many of you may be asking how I survived my great downsizing into an old mobile home. I point you to a far less gruesome book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.

Because of this book, I didn’t just survive the move, I found myself thriving from the author’s advice. Her approach can occasionally be too “new-age” for me, but she is succinct in her list of practical declutter tips. Her advice is highlighted in this month’s Reader’s Digest.

“Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II” by Mitchell Zuckoff. This plane-crash story of WWII nurses will have you questioning the boundaries of resilience.

“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson is a bone-chilling story that recounts the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915. I’ve read most of Larson’s books and can promise you that he narrates the survival and sacrifice of those on board in epic Larson style.

I don’t read many fiction books, but I did read two this year.

“Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. My wife and I adopted a sibling group of three in the early 1990s, but this fictionalized account of the real Orphan Train of the 1900s gave me a deeper look into the dejection felt by an adopted child. Despite their rejection, these children show remarkable resilience in their testimony to the human spirit.

My second novel was science fiction. “The Martian” by Andy Weir is more science than fiction. The book is about an astronaut left for dead on Mars and his struggle to survive until help can arrive. The book was “crowdsourced,” meaning that Weir used his blog to garner professional input. No monsters or fantastical notions in this book, just good suspense in the spirit of Apollo 13. Loved the movie, too.

Finally, for another shade of survival, read “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class” by Ian Haney L�pez. It’s one thing to survive trauma to the body, but trauma of the soul can be another matter. Lopez inspires the reader to see how racism in today’s politics prevents all races from thriving.

What am I reading next?

I can’t wait to read Mary Roach’s latest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.” This comedic science writer explores how science helps the soldier survive the panic, exhaustion, heat, and noise found in battle. Roach is a favorite and I’ve read all her books.

All three of my books are available at my website or on Amazon. Write me and tell me what you’re reading at

– Write Norris at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.