December 16th, 2009
I’ve compiled my Top Ten List. I’ve also given some reasons why these books have made it onto this list. Please don’t think that this was an easy task, but because it really wasn’t. It was like being asked to rate my family members by how much I love them. But, after some persuasion that books don’t really have feelings, I did it! If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know!
10. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
I’m no sap, let me tell you. I hate love stories, and do all that I can to avoid a “girls’ night” that revolves around some mindless chick flick. But A Severe Mercy is a wonderful story that Vanauken wrote about himself and his wife. This is a story that leaves you very appreciative of the relationships that you’ve been given and makes you recognize how precious life truly is. If you like a truly heart-felt cry every now and then, then I recommend this! Another plus: Vanauken was a friend of C.S. Lewis and Lewis was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity.
9. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Here is another book that leaves me in tears. And I couldn’t have any top ten list without one of Tolkien’s works making an appearance. This book is the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is a beautiful testament to the power of friendship. My two favorite characters in this series are Samwise, who is a wonderful illustration of the loyalty that Christ shows to us in our battle against sin, and Gollum, who is an example of the destructive power that sin plays in our lives. Also, to better understand the beauty of these books, I suggest reading Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” and his explanation of a Eucatastrophe-how something so dreadful and destructive can have such a glorious result.
8. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This book is great because of all the battles over doctrine and what the Bible “really” means, Lewis just cuts to chase. He wrote this book to explain the basics on which all Bible-believing Christians agree. Lewis is excellent at using examples and pictures to illustrate tough philosophical and biblical concepts. Sometimes he can get wordy, but if you persevere slowly through it, you’ll walk away with a great basic outline of the Christian faith. One of the reasons why I respect Lewis so much is that he is a philosopher and not a theologian, so he never weighs you down with heavy terms, but instead he appeals to common sense and basic things such as morality. I’ve read and re-read this book so many times that the margins are covered in my notes. And you can tell what I was thinking each separate time I read this book because of the different colors of ink. It’s a little look into the inner workings of Abby.
7. Republic by Plato
If you spend much time with me, you’d know of my obsession with Plato. I see the consequences of his philosophy everywhere (and they are usually good consequences). The Republic is one of my all-time favorite writings because of the divisions of the soul that Plato discusses. He separates each soul into three parts: the intellect, the emotion, and the appetite. This is so fascinating to me because I went to a private school that was based on this breakdown. Children, in their various stages of growth, exhibit each of those levels. They begin as the appetite, then move to the emotion, then to the intellect. This is called the “Trivium,” and I believe it to be the most effective method of education (do you see a future homeschooler??). I also am fascinated by the ability of logic to lead people, such as Plato and, of course, Socrates, to come to truth. These men were gentiles living 3 centuries before Christ and yet they have an understanding that there is only one diety, a life after death, and an absolute truth–in stark contrast to the other philosphers of their time. And even if you’re not into philosophy, I recommend a reading because it really opens your eyes to the effect of the Classics on our present societies.
6. The Illiad and The Odyssey by Homer
The summer between my 8th and 9th grade years of high school, I sequestered myself in my 3rd floor bedroom with a library copy of “The Illiad” and “The Odyssey”. I read both in just a few days. I should have known from that moment that I would be destined for Classical studies, and not have wasted a year and a half in nursing school. These book makes the top list for many reasons. Primarily, it’s because they are the foundation of western literature. The books we read today would not exist without these. And despite being ancient literature, they really address the basic needs and issues faced by all humans. The themes that these stories contain, both the literary and emotional, have resounded throughout literature and media and even our everyday lives for over thousands of years. These books are proof that ancient does not mean obsolete!
5. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
This is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. It is also Lewis’s favorite work of his own. There’s a mystery to this book that draws me to it, and I can’t even explain. You’d have to read it to understand the lure of the book. But what I find most fascinating about this book is that Lewis came up with the idea for it before he became a Christian. It was supposed to be his complaint against God. He wanted to make his case against all dieties: “look at the pain you have caused in my life!” However, once he became a Christian he saw the folly in his accusations, but still loved the concept of re-writing an ancient myth, but couldn’t quite justify it with his faith. It was his wife that really encouraged him to find a way to answer the complaint he had formerly been making. Once she died, Lewis did just that. He wrote this book. The first part is a complaint against “the gods,” while the second part is the response of “the gods.” Beautiful story, it comes HIGHLY recommended from this girl.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book makes the list because it really hit close to home. Although I’m sure most literature fanatics agree that this book is excellent, I love it because I relate so much to the characters. First of all, I feel like I am Scout: headstrong, tom-boyish, a tough big brother to tag along after, and a wise father to adore (really, my dad IS Atticus). I also like it because it strikes the chord of humanity. I grew up in a small, safe town, where everyone knew everyone’s business and everyone looked the same. 70 years ago, this could have been us! It’s heart warming to know that there are people like Atticus; people who think with their brains and yet are marked with a compassion. Atticus, in my opinion, is the ultimate super-hero. He’s the one you go to when justice isn’t being served, and the one you know you can count on to get things done. Atticuses are so rare today, so I turn to this book to remind myself that there still are people who will tell us that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I admit I’m a little shocked that this book isn’t in the number one spot. These last there were really hard to decide. So I’m not going to tell you why this is number 3 instead of number 1, I’m going to tell you why I read this book about once a year. This is the book that started it all. This is the first book that I remember my dad reading to me and my brother at night. The anticipation and excitement that I felt when Lucy walked through that wardrobe cannot be articulated. Or even the fear that I felt at the stone table. Can a book really make you feel such powerful emotion, even when you’re only 6 years old?! YES! I never looked at a closet or a mouse the same way again. This book sparked my imagination and gave me new eyes. I learned that this world is only part of what we experienced, and like Aslan said to the Pevensie children in one of the later books, knowing Aslan in Narnia helped me to know him better in my world: the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
This book is the best fictional book that I have ever read. In order to truly appreciate the beauty of it, you’d have to read the entire series. The main reason I love it is because of the brains behind it. The careful plot construction throughout the series reaches culmination in this installment. And despite all of the loose ends that she leaves in the previous books, every single one is resolved. And even though I became so attached to the characters in the books, I finished this book feeling entirely satisfied. It’s another great example of Tolkien’s concept of “Eucatastrophe.” Another reason why I find this book so wonderful is because it tackles really serious issues that “children’s books” don’t address. Death, mainly. Courage, friendship. Books like this one will certainly have effect on the minds and souls of the children who read them. This book (and the entire series, really) teaches you that the right thing isn’t the easy or popular thing. It also shows that not only standing up for what you believe in but standing up for Truth (yes, absolute Truth) is hard, and very costly, but the right thing to do. In the age of political correctness and pragmatism that is plaguing our schools, this book gives children TRUE education. Just like Harry and his friends, it isn’t necessarily found in school books, but experienced and developed in our societies and cultures. Some truths are powerful enough to transcend the the line that divides the wizarding world and the muggle world.
1. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ve probably heard me talk about my life-changing sophomore year. I like to think that I went through a personal Reformation. Well, this book was a major catalyst in the transformation. I needed to evaluate my life and decide if I truly believed what I said I did and if I was going to live like I believed it. For a few months I had been battling between spiritual legalism and liberalism, and this book helped me put it into perspective. What does the Bible say about how I should live? Can people tell I am a Christian by the way I live, both in actions and in attitude? Packer talks about relative believism and only believism. Relative- believism is similar to legalism. A person’s belief in Christ is characterized and limited to the set of rules that they set up for themselves. They believe that their salvation is guaranteed by the way they live their life, yet they have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only-believism is when a person believes that in the work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, yet feels that it should have no effect on the way they live. They can continue living in sin because they believe they are forgiven. The Bible is clear that neither of these lifestyles are the marks of a true Christian, and Packer’s book really brought this home for me. I don’t claim to be perfect, nor do I claim to understand it all, but this book, by the grace of God, brought these sins to my conscience and I strive to live a life that is biblical and pleasing to God.