Books, books, books!

9 01 2010

One of my goals for 2010 is to read more books.  I always figured that after I finished school, I would have plenty of time to do nothing but read for fun. But, it seems this isn’t the case.  Life only got crazier, and instead of making time for required reading, I tended to not make time for reading at all.

So far I’m doing well.  I read two books last week and just started a third.  These aren’t easy beach reads, either.  The first two (Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn) were powerful, perspective-altering books, and from what I can tell, this third book (Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne) will be, as well.

Which led me to ponder: what have been the most life-changing or perspective-altering books that I’ve ever read?  Not necessarily favorite books, although I think they all fit somewhere into that category, as well.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, in chronological order that I first read them:

1. The Bible.  For obvious reasons.

2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  One of my favorite books of all-time.  It’s whimsical and poignant and somehow perfect.  I’m putting it in here as the sole work of fiction to make the list.

2. Disposable People by Kevin Bales.  This was one of the first books I was assigned to read in college, and it really set me on a path of pursuing social justice as my life’s work (although I’m obviously still figuring out exactly what that life’s work is :))

3. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  Something about his perspective really resonates with me.  When I’m questioning things, I find myself going back to this book  to reread his explanations and metaphors.  And whenever someone asks me a theological question, I almost always refer to this book.

4. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans.  I actually don’t know if this one actually counts, since I’ve never read it all the way through.  But I’ve read bits and pieces of it multiple times, so that I’m pretty I’ve read most, if not all, of the words in the book.  A really interesting perspective on journalism, documentary studies, art, relationships, post-modernism, and understanding people in general.  It’s a heavy read, but a good one nonetheless.

5. Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.  I first read this book in a time of angst and doubt and frustration with the church.  It showed me that there may indeed be another way to live out this thing we call Christianity.  I’m certainly not there yet, but at least I’m somewhere.  In some ways I think I liked Jesus for President better, but this one was definitely the catalyst.

There are more, of course.  Every book I read leaves me changed in some way.  And the really good ones have passages that stick with me forever.  But I’m always on the lookout for more.

And this leads me to my second list.  Given that my 2010 goal is to read more books, here are some that are on my list right now (if you have any of these that you want to let me borrow, let me know!):

1. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

2. Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson

3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

4. Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki

5. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

6. Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Husseini

8. Out of Solitude by Henri Nouwen

9. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (This one has been on my list for an embarrassingly long time.  Maybe 2010 will be the year)

10. Letters to a Young Evangelical by Tony Campolo

11. The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

12. The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal

One for every month.  That’s a good goal, don’t you think?

I’d love to hear your lists, too–what are your most influential books? What are you going to read this year?



5 responses

10 01 2010
Steve P in Sparta, Wis.

Ambitious list! You caught my attention with “The Gulag Archipelago”, since Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of my intellectual and moral heroes. Reading all three volumes of Gulag will be quite a challenge for one month — there is a one-volume abridgment that you might want to consider instead.

My own main reading project this year is St Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica” (which I’m reading in Peter Kreeft’s one-volume abridgment), along with relevant parts of Aristotle and Chesterton’s biography/study of Aquinas.

Happy reading!

10 01 2010

“The Gulag Archipelago” was recommended as a must-read by one of my friend/mentors. Thanks for the heads-up on the length; my only experience with Solzhenitsyn is “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” which is considerably shorter.

Good luck with Aquinas! And thanks for stopping by!

10 01 2010

P.S. If you’re still here…how are you affiliated with the Cistercian Abbey?

10 01 2010
Steve P in Sparta, Wis.

Yes, I am a postulant at the abbey.

10 01 2010

Ambitious list, but I have no doubt that you’ll make a hefty dent in it, if not read them all. Your uncle David may have a copy of “The Gulag Archipelago”–I’m sure that he used to, although it’s been quite a while.

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