Every now and then I run into a man in our local coffee shop who asks everyone he meets the question, "What is your favourite book?" I'm bad with favourites. As soon as I crown something with that title, I remember all of my other loves that could have also won. So, I give this man a different answer every time he asks. His answer, though, never changes: The Grapes of Wrath. I think I would be instantly esteemed by him if I told him it's my favourite, too. But I've never read it (though I do make a mental note to do so every time I talk to him).
My husband and I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you're not familiar with it, the author advocates getting rid of anything that doesn't bring you joy. The first phase is to go through every item of clothing you own and only keep those things that bring you joy. Husband and I did this a few weekends ago, and ended up getting rid of 6 large recycle bags of clothes between the two of us.
The next phase is books. If you are like me, you might have just gasped at the idea of getting rid of books. We haven't done this yet, partly because I think it's going to be too hard. The bookshelves in our home tell a story in themselves; the titles say something about who we are and where we've been.
But, let's be honest, there are certainly a large number of books on our shelves that we haven't cracked open in years...and likely never will again. So, when we do brave the waters of saying goodbye to books, I'm sure we'll have a few in the donation bin (and a number to go into the "I've been meaning to return this book to whomever I borrowed it from).
But there are many, of course, that we won't let go of.
These are the books that won't leave us alone, long after we've read the final chapter. So, to celebrate the lasting power of words, the shaping edge of stories, I present you with a few of the books that have impacted me. (Of course, this list is not exhaustive).
East of Eden, Sweetness in the Belly, A Fine Balance, The Brothers K, The Memory of Old Jack, Cry the Beloved Country, The Book of Negroes, The Shadow of the Wind...
Each of these stories are beautiful. Some are heartbreaking. Some inspiring. All have impacted me. As I created this list, more and more stories came to mind. Like A Prayer for Owen Meany, Gilead, and Pride and Prejudice. See, I can't pick!
Half the Sky, There Is No Me Without You, Searching for Sunday, Paddle to the Amazon, When God Is Silent, Adrift.
In this diverse list are stories of adventure and peril, stories of seeking God and living hope, stories of community, disappointment, and the will to live. These stories have amazed me, encouraged me, broken my heart, and asked me to see the world a bit differently.
Children's and Young Adult Books
Charlotte's Web, The Princess and the Goblin, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Harry Potter, Code Name Verity.
These are books that I, for the most part, haven't read with my kids. (Except for Charlotte's Web and some of the Narnia books). Yet, all of these are books that I've read as an adult. Here are stories of friendship, magic, tragedy, courage, and beauty. But again, how could I pick only a few? (Stay tuned for books I love reading with my kids.)
What books have shaped you? Tell me your favourites!