“What are the five books that have influenced you the most?”
This question showed up in a book at work the other day, offering itself irresistibly among the text. Here’s my answer, straight from the soul of one card-carrying bookworm. I’d be absolutely delighted if any of you want to leave your answers in the comments section, or post it on your own blog and let me know.
1. The Bible. I considered stating this as a given and moving on, because it’s such a textbook Sunday-school answer for a good Christian girl. The fact remains, however, that even if I had never chosen to believe it, its words would still today be embedded into my soul. It hasn’t simply influenced me; it has defined me. Favorite quote, one among many: “Be still (or as the NASB puts it, ‘cease striving’) and know that I am God.”
2. Wild at Heart. I know, I know… shouldn’t I be saying “Captivating” (the one that was written for girls?) No. For several reasons; most basically that I read Wild at Heart first, and at the first time in my life that I was ever ready to comprehend its underlying truths—those referring to what God meant humankind to be, and what really went wrong with our hearts. Yes, it transformed the way I see the hearts and actions of men, giving me a new appreciation and respect for things I hadn’t before understood. But it absolutely revolutionized me as a woman and a Christian. Favorite quote (from the chapter on Eve, which I’ve read at least ten times): “A woman living out her true design will be valiant, vulnerable, and scandalous.”
3. Harry Potter. I can’t pick out one book here; the whole series will have to do. Dumbledore’s compassionate heart and rich, unique wisdom, Harry’s love and bravery, Luna’s peace, Fred and George’s love of fun, Hermione and Ginny’s tough individuality and steadfast support, and Ron’s bumbling but deeply devoted loyalty speak libraries of truth to me. That’s not even mentioning characters like Sirius, Lupin, Tonks, Neville, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Moody, McGonagall, Hagrid, or the gone-but-not-forgotten James and Lily Potter. I’ve learned more about courage, faith and love from those books than most of the “Christian” novels I’ve ever read. Make of that what you will. Favorite quote, Dumbledore to Harry in book 5: “In the end it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”
4. No Compromise: The life story of Keith Green. My parents didn’t let me listen to secular music growing up. On the other hand, most of what passed for music among the Christian crowd in my early years was about as well written as something sung by Gwen Stefani, only with a thoroughly moral message and no cool beat. So we listened to Keith Green. Even today, I can’t listen to an old Keith Green record without hearing his passion for God throbbing in his voice. That passion defined his life, which is why I love the book—that, and I think God cut my soul out of the same piece of cloth as that of Keith’s wife, Melody. She wrote the book. Favorite quote… well, without having the book here to flip through, I’ll have to go with a line from one of their songs: “Make my life a prayer to you, I wanna do what you want me to/ No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.”
5. Fifth place gets split between C.S. Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength” and Nicholas Sparks’ “A Walk To Remember,” both books having had the advantage of protagonists with whom I sympathized at every moment. Neither Mark nor Jane Studdock, from the former, said or thought or did much of anything that part of me didn’t think I would have done in their case; I grew as they grew. And Sparks’ Jamie Sullivan was my hero, everything I wanted to be—well, except for the dying part. Dowdy and a social zero among her peers—just like me in my teens and early twenties (at least, whenever I dared venture outside the homeschool community)—she had a quiet confidence that has helped me find my own. Favorite quotes, first from "That Hideous Strength": “…To desire the desiring of her own beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover that the beloved tastes her own delightfulness.” From "A Walk To Remember": “Jamie also taught me the value of forgiveness and the transforming power that it offers… Jamie held no grudges. Jamie led her life the way the Bible taught.”
Your turn! After all, I just finished a good book... time for some new reading material.