Hello, dear readers. It’s been a while.
Many of my friends on various social media sites have been doing the “10 Book Challenge”–a challenge I have been both dreading and patiently waiting for. Ever since I have started to see these posts on Facebook and such, I’ve been really thinking about the 10 books I would choose that have really shaped me as an individual. I’ve been afraid that I would be asked to do the challenge before I was ready and I would make the (terrible!) mistake of missing a book. But, alas, I find myself ready to compile the list, but with no challenge to accept. So, I thought I would take it upon myself to do the challenge anyway.
So here they are: The 10 books that have shaped me as a reader, a student, and a person.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas-Clement Clarke Moore:
I know this seems like an unusual book (or poem, as it were) to be on a list like this, but I truly believe that without this poem, I never would have become as in love with literature as I am. Not only is it about Christmas (who doesn’t love Christmas!?) but when I look back on my childhood, this is the first book I ever remember reading to myself. According to my parents, I had the entire thing memorized by the time I was four and would turn the pages at the right time without really looking at the book at all. This poem made me love to read; I loved the pictures the words painted in my head (the famous “visions of sugar plums dancing” comes to mind). While there isn’t much to this poem, it made a lasting impression on me in my formative years and I have never forgotten it.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore-William Joyce:
Although another children’s book, I found this while perusing in Barnes & Noble about two years ago and it quickly became one of my favorites. The story of Morris Lessmore and his flying books has become my story–I, too, am amazed at the wonderful places books can take you and truly believe that life is better with books in them. The story is happy, beautiful, and touching and delivers a deep message in such simple terms, it’s hard not to fall in love with this book. Anyone who loves to read would identify with Mr. Morris Lessmore and his wonderful flying books.
The Kingdom Keepers Series-Ridley Pearson:
Anyone who knows me knows that I love everything Disney. So when I stumbled on the first book in this series and realized it was about a group of kids who get to fight the Disney villains in the Disney parks at night, I was sold. While everyone else my age was navigating their way through Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, I was busy making sure Maleficent and the Evil Queen didn’t takeover the Disney parks with Finn and the rest of the Keepers. The last book came out this summer and I am unashamed to say that I saw the series through to the end. This series let me hold onto my childhood for much longer than I thought I would be able to and taught me that imagination, hard work, and creativity can solve almost anything.
To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee:
What top ten booklist would be complete with this masterpiece? This novel taught me more about racial inequality and injustice than any history book ever could. Lee’s ability to articulate deep and complicated problems–rape, racial inequality, injustice, loss of innocence, child abuse, domestic violence–through the voice of nine-year-old Scout still amazes me. This novel showed me that, as unfair and wrong as it is, ignorance and intolerance are sometimes the victors. This shattered my optimistic world view and is what made me start thinking critically about the society we live in. Why was this your only book, Harper Lee. WHY?
The Necessary Shakespeare-David Bevington:
When I was in high school, I didn’t really have an opinion on the Bard. I read him when I had to, didn’t particularly like or dislike him, and had a vague idea of his impact on English literature. And then I took my college Shakespeare class. My. Mind. Was. Blown. I fell head over heels in love with him (much like Gwyneth Paltrow, but I digress). I have always been a lover of words and wordplay and puns, so I was always told Shakespeare would be right up my alley, but I never truly appreciated any of Shakespeare’s work until I had this collection of almost everything the Bard every wrote. I could probably write a whole post just on my top ten Shakespeare works, but for now I will just recommend Sonnet 43. Wordplay, metaphor, imagery–beautiful. (Side note: The fourth edition has changed the cover from a painting of the Bard to a dashing image of Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love. The English major in me says “NO,” but the fangirl in me says “Ohhh yeeeeahh.”)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith:
I read this book during a family vacation to Colorado the summer before my freshman year of high school. I have an incredibly vivid memory of driving through the mountains of Colorado while reading the diary section of the novel and bursting into tears (“Mama found my diary and made me change every ‘drunk’ to ‘sick'”).The semi-autobiographical work is written with simplicity, honesty, and innocence. Frances’s story of perseverance and hardship is heartwarming and tragic. Although it was published in 1943, the themes and story are all too relevant today. I don’t know if it’s because I was a young, naive, coming of age teenage girl who didn’t quite fit in when I read it or because this book is truly a masterpiece, but this book has left a lasting impression on me.
Wuthering Heights-Emily Bronte:
I was probably the only person in my high school English class who loved this book. I mean REALLY LOVED this book. I will admit, I did have trouble following the characters (Catherine, Cathy, Linton, Mr. Linton, etc.), but this love story touched me. Maybe it’s because I’m a product of the Disney fairy-tale era, but it was comforting (and jarring) to read a story of lovers who don’t have a happy ending, but at the same time had a love that endured forever. The imagery and language in this novel only makes the story more beautiful.
The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Like Wuthering Heights, this novel changed my view of love. I spend the entire story wanting Daisy and Gatsby to be together knowing that it is impossible. Fitzgerald does an astounding job of creating the colorful and decadent world that Gatsby built for Daisy while making it painfully clear that the world will be destroyed. The complicated nature of love and money is portrayed brilliantly and I sympathize more with Gatsby every time I turn the page. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg have been an imprint on my mind ever since I finished the book the first time, and I sometimes find myself standing next to Jay on the dock, yearning after a green light of my own.
A Thousand Splendid Suns-Khaled Hosseini:
I don’t think I cried so much over a book in my entire life. I read this novel in a two days–I was captivated by the story, the characters, and Hosseini’s language. Before reading this novel, I knew nothing of Afghan culture or society, and while I still don’t know very much, this novel gave me a deeper understanding of the culture–something I probably couldn’t get from any of the history books in the U.S. Hosseini’s ability to give every character a voice of their own is amazing. I immediately wanted to talk to someone about this book when I finished it, but no one I knew had read it. I hounded my mom for two weeks, and when she finally finished it and came to my room with tears in her eyes, I cried again.
Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl-N.D. Wilson:
This is the first and only book I have ever finished and immediately turned back to page one and read again. I was deeply moved and inspired by this book (as made obvious by the number of quotes I posted on Facebook while reading it). Notes has shaped my faith in ways that I cannot even put into words. I’ve come to appreciate the little miracles that happen every day and I am overcome with the amount of love and grace that God bestows on me. There isn’t a single Bible verse in the whole book-but it doesn’t need one. For fear of doing the book a grand injustice, I will simply leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “But why would any Christian claim that God has stopped talking? Did he speak the world into existence? Does matter exist apart from him? Is it still here? Are you still here? Then He is still speaking.”
So that’s it. The ten books that have influenced me the most. What are yours?