"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads." Francois Mauriac
This blog is not only devoted to books that I read but also the love of reading itself. I am passionate about reading and love to spread that passion to others. One of my goals as a teacher is to teach kids that reading does not, as so many of them say, "suck." It opens ideas and thoughts and awakens passions and callings. It changes the way we think. It takes us to other places, places we could never physically go, such as 1066 to see William the Bastard conquer England or Russia during the revolution or Cleopatra's court. So much can happen when we read.
In that spirit, today I am going to answer a question that my mother emailed out to my family yesterday. We are a family of hopeless bookworms, and we love to have literary discussions over email. (Some of them get very funny. And most of them are nutty.) My brother, as a matter of fact, is a contributor to a book webpage called the Ultra Manly Book Club. Even if you are not ultra manly, you should go check out that site, it is awesome!
Anyway, the question is this:
"What book or books have you read that impacted your life, especially in a more indirect way? Nobody gets to say the Bible. In fact, I think I am outlawing all obviously Christian books, or at least you have to give one more secular one. And you need to tell why."
Wow. What a great question, Mom! Today's post is devoted to my own answer to this question. Next week I will devote a post to other people's answers to this question. If you would like to be a part of that, either post your answer in the comments or email me - I would love to have lots of input!
So, my answers...
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This young adult book - about 4th grade level - was not only my first introduction to historical fiction, but it gave me a new sense of the world and its history. The story of the Holocaust is one that must never, ever be forgotten or glossed over, and we need to know the stories of those brave men and women throughout Europe and the world that fought the resistance movement against Hilter's murderous regime. The story of Denmark during this time period changed me and made me realize, at the age of 8 or so when I first read this, how important it is to stand up for what is right, even at the cost of your own safety and life. Everyone should read this book.
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I already wrote a post on why; you can read it here. Sufficient to say, this was my first "grown up" book, and it made it's mark on me.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I don't have the space here to explain GWTW's impact on me. It will get its own entry in time. This book, by far my favorite of all time, explores so many important topics, such as racism, history, history rewritten, love, romance, tragedy, parenting, culture, sex, women's roles...and it is absolutely beautifully written. It also marked an important transitional time in my life - the age of 13 - and made an impression on me that will never be forgotten. I read it at least once a year, and every time I see something new. I so wish Ms. Mitchell had not met such a tragic, young end, for I would have loved to have seen what else was in her mind. Love this book.
Dominion by Randy Alcorn. Sorry Mom, I am breaking your rules, because this is a "Christian" novel. BUT. It is a Christian novel that so challenged my thinking that I feel I must list it. This book challenged the way I look at poverty, heaven, urban ministry, the Church, racism, abortion, and...a bunch of other things. It is also a fabulous murder mystery. It changed my life as a Christian, an educator, and a minister of the gospel, so here it it.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. This biography is where my weird fascination with British history began. I do not defend my love of that island and it's colorful past - it is what it is. But this is really where it all began. I picked this book up somewhere - I think at a half price book store - and took it on vacation with me. And thus an obsession was born. And yes, I can name all six wives and what happened to them...as well as every British monarch from Aethelred the Unready to Elizabeth II. I am fun to have around at parties.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. (Sorry Mom!) I read this - or, rather, it was read to me - for the first time when I was about six. I loved it as a story, and I remember hunting through closets and corners of the house, hoping to find a passageway to Narnia. Several years later, as a sixth grader, I was encouraged by my teacher to read it again because I would see it entirely differently. And she was so right! This book represents the first time I realized that books can change for a person over time. You can see so much more every time you read and re-read a book. God uses the same books at different times in a person's life throughout their lives. This was just such a book for me. (For the record: all of you who read The Magician's Nephew first are missing out and sadly mistaken. I'm not trying to start a riot, I just want you to know that it is wrong. One of these days I shall make my case on this blog. And do not start in with "that's the order Lewis said to read them in." I read the interview to which you are referring. I bet you have not. That's not what he said.)
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
That is beauty itself. People who "hate Shakespeare" have not taken the time to see the soul of the beauty of language. You don't have to love it, but don't hate it. It's like hating a sunset. Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite Shakespearean play, but it was my first, and it made its impact on my literary life. (And it is NOT because Leonardo DiCaprio played Romeo when I was about 14. Although that did help.)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I distinctly remember reading this for the first time my sophomore year of high school. I was absolutely captured by the language, and I think that was the first time I realized just how much I love the written language. Dickens impacted the way I read literature because he became the standard.
Daughter of Time by Josephine Fey. Not only did this feed the British obsession, but it changed the way I looked at history as it is reported and taught in the schools. By the way - Richard III did NOT kill his nephews.
Up a Family Tree by Teresa Bloomingdale. I first read Teresa Bloomingdale as a teenager, and at that point I just thought she was funny. Later, however, she became a lifeline for me as I navigated my own early motherhood years. Teresa was there to hold my hand, laugh with me, and show me it was ok when things got a little crazy. I look forward to meeting this dear woman face to face in heaven and telling her how much her work meant to me. She also, indirectly, encouraged me to write, as she was a successful writer as well as a stay at home mom...of 10.
Theirs is the Kingdom; Secret Believers, Kingdom Works. These are books, by a variety of authors, that challenged my way of looking at evangelism, poverty, Christians that are REALLY under persecution, and what my role in the world should be as a follower of Christ.
The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis. This shook my preconceived notions of who God is and how He relates to me. Everyone should read this book.
Ok, so I broke my mom's rules a little. Sorry Mom! But I also had some secular ones!!!
Your turn! Chime in with your contributions!