15 Books That Have Impacted My Life

I relate very much with the Cinderella character Drew Barrymore played  in Ever After (Danielle was the name I believe?) who explains to the prince that she can’t choose a favorite book any more than she could choose a favorite star in the heavens. But I wanted to write a post on some of my favorites and was still having a hard time narrowing those down when I came upon an old note I’d written on Facebook several years ago. I wrote it at the request of a friend and the note was basically titled the same thing as this blog post. This discovery made my life infinitely easier because not only did it give me a guideline or cut off point, it also turns out that I would still keep most of the books on there in my top 15 (though not necessarily in a particular order and including plays as books) :

1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: It’s a huge, dense, and beautiful book and even better than the musical which remains one of my favorites as well… thoughts about love, social justice, forgiveness, grace, and a life well spent… just thinking about it is making me want to re-read it because it has been almost a decade and I’m sure I would find new parts jumping out at me thanks to the life experiences I’ve had since then.
2. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis: I reread this book again and again in part or in whole. It is so beautiful and has so many quotes I frequently come back to in daily life. I will admit that the Friendship section in particular can come off as a bit dated, but it seems that Lewis even anticipated this. He wrote about it explaining in a caveat that some of the things he posits are likely only so because men and women didn’t share the work place much, etc. Some favorite quotes:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable”
“Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities”
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
and so many more…
3. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (OK, if that’s cheating, let’s stick with Winter’s Tale if I have to pick one for the moment…) I have chosen to center much of my professional life around Shakespeare. I love it. And in return it seems to love me and has brought me an immense amount of joy (and debt… but we’ll look over that for now…) If I had to pick just one play, it probably would rotate around 7 or 8 of them, but today and many days that rotation favors The Winter’s Tale because it is gorgeous, full of complex verse, strong women, music, faith, bears, forgiveness, and all sorts of other wacky twists. “It is required you do awake your faith”… are you seeing a theme in these books?
4. Our Town by Thornton Wilder: Some find this play overdone, quaint, or even boring. I think they are crazy. I love the simplicity of it and this play always makes me cry, whether it is being done on broadway or in a  high school theatre, I always cry. One of my mantras in life is Every Every Minute… Nothing quite inspires me to live a life of saints and poets like reading this play again.
5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck Odds are good I will be re-reading this book again sometime soon. It is another I like to revisit over and over. My love for this book can be summed up in one word: Timshel. If you’ve read it, you get it. If you haven’t- go pick up a copy!

For reasons behind the next three you can read my LAST BOOK POST:
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
7. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
8. Harry Potter (nope, not picking one book out of this series…) by J.K. Rowling

9.The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne: I read this book just out of college and was blown away by the challenge to put the Gospel in action and by the passion, imagination, and love contained in the little paperback I read as a sort of “book club” with some college friends scattered around the country. I still flip back to sections that are well worn in my copy.
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle Again, the whole initial trilogy is lovely and Swiftly Tilting Planet  was chilling enough to stick with me for many weeks after I finished reading it, but the first one is my favorite. A few quotes and you may understand why:
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you”
“I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.”
11. Bossypants by Tina Fey This is a new one on the list and I struggled with whether to choose Tina Fey’s book or Amy Poehler’s as both are excellent, so to be honest, I am probably just going with Bossypants because I read it first (well, heard it, I always choose audiobooks when a comedian is reading their own writing…) and also because I see myself more as a Tina Fey than an Amy Poehler… even though I will rewatch Parks and Rec ten times more than 30 Rock…
12. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: This short, lovely novel blew me away and left me wondering why we read To The Lighthouse  in high school instead of this gem. The concise, painfully beautiful truths and the long, gorgeous descriptions may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they sure are mine. A few favorite quotes:
“Mrs Dalloway is always giving parties to cover the silence”
“All of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere”
“What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with this extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said.  For there she was.”
13. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell I was obsessed with this book and the movie for a very very long time. I had a bit of a Scarlett O’Hara complex for a while and wished very much I had been born in the south. I did always wonder why on earth you would ever wish for more than Rhett Butler though…
14. The Bible OK, that’s also cheating, let’s stick with… if I have to pick one book of it for the moment…I John. This book contained the New Testament reading for my wedding and it also contains one of my favorite verses, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.”
15. Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs I forgot to put this on my original list.  To be honest, until I saw the note to myself regretting that omission, I may have forgotten it this time too but once I started thinking about this novel a bunch of aspects came flooding back and I remembered why I was  obsessed with this book for the last year of college and beyond. I suppose I should specify that I mean Tarzan of the Apes because there is a whole series. I read only a few books in the series, but the original is by far my favorite. The language is delicious and I will admit this is probably the closest I have come in my life to a Harlequin style romance novel. I mean, just read this: “Beast?” Jane murmured. “Then God make me a beast; for, man or beast, I am yours.” I can’t help it, I just love it!!! And to end this list on a true, embarrassing story: I had a friend in undergrad with whom I would always exchange boxes of chocolates on valentines day, but we would always send them to each other from fake characters from TV shows or literature. Tarzan was my valentine one year. I kept that fake Valentine at least until I was engaged… probably even after that… the character is just sexy y’all!

How about you? Do we share any formative books? What are some of yours? I am starting to brainstorm and set my reading goal for the new year so always looking for suggestions to add to my Goodreads list!

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