These books changed my world, making me see people more keenly, think about issues differently & hold dear some of my previously unclear beliefs. For these I am very grateful. (See my last post for how to find a good book.)
Roots, Alex Haley A good book is to be enjoyed; a great book to be felt… and this one delivers. Some might remember seeing the moving 1977 mini-series but this book taps into so many more emotions. I remember where and when I read it, feeling outrage at what one man could do to another and ‘watching’ the fall-out that entails. But the human spirit is strong and can endure so much…I also felt inspired and privileged to have ‘known’ these people even though it was remotely.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak I literally hug this book. It’s true! I’ve read so many WWII books but this one is so incredibly different that it’s unforgettable. The writing leaves me in awe as Zusak is a master with words. I adore the imperfect, interesting characters and appreciate being inside Nazi Germany simply as someone who has no interest in the war but must endure it. Tragedy changes people and in this book, it’s for the better.
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton The only book on the list that I’ve read at least 15 times, I never tire of it. Each time I teach it there are new nuggets to share. Hinton makes us compassionate to the outsider and makes us question our own evaluation measures when judging someone such as their appearance and financial status. Maybe the scruffiest person in the bunch is the most mild-hearted and kind, maybe even more so than the socially acceptable one.
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls This is the first book I recommend no matter who asks. This non-bitter memoir of siblings growing up with mentally ill parents was absolutely fascinating. Multiple scenes will stay with you long after you put it down. You’ll read with disbelief that these tenacious kids not only survived but thrived.
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger Enger’s tone is so comfortable, his style so engaging, his characters so real. This story’s father is hands-down the best representative of a Christian man in fiction. It’s a prodigal son story in reverse where the father (w/ narrator brother and precocious sister) seeks out the lost son. God is the invisible travel companion through Minnesota and the Badlands in which faith is just as critical as family. My children still remember me reading winsome passages aloud to them while they ate breakfast. I simply adore this book.
The Damnation of Theron Ware, Harold Frederic The provocative title alone had me hooked and this classic from 1896 begs to be read today. Not only is the writing superb, but the story line is fascinating. A small-town preacher gets himself entangled in a mess from which he cannot extricate himself and I found myself thinking, how will this be done? Frederic is a master of leading the reader while paying attention to his characters. Two of his favorite themes are self-awareness & close-mindedness and this story addresses them expertly.
Hind’s Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard Best spiritual book ever. This seemingly simple allegory holds truths for anyone. In her journey, Much Afraid travels where she doesn’t want to go but her Shepherd tells her it’s “safe to follow [my] voice” and she does to the High Places of Love but it’s not easy and each trial brings a new lesson. When she questions him, he says, “I don’t know anything more exhilarating than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith and that which has been marred into perfection.” The author’s personal story of coming to faith and her nearness to Christ is just as good.
A Stranger in the Kingdom, Howard Frank Mosher I’ll never forget laughing during some chapters and thinking deeply during others, especially when the residents of a small town have to face their “untested tolerance.” It’s easy to proclaim you’re a tolerant bunch until someone comes along to test it. Then what? Only a few in town pass the test and love the stranger.
A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg & Like Garlic for Sapphires, Ruth Reichl These two books about food and food writing not only left me with serious travel-envy but a re-affirmation that food isn’t something that simply nourishes your body, but it’s what brings people together in myriad ways, evokes sweet memories and connects us to each other.