If you came over to my house, you would see the evidence of my most gluttonous behavior; book buying. (Okay, and cloth diaper buying and baby carrier buying too, but I digress.) I have many, many shelves full of books, and many, many giant plastic bins full of children’s books in the garage. The husband does not understand why I can’t just get rid of them, but I love my books.
Recently, a friend tagged me on Facebook to list 10 books that have made an impact on me and stayed with me. These are listed in no particular order, except for the first, which is hands down my favorite novel ever and possibly my favorite book ever. So, without further ado:
1. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset.
I don’t know if there’s much I can say beyond what Kendra and Haley have already said. Haley’s right though; Kristin is the best female protaganist, ever. And Kendra’s right too; this novel is an amazing illustration of what it means to really live the rhythms of the liturgical year, to have them woven throughout everything you do and the way you see the world. Just read it. (Annnd…..I can’t find either of the posts to which I am referring. Whoops.)
2. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
I kept seeing this touted as a great Catholic novel, so it I read it about 12 years ago. And I didn’t get it. I was like, “Huh? What is this even about?” Then I reread a couple years ago and I somehow magically “got it.” Grace! It’s about grace! The whole novel comes together in the very last pages. Which is why this book is much better as a reread than a first read. You know where it’s going and the whole thing makes sense in light of the end. Which is probably a good metaphor for life.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Yes, they are children’s books. (And yes, I know there’s 7 of them. I’m counting them as one. Sue me.) I am firmly of the opinion that great children’s literature is often more powerful and more masterfully written than adult literature. The need for brevity will clarify one’s thoughts quickly! So many times when I am trying to explain something about the way I see the world or how I understand something, I want to refer to something from the Chronicles. Lewis is a master of allegory and making the sublime accessible.
4. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.
This was the first “English class book” I ever actually enjoyed reading in high school. Love, romance, loyalty, tragedy; Farewell to Arms has it all.
5. The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
6. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton is just brilliant. His ability to take accepted “truths” of the secular, modern world and make them absurd is unparalleled. His wit, humor, and insight have put many things in a new light for me, or helped me to explain things to others. And he is a master of logic- and tearing apart the logical fallacy.
7. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
The story of a professional woman who leaves her life in the world to join a cloistered convent. This is a beautiful portrayal of religious life, but not an idealized one. Tragedy and heartbreak are at the center of this story. Philippa is a superb protagonist and I loved watching her grow into the rhythm of life in a religious community.
8. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Again, he’s a brilliant allegorist and this put spiritual warfare and temptation into a new light for me.
9. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
A brilliant portrayal of the inner struggle with competing moral codes.
10. A Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle
Another example of superb children’s literature. When I read these as a child, I wanted to be a part of the Murray family. I didn’t really understand all the themes about evil and virtue, but the story itself is fantastic simply on the level of plot and the characters are well developed. As an adult, the underlying themes enrich the plot line beyond the fact that it’s a good story.